Birthdays are supposed to be fun—but party planning can be…not so much. No one knows the challenges of party planning better than these professionals who have planned thousands of birthday parties for Toronto families over the years.

They’ve seen it all, and they’ve got some wisdom to share so you can pull off your child’s next party just like a pro!

1. Start early.

It’s a no-brainer that giving yourself plenty of lead time is the number-one secret to successful party planning—which includes getting the venue you want when you want it.

But how much time do you need? “Three to six months out is not too early to start organizing,” says Alysha Lenssen from Mad Science, “[That] will allow you time to pull all the pieces together while staying relaxed.”

2. Opt for easy invitations.

Do you find that people just don’t RSVP anymore? David Levy from Chocolate Tales suggests creating an invite with a social networking website like Facebook. “It’s easy … you can create a new event from your home page. Add everything from a title, location, date and time, the guest list—which can be public or private.”

If social media isn’t your style, you can send out email invitations through an online service like Evite or Paperless Post.

Some birthday party venues will also send invitations for you, taking this issue completely out of your hands.

3. Limit the guest list.

Consider limiting your invite list to keep the party smaller and more manageable. Your child will benefit from having more quality time with their closest friends.

4. Ask for help.

Once you factor in entertainment, food, and supplies, you might find it’s actually more affordable to opt for all-inclusive party package at a professional venue, in addition to reducing stress. When you leave it to the pros, as Jelena Solujic from Fairytale Land says, “you and your family and friends can truly enjoy every moment of the event.”

But if you’re set on DIY, ask family and friends to pitch in: many hands make light work!

5. Time it right.

Jackie Schwarz from In the Mix says, “Always have the entertainment start time be at least 15 minutes after the party start time, allowing for latecomers to arrive and settle and not miss out on the birthday fun.”

David Levy urges, “Make sure you order the pizza before you think you will need it. Waiting for the pizza delivery person to arrive can certainly add stress to the party.”

For toddlers who still nap, consider a morning party. And all kids benefit from keeping it short: there’s a reason nearly every party venue offers two- to three-hour-long parties. That’s about all kids can handle!

6. Plan inclusive group activities.

“Have group activities where everyone does the same thing,” said Jackie Schwarz. “This way the birthday child does not feel pulled in different directions to be with different friends (ultimately leaving some kids out).”

It’s also a lot easier to keep kids busy when they’re in one group. (Another great reason to trim down the guest list.)

David Levy said, “Create a fun, energetic atmosphere for your guests. Decorations, special lighting, music, and yummy smells will set the party mood and keep the guests entertained. Kids entertained = stress free.”

He added, “When in doubt, have the kids watch a movie together. This will keep them entertained if you find that the party has a gap between activities.”

7. Simplify your itinerary.

It’s easy get carried away creating the Best Birthday Party Ever. As you’re planning, take a step back and assess whether you are giving kids time to fully enjoy the activities you have planned.

“Do not have too many things going,” Jackie Schwarz advised, “Sometimes the kids will get overwhelmed and the essence of the party can easily be lost.”

It’s a good idea to have one or two things on your itinerary that are optional and that you won’t mind skipping if there’s already enough going on.

8. Simplify the decor.

Strategically placed balloons go a long way! Donna Mazzaferro from Beach Blast says, “All the decorations in the world don’t make a party a party. Playing, dancing, and other activities make the party, so make that your focus.”

9. Enjoy yourself

It’s okay to get in there and have fun yourself—you are helping to make childhood memories, and wouldn’t you like to be remembered with a smile on your face?

Mitch Zeltzer from Everblast Play Company tells us, “As a parent myself, the best advice I can give is to try and jump in [on] the fun and enjoy your child’s special day! Seeing your son and/or daughter having a blast is way more rewarding than making sure the carrots are stacked perfectly on the veggie platter!”

“Don’t sweat the small stuff,” says Donna Mazzaferro, “Even at the most gala of events, there are items misplaced, or late timelines, or forgotten treats. No one will know except the host—best to keep it that way!”

Embrace the chaos, and have some fun. It will all be over soon. Until next year!

Find a birthday party venue, cake or cupcake bakery, entertainers, and more by searching our Toronto Birthday Party Ideas directory.

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