Party hats, birthday cake, and party favors, oh my! The very thought of throwing your child a birthday-party-to-remember can be overwhelming. Do you have to invite the whole preschool/elementary/playgroup class? What kind of party favors are appropriate for children — and won't make their parents upset? What do you feed the adults who come? Read on for some answers, and inspiration.

1. Let up on the expectations.

Your child's birthday party does not have to be like the fancy one you took your child to at the hotel conference room. Make it your own — your child's own — and don't compare the celebration to someone else's.

Heather Christo is an entertaining expert and mom who has tips for parents on how to throw a memorable birthday party for their child, while enjoying the party themselves. She says it's important to not try to make your child's party magazine-worthy. It is really about having fun and celebrating!

2. Don't invite the whole class.

This can be an overwhelming expectation for parents. Christo points out that "these days, many families are expected to do this. If you can handle it, great, and go very low-key with the party. If not, consider inviting a few friends to a "family" birthday party and forgo a separate "kid" party.

3. When in doubt, use simple, educational party favors.

This doesn't have to be boring, but sending young children home with kazoo whistles and bubble gum won't make you any friends (with parents, that is). Look for items that are both kid-friendly and parent-friendly:

  • crayons
  • sidewalk chalk
  • mini notepads
  • small balls
  • matchbox cars
  • stickers

Then again, feel free to not send party favors home at all. It isn't a requirement.

Christo also has some fabulous tips of her own:

4. Cheap thrills with balloons and bubbles.

You can never have too many balloons at a child's birthday party. I always feel like they are the ultimate symbol of a children's celebration, and the fact that they are inexpensive, colorful and bring a smile to everyone's face make them even better. Make a balloon archway, tie to chairs, or hang in mass amounts from the ceiling.

Bubbles are a personal favorite, especially if the children will be outside. Bubbles never fail to inspire kids to dance, play, and laugh!

5. Birthday cake.

Whether you have a cake or cupcakes — there is no denying that this is the focal point of a kid's party, so have fun with it! There are such incredible ideas out there now: 3D designs, photos printed on a cake, and phenomenal cupcakes that you can make at home. Play with color, design, and flavor to come up with the most exciting combination suited to your kid.

6. Tap into kid power.

Children absolutely love to get into the spirit preparing for a party. They love to feel helpful and see what they can make themselves. Let them help make the food, favors, decorations, whatever you can handle delegating and that makes them feel as though they have contributed.

7. Keep the kids busy.

It is so important to plan for activities and games! A clown, a fairy-princess, a husband dressed as a cowboy — whatever it is, a "performer" can keep kids occupied with an act, storytelling, arts and crafts, or simply to guide them through the games and activities.

8. Serve nutritious snacks…

You don't want children feeling sick by the end of the party because they have had too much sugar. They will feel awful, and irritated parents are sure to ensue. Make things like mini grilled cheese sandwiches cut into cute shapes, vegetables with dip, and fruit smoothies decorated with embellished straws.

9. …And noshes for adults.

Adults will often stay for the party, especially if you have really small children. If you know they are staying, it is nice to set out some adult appropriate snacks too. (Otherwise, you may find the dads clearing out all of the mini grilled cheeses!)

More Birthday Fun:

This post was included in the Everything Home blog carnival.