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Ultimate Guide to Planning Children's Parties
Expert party planner Debi Lilly shares her practical, creative and inspiring ideas for five themed children's parties, each one full of personality and fun.
Butterfly party decoration
Butterfly Party
Decorations
The key to decorating for a butterfly party is to use natural elements that you can add/attach butterflies to:
  • Buy wheatgrass at the local grocery store
  • Grow your own wheatgrass a few weeks before the party
  • Gather branches from trees in your yard and put them in a vase
Food
"The most fun thing to do for food is to keep everything small and bite-size," Debi says. To make food feel special, use cookie cutters to turn sandwiches into fun shapes, like a butterfly or leaf. For an added touch, cut out a different shape on the top slice of the sandwich to let the filling shine through.

Drinks
As with food, make sure drinks are small enough for kids to "grab and go." Not only does this make things easier, but it's also better for your budget. You can also buy butterfly-shaped sippy cups that children can take home as favors.

Activities
To help children transform into a new character, have an "enchanted butterfly" greet children by giving them their own set of wings to wear during the party and set up a station for face painting. You can also hire a balloon artist, which Debi says is always a hit, to make balloon butterflies, antennae and big flowers.
Cinderella at child's party
Royal/Cinderella Party
Decorations
Debi planned a royal party that involved a giant outdoor tent with floating balloons, which you can replicate this in your own dining room with balloons floating around your ceiling. In keeping with the Cinderella theme, use soft colors such as pale blue, light pink and other muted tones.

Food
A secret about children's parties: What you serve isn't as important as what you call it. At Debi's royal birthday party, she served a "princess and the pea salad" with chopped veggies as well as "fruit wands," which were little more than simple fruit skewers. Create tent cards to put on the buffet so guests can fully appreciate your creativity.

Drinks
A royal party is the perfect time to serve "Princess Punch" in bejeweled goblets. To bejewel your own goblet, follow these simple steps:
  • Pour lemon juice into a shallow bowl
  • Pour colorful sugar crystals (found in the baking aisle) into a second shallow bowl
  • Turn your goblet upside down and dip it into the lemon juice
  • Dip the goblet into the sugar crystals
Activities
Dress-up is a big component of a royal party—for both girls and boys. In addition to providing princess gowns and kings' costumes for the children to wear, Debi likes setting up a craft station where they can make their own royal crowns.
Table with pumpkin party decorations
Farmyard Pumpkin Patch Party
Decorations
Buy pumpkins of several different sizes and place them around your yard to create a pumpkin patch! Indoors, opt for a color palette of rich fall tones and put pumpkin-related items (pumpkin plates, pumpkin napkins, gourds for accent pieces, a tablecloth) around the table to complete the look.

Food
For a fall party like this, Debi prefers a warm menu of traditional comfort foods, such as chicken fingers and mac 'n' cheese.

Drinks
Set up a hot chocolate bar where children can select their hot chocolate (white, milk or dark) and then add fun toppings to it such as whipped cream, chocolate syrup and sprinkles.

Activities
After children have explored the pumpkin patch and selected their pumpkins, direct them to a decorating table where they can add stickers, glitter and paint to make their pumpkin unique.
Flower
Flower Party
Decorations
For a flower party, decorations almost always include fresh flowers! If you're on a budget, Debi suggests making your own tissue paper flowers to keep up the floral theme without going overboard on spending. Stick to soft colors like pink and white, and create a floral centerpiece by making a tissue paper topiary with different shades of green.

Food
As with the butterfly party, Debi says you can use cookie cutters to turn sandwiches into fun, floral shapes, or you can have the party catered with charming foods like mini burgers.

Drinks
Debi loves serving "rose petal punch" at a flower party. To make it, mix pink lemonade with ginger ale and add some floating rose petals to the top of the punch bowl.

Activities
For the main activity, have children make their own flower arrangements. Buy 2-inch buckets filled with green floral foam (soaked before the party) and give them to kids to fill with the flowers and greenery of their choice.
Cupcake with nail polish decoration
Spa Party for Tweens
Decorations
The great thing about decorating for a spa party is that you can tailor it to your child's favorite color. For the spa party that Debi planned, the birthday girl's favorite color was pink, which was carried throughout the entire event.

Food
For this party, snacks and munchies were the foods of choice. You can serve everything from cupcakes with nail polish decorations to trail mix with (pink) M&Ms and pretzels.

Drinks
Debi served pink sodas for this particular party, but whatever drinks you choose, keep them in line with the main color theme to help keep the party expertly coordinated.

Activities
"It's never too early to be pampered," Debi says. The main activities at a spa party focus on the girls having their nails painted, their faces brushed with sparkly powder and their hair done in updos. You can also give the children small, wooden jewelry boxes and have them decorate it with ribbons, jewels and glitter. Inside the jewelry boxes, you can put small spa-related items such as lotions, soaps and lip glosses.