Planning your kid's birthday party will be a piece of cake with our tips on what food to serve and what games to play.

By Holly D'Anna

The two most important components of a kid's birthday party are what the guests will eat and how to entertain them. We've put together some helpful tips for planning your child's big day to make sure it goes off without a hitch.

Party Food 101: What to Eat

Party food at a kid's birthday party should be simple, fun, and in tune with the party theme (if you have one). Here are some easy-to-follow guidelines to keep in mind when thinking about party food:

  • Offer a variety of foods. Ordering a few pizzas takes care of the main course, but think about including fruit, nuts, cheese, crackers, or popcorn for snacking.
  • Avoid food allergy mishaps. You don't want to find out after an allergic reaction that one of your party guests can't eat nuts or gluten. Ask for any dietary restrictions when people RSVP, and plan your party menu accordingly.
  • Make food presentation fun. Serve party food in a colorful dish, on a patterned tablecloth, or with a creative garnish to make it extra-special for your kid and their guests.
  • Let guests prepare the food. If party guests are old enough, let them take charge with a do-it-yourself sandwich, taco, or ice cream sundae bar.
  • Snack on finger foods. The less complicated the party dish, the less you have to clean up later. Finger foods or smaller bites won't require silverware or plates, minimizing party cleanup after everyone goes home.
  • Don't make too much food. Party excitement often distracts kids from eating a lot, so if you're expecting 15 little ones, make enough for 10-12 -- you'll probably still have leftovers.
  • Prevent spills and accidents -- don't let the kids serve themselves. Take the food to them and serve small portions, letting them know that they can eat seconds once they clean their plate.

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Party Games 101: What to Play

The best way to entertain a group of small children at a party is to have a few planned activities. Our advice: Plan a variety of things to do, including some active games and quieter activities, so at least one diversion appeals to everyone.

  • Base games or activities on your party's theme. If you're having trouble coming up with games for your kid's party, align them with the theme for some easy ideas. For example, have kids shoot hoops at a basketball- or sports-theme party, create a masterpiece at an art-theme party, or do circus tricks at a circus party.
  • Be cautious with competitive games. If you choose to go the competitive route with party activities, make sure to choose a game your child enjoys and has a chance to win -- after all, it's your kid's big day. Don't make a big deal about who wins or loses, and keep any prizes small so everyone feels good about playing.
  • Plan a variety of activities. Active games, such as relay races, musical chairs, or Simon Says, help kids get to know one another. Plan quieter games that don't involve competition for the end of the party, after everyone is done eating, to wind down the group -- you want to avoid sending riled-up party guests home to their parents.
  • Get everyone to enjoy gift-opening. The time to open presents really puts the spotlight on your child, but you can turn it into a game to get the other party guests involved. Have kids sit in a circle with their gifts, and spin a bottle in the center of the circle to determine unwrapping order. Each child can feel special when his or her gift is opened by sitting next to the birthday child.

Plan a Themed Birthday Party

Themed birthday parties are a fun way to cater to your child's interests, and they can take some of the stress out of planning. We have several different themed birthday party ideas to inspire you, available below.

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