In just a few short weeks we will be celebrating our daughters third birthday! I cant believe how time has flown by.

Her first two birthdays were quite large. The first year we had it in the recreation room of my husband’s fire house. It was a great time, allowed a lot of space for kids to run around and let the adults take a tour on some pretty cool equipment. Last year we had her birthday at our town’s nature center. We had a lot more children at this party, but kids were entertained by the various animals and critters living at the Center. It was a sunny day and a great time had by all.

While her first two birthdays were fun and the photos clearly show a well planned and executed birthday (thank you very much!), they took a lot of time and perfection.

This year as she turns three, I’m taking a different road and that’s a quick and easy, yet pretty and fun birthday party for the family.

Below are some quick instructions on how to plan a kid’s birthday party in under a few hours. If you’re short on planning time, then you have come to the right place. However, I would suggest planning 4-6 weeks in advance to save your sanity.

Step 1: Become friends with MS Excel. In here you will need to create tabs for the invite/RSVP list, menu and party supply list, including favors. These three lists will keep you in check and on budget. Simply format a table to tabulate the cost and boom – no need for a hand calculator!

Step 2: Spend 45 minutes (no more than an hour) on researching party themes. Write down your thoughts in the location you keep all your lists (excel, word or your iPhone note section). The important thing to stress here is, keep everything together. You don’t want to have a list on your iPhone, RSVP headcount on your computer and menu on a sticky note. Keep organized.

Step 3: Purchase invites. You can do this at Party City and just fill the information out. Or, if you want invites with pictures, visit one of those easy online stores.  To save time on choosing an invitation, select the “one photo only” option of your child on the invite. The more pictures you include on the invite, the more you have to find, download and edit. Save time here.

Step 4: Now that you have your invite list, menu, party theme down pat, and invites ordered, its time to come up with a list of things you need to do to your house before family comes. If you decide to have the party not at your home, you’ve saved a huge step here.

Step 5: Say YES to family who offer to bring something. If they didn’t want to offer, they wouldn’t ask. Its wonderful and kind when they ask, so take them up!

Step 6: Two weeks before the party, purchase party favors. If there aren’t many kids attending the party, then simply go to a local craft store, pick up some cute plastic sleeves and fill with chocolate, homemade baked cookies and throw in some bubbles and chalk. BOOM! You’re done. Don’t overcomplicate this – this is a kids party, not the Vanity Fair post Oscar’s party.

Step 7: Night before. Make sure house is cleaned to your liking and decorations are set up. I suggest doing this the night before, because you can always clean up in the morning and you’re going to be busy the day of.

Step 8: Have a family member pick up the food you are ordering and please, don’t tell me your making it yourself! That would defeat the purpose of a quick and easy birthday, silly.

Step 9: Take a group picture of the birthday party guests. It’s a wonderful memory to save for your children.

Step 10: When everyone leaves GO TO BED! The dirt and mess will be there for you the next morning, after you’ve had a cup of coffee, of course.

So, now you have it, a quick and easy way to plan a kid’s birthday. Feel free to share any other tips I’ve missed! Happy Birthday Planning!