Writer Karen Soucy created a Harry Potter-themed backyard birthday party for her daughter, Ava.

Unicorns. Superhero Girls. Emojis. All were potential themes for my daughter Ava’s seventh birthday party last month. Harry Potter won out, however, and this year, we decided to host the birthday party in our backyard. Late spring and summer months are a perfect time to take a birthday party — or any party, for that matter — outdoors.

Palmer’s Darien, a one-stop party shop, offers customized cakes and desserts with matching themed décor, including cake stands, signage, arts and crafts supplies, custom backdrops, and balloon installations.

Much like the birthdays of my youth, I wanted my daughter to be able to play with her friends. Don’t get me wrong … booking a place for your child’s birthday that coordinates everything for you is, in a word, awesome. There’s something very special, however, when you make these memories for your child at home.  

Picking a theme with your child is a great place to start and sets the stage for the fun to come. Melanie F., a Trumbull parent, recounts, “When I asked my daughter what she wanted to do for her fifth birthday, she said she wanted a ‘Rapunzel’ party. I went back to the movie and realized I needed to have a painting project, hair braiding, and a visit from Rapunzel for the activities. For food, I had light snacks and mini-quiches, as it was a mid-morning party.”

Melanie adds, “I organize large-scale consumer events for a living, so I think I can get a little over the top, but I always try to create an experience and, in the end, when I calculate the cost (at home) over going to an outside venue, I know I’m getting more value staying at home and the party can be as long as we want.”

Dana Misner, another Trumbull parent and backyard birthday aficionado, agrees. “My favorite party to plan was my daughter’s ‘Fancy Nancy’ birthday party. She fell in love with the books, so we used them as inspiration and had so much fun being creative. We started by ordering invitations on Etsy.com, and the children were invited to dress as fancy as they wanted — and they definitely did!”

Rapunzel (a.k.a., the birthday girl) presides over the arts and crafts table at a royal backyard birthday celebration.

For activities, it was all about “fancy fun.” “The kids decorated tiaras and crowns when they arrived, and we hired a local high school student and her friend to give manicures,” Misner says. “We did a dress-up relay (the kids wore tutus, crowns and boas to run a relay race), and we had a little dance party. For the cake, we chose cupcakes arranged into the shape of a dress, complete with a tiara and wand. I loved planning this party so much … it was so personalized to everything that my daughter loved.”

Once you’ve decided on your backyard as the venue for your child’s birthday party, you don’t have to go it alone. You can enlist expert assistance.

Megan Palmer Rivera, culinary director for Palmer’s Darien, explains, “We love catering kids’ events! They always have a fun theme and there are so many interesting ways to incorporate the theme into the food and decorations. Some of our recent favorites have included princess, unicorns and rainbows, ice cream parlor, tea party, and mermaids.”

This Fancy Nancy backyard birthday party’s a glam slam with princess cupcakes and tiara, make-your-own crowns, and a nail polish station.

Palmer’s offers one-stop party shopping, with catering, much of which can be customized to match the décor, for both kids and adults. For desserts, the sky’s the limit, according to Palmer Rivera: “We specialize in creating custom dessert bars with a tiered cake, cookies, cake pops and rice crispy pops to match the theme. We include cake stands, signage and can create custom backdrops. One of our favorite new trends is incorporating a balloon instillation over the dessert table. It’s not that expensive and it adds a huge ‘wow’ factor.”

Ready to take the backyard plunge? Palmer Rivera shares her “top 5 tips” for hosting a backyard birthday party:

  • Get help: Coordinate someone to wrangle the kids so you can have fun, too!
  • Make it fun for the adults, as well: Delicious food and a specialty drink that matches the theme are a great way to get the grownups interacting.
  • Don’t over-program: Backyard parties are fun because they’re more casual. Don’t worry about providing entertainment for every second. Plan a few fun stations where kids can participate in different activities at their own leisure. I love to do an arts and crafts area, a physical activity zone (bouncy castle or yard games) and one themed performer (face painter, balloon artists, caricatures, etc.)
  • Have a rain plan: Be sure to make a plan for bad weather. Put a tent on hold or make sure your activities can be transitioned indoors.
  • Make a gift registry: As a parent, I’m very particular about the toys my kids play with. Take the guessing out and make a registry.

    Make your own magic: A Harry Potter photo station is fun for backyard birthday party guests.

My advice to parents considering backyard birthday parties is this … don’t clean your house before the party. There’s plenty of time for that afterwards!

A few props and a handmade sign set the stage for this little wizard’s Harry Potter-themed backyard birthday party.

Arts and crafts supplies from Palmer’s Darien make for backyard birthday party fun.