Note: Before planning any event that includes in-person social contact, we strongly urge you to review the information provided by local and national health authorities regarding current conditions and practices to stay safe during the pandemic. In addition to checking with your city or county’s health department, here are some helpful sources of up-to-date data and recommendations:
Local health information by state
CDC - the Centers for Disease Control
WHO - the World Health Organization
2020 has been a one-of-a-kind ride so far. Uncertainty, limitations, and recent unfortunate events have truly created an eye-opening experience for most of us. Like you, we hope the increased awareness and constant movements, initiatives, and education will result in the final, long overdue end of racial injustice and celebration of every human life.
While we're all keeping an eye on staying healthy, and doing our part to create a safer, more just and equal world, it’s also important to keep family traditions alive.
One thing that should remain unchanged is celebrating your kids’ special moments. Their excitement about an upcoming birthday is something that truly lifts your spirits. So if your kid’s birthday is coming up soon, and you have a backyard, access to some outdoor property or a park, you might be able to organize a small-to-midsize outdoor birthday party that sparks up the joy in your kid’s eyes, while keeping everyone safe at the same time.
(If you can’t get outside yet, we’ve got a few pieces of advice on planning and organizing an online birthday party for children.)
We’ve created this guide to help you plan an outdoor kid’s party without going totally nuts in the process. Let’s make sure your special one has a memorable time and everyone enjoys the event!
Phase I (6 weeks before the party): Who to invite, timing and choosing the theme
We recommend the initial planning to start at least 6 weeks before the party. By that time, you should decide on the theme, and who to invite, and check on your guests’ availability.
Who to invite?
The number of guests depends on the size of your outdoor area, and your budget, of course. If you only want to invite a few people, there are a lot of different options. If you plan to have a larger crowd (more than ten kids), you may need to spend more time locating a place to accommodate them all - check with your local authorities for safety guidelines and any distancing rules..
No matter what, keep in mind that everyone’s comfort and safety comes first. Parents will feel better knowing that you have thought about how to keep their kids healthy, so try not to create a large crowd in a small space.
Set expectations based on how many kids you can accommodate. School-aged kids might want to invite more of their classmates, so be specific with them on the number of guests you can handle in your backyard or outdoor area.
Choosing the right timing
Ideally, organize the party on a weekend. If you decide to choose a weekday, make sure that working parents are able to arrange transportation for their kids.
Before setting the final date, make sure to check the availability of your child’s best friends.
Be ready to adjust if they can’t come on your desired date.
The party shouldn’t be longer than 2 - 2.5 hours. Both parents and the children (and yourself) will get tired quickly. Set the specific time limit to set guests’ expectations.
Here are some recommendations on choosing how many kids to invite and the perfect timing for kids up to age 10.
Theme and decoration
This is where you can involve your kid in the planning. Let them pick the theme (make suggestions for younger children). Be respectful of your child’s ideas - but make sure you can meet their expectations. Go shopping together, get crafty, and create some DIY decorations. Your child will feel proud for participating, and you’ll get to spend quality time together.
Phase II (3-4 weeks before the party): Entertainment and food
Don’t leave these things for the last minute. Planning and organizing ahead will keep you stress-free and give you enough time to decide on everything from food to activities.
Games and activities
The best parties always have a combination of free-play and planned activities. Some groups will happily fill two hours just running around and being together, others need a bit more structure. Have some games ready to go, but don’t worry if the kids prefer their own company.
Have all the supplies on-hand (balls, ropes, and chalk for starters) so you can start the games as soon as the kids are ready. Small prizes (age-appropriate) are a good way to get them engaged and fired up. Hide and Seek is an all-time favorite, and there’s no prep needed! It's also a great option if you have children of various ages at the party.
If you have a larger group of preschoolers, Mother May I? and Red Rover work well. For smaller crowds or younger kids, 5-7-year-olds, Hopscotch is popular and entertaining. Another good bet is Four Square, kids can stay involved for a long time and everybody loves it. Let them create their own rules, that’s the best part of it. Tug of War, Egg & Spoon races and three-legged races are all classic competitive games - see if you can get the parents to play too!
