- Keep it short (an hour to 45 minutes is plenty of time).
- Keep it small (1-3 friends at most: more overwhelming; keep grandmas and other well-meaning “helpers” on the outskirts, as audience: they mean well, but can be even more overwhelming than the other kids).
- KEEP the MOMS (or dads): every little guest needs help and support at this age. Too early for drop and go.
I like to turn on a Happy Birthday song and just clap to it. I like to start off by doing together a big and loud “Happy Birthday” to the baby, though at this age, it is more important for the guests, then for the birthday boy. Still, it helps set this special time apart.
The little ones can be apprehensive in the new environment in the beginning, and clingy. Rice Box is the best ice-breaker: it is a terrific sensory experience (proven to help relax), it is like an indoor sandbox!
Supplies: storage box, rice, table cloth (large, underneath, to ease cleaning), various cups, animals, shells, brushes
Activities: dip your hands for fun sensations, search for treasures in the rice, clean your treasures with brushes, make some “rice soup”, load a toy car with rice and drive around rice dunes, make “rice snow”
3. Best Toddler-Made Room Decor
Supplies: self adhesive contact paper, marker, stickers, colorful pom-pom balls, buttons (large enough not to be swallowed), small ribbons
Advance Preparation: Cut out a large piece of contact paper, draw a simple house with trees and clouds with a marker, scotch tape it to the wall.
Activities: Either hide your decorations in a rice box, or throw them around the floor while the kids are busy digging, or even throw them around before the party. Invite them to decorate the room for a fun birthday party: they can walk up to the sticky contact paper and attach their treasure right on!
Note: If you had the stickers and pop-poms in the rice box, you can start placing them in a separate container or bucket as the kids dig it out. Otherwise, you can combine the two and let them go and attach their newly found treasures right to the picture. If you do end up with a bucket full of treasures, keep at the other side of the room, far away from the sticky paper: running across, finding a pom-pom or sticker, caring it all the way back adds more movement, reduces a pushing at the spot of sticky paper, creates even more giggles along the way.
Supplies: a parachute, or a blanket, or a large sheet, a curtain
Activities: “Ring around the Rosie” – walking around and falling; weather – waves, wind, freeze (alternate!); raining – run underneath, sunny – run outside; Hide underneath altogether with parents and sing twinkle-twinkle or your little one’s favorite song, give kids a turn running “across the waves”, give each kid a ride on a “carousel” as you walk around.
Supplies: some toy fruits (this is the one my kids love dearly: Garden Fresh Fruits & Veggies Playset; this is the one that goes with the buckets and allows practicing sorting by color: Farmers Market Color Sorting Set) plastic bowl, tunnels, pillows, obstacles. Zig Zag Play Tunnel with Mesh Top fits perfectly; just as Mega Play Tent, hula hoop
Activities: turn on some fast and fun music, let toddlers grab a fruit, crawl through the tunnel, climb over the soft pillow, run across the sofa squishy sitting pillows, walk across the ribbon, crawl through the box, jump over a hula-hoop… and deposit the fruit in a plastic bowl. Fruit is crucial – gives a sense of purpose and direction. Babies always-alw ays love it.
6. Scarf Dance
Supplies: colorful scarves
Activities: turn on the music and just dance! Bring the scarves up, then down; side-to-side; make a circle with it; twirl in one place; grab the ends of each other’s scarf and go round and around; let everyone come together in a circle and wiggle their scarves close together, let everyone spread far apart.
Supplies: many musical instruments. These are our favorites: Band in a Box, Rainbow Xylophone, Rhythm Wooden Instruments Set for Toddlers, Kids Confetti 4 Musical Instruments Set. This one is always a hit: Kids Accordion.
Activities: again, turn on the music, and let them explore your musical treasures. If they already can, line them up with a single instrument each, and march around the room to the “Happy Birthday Tune”.
8. Optional Activities
We usually run out of time at this moment, but if you haven’t and still want to play, you can do some of your kid’s favorite nursery rhymes, musical spots, bean bag toss, ribbon dance, face painting. If you really want a character – this is a perfect time. More on that next time…
Supplies: bubble machine. This is a nice one – Backyard Blast Bubble Machine. Surprisingly, bubble guns tend to work well: you need to deep it, but we’ve seen some that produce really a ton of bubbles! The downside – we noticed that the bubble guns tend to break very fast, but the bubble machines last much longer.
Now you can finally cut the cake, feed your adorable little birthday crowd and send them off for some resting time! Good naps are given for the whole family!