Happy Birthday 101: A Scottsdale mom’s guide to children’s parties!


As moms, we all have our different strengths.

Some moms plan elaborate, fabulous parties, while other moms (like me) attend them.

Some moms know exactly which details deserve full attention, while other moms (like me) can’t quite figure out what it was we were missing.

Some moms find just the right themes, decor and food, while other moms (like me) merely stalk these moms on Pinterest.

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Well, a few weeks ago I had the chance to attend one of these fabulous, perfectly done children’s parties.It was a lovely nautical themed party and the kind of event I’m used to reading about on party-planning blogs but had rarely actually seen in real life.

Of course it was beautiful, well planned, and creative. But also (and this is the best part) it was really fun!

As I approached the mother of the birthday girl and began to overwhelm her with my compliments about her incredible hostessing abilities, she was quick to laugh and humbly assure me that she had “nothing at all to do with it” Instead, she gave the credit to a mutual friend who is not only a local mom herself, but also a woman uniquely gifted with all the style that I just…. umm… lack..!

Blog Pic 10So, in the interest of providing a little help to moms like me, I took some time to chat with mommy/party-planning extraordinare Angela Isacksen:

{SMB}: When it comes trends in children’s parties, what’s the “latest and greatest” and what’s “so over“?

{Angela Isacksen} It seems parties that allow guests to dress up have become more popular. Whether it’s a princess or superhero theme, tea party or sports related, it’s fun to include a “costume optional” message on the invite! *Don’t forget to designate a “photographer” to capture the children in their wigs, gowns, capes & masks!

Art parties are also becoming a popular way to celebrate birthdays! These get the kiddos using their creativity and keep them busy. Some may say these are more suited for girls, but they don’t have to be. Have a teacher/artist come with supplies, or a special book and activity for the children. This keeps them entertained and may cost just as much as getting a bounce house. The guests can even take home their creations as favors. You can get creative with the party decor too!

Circus themed parties have been around for YEARS and they seem to just get bigger & better! This theme is great because it can be gender neutral and appeal to a wide age range. I’ll never forget my sister’s 8th birthday party where a friend and I dressed up as clowns and painted balloons on the faces of the guests (I was 4 years older). This was over 20 years ago so I guess some themes are never “over!” But, one theme that I’m predicting WILL be “so over” in the not so distant future… the mustache party theme.

{SMB:} Planning parties for adults or for small children is fun because we pick great themes to work around! But what about older preschoolers or elementary kiddos that all seem to be obsessed with Pixar characters, etc… ? How do you choose a theme like that without it looking like a commercialized pre-packaged party?

{Angela Isacksen}: We want to throw parties in a theme our children are crazy about and it’s easy to pick up all of the supplies at a local party store. For many, that works. But, for parents want to make a themed party a little more unique, I’d advise them to invest a little more time scoping out cool items in on-line stores, etsy stores, or in local businesses that make custom invitations and other party supplies. I like to focus more on a color theme and have touches here and there of the “must have” favorite character.

Jake's 4th BDay Party!For my son’s 4th Birthday Party he requested a Star Wars theme. I didn’t want Anakin and Darth Maul plastered on every cup, plate or cupcake pick, (that may have frightened some of his friends) so I decided to go with a cool color palette that matched the invite, adding just a few character touches to appease my birthday boy. The invite sets the tone to any party and I found one that was age appropriate, with a trendy chevron print that my son loved. He especially liked the design because of the cute cartoon star wars characters. The main colors in the invite were gray & lime green, so I ran with those adding touches of silver & black. Each child was given a Star Wars character mask at his/her seat and a local cupcake shop made special cupcakes adding edible light sabers and characters on top. They all left with a Yoda cookie, glow in the dark sticks, a small lightsaber candy & a homemade green light saber (I made using pool noodles and some duct tape).

{SMB} What’s your theory on “when to stop”? I so want to make everything cute and special but I feel like it’s easy to go overboard!

{Angela Isacksen}: You’re right, it’s very easy to get caught up in every detail, especially when we see numerous pins, facebook pics, blog posts and DIY shows of what so many other parents have done. You have to set a budget and really consider what’s most important to you AND your child. It might be spending a little more on a cake or dessert table, or maybe it’s a special game, rental or entertainer. There’s a lot to consider when hosting a birthday party. Are you hosting a group of children or families? You might want to invest a little more when hosting friends, their siblings and parents. If there’s too much going on, then details may get lost.

My party must-haves:

  • Great invites: You can fnd inexpensive invitation styles on line & print them yourself or go to a local boutique to have custom made invites.
  • Dessert (and snack) Table: The cake (or cupcakes) will be showcased here, along with any other desserts/ treats, little snacks and drinks. I like to include some themed decor items as well.
  • Entertainment: The entertainment can be as elaborate or as simple as you wish. It can be a little craft the guests take home, a rental (bounce house type), entertainer, or characters in costume depending on age of guests.
  • Special Attire: The birthday boy or girl should have something fabulous or in theme to wear on his/her day, of course!
  • Party Favors: I always like guests to leave with something special, to thank them for coming to celebrate. Whether it be a special themed cookie or a little treat bag with a couple of themed items and a sweet treat, your little guests should depart with a “thank you.”

{SMB} Along the same lines, what is your favorite special *extra* that you would never want to sacrifice?

Jake BDay Collage

{Angela Isacksen}:  A little something extra I love to include in party planning are themedcookies. They can represent the age or name of the birthday child with a number or letter, a crown cookie for the “princess party”, cowboy hat for a “western” theme or fish for the “under the ocean” party. These can be set out on the dessert table with a cake or cupcakes and other goodies or send them home wrapped in clear bags as favors. It’s just a little something cute & tasty that I personally wouldn’t want to sacrifice!

{SMB}: What are your three favorite themes for a girls party and your three favorite themes for a boys party?

{Angela Isacksen}:

Rainbow – “Over the Rainbow”

Vintage Transportation – car, truck, train, airplane

Gender Neutral:
Backyard Beach/Pool

Many thanks to Angela Isacksen for sharing her insights and tips! And, for those who may need a little extra help, Angela also all sorts of party planning services ranging from offering a little assistance in choosing invites, decor, food, entertainment and favors, all the way to purchasing/ordering of party decor and even set up and photography. (Yes, she can set up and stay to photograph the special event!) For more information on Angela you can visit her darling blog,  Savvy Styled Sessions & Events! or view her on Facebook.

And, just so ya know… No financial compensation nor goods & services were exchanged for writing about Angela or her business. I just can’t keep just a fabulous secret to myself!



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