Do I Have to Throw a Blow-Out Birthday Bash for My Toddler?


May is a special month for my family – Mother’s Day, my birthday, and my daughter’s birthday all fall in the first two weeks. My daughter is only just turning two, but we’re already experiencing it – “it” being invitations from daycare friends to elaborate parties for dozens of guests. I’ll admit that I started to feel the pressure to plan something of a similar scope with a carefully selected theme that would be evident down to the minutest detail, cost a fortune, and take hours upon hours of my time to execute.

As someone who struggles with social anxiety, I sometimes have difficulty trusting my judgement in determining what is socially appropriate, particularly in relation to my child and building a life of memories for her. I generally feel like everyone else got a guide on “How to Be Normal” and my copy got lost in the mail.

But for the love, I sincerely hope that throwing a Pinterest or Instagram-worthy party for a two-year-old is not the area where everyone else got the memo that you have to and I didn’t.

Now, if you are one of the moms who has a gift for event planning and finds joy in scheming up clever party themes and corresponding food, activities, and decorations, this post is not for you. I have a dear friend who is in this category, and her children will grow up loving how their mom’s creative energy comes to life planning events to commemorate their milestones and will feel her love through those events.

This post is for those like me whose interest in throwing an over-the-top toddler party would be more due to a misguided sense of obligation to her peers than feeding her own creative spirit or fulfilling her children’s actual wishes.

While I am currently opposed to the idea of throwing a large kids’ party myself (probably ever), I still want my daughter to feel special, loved, and recognized on her birthday. I don’t want to be a birthday miser or leave her feeling like her birthday is just another day. I want to be sure that my decision not to have a big 2nd birthday party makes sense for her, and not just for me.

I am taking the following approach: honoring my child’s personality and interests and celebrating her in an age-appropriate way that fits our budget and the constraints on our free time.

My daughter is in a shy phase, so we will spend her actual birthday with our little family doing her favorite things. Your child or toddler may have complex interests, but hers are currently pretty simple: animals, the park, dessert, and dips. The following day, we’ll broaden our celebration to include some of her favorite people – her grandparents and cousins – for a special lunch.

As my daughter is our first child and she’s still young, we have the wonderful opportunity to establish family birthday traditions – whether that be a special birthday breakfast, balloons throughout the house, a specific dessert, an annual themed gift, or a silly family birthday song – that will reinforce how much she is cherished and over the years, will build excitement for her as her big day approaches.

Whatever we do, it will be with her spirit and our family’s values in mind. We won’t spend money, time, or energy on the things that don’t matter to her. We have many years to celebrate on a grander scale – at her request.

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A native St. Louisan, Diana lives in Creve Coeur with her husband, young son, two daughters, and two dogs. She has her Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology, which she uses as an excuse to be nosy regarding other people’s lives. She recently left a career in legal marketing to work part-time from home and focus on her babies (furry and otherwise). Her current parenting mantras are: “I can do it all, just not all at once,” and “It will probably be fine?” Diana gets her kicks by going for long runs, reading a mix of high-brow and low-brow literature, and seeking out activities her whole family (including the puppies!) can enjoy around town.


  1. I love this, Diana! It is really good to know I am not the only mom out there who really struggles with the idea of throwing an over-the-top birthday bash for my toddlers. My husband and I made the decision with our first child, that while the kids are young, we only want to have family parties with THEIR family. By “their” family, I mean not mine and my husband’s aunts and uncles, but theirs. We made that decision because it helped us financially save from spending a crazy amount of money on a party our young toddler would likely not remember, but mainly because we wanted the people that meant the most to our child to be the ones present at the party. As our kids get older, we will obviously include them more in the party planning, but we would like to continue keeping them as intimate gatherings rather than huge extravaganzas. We to want the day to be special for them based on what they enjoy doing, not focused on an “Instagram worthy” party that I do not feel I can accomplish. It is so refreshing to see that someone else feels the same way. Thank you for sharing 🙂

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