It’s easy to think you need to organise an elaborate party every year for each of your kids. But that’s not really the case, and we’ve found that things are very different in reality.

I think the key point here is that you want both you and your kids to grow up with fond memories of special days: but there’s no rule that states your kid has to have a large party every year.

Simple events, family parties, trips to the zoo, and sleepovers with a couple of friends are often just as fun and special. And that is particularly true for you, the organizer, since setting up a big event can be stressful.

In fact, what your kid expects and enjoys will change year by year. So this blog works through the key ages and shows the sorts of activity that make most sense.

Infant & Toddlers aged 1-2

For the 1st birthday, this event is an all round celebration: it can be as much about you and your loved ones who have supported you, as it is about your child. You don’t need to go overboard at all, but celebrating the special day is important.

You can gather groups of family and friends to cut a cake, enjoy a few drinks maybe a picnic in the park, or a barbeque. It’s a nice way transition into kids parties without having to organize a lot of games and activities, as your 1 year old can be very happy just playing with a balloon and receiving all the attention.

For the 2nd birthday you could have a small tea party at home, a lovely cake, finger food and some drinks. Your 2 year old will start to be more aware of things going around, so you can start to introduce some simple games. You can have fun decorating the room and doing the food together. The event doesn’t need to last long: 2 hours maximum.

Preschool 3-5

As your child gets a little older, they develop very active imaginations. They love dressing up, decorations, balloons and entertainer shows in the pre-school years. For this age band, you certainly expect parents to attend the party, so you need to plan for that.

So for a 3 year or 4 old party, you can try organizing a punch and judy show, a magician, or a balloon artist. But it’s not crucial to pay for an entertainer: it can just as well be a tea party at home: it’s just that will need a bit more preparation. You should definitely plan a few games, like musical statues, pin the tail on the donkey, and the favorite pass the parcel.

For you 5 year old, you’ve definitely arrived at a point where they remember the event and memories are formed. You could hire a local hall and set it up for a theme, with decorations and some fun activities. Or you could go to a soft play venue, or do something at home and get some craft bits to set up a craft table.

For our daughter we went to the local gym where they have trampolines and run around activities.

You can certainly plan lots of games as your five year old will love these.

6-8

For this age group you’ll start to see differences between boys and girls, and what they like. It’s not unusual for kids of this age to want to play only with friends of the same sex. It’s also the age band when you can consider having the parents drop off their kids, rather than stay. So bear all this in mind with your invitations.

For a 6 year old, consider a relevant theme: ask what they like. Check out what they TV or films they enjoy most. Simple themes like Frozen, princess, pirates, Superheroes work really well.

You can certainly consider an entertainer, with something like a magic show or pet animals to keep everyone entertained.

Once again, this age is perfect for party games: from the old favorites like pass the parcel, through to the latest new ideas. The kids always enjoy a bit of creativity!

With your 7 or 8 year old, plan to get them really involved in the preparation, cooking and invites. In fact you could even have cooking as the party theme. We did that for our 7 year old at a local place that makes cupcakes and various decorated biscuits.

Just as well however, you could keep it really simple, and choose a friend or two to take out for pizza and the cinema. If you organize a special cake, and go for a real treat, it works so well, and is much easier to organize!

Pre Teens 9-12

From around 9 years old and upwards, impressions really count. Your kids will know their mind and be well aware of what is “cool” and what is not. So take care to listen to what they have to say. For example games like pass the parcel may feel a bit odd to this age group. And anything quiet is a non-starter. They are also at a great age for sleepovers and parties at home.

For your 9 year old party you don’t need to do as much or the thinking, but be ready with a list of activities and games if need. You can trust this age group a bit more with messier games such as jelly beans in the flour.

I’d recommend nothing too competitive, and less of the racing style games. But you could consider team activities like an obstacle course game, where they all help each other out. For self aware kids the idea of getting competitive can be a real no-no.

Plan plenty of food, and get them involved in deciding what food and treats to have. This is a major part of the fun at this age.

For our 10 year old party we did end up inviting quite a lot of people – up to 20 can still work. It can also be self organizing: so something as simple as a DVD to watch with pizza and treats is great, it can cost hardly anything and is often more fun than a full-on party.

We’ve also organized more significant outings to activity centres where the kids can do quad-biking, climbing, archery, stuff like that.

At aged 11 your kids will be at a good age to really go for it, without you having to pre-plan a load of activity.

A pool party works well, and don’t forget sleepovers, disco parties and home events which the kids can find thoroughly brilliant with just a little input from you.

Or you could plan a outing to go bowling, indoor climbing or skating. Stuff like that is great.

Young teens 12-14

From 12 upwards your young teen will know what they want, and will be prepared to do a lot of the organizing themselves. It’s likely the group could be a bit smaller at this age, and your child will be more choosey about who comes, and when to hold it.

Depending on your budget, energy and space available, you could organize anything from a sleepover, a pool party, or a simple make-over party at home, to an expedition.

You can still help organize some games and treats: there a some great games focused on makeup, nail painting for girls, and some messy activities or more vigorous games for both boys and girls.

Teens 15-17

What to do for your teen party?

Let them decide, but you are unlikely to need to plan games. Maybe a cake, and pay for a trip to a pizza place. Or a movie. We did a paint ball session which was great.

I’d take care with a house party at this age, unless you have a small group.

So that’s the headlines by age: let me know what you think and what you have organised. And above all, make sure you have fun!