Birthday Parties at Home

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Winter birthday party for 12 kids in my small home?

Oct 2004

My daughters (turning 2 yrs and 4 yrs)have winter birthdays and after completing the summer birthday party ''circuit'', I am stumped what to do for their party. Would like to have it at my house but have approximately 12 kids that I would like to invite from the neighborhood and their school. Is it completely crazy to try to do the party in my 2,000 square foot home? I could rent a location but I prefer to do a low key party with the tradition cake, pinata, and a few craft activites. I would love advice from any who have ''been there, done that''. Also, I am not sure how many adults I should expect. Most of the 12 kids will be 4 year olds. Any advice would be appreciated. Karen

Hi- As a December baby, I know all too well the hardships of a winter birthday. My brother was born on Christmas, so you can just imagine how creative we had to be growing up!

My favorite ideas from my past:
- Chuck E. Cheese: sure the pizza tastes a bit like cardboard, but the kids love to run around and win prizes.
- Ice Skating: I loved this. You can rent a portion of the rink for a steal, get a cake, and have a blast celebrating a very winter-y birthday.
- Treasure Scavenger Hunt: My mom made a list of treasures we had to find from nearby neighbors. This was great and made my rainy 9th birthday alot of fun. Great for parent-kid teams as well.
- Cookie Party: Everyone bakes holiday cookies and gets to decorate 'em. And then eat them, of course. :) Good luck! Deniene

You can certainly have birthday parties in your house for your 2 and 4 year olds. We did it for years in our 1300 square ft. house! Just clear stuff out of the way and have lots of activities planned. Good luck! Chris
I am considering something similar in our 1200 SF home so 2000SF sounds like a palace to me. I'd say go for it if you can be comfortable with work required on your part. I think it would be really fun and relaxed for the kids and you could even hire a housecleaner after if you want/ need to since it should be cheaper than renting out a place. anon
We have a winter birthday too. A few things we did over the years (my son is now 13 and wants to have dance parties...OY) When he was about 3, I cleared the furniture back, set up a kid table in the living room (also small house) and planned a few kid games, fed them pizza and cake and sent them home. It was about 2 or 3 hours.

Another year I hired a bird lady who came and did a show with 2 cockatiels and a parrot or two. She brought all her own stuff to set up...tables too. She was great. (again, I cleared the furniture and rugs back). AFter she left I laid out a big sheet on the floor and the kids sat on the floor and ate, picnic style. You can do art can also hire an art person to do a project with them. Good luck. anon

Twelve is a lot of kids to have for an indoor birthday party, unless you have a very big garage or family room. Eight is much more manageable, especially under age 8.

Consider having the party half inside and half outside, or schedule the party for the beach or park (even in the winter), with your house or garage as a backup in case of wet weather. In general I have found that boys are less interested in indoor birthday games and activities (although the Lego box and video games are always a big hit), while girls ate up the prepared crafts and games (bingo, charades, the bean trading/guessing game, competitions like passing eggs without breaking-- lots of books have ideas for indoor party games). After about age 8, we've alternated between taking a group out for an activity birthday party (like the indoor Albany Pool, the Jungle in Concord or SF, Iceland in Berkeley, bowling or a movie theater) and just having an overnight, with plenty of pizza, popcorn, and videos, plus a big breakfast. Do you know anyone with a hot tub? That can also be a great winter birthday activity for 6 or 7 kids if the water is 101 or 102 degrees-- whether it rains or not. peg

How about hiring a music teacher to entertain the children? We had our 3yo's party at home (about 10 kids) and had the traveling music teacher from her preschool come - about $100 - for 45 minutes and sing interactive songs. Helps them work off their energy dancing and singing, rather than being all over your house! He's great, and his name is Gerry Tenney (510)834- 6166 Fun for the kids, and cheaper then renting a special location. Also, save the cake or other sweet stuff for the VERY end so they bring their sugar high home with them! Karolyn
Some ideas to keep the intensity at a manageable level are to invite fewer kids and not have a pinata. anon mom
No problem! We have held December 13th birthday parties for our 5(almost 6) yo daughter for the last several years in our 1100 sq.ft. home + small deck. We've invited as many as 14 kids + parents. We set up the sideboard with buffet snacks, drinks, and service. The cake etc, stayed hidden in kitchen. Games were in living room, study, & deck (we've been blessed so far with good weather). Folding chairs & floor pillows were used for extra seating.

