This past weekend my oldest daughter celebrated her third birthday! I am still trying to wrap my mind around how it is possible that my little baby is already three years old.

My daughter loves to celebrate her birthday. This year she insisted on inviting her friends from her class, our close family friends, neighbors, grandparents, and aunts.  We had similar sized birthday parties for her first and second birthday. I know that some parents believe that having a large party every year is over the top, but my husband and I enjoy planning the party, and we enjoy getting to spend the day with family and close friends.

This year I learned some valuable lessons about throwing children’s parties. First, don’t host the party at your home if you can help it. This year we decided to have a pizza themed party at the local pizza restaurant. I would highly recommend this as an option for your child’s next birthday.  For less than the cost of renting a bouncy house we had salad, pizza and drinks for fifty people. It was fabulous. Guests arrived, I had coloring activities and stickers on the tables for the kids, parents had the chance to visit, salad was served, pizza was served, we cut the cake and sang happy birthday. Less than two hours later we were all on our way to the playground to run off our lunch! There was no cleaning up, no worrying about spills, no spending days preparing food, it was the perfect party!

Second, don’t go overboard on the extras. The only additional costs that I incurred were the cake (which I could have made on my own, but opted not to), the favors, and the decorations. Since the restaurant is well decorated I added only minimal decorations. I opted for one balloon for each child’s chair.

Third, look for sales on quality favors. How many times have you and your child been to a birthday party and received a plastic bag filled with plastic toys? I wanted to avoid this. I asked the restaurant if they would consider giving me one small pizza box per child, and they did, for free (side note, the pizza boxes were made from recycled materials). I drew everyone’s name on the front and decorated the pizza boxes. About one month before the party I started browsing online at melissaanddoug.com to monitor their sale items. Three weeks before the party they marked down the puppy and kitty decorate-your-own wooden door hangers to $5.19 each, plus offered free shipping. This price per favor was about the same as buying the plastic Dora birthday set from Wal-Mart. I would highly recommend monitoring this website for excellent sale opportunities.  My daughter and I stuffed one Melissa and Doug toy in each pizza box and included an Annie’s organic graham cracker snack and one organic juice box. It was a fun task that the two of us were able to do together, and it instilled in my daughter a sense of responsibility and accomplishment over the gifts for her friends.  Both parents and kids raved about the favors!

Lastly, enjoy every moment. I love planning and throwing birthday parties for my daughters, and I will enjoy each and every year, because soon enough they will be teenagers who are mortified even having me around on their birthday.