Finally, consider having a coloring station with paper and markers or another possibility for less rowdy play, in case there are children who need less stimulation.
You can also have more involved activities around the theme of the party if the kids’ ages can support this. Craft stores have lots of DIY options like painting flower pots or picture frames, beading projects, and other make-it-and-take-it-home projects - just be prepared for more hands-on instruction, and have the right amount of table space to accommodate all the kids. These finished crafts can double as party favors too.
To make your life easier, choose foods that are easy to serve and don’t crumble or fall apart when you eat them. The guests will enjoy effortless eating and you’ll save a lot of time cleaning up after the party. When setting up the menu, find out if any of your guests have food issues or allergies so you can have an alternative available.
You can still be creative, even with simple food. Pizza is of course the hands-down favorite, but it gets cold fast - especially outside - and if you have a big group, can be expensive. Start with a budget, and build a kid-friendly assortment of foods, appropriate to the group and time of day for your party. Remember to estimate how much time you have for food prep, and think what can be made two or even three days in advance (don’t forget you’ll need fridge space for storage!). For sandwiches, consider using cookie cutters to cut them into interesting shapes - this is one great way to extend the theme of your party. Fruit skewers are a great way to add color, and healthy as well - they do take a bit of time, though, so be sure to allow for assembly.
If you’re ordering a cake from your local bakery, now would be the time to do so. If you’re making one by yourself, you’ll have to do it closer to the party date (1-2 days before the party). Still, now would be a good time to agree with your kid on the type of cake, taste, and decoration, and find the right recipe. You can even make it once before the party to give it a test try.
If you’re having the party at home, music can be a great addition, and setting up a playlist in advance will ensure a smooth party flow. For babies and toddlers, the music is more for the parents, but for school-age and older kids they’ll certainly have a preference. Sit with your child and choose their favorite songs together. Create a playlist long enough to cover the whole duration of the party. You can do this a bit later if you want, but earlier you tick off stuff like this from the list, more likely you’ll have a stress-free week before the party.
Phase III (2-3 weeks before the party): Send out invitations and set up a wishlist
Send out invitations
Now that you’ve decided on the main party details and set a specific date, it’s time to invite your guests. It’s best to do it at least 2-3 weeks in advance. This means you’ll receive RSVP’s on time to get an accurate head-count, and if someone cancels early you still have enough time to invite someone else.
You can create invitations together with your child, and send them out (or hand over in person for smaller groups) or you can use our platform - Giftwalker, to invite your guests easily via email, importing from your contact list or by sending them a link to the party details. You can customize the party details and invitation to your liking (add a cover photo and any additional details).
The main benefit? Your guests will have the opportunity to RSVP immediately, and if they don’t do so, they’ll receive automatic reminders. They’ll also receive a reminder a couple of days before the party so they don’t forget to come.
Also, if you change any of the details, they’ll be updated immediately, so you can avoid back and forth communication with other parents.
Set up a wishlist
Setting up a wishlist of your kid’s birthday presents can take a lot off your guest’s shoulders.
Other parents may not know your child well or may be unsure about your preferences or restrictions regarding particular toys. Even the best guess can’t tell them which toys your child already has, or if someone else is going to buy the same present. Everyone wants to feel their gift is appreciated, but often duplicates or wrong choices lead to disappointment - not to mention the hassle when you are left to deal with handling receipts and returns.
Giftwalker*, our smart party planning and gifting tool lets you set up a wishlist where you can easily choose among a variety of unique gifts for your kid, regardless of the age and budget. Make sure you select more gifts than invitees and you make a good selection at a variety of price points.
By adding gifts in the wishlist, your guests will have the ability to choose one gift from the list and purchase it directly.
Our wishlist is dynamic - which means that once someone has purchased a specific gift, it will be removed from the wishlist, so no one else buys the same one. In comparison, some other wishlists are useful but static, which means your guests can’t see if the gift has already been purchased by someone else and your child might receive duplicate gifts.
Your kid can get the thoughtful and meaningful presents they want (and that you approve of).