The key to success for us has been to limit the time of the party to 2-2.5 hours. Have fun! andrea

I wrote a long reply, but the computer ate it. Sigh. Anyway, I just wanted to say that no, you are definitely not crazy, as long as you genuinely LIKE giving parties (and doing all the work that entails). Last winter we had a 3rd birthday party for my son with about 20 little kids and an approximately equal number of parents in our 1200 square foot home. We all had a great time. We'll do it again this winter, and every winter thereafter unless and until my son says he wants a different kind of celebration, but I enjoy giving big, casual parties and this is no exception. (40 guests is actually kind of on the small side for me, though I admit that preschoolers seem to take up more space than they should!)

Go for it! Plan well and have fun. (No pinata, I think -- an indoor pinata is something you are likely to regret.) You're more than welcome to email me if you're interested in hearing what's worked well in my experience with my son and his friends. holly

We just had a 2 year old birthday party this weekend for my November baby (not a baby any more!) and here is what we did: we sent out invitations that said that we would have the party at a park near our home, but that if it was raining or really cold, we'd have it at our house. Luckily, the weather was wonderful, and it turned out to be a really great party (10 kids). The downside was that we actually had to clean and prepare our house just in case, but I'm so glad we did it this way. We had the tables at the playground to ourselves, and it was much more pleasant (and less clean-up) than being at home. But home would have been an o.k. back up. Had our cake and ate it, too.

More advice

Feb 1996

A guide line which we found very helpful with our three was that the number of invited guests should be (less than or ) equal to the birthday childs age. i.e. five guests for a fifth birthday party. This helps keep things under control. Roger

Re: Party in home for young child 1)Have children decorate their pinata bags (using paper lunch bags), pour glue into small bowel and let them use Q-tips (if not they just keep pouring and pouring), have lots of different color sprinkles, markers, fabric or let them go outside and find stuff to glue on like leaves, pebbles. I borrowed a long table, bench & chairs. 2)Play musical chairs; the prize can be as simple as a ribbon or pencils. 3)Face painting is always a hit. 4)Dance and or freeze when music stops. 5) Eat food 6) Break pinata, I recommend letting the birthday child break it because it gets dangerous when the kids keep running in for pieces of candy also stopping to retie blind fold on each child is too much for me. 7) Eat Cake. 8) Sleep over or send them home. The week to follow I ask my 6 yrs. and 12 yrs. to write thank you notes to EVERYONE (Oct. & Nov. babies). P.S. I did all the above in my garage. Aleta
July 1999

I used a party idea that I had read about in Valley Parent. This free newspaper has party ideas in every issue. The theme we chose was Teddy Bear Picnic. We had each guest bring their Teddy Bear. I found a recording of the Teddy Bear Picnic song at Down Home Music. (The one that goes - If you go into the words today, you're in for a big surprise...). We started the party off with a Teddy Bear Parade and even some of the older kids participated. Birthday girl got to lead and I marched along playing the picnic song on a tape player. Then we sat in a circle and did some circle activities. Every child introduced their bear and told us how old it was. Then we did some Bear songs and rhymes that I got from the newspaper article. Food was Teddy Grahams - those bear-shaped graham crackers and mini-bagels that I ordered from Noah's. The goody bags had Gummy Bears and bear stickers along with a few other little toys.

One thing that did not work was the Pin the heart on the Bear game that I created. I drew a Bear with a big heart on a poster board and cut out hearts from paper. The 4 year olds in our group were shy about the concept of placing a blindfold on their faces. Only a few kids participated. You can probably think of other bear ideas from this basic theme. Good luck. Jeanne

On arrival I had some artsy activities. One year they made and decorated crowns, FIMO another year. I also had the kids do silly races, like with a grapefruit between their legs or with marshmallows on spoons. We did my son's party in Bateman Park near Alta Bates while he was young because it's an enclosed space, has sand and playground eqpt, has tables, isn't crowded, doesn't require reservations. Linda
Little kids are completely thrilled with very simple parties - you'll be doing yourself and them a favor if you don't overdo it. They are still on the young side to do very complicated party games, but they do enjoy dress-up and role playing. (Kids n Dance does a nice, not very expensive party with simple costumes; they lead the kids through a little story-adventure.) I forget how many kids you're having come, but the more kids, the simpler the activities - running around in circles is often plenty exciting. Another very simple crowd-pleaser is face painting.

For food, pizza in little strips and some watermelon might be eaten. You can try making tiny little sandwiches cut into shapes with cookie cutters. Also I have found, after knocking myself out with fancy cakes, that little kids are in it for two things: ice cream and frosting. Cakes often go uneaten, but ice cream cakes will be devoured (Ben and Jerrys or Baskin Robbins). Grownups really like the Ben & Jerry's cakes! Get one that's plain vanilla, or vanilla and strawberry/ vanilla and chocolate chip for the kids, and another that's New York Super Fudge for the grownups (add some Chunky Monkey to it and invite me!) Natasha