How to Throw a Mediocre Birthday Party

I pride myself on being a mediocre parent. Maybe it’s my age. I had my daughter when I was of advanced maternal age. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m a grumpy old Gen X mom, while most of my daughter’s parents are sunny Millennials. Whatever. Back to mediocrity: I’ve been winning in this role since 2009.

My gender reveal happened on the ultrasound monitor without secret, color-coded cake filling. I didn’t have a lifestyle photographer document my labor and delivery. We didn’t have a newborn photo shoot. (How does one schedule that when one is so very tired?) I didn’t take monthly photos, the ones with the corresponding sticker and list of her skills to-date. Even baby’s first holiday photos were 1980s style, taken at a department store portrait studio. Nothing screams average like propping your baby up on a carpeted bolster!

In the spirit of mediocrity, I try to keep birthday parties simple. It’s not easy to throw an average birthday party these days. There is a lot of pressure to rent bounce houses, host pottery workshops, and curate favors and goodie bags. Aside from ordering a giant cake loaded with too much frosting, you can throw a perfectly mediocre party if you keep these five things in mind.

How to throw a mediocre birthday party for your kid

Keep it Short

Ninety minutes is plenty long to have kids you are not related to running around in your home. If you have younger kids, you can tell yourself that you’ll only have to chat with barely-acquainted moms for two hours. If you have older kids and the parents drop their kids at the door, 90 minutes is just long enough for them to grab coffee or run home and change the laundry over. Any longer and they will fool themselves into thinking that they can make a Target run while you provide free daycare, and then you’re stuck with little Johnny when mommy sends a text at the 119 minute mark. “Target was crazy lol! On our way!” You’ll both know she’s lying.


It’s easy to question this one, especially if you think your home is too small or the party won’t be memorable if it happens in your living room. Trust me, kids just want to play. My daughter went to a party recently that was co-hosted for two birthday girls at one family’s home. Brilliant!

Resist the pressure to spend money on a venue because you think it’s expected or required for fun. Young kiddos won’t remember that mommy stroked a $200 check so they could jump in a foam pit for an hour with their friends from preschool. Save the fun locations and activities for older kids because they will actually remember going to the pool, ice skating, or a trampoline park.

Games and Entertainment

Pinterest is the root of this particular party evil. A key word search as innocent as “party games for five-year-olds” will lead you down a path from which you can never turn back without feeling wholly inadequate. I almost became a stellar party mom thanks to Pinterest! Thankfully, I escaped with little more than a few printables and a DIY light saber made out of pool noodles and duct tape for her Star Wars-themed 6th birthday.

If your child is younger than six, don’t even bother with games and entertainment. All of your kid’s toys will be novel for the party guests because they are new and different to them. Drag out the Barbies, play sets, and trains. Let ‘em loose. Save the money you would have spent on the mini bowling alley and splurge on snacks for the moms. If there’s a lull in the action, bring out the balloons and you’ll be good for another 20 minutes while you cut the cake.


Plan the party time to fall between meals so you don’t have to feed everyone. No six-foot subs. No sundae bars. No lemonade stations. Just cake. Or cupcakes. Or whatever dessert your kiddo asks for. The point is: keep it simple and serve with too much ice cream. Kids will love it. And even if they don’t, it’s a good 15-20 minutes that they’re occupied before the parents return.

How to throw a mediocre birthday party for your kid

Party Favors

The same people that think every kid deserves a trophy probably started the over-the-top party favor trend. I’ve been to parties where the favor was worth more than the gift my daughter brought for the birthday girl or boy. This mediocre mom thinks it’s ok—a good idea, even—for your kid to bring a present and not get anything in return. The ‘favor’ is that they get to play with your kid and eat cake. If you have leftover balloons hanging around, give those as favors as they walk out the door. Parents will love when their rear-view mirror is blocked by the memento of their child’s fun time at your house.

How to Throw A Mediocre Birthday Party
Are you a mediocre parent? What are your tips for throwing an average party?


Sherri is a transplant from Oregon who came to be a Hawkeye in 2006 and stayed for the sweet corn...and for the Iowa boy she met along the way! She and her husband (Kyle) have a 9 year-old daughter, Aissa. Sherri earned her Ph.D. in Higher Education and Student Affairs at The University of Iowa and works for Ruffalo Noel Levitz as an Enrollment Marketing Consultant for colleges and universities. When she's not working, you can find her with her family, enjoying Iowa City and cheering on the Hawkeyes.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.