Here's What Impresses Kids at Birthday Parties

A new year of birthday planning is fast approaching — but some assembly may be required. The average kid’s birthday party involves 16 guests, nine presents and three hours of celebration.

A recent survey of 2,000 parents with kids ages 3–12 found 73% say their youngsters are not so easy to impress.

According to parents, kids expect their favorite foods (67%) and clowns or costumed characters (56%) for their birthday party, more so than inflatable playsets (44%) or laser tag (43%). 

As for party themes, 81% of parents receive a specific request from their kids, with unicorns (46%) rising to the top, and video game-themed (41%) birthdays among kids’ popular picks.

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Kinder Joy for the launch of their new Birthday eggs, the survey also uncovered that the right guest list (58%), activities (58%) and treats (58%) are among parents’ absolute must-haves to make their kids’ birthday a success. Other essentials include goodie bags or party favors (49%).  

Parents may catch a break when planning party games, though; it turns out freeze tag, charades, and treasure hunt have stood the test of time, with half of parents reporting their kids play these games on their birthday, and a similar amount saying they enjoyed these in their own childhood as well.

Parents are spending thousands on their kids’ birthday parties

When asked to share one thing they had at their birthdays when they were growing up that they would like their kids to experience at parties today, respondents mentioned “board games,” “a DJ,” “a special speech,” “less technology,” and having “grandparents and extended family” attend.

At the end of the day, though, 78% of parents put a lot of pressure on themselves to make their kid’s birthday party as amazing as it can be.

Changing palettes may prove to be a challenge — 84% of parents reported that their kid has asked for different things at their birthday party at different ages, especially when it comes to food.

Party prep often goes beyond food and décor. More than two-thirds (68%) of parents usually create or hand out goodie bags for their child’s parties.

How parents tackle new reality of kids’ birthday parties

“With so many unpredictable factors, from the weather to unplanned guests, making your kid’s birthday memorable can be both fun and stressful,” said a spokesperson for Kinder Joy. “While kids’ tastes may change over the years, a well-stocked goodie bag is one party staple that is sure to be a hit regardless of age.”

Eight in 10 (82%) parents said kids’ birthday parties are a lot different now than when they were growing up. Namely, 61% think the celebrations and decor have gotten more over-the-top, and 55% noted the cake is usually store-bought rather than homemade.

Two things that probably haven’t changed? Needing more time to prepare for the birthday party and keeping it affordable, both of which stress out 55% of parents.

Parents’ stressors when planning kids’ birthday parties

  • Having enough time to plan it – 55%
  • Keeping it affordable – 55%
  • Figuring out what foods to serve – 52%
  • Figuring out the guest list – 51%
  • Figuring out how much food to serve – 47%
  • Creating a party my kid will enjoy – 43%
  • Picking a theme – 37%
  • Not having enough help to plan/decorate – 31%
  • Finding a venue – 21%

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