If you think planning the first birthday party was tough then wait until the second one. If your schedule is anything like mine, there really aren’t enough hours in the day. Just yesterday I sat down to create my to-do list, and I calculated that I needed 14 hours just to get everything done – and I hadn’t even budgeted time to cook and eat any meals – let alone take a break!
And this was merely a routine, run-of-the-mill week – nothing special on the horizon. When there’s an event to plan on top of my usual schedule, like a birthday party, it can get overwhelming.
Birthday parties do need a bit of planning and prep time – but that of course can be part of the fun if we take a breath and get organized. If your toddler will be celebrating his or her second birthday soon, here are some fun and easy ideas to cover all the basics – schedule, games, food, and party favors – that you can plan, shop for, and set up in just a couple of hours.
Girls & Boys 2nd Birthday Party Ideas
Most experts suggest inviting just a couple of your kid’s friends as children of this age aren’t used to sharing toys or interacting independently with other children (some people even go as far as to suggest a “rule” of inviting as many kids as your child is going to be in years – 2 for a 2 year old, 3 for a 3 year old, and so on), but many parents have siblings who also have kids and neighbors or friends from a playgroup or church who have kids too, so, while it might be advisable to have a small gathering, particularly if your toddler may not be used to very large groups, it’s OK to invite all your child’s friends to enjoy the day.
While your home is probably already pretty much child proof to protect your own child from dangers, before your guests arrive, it’s a good idea to do a once-over to make sure that no new items or elements from the party could be harmful. Balloons, for example, are not a good idea as they easily pop and are a choking hazard. It’s also advisable to put away your child’s favorite toys as even the friendliest and most giving of kids can be possessive at this age.
If your child has a favorite TV, movie or nursery rhyme character or a favorite animal, it can be fun to decorate the room and table with plates, napkins, masks, banners, and posters related to that theme – as well as purchase a custom cake. But, for a two year old, a theme is not essential to his or her birthday fun. So long as there’s good games and toys and supervision – and plenty of cake -, your child will have a great time.
Most children of this age still take naps – even if yours doesn’t – and so it might be best to have the party in the late morning or late afternoon to accommodate. Also, very young children can get over stimulated, so most parties for this age group generally last only a couple of hours.Below, I provide a suggested timeline, including party games and party favors, that you can modify to suit your child’s personality and interests:
(first 15-20 minutes)
Because not all the kids will arrive together, it’s a good idea to have a simple activity ready for the first kids to enjoy as you wait for the others to arrive. Setting up a coloring table with some blank paper, coloring pages detached from any coloring book, and crayons can keep kids occupied for 15-20 minutes till all the guests arrive.
Game and Activity Time
(about 50 minutes total time, shifting activities and games relatively often to keep the children engaged)
Activities like drawing and playing with blocks or play dough are good choices because there are generally enough blocks, crayons, paper, and play dough to go round to keep all the kids happy. Hopefully, this will minimize any possible jealousies that can sometimes occur over toys. Kids also like dress up, so if you have any clothes that you were saving to drop off at Goodwill that you think might work as costumes for kids, you can put them in a box and have the kids rummage through.
While two year old love to play games with other kids and adults, they aren’t really ready for organized games that require turn taking or have too many rules, so the best games involve more imitation or parallel play, such as freeze dance. There are many suitable games for this age group – why not pick a total of 5-6 activities and games to try and have a couple of extra games handy in case the kids get bored with one. Of course, the kids might blow of most of the games to play with toys or just run around. In any case, an adult will need to explain and demonstrate each game to the kids before play can begin as well as supervise them. Besides the activities listed above, here are some game ideas to get you going:
1. Freeze Dance
Everyone dances to a fast paced tempo. When the music stops, the kids must freeze. When the music starts again, they continue dancing. An alternative would be just freestyle dancing, or you can suggest different styles of dance movement if an adult will model them because kids love to imitate. A related game would be “Ring Around the Rosie” where everyone sings the song and drops to the floor when they sing “we all fall down.”
2. Pin the Tail on the Donkey
What’s great about this game is how easily it can be adapted to a theme, if you have chosen one, by using any related character or object from the birthday theme, such as pinning a tail on a dinosaur or a braid on Elsa. A poster works best if you can order one ahead of time, and, of course, it should be firmly taped low down on a wall, so the kids can reach. It might be a good idea to have a “bulls eye” circled in black marker, so that it is easy to decide which “tail” is closest to the mark. You’ll need a blindfold and some double-sided tape on each of the tails (these can be simply cut out of craft paper of the right color – white for Elsa or brown for a dinosaur, etc), so the kids can press it to the poster.
