Dear Miss Faith,
I want to throw a birthday party for my daughter turning three, and am looking for age-appropriate ideas for party activities. What do you do for a 3yo birthday party?
Congratulations to you, and happy birthday to your daughter! Here’s are my thoughts on birthdays:
When a child turns one, have as big a party as you want. The party is really a party for you, getting through your first year of being a parent to this little being! When your little one gets tired, just put them to bed and keep partying with your friends.
After that first birthday, you start wanting to have a birthday celebration for your child’s benefit. It’s fun to think of your child as a social being, and perhaps you remember wonderful birthday parties from when you were a child. Before you get carried away, however, heed my advice: SIMPLER IS BETTER. The birthday parties I remember most fondly fell from about age 7 to age 11; save the big parties for that age. Younger than that, birthday parties can spin out of control really easily. You think you will invite the five girls in your three-year-old’s preschool class, and suddenly you have six three-year-olds, twelve parents, and two to four older or younger siblings all crowding into your livingroom and kitchen. You may not have planned on a party for for twenty-three people, but that’s what you’ve got.
In general, a good rule is to invite one pint-sized guest for each year of your child’s age. Three friends over at the same time is absolutely enough to be a party for a three-year-old, and that holds true at almost every age. Additionally, be really clear on your invitation if parents are to stay or to go, whether siblings are welcome, and what time things will end.
Another good rule is to plan activites that alternate big energy with quiet energy. It can be so exciting being the center of attention and having so many people over, that children need help calming themselves down. You can give them this help by planning a storytime into the schedule of events, either reading a picture book about a birthday, or telling the story of your child’s actual Birth Day, or telling the story of the Star Child choosing her parents and making the journey across the rainbow bridge. I tell that story as a puppet show as the main event in a birthday party, and it holds a special place in my heart as I remember hearing that story every year when I was a child, until the age of seven. I’ll share the version I tell.
And finally, keep it short and sweet. An hour or two hours is quite long enough for a party for a child age 5 or younger. Birthday parties can be so exciting that children go through their energy reserves very quickly. Having a wonderful time and then saying goodbye leaves everybody with fond memories, looking forward to the next birthday.
The Star Child Birthday Story:
“Once upon a time, there was a Star Child who lived up in the heavens. She loved to run and jump and play with the other Star Children, but her favorite thing in all the world was to play with her her ball. She would spend hours and hours throwing it up and down, up and down.
One day, she threw it as high as she could, and it fell down, down, down through the clouds. She followed her ball down through the clouds, and when she came out she saw a most beautiful place that she had never seen before, all green and blue, filled with trees and rivers and oceans. She followed her ball even farther down, and soon she saw a man and a woman who were living together in a house. The man was named _____, and the woman was named _____ (note: you can adapt this description to your family’s circumstances, with older siblings, pets, parents together/separate, adoption, etc.). They were very happy together, except for one thing. ‘If only we had a child!’ they said. ‘Oh!’ thought the Star Child, ‘I wish *I* could be their child.’
The Star Child rushed back up through the clouds and ran to find her Guardian Angel. ‘Please!’ said the Star Child, ‘Please may I go down and live with THAT man and THAT woman?’ ‘Yes you may,’ said the Angel, ‘But it will be a long journey, over a Rainbow Bridge.’
And so the Angel and the Star Child set out together on a long journey that lasted for nine months. Through the colors of the rainbow they went, first red, then orange, then yellow, green, blue and finally violet. Down below, the man and the woman were preparing for a child to come into their lives. Winter was followed by Spring, then Summer. And finally Autumn arrived, and the Angel and the Star Child stood at the top of the beautiful Rainbow Bridge.
‘Here is where I must leave you,’ said the Angel. ‘When you awake, you will no longer be a Star Child, you will be an Earthly Child.’ And with that, the Star Child fell into a deep sleep. (note: at this point in the puppet show, I sing the song “rockabye baby” as the child drifts down into the mother’s arms. This is not a traditional part of the Waldorf story, but I love the imagery of rockabye baby as child being born, with the mama’s tummy being the tree top, the amniotic sac being the cradle, the umbilical cord being the tree branch, and the whole ‘falling’ process being the birth.)
And when the child awoke, she discovered that she was an Earthly Child, and she came into the arms of her mother and her father, who looked down lovingly at her. ‘Welcome, little one,’ they said. ‘We will call you _____.’
Happiest of Birthdays, ~Miss Faith
What birthday activities have you had great success with, for your toddlers? Please share in the comments!