Here’s how to throw a fun — and stress-free — third birthday party

Your toddler is turning three, and that is definitely something to celebrate. He or she will soon be a preschooler, and you are finally turning the page of those terrible twos. Kids love birthday parties, especially when all the gifts have their name on them. Of course, you want to throw a party your child and their friends will totally enjoy without making you crazy. It is possible, and we have some fun three-year-old party ideas to make the birthday boy or girl’s special day amazing while keeping your stress level to a minimum. The key to having a successful party for three-year-olds is to keep it simple.

Short and sweet

Unlike tween and teens, three-year-olds have an extremely limited attention span. When hosting a party for the toddler and soon-to-be-three set, keep it short. Ninety minutes is ideal. The time frame allows for activities, food, and cake.

girl making a wish on her third birthday
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Timing is everything

Most if not all of the party guests still nap, so it is important to choose a time of the day when the attendees are well-rested. Too late in the day or too close to that all-essential afternoon naptime and you’ll have very cranky party guests. If you’re including food, try for a late morning or early afternoon party time if possible.

How many guests?

If the invitations are handed out in school, most preschools require the entire class be invited. Of course, it is tempting to include your child’s whole class, but at this young age, large parties can be overwhelming for the guest of honor. Children this age won’t remember what party they were invited to or not in preschool. A better idea is to keep the guest list small and include the children your little one plays with on a regular basis. If you invite all the kids from school, playgroup, soccer, and dance, things will most certainly get a little wild and expensive. Five to eight is an ideal number of invites. Ten should be the max.

Kid-friendly menu

A lot of three-year-olds are picky eaters. A birthday party is not the time to experiment with new recipes or fancy desserts. Preschoolers like familiar foods, and they base eating decisions on how things look and smell. For the party menu, stick to foods young children typically like and downsize the portions. Pizza is a party staple, but you do have wiggle room here. Chicken fingers, grilled cheese, and tater tots are usually hits, too. If you want healthier options, try fruits like strawberries, blueberries, clementines, and watermelon. Before you decide on a menu, find out if any of the party guests have food allergies. Cupcakes are easier for little ones to eat than cake slices.

Child eating cake at a birthday party
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Where to hold the party

Finding a party place to host the celebration can be more expensive, but it does save on a lot of the preparation time and anxiety for you. Most party places provide the food and entertainment. Some even include the desserts, and you will get people to keep the children occupied.

For a budget-friendly option, check local parks. Usually, you can rent a park pavilion for a nominal fee, and it comes with a built-in playground. If you want to hold the party at home and have the space, go for it. Outside is best because you don’t want a group of three-year-olds running through the house. For weather worries, rent a tent ahead of time so you won’t stress.

Thrilling theme

Picking the party theme is always a lot of fun, and thanks to the internet it is a snap to find decorations, favors, and tableware. Popular three-year-old party themes usually revolve around pirates, princesses, dinosaurs, mermaids, unicorns, fire trucks, tea parties, and superheroes.

Keep activities structured

Just like preschool, parties for young children need structure to avoid the chaotic scene of kids just running around. If you are having a party at a bounce place or gym, the timing of the party is already taken care of, though it never hurts to have a picture book on hand for when the food is being served. For home parties, plan short activities to make the party fun and keep it structured. Figure 45 minutes to an hour of activities followed by food, cake, and goodie bags.

Sponge painting, a scavenger hunt, an obstacle course, and bubble-making are simple backyard activities kids love. You can also plan a combination of activities and place kids in a small group with an adult leader. Have them rotate around with about 15 minutes at each activity. Conclude by having all the kids gather for a read-aloud. Books are a great way to settle the group down before moving to the food. It also gives the hosts a chance to serve the food while the little ones are occupied.

Planning and hosting a party for your soon-to-be three-year-old should be fun. Don’t sweat the small stuff, as the saying goes. Keep the party simple, structured, and don’t worry too much about the adult guests. Most parents want to see their kiddos have a blast and aren’t concerned about being entertained themselves. Do make sure parents stick around. Three is a little young for a drop-and-go party. Since you will be busy hosting, ask a friend or older sibling to take the photos.

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