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A baby is celebrating her first birthday with a cake. Toddler birthday parties ideas.

The Ultimate Guide to a Fun Toddler Birthday Party (On a Budget)

Do you remember having the best time at a childhood birthday party? Maybe your own or a great memory of a friend’s party. Whether it was the party bags, the birthday party theme, an awesome treasure hunt, the party venue or any other reason, these events can become very memorable.

As a parent, it’s easy to stress about your toddler’s birthday party. Sometimes we can go totally overboard and blow out the budget! I’ve been in that situation once or twice myself (after a while you end up learning some tricks and hacks when it comes to raising kids)! 

With a little planning and foresight, you can throw an amazing toddler party that will wow your party guests with great birthday party ideas. All while keeping you on budget and being entertaining for the kids and adults.

Does it Make Sense to Have a Plan?

A Mom is cooking with boy. Toddler birthday parties ideas.

This may sound like it goes against the very concept of “planning” great birthday parties. Before booking party packages with minute-by-minute activities and scavenger hunts alongside other planned events, consider how old the kids are. If they are younger than 1 year old, planning will often lead to nothing but frustration. Instead of planning for kids that young, let them crawl and waddle around and have a good time because they may not listen to your plan anyway!

Planning Tips

A Mom is looking at her laptop with her kids. Toddler birthday parties ideas.


Where do you have a party? The most cost-effective way is to have it at your own home. If your home will not accommodate the number of people you are planning on having, asking a friend or family member with a bigger home is always a great option. If you choose to book a venue, make sure to do it early because many venues are booked weeks in advance.


Have you ever wondered about the best time to throw a party? As a parent who has had many birthdays on a budget, I have found that the ideal time is between 1-5 pm. Most kids are awake at this time, leading to less crankiness from the attendees. As a bonus, full meals are not expected at this time so snacks and light foods will suffice!

Shared Birthdays

Want another great savings tip? Share your birthdays! This allows you to split the cost and effort of throwing the party with another family while giving the birthday boy or birthday girl more people to play and have fun with.

Savings Tips

As we all know, raising a family can become expensive and learning to pinch pennies is part of the learning curve. In order to keep some more cash in your wallet but still have a party to remember, use these savings tips.

  • Think Ahead: Look for sales to buy your party supplies. You can easily save 30-40% or more this way.
  • Visit Your Local Dollar Store: Very rarely do birthday party supplies survive till the next year. Use the dollar store for decorations as well as treat bags to save some money.
  • Skip on the Paper Invites: Digital invites are not only more eco-friendly, but they are also significantly less expensive. Reach out with digital invites for your next birthday party.
  • Buy Ahead: If you are having a party at a play center, buy at the store beforehand. All supplies and goodies from a venue will be marked up so buying ahead is a good way to spend less.
  • Free Activities: Paying for private parties, exotic entertainment (clowns and petting zoos) and other party favors get expensive quickly. There are lots of free activities that are amazing for kids and won’t cost you a dime!

Free Activities for a Toddlers Birthday Party

A group of kids are having a birthday party. Toddler birthday parties ideas.
  • Musical Chairs

Have the kids stand together with chairs in a circle facing out. Make sure there is one less chair than there are kids. Play music and have the kids walk around the chairs. When the music stops, they sit down, and the one left standing is out of the game. Last one sitting wins.

  • Best Dancer Contest

Select a group of judges and give the kids a set amount of time (30 seconds is normally adequate) and let the kids dance their hearts out!

  • Freeze Dance

Have all the kids dance to music and when the music stops, all the kids must freeze. If someone doesn’t freeze right away, they must do 10 jumping jacks once the music starts before they can start dancing again.

  • Hunt for Treasure

Hide a treasure somewhere on the site of the party and let the kids know that they must find it within a set time frame. You can give them hints if they are having trouble, but the hints must be yelled loud enough for everyone to hear.

  • Hot Potato

Hand an item to the kids and have them stand in the circle. They are allowed to hold that item until someone yells “Hot Potato” and until “Hot Potato” is yelled again, they can’t hold onto it. It must be tossed between kids and if they hold on for too long, they are out till the next round.

  • Cross the Lava Flow

In this game, the kids must cross an imaginary lava flow across the floor without touching it. They can do this by building a bridge with anything they find: cushions, towels, boxes, or anything else laying around. If they don’t touch the lava, they are good to go!

  • The Floor is Lava

One of the most classic birthday activities you can play! When an adult says the floor is lava, all the kids have to get off the floor. Benches, chairs, shelves, or anything else that isn’t the floor is fair game!

  • Empty Bottle Bowling

Who needs the bowling alley? Empty 2-liter bottles and a ball makes for some of the best bowling in town and it can be set up in almost any hallway in your house!

  • Balloon Stomp

Everyone loves the sound of a popping balloon! Get the kids to stomp on the balloons as a fun way to burn off steam (and help with the clean up too).

  • Hula Hoop Contest  

 All you need for this one is a hula hoop and a timer. Give all the kids (and parents) a shot to see how long they can hula for. You can even provide a gift (maybe the hula hoop itself) for the one who can keep it off the ground and around their hips the longest.

  • Piñata

A piñata will cost you a bit of money (unless you choose to make it out of paper mache) but it is always a huge hit at birthday parties. You can fill them with treats and let the birthday boy or girl take a swing at it until the piñata spills its treasure for all the kids.

Goodie Bags

A group of kids are watching a boy opening a birthday gift. Toddler birthday parties ideas.

Kids are always excited to be part of the action, but they also have come accustomed to getting a goodie bag. As mentioned above, the dollar store is a great place to stock these bags since there are likely to be a lot of them. What will you need for a goodie bag?

  •   Paper bag
  •   Chocolate
  •   Pencil
  •   Notepad
  •   Maze
  •   Stickers
  •   Thank you note

Gift Giving

A child and her Dad are looking at each other lovingly. Toddler birthday parties ideas.

As an attendee of many birthday parties, I know first-hand that it is nice to get some suggestions for toddler birthday gifts. Ideally, a range of price points as well as a range of gift types will be represented. What kind of gifts do I recommend?

  • Clothing: Many parents like to buy practical gifts and clothing is always useful. Provide sizes and color preferences and maybe a “hoping to get…” list.
  • Toys: Not all kids like the same toys and providing a collection to choose from gives parents an array of choices that they can choose from. 


A kids is playing with a toy shopping cart. Toddler birthday parties ideas.

As the party approaches, you can now rest assured that you are going to be able to take on the day, make great memories with your kids and still make sure to save up for their education fund! Follow this list and you will be riding stress-free into the sunset.


  • A plan: Are you planning activities or letting the kids set the pace? How old are the kids? If you are planning, make sure to have a schedule.
  • Have your venue picked out weeks in advance.
  • Choose the time that best suits the kids and your wallet (1-5pm).
  • Share the birthday if possible.
  • Make a budget and stick to it!
  • Put together the goodie bags days before the party.
  • When parents RSVP, give them the list of gift suggestions (if you are going to be implementing this tip).
  • Ensure your checklist is complete the day before the party!

Most Important Tip of All

In the end, the most important thing about your child’s birthday is that they feel loved and appreciated. This is why we celebrate birthdays in the first place. Showering them with love and affection goes further than gifts and goodie bags (although they are also appreciated). Whatever you choose to do, keep your kids at the forefront of your mind and use these tips to have a stress-free day!

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Cali's Books, founder, about us, why I love books, children's books

Hi! I'm Cali, Founder of Cali's Books

“I’ve loved books since childhood and wanted to transmit this enthusiasm to my children”

I'm a mom of two young children who trained as an engineer and worked in investment banking and at Disney. A French of Caribbean origin (Martinique to be precise!), I grew up in Paris. Los Angeles is now the place I call home!

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