3. Treasure Hunt or Duck Pond
Wooden blocks or other easy to identify items can be hidden around the party room in easy-to-find locations (underneath sofa cushions, behind a door, etc.) that children collect in a paper bag (you can have the kids decorate the bag before hand). Show the children the item and have them find this “treasure” – adults can help kids search for the items. A variation of this is Duck Pond. Since you’ll be indoors, you can use a kiddie pool filled with beans or shredded paper or sand (and yes it’s a good idea to put a blanket down underneath) and have the kids fish with their hands for small rubber duckies. Write a number on the bottom of each duck that corresponds with a small toy. Each kid can play 2 or 3 rounds, so make sure to buy enough toys of different varieties as well as ducks (ducks can be given away as extra party favors). Kids love the hands on tactile nature of this game.
Very young kids love playing follow the leader, so you can set up a parade to some fun music or create some music of your own with some shakers, whistles, drums, etc. The kids can march behind the supervising adult around the house, or, if they aren’t playing instruments, they can carry stuffed animals with them or wave streamers.
5. Tick-Tock Clock Game
A fun way for kids to learn their numbers is this clock game. On the floor you place 12 large pieces of paper in a circle to simulate a clock face, each with one boldly written number from one through twelve. The kids should go round the outside of the circle while the music plays and. then, when the music stops, freeze on the number they are on at that moment. The supervising adult then rolls two dice and adds up the digits, and the kid on that number wins a small prize. If no kid is on that particular number, you can roll the dice again or choose the child who is closest.
6. Hokey Pokey
Children love games with simple songs like this and “Ring Around the Rosie.” The children stand in a circle, and an adult sings the song and encourages the kids to join in as they learn the parts of the body. Any body part can be a starting point: you put the left leg in, the left leg out, in out in out, and shake it all about. All limbs and the entire body can be used as well as anything else an inventive adult can think of to keep the song going. Elbows. Heads. Toes.
7. Limbo Game
Two adults (or older kids if they are attending) can hold a limbo “pole” (you can use a broom or mop handle, feather boa, or rope) about shoulder height as the kids go under one by one to some upbeat music. At this age, it really doesn’t matter if the kids touch the pole – they can go on to the next round (I think we can be stricter with any adults playing). After everyone goes under, lower the Limbo pole a couple of inches and repeat till it becomes too hard for even the smallest or more adept to continue.
Food & Drink
(about 30 minutes)
Kids at this age of course love hands on things – including food – so things will likely get a little messy. If you don’t have child-sized tables and chairs, a picnic on a blanket on the floor might be a good idea – and, thankfully, that blanket can be thrown in the wash at the end of the day. One good investment is spill-proof cups for kids – then each kid can take theirs home as an additional party favor.
Chocolate milk and orange juice are good options – although I usually water down juice to only 50 per cent juice because I find that a lot of them are overly sweet. English muffin pizzas are quick and easy to make – and can be made readily on demand if more are needed. Macaroni and cheese is another simple option because you can make as large a batch as you’ll need in one pot, and most kids love it; it can be served in individual plastic cups. A lot of children have peanut allergies, so ask your guests in advance if any of them are allergic; if not, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are also a favorite with kids.
For snacks, goldfish crackers or animal crackers can be on hand as well as sliced fruit (which you can find in most super markets pre-sliced on platters to save on prep time). Besides birthday cake, cookies or brownies can round off the menu.
(last 15-20 minutes)
Children at this age enjoy getting lots of little toys and trinkets in a goody bag – and they need not be expensive. You can purchase a mixture of such items online or find some in the stationary aisle of your neighborhood grocery or drug store. Any combination of the following will work: crayons (I saw some so-cute Lego men mini crayons!) as well as ABC board books, small stuffed animals, stickers, bottles of bubbles, soft “squashy” balls, matchbox cars, and plastic bracelets. Children can play with all the items of their goody bag prior to leaving the party. Before giving each child their goody bag, you may want to gather them together in a circle to read them a well-loved story to calm the party atmosphere down a little before the children have to go home.
Eleni has been a freelance copy writer and editor since 2008 and teaches English composition and literature at the University level. She is always on the lookout for the perfect gift for each of her friends – even if that means buying Christmas presents in July and birthday presents months ahead of time – and she especially loves a good bargain and to try out new ideas. To find out more about Eleni, you can check out her website at http://didimicommunications.wordpress.com/ which is a partner blog focusing on writing, literature, and language.