Were you lucky enough to have a spring or summer baby? That is, do birthday-month temperatures accommodate the budget-friendly option of an outdoor playground celebration? An especially good choice for the toddler set (because, just add cake and friends) a playground party be a real cost-saver, loads of fun and even, with a little planning, easy to pull off. Click through our guide to throwing the best playground birthday party ever.

Choose Your Birthday Party Venue Wisely

You can have a party at any NYC public playground. You’ll want to suss out your options carefully before deciding on the perfect location. Look for a playground with age-appropriate equipment and a fence that locks securely. You’ll want the playground to be big enough to hold all the kids at the party, but not so big that you can’t see where your kid is at all times. If your party is in the summer, look for one that will be shaded at the time of your party.

A few other things to consider about your venue: does it have tables you can use? Are there bathrooms? A water supply? Does it have sprinklers to cool kids down? How busy does the playground get? And one very important detail to consider - how far away from is the playground from your home? Don't forget that you’ll be trekking there and back with a lot of stuff, so the closer the better.


Have a Rainy Day Backup Plan

You can never rely on the big party day being sunny and dry, so get your rainy day plan in order. Can you hold it in your home in a pinch? Is there a room in your apartment building you could use if needed? If not, you might want to consider an alternate day subsequent to forecasting, letting guests know ahead of time - and while there’s still time to change the food arrangements. