I lieu of all the interest in party planning, I decided to post my basics for throwing and planning kids parties.
Sometimes I have a theme, and sometimes not right away. I admit sometimes I pick a theme based on being able to making a rhyming card with the birthday number (I did Choo Choo Choo, Look Who's Turning Two...yep train party when my son turned 2). That's partly why we are doing Zoo for my daughter's party next month. And for her third...A Little Birdie told me, Maressa B----- is turning Three! So it will have a bird theme. I've already got a template for the card...lol. I've convinced my other daughter to let me do Six is Sweet for her birthday. So sometimes that is how I come up with my theme and go from there. I'm doing Dogs for Micah's 4th because the boy is obsessed with dogs and sleeps with 6-7 various dogs every night. So lots of blue (his fav color) and dogs and I've found cute stuff for that already (it's in June). I personally try to stick with non character parties. I have done them (Blues Clues, Elmo) but I find in more interesting to go more generic (not to mention, licensed character stuff is more expensive and not very original).
So once you've come up with your theme keep your eyes peeled for party stuff on the web and in the stores. Any time I find something I want to remember, an idea or picture, I make a folder for the party it pertains to on my Favorites. Also check Target dollar bins. I scored stuffed lions and elephants last fall for Maressa's upcoming zoo party, the other week I picked up lacy tea party girls gloves...we probably won't get to that for a few years, but for a $1 a piece it's worth it to get them now...esp when you normally can't find those things. Last year I got cute little barns and farm animals in the dollar bins for Micah's farm party. I check the dollar bins at Target each and every time I go.
For party favors I like to stay mostly away from a lot candy. I like to do fruit snack when the theme applies. Z had a build a bear party and they make build a bear fruit snacks. They make lego ones and princess ones as well. I also check the cookie and cracker aisle for animal or other fun shaped cookies and crackers. Homemade playdough (with or without the glitter) makes a great party favor for younger kids. And fun shaped crayons...you can make these yourself in a silicone candy mold found at a hobby store, or buy some on etsy here. I also like wedding type bubbles for favors. I tie with ribbons for the long skinny type, and for the smaller chunky type I put the birthday number on the side with a paint pen. These little bubbles are great for small hands and since they have the wand attached to the lid, they won't fall down into the bubbles. Another great toddler favor is big fat chalk. I am including some in the favors for the upcoming 2 year old party. You can get a big box for cheap at Hobby Lobby. I'm putting 5 different colors in a cute zoo printed favor bag.
For decorating, I like to use scrapbooking papers for banners and invitations. I use regular solid color balloons and streamers and ribbons.
For plates I often use solid colors, but I have these plates and matching bowls now and I plan to use them for my smaller parties. I like the paper and plastic table covers.
Here are some great resources:
Birthday in a Box
Oriental Trading Co
Hostess with the Mostess
Get cool and/or custom stuff:
Since I've had several ask for help on party themes and ideas, I've decided to post specific ideas for them instead of commenting. I will do one party brainstorming post once a week as I receive requests. So if you want help, just comment in the brainstorming post and I will post about it the next week. If you'd like to offer your ideas, those are welcome as well! :)