Birthday Party Preparation Timeline

This schedule will help you prepare for your party.

6 to 8 Weeks Before the Party:

boy placing candles in cake

  • Decide on the number of guests and develop a guest list.
  • If party will be held outside your home, select and reserve the location.
  • Choose a date and time.
  • Order birthday supplies and invitations. Be sure to include your child when choosing what to order.
  • Book entertainment, if applicable.

2 to 3 Weeks Before the Party:

  • Fill in and send invitations.
  • Put a list of invitees near the phone for RSVP's.
  • Select 4 to 6 activities and games for the party. If your child is 6 or older, you'll probably want to decide this together.
  • Collect prizes and other items needed for activities.
  • If serving a meal, decide on the menu.
  • Order a cake (if you aren't baking one yourself).
  • Consider asking a favorite babysitter to help at the party.

1 Week Ahead:

Decide on the order of activities.

Try any games or activities with which you are unfamiliar.

Check out any books or tapes you'll be borrowing from the library.

2 to 3 Days Ahead:

Call any guests who have not responded.

Shop for groceries or other food being served, candles for the cake, and any candy for favors or pinata.

Copy, cut out, assemble any crafts that can be done ahead.

Put together favor bags.

Check camera. Charge video camera. Get film.

1 Day Before the Party:

  • Clean party area. Put away items that are dangerous or distracting.
  • Bake or pick up cake.
  • If ordering takeout food such as pizza, call to arrange delivery.
  • If necessary, confirm entertainer or any helpers.
  • Sit with your child to discuss his or her expectations for the party.
  • For younger children, practice opening gifts and saying, "Thank you."

Party Day: 4 to 5 Hours Before Guests Arrive

  • Set up decorations. Put candles in cake and locate matches.
  • Get balloons filled or pick up helium latex and mylar balloons.
  • Tie some balloons to the mailbox or front porch to mark the location.
  • Place crafts and prizes near the activity locations.
  • Locate paper and pencil for recording gifts (for thank-you's).

1 Hour Before the Party

  • Consider putting pets in an area away from the guests. This is for their sake as well as for guests who may be allergic, frightened, or overly curious.
  • Get birthday child and siblings dressed.
  • Set up food; let your child help as much as possible.
  • Set up first activity.
  • Load film in camera and camcorder.
  • Have a great party!