Download the Giftwalker app to assist you in the party planning process in a few easy steps:
- Create and customize the invitations
- Set up a wishlist
- Send out invitations in few click
- Track and manage RSVPs
We have a special offer at the moment - if you become one of our early adopters and organize a party with Giftwalker, you’ll receive $20 in gift cards of your choice. This offer is for everyone who completes a full party with guests and presents.
*By choosing Giftwalker you are helping yourself but also helping less fortunate children. We donate 10% of Giftwalker’s profits to organizations that help children and families.
Phase IV (1-2 weeks before the party): Shop for party goods, create a timeline for activities and prepare party favors
A couple of weeks before the party, you can go shopping for all the party goods: cups, plates & napkins, serving containers, decorations and goody-bags, and anything you need for the games and activities.
Schedule the activities
If you are doing organized activities, set up a schedule with a block of 15 minutes for each game (some may need less or more).
Consider including gift opening - even though some prefer to open gifts after. You can do it in a fun and creative way - by drawing the names of the guests from a hat or spinning the bottle in the circle. Your kid will be excited to open the gifts sooner, and guests love seeing their gifts getting unwrapped.
Prepare party favors or goody bags
Favors are kind of tricky - you don’t want anything expensive, but no one needs more little pieces of plastic clutter. Useful, and inexpensive options could include /markers, decks of cards, water toys, bubble wands. Older kids may enjoy keychains, mini Rubik's cubes or steel puzzles.
If you prefer not to have individual bags, you can put all the favors into a basket and let your young guests choose as they are leaving. Specially-iced and decorated cookies - jumbo size and tied up in a bag with a ribbon - are a big hit too, but definitely require a little more work on your part.
Phase V (1-2 days before the party): Buy the food and get ready to decorate, prepare a Plan B in case of bad weather
The party day is almost here! If you followed our recommendations, there are only a few more things left to do.
Buy & prep the food
You want to buy the food as close to the day of the party so it remains fresh (especially if you’re opting for those fruit skewers we mentioned earlier). This is also the time when you should bake the cake. Set aside a few extra hours to assemble sandwiches (don’t cut anything out yet if you’re using shape cutters), wash fruit or veggies, or bake the pizzas. Prepping one day ahead should cut down on the time you need right before the party to put everything together.
If you’re using your own backyard, set up the tables and chairs, and decorate the day before the party. If you’ll be at a park or other outdoor area, pack everything you’ll need into separate bags — one for decorations (don’t forget scissors, tape, and batteries!), one for games and activities, and one for supplies like cups, plates, and napkins. Make sure to bring your own trash bags too, just in case. If there aren’t picnic tables, ground cloths to sit on are a good idea. You can use picnic/beach blankets or even old sheets in a pinch.
Plan B - prepare for bad weather
If the weather forecast doesn't look promising, you'll have to be prepared to react quickly and possibly move the party indoors.
If that's the case, make sure the food you prepared is not exclusively outdoor food like BBQ for example, or fire-roasted s’ mores. Baked in the oven are almost as good. Some food options we mentioned earlier are good ones, finger sandwiches, or even pizza.
If your house is large enough some games you planned can be moved indoors. Hide and Seek is a good one, but make sure to have a game or two for indoors as well - board games like monopoly can be a blast..
If it’s only a drizzle, the party can continue to go on in the open, pending the other parent’s approval. You can pick up rain ponchos for all the kids at hardware or drugstores. They don't cost much, and kids will love flapping around in them, guaranteed. The party may even continue as planned!
If you’re using the Giftwalker app to plan the party, you can easily let the parents know that it might rain and tell them to pack waterproof shoes or boots in “Other helpful information about the party” section in the invitation.
Enjoy the special day
Kids party-planning can be stressful for you as a parent, but there are many parts of the process that you can actually enjoy by spending quality time with your little helper(s).
Technology can help, and take care of some of the time-consuming details. Your love and extra effort to make your child’s birthday a memorable experience will take care of the rest.
In the end, it's all about creating a special experience for your kids and their friends - so make sure you also have a great time and enjoy the party!
Need some help with the invitation process and setting up the wishlist for your child’s presents? Become one of the first Giftwalkers and earn $20 in gift cards when you organize your first party.
Feel free to share your experience with us - we would be delighted to be a part of your memorable event.