Assemble Your Allies: 5 tips for a stress-free kids’ party


I have it on good authority (from a 4-year-old expert), that Captain America is the coolest because he’s “the strongest human ever, has the best outfit, and he always does the right thing.”

So when that little Avenger (or explorer or princess) comes and tells you they want a character-themed party for their birthday, how do you bring that beloved vision to life while still keeping things unique and stress-free?

Here are 5 tips I’ve gleaned for throwing together something simple but special…

This post is sponsored by Target.



1. Know when to buy versus make. Target carries everything little hearts could possibly desire for an Avengers-themed party, from giant Hulk hands to full Iron-Man costumes—even band-aids, so I usually start there.

I like to walk through the party aisle, picking up a pre-made party pack to riff off. I keep some licensed elements in my basket, and then mix in other items that pair in color and tone. For example, I might pair the party pack with more generically striped red-and-white tablecloths and color-coordinating banners. I particularly like these marbleized balloons.

The same logic applies to toys: I picked up an Avengers favor pack and then added in coordinating punch balloons (a huge hit!) and kazoos. (And we let them have the favors to play with right away.)  Some kids brought their own costumes to share—which can be a huge cost savings—and it can be fun to add some elements like masks, shields (that are also frisbees), and wristbands into the mix.



2. Focus on one handmade element. Use your efforts on something that makes an impact, like the cake or an elaborate photo-backdrop.

Last year, my friend Dora made these awesome personalized capes for all the kids who came to her son’s superhero party. Hudson loves his so much and has even slept with it! They’re super-simple but super-special.

Here’s how…


Using a piece of chalk, mark the width of the cape you’d like on the bottom edges. You could also use the middle seams as a guide. Draw diagonal lines up to meet the collar of the shirt, just behind the shoulder seams. That’s your cape template.

Next, being careful to only cut through one layer of the shirt, cut up to the collar and to meet those diagonal lines at the shoulder seams. Cut along the diagonal lines you drew.

Use felt or any other colored fabric to add an emblem or initial, and you’re done! (You could also start with a pre-emblazoned shirt.)



3. Keep the cake easy. Order one from a bakery or grocery store, or make it yourself, but keep it simple for yourself. You can’t make the cake too far in advance, so it can easily add stress to your prep time. Don’t let it! I wrote before about one of my favorite strategies for decorating a cake. Here I took a simple white layer-cake and added some sprinkles, then topped bamboo skewers with these!

Don’t forget to look outside the cake aisle for decorations. Toys can make for great decorations!



4. Turn a prep-task into an activity. We bought cupcakes and let the kids decorate them themselves. I was amazed at how long they spent carefully assembling their creations before digging in! For toppings, I mixed the standard fare (jimmies and red hots) with items like yogurt-covered raisins and star-shaped cereal. You could also set out blueberries or other fruits.

I like serving cupcakes to the kids to minimize the chaos of cutting and serving. The cake usually goes to the adults.





5. Stick to the basics. It can be nice to have a few ideas for special games and activities (these color wonder pages were a winning surprise), but don’t stress out if you haven’t come up with an organized activity or themed game. Sometimes it’s the most basic things that entertain best of all: bubbles, balloons, and a parachute, for example, can make a party.



In the end, kids will just play. Throw in a few choice props and go with the flow! These guys just ran and play-fought bad guys and laughed.

What are some of your favorite tricks and tips? 

P.S. Some thoughts on superheroes and raising moral kids. And a super-themed dessert table.

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