A birthday party can be the highlight of a child’s year. From the gathering of friends and family to the pile of gifts, the day is focused on fun.

But planning the perfect party isn’t always easy. In fact, parents told us through social media some of the dilemmas they face when party prepping for their kids. We asked party planning expert Jessie Gillham, owner of Festive Haus, for her insight on three problem areas — for planners and attendees.

1. Gifts

Cover Kid Photo Contest winner Elle Keathley embraces the birthday spirit. Special thanks to Newmark Moses Tucker Partners for use of the Arkansas Democrat Lofts where this shoot took place.

Going the standard route with gifts can be easy, but there are other ways to make a birthday more meaningful (and accumulate less stuff in the process).

“Asking for donations to a favorite charity in lieu of gifts is wonderful way to honor a birthday and give to others,” says Gillham. “Encourage your child to get involved by letting them choose the charity.”

On the invitations, simply write "In lieu of gifts, please consider donating to (child's name) favorite local charity (charity name).”

2. Cost

When you add up the cost of a venue, activities, desserts, decorations, invitations and entertainment, parties can get pricey! DIY some of the elements of the party like cupcakes and email invites rather than printing pricey paper cards and ordering a custom cake.

Pick one area to splurge, but make sure it’s the one that’s most important to the birthday child — not necessarily to you. Do they want a balloon artist or would they rather go bowling?

“The focus of a birthday party should be celebrating the child and their interests,” says Gillham. “By letting your child choose the theme and incorporating their favorite colors, you're able to make the party about them while still having fun with the details of the celebration.

3. Timing

If your child’s birthday falls between Thanksgiving and the end of the year, chances are that friends’ and family members’ schedules are already packed to the brim with holiday events. And, anyone with a December birthday knows that it’s no fun to have your Christmas and birthday gifts lumped together.

Half birthday parties are a great (warm weather) solution and provide a multitude of activity options. Plus, it’s easy to surprise the birthday child with a party when their birthday is still six months away.

We Asked, You Answered

We polled our Instagram followers about birthday parties, and here’s what they said:

Do you expect your child to receive a party favor at birthday parties? 

14% - Yes, it's expected. 86% - No, it’s not necessary.

Do you appreciate when kids have a birthday gift registry?

84% - No, that’s over-the-top. 16% - Yes, it’s much easier.

Should every kid in class be invited to a fellow student’s birthday party?

62% - No, too many kids! 38% - Yes, include everyone.

Do you prefer to host your child’s birthday party at home or at an outside venue?

67%  - Venue  is more fun.

Get more ideas in the 2019 edition of Little Rock Family's BIRTHDAY PARTY GUIDE.