First Birthday Party Planning
Your home: With kids this young, it can be hard to plan an afternoon event around naps and coordinate mealtimes. Keeping things simple with a special cake and immediate family might be the best way to create happy memories.
Restaurant or hall: It's still common in many families to hold a large catered affair for a child's first birthday. These events can be great fun for adults, but to ensure that your little one has a good time, too, ask for a private room where you can let her roam freely or where you can set up a secure play space for her and any other tots.
Setting a birthday theme such as dinosaurs, teddy bears, rainbows, the alphabet, or zoo animals can provide inspiration for activities or just allow your toddler to have a chance to play with his favorite toys. If you are planning on having young guests, you can try simple party games like crawl and chase, treasure hunt, bean bag toss, filling and emptying buckets, or dress up.
Look for developmentally appropriate evergreen favorites. But be sure to check toy safety guidelines to ensure that there is no choking risk.
Second Birthday Party Planning
Your home: Two or three play pals and some balloons are probably enough for a good time. Providing musical instruments and some low-fuss activities like sidewalk chalk (if you have outdoor space) or a few balls, will provide the perfect entertainment.
The park: Most towns will let you reserve a park or playground for a nominal fee. You can then let the little ones roam the grass with some outdoor toys or enjoy the jungle gym equipment.
Indoor play area: Depending on where you live, there may be indoor spaces with bouncy rooms, slides, and other toddler-safe play equipment. Prices will vary greatly, but you might expect to pay up to $30 per child (which should include cake and beverages). Many of these businesses have minimum attendee requirements, so you may have to pay for at least ten children to play, for instance.
Ideally, you will have room for your little one to run free with some playmates since 2-year-olds are bursting with energy and will want to be active. You can gather them around though for some activities, but consider limiting these to no more than 15 minutes since your child's attention span is still very limited. Storytime with one or two favorite books can be very engaging. You don't need to hire a professional, but to make it more fun, you may want the storyteller to dress in costume. Timeless fun like blowing bubbles is another can't-fail activity for the day as well.
Third Birthday Party Planning
Your home: By 3-years-old, you may need to put a little more effort into the affair to impress your tot, but a few simple decorations and a birthday theme that your child loves will make this an easy-to-do event for him and up to three pals.
Zoo: City zoos offer party packages for young children that may include behind-the-scenes tours with zoo employees. However, these can be expensive. Another option is to look for group discounts and invite one or two friends to join you for a day with the animals.
Your 3-year-old and her pals will have longer attention spans and may be able to sit for several moments to complete simple toddler crafts. This is also a fun age to try out a homemade piñata. Although you might want to consider filling it with non-sweet items such as plastic dinosaurs, play jewelry, and small activity pads.