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Help a Mom: Best birthday parties for three-year-old

Posted October 4, 2011

On the advice of a Go Ask Mom reader last week, I'm resurrecting an old series here on Go Ask Mom called Help a Mom.

Long-time Go Ask Mom readers might remember this one. There were about a dozen posts between May 2010 and November 2010. You can click the "Help a Mom" tag right under my byline to see the past posts. At the time, I had been getting questions from readers about various parenting issues. So I'd post their questions for readers and ask readers to help out. The topics included everything from where to take a toddler on vacation to summer care for tweens.

The series died for a few reasons. The main one: I wasn't getting a lot of questions from readers.

But, as the reader I emailed with last week also believes, I still think this has a lot of potential. If I don't get a lot of questions, I may just post general parenting questions myself. 

Please keep in mind that the moms who are seeking advice are doing the best they can. Please keep your comments thoughtful and helpful. You'll find Help a Mom posts here on Go Ask Mom every Wednesday. I won't include the names of the moms (or dads, for that matter ... I'm always happy to hear from dads) in the posts.

So here we go ... again ...

I received this email from a mom this week about birthday parties for her son. I, of course, shared the Go Ask Mom birthday party database. Then I asked her if it was OK to pose her question to readers. She said yes.

Here's her question:

"I'm in need of some ideas of places to have a birthday party for my 3-year-old son. His birthday is Nov. 23. Please let me know if you have any ideas."

If you have a question for Help a Mom, click here to email it to me.


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  • pulstar40 Oct 5, 2011

    Have the party at home! Going out, especially to any place with a crowd, is just asking for trouble with kids that young. They just don't have the attention span, may not follow directions from folks they don't know, run all over the get the idea. Further, if you're actually thinking of having the party Nov. 23rd, remember that schools are closed - it's the day before Thanksgiving - and places may be crowded. A good rule of thumb is one child per 3 other kids (give or take) would be most manageable. You could do some simple Thanksgiving crafts, perhaps hire a "character" (clown, magician, etc.) to stop by and entertain a bit.

  • blahblahblah Oct 5, 2011

    I vote for a home party with family and friends.

  • cygnetmommy Oct 5, 2011

    I've been to parties at Marble's, Jumping Beans, Pump it Up. Although they seem like good ideas, we still have our parties at home. This year our themes were pirates and Toy Story (two different parties). We did the pin the ___ on the ___, musical islands (instead of chairs) and hot potato with a Mr. Potato head. I find it easier and MUCH cheaper to just have the parties at home, and the kids have just as much fun.

  • missparrothead Oct 5, 2011

    I agree with Mom2two. Simple home party with few games, cake, gifts. They are too young to enjoy a more lavish party.

  • shall6 Oct 5, 2011

    Thanks for all these great ideas!! I got this in an email from another reader: This is a suggestion for that mother. My son has the same Birthday and we did a party at Kids Clubhouse out in Garner/Clayton area. It was great since it seems to always be cold out then and the kids had a blast and were wore out


  • Jesscoupon Oct 5, 2011

    I second TandCsmom's post about Playnation!! We had our 5 year daughter's birthday there and her 3 year old brother and cousins loved it!!! His 4 year bday will be there in Feb.

  • blytheclifford Oct 5, 2011

    We did not to a "friend" birthday with our son until he was 4 yrs old. We just had family over for the 3rd birthday. At age 4, we did Marbles. It was nice but chaotic. For his 5th birthday, we did NC Museum of Natural Science in downtown Raleigh. It was awesome. Cheaper than Monkey Joes and similar places. Several well organized activities with 2 staff members. The kids got to touch lizards, etc. And...the cake was delicious and they offered milk and water instead of sugary drinks. I will probably go back there for future birthdays.

  • Mom2two Oct 5, 2011

    I have been a birthday party instructor for almost two years, and I believe that generally, 3yos are too young to have an organized party. But that being said, I like the ideas about having it in a park or just doing some arts and crafts. My advice would be to have it in the morning (avoiding naptime meltdowns), and keep it very short. An hour to play, cake and ice cream and that is it. Do not expect other children to watch while he opens presents, and really you should open presents later. Focus on just having fun and running around with buddies. Only have a few kids (not the whole preschool class).. A total of 5 or 6 friends is manageable.

    Too much happiness and excitement can be overwhelming to the birthday child, but it can also be overwhelming to their guests, who, at age 3, are still pretty egocentric as well.

    But good luck!

  • iriemom Oct 5, 2011

    There are some great ideas being posted! We had my son's 4th birthday at a nearby fire station. We did a "tour" which involved letting the kids spray water at a target (this was at the end of May), and then we had people come back to our house for cake. The fire fighters came back with us, so we got to have cake with them at our house and the kids loved that. It turns out we could have done the cake at the fire station as well. Our "party" with them was free, and it was awesome.

  • TandCsmom Oct 5, 2011

    PlayNation! My 3 yr. old loves it! When we had the party for my 5 yr. old, we were the only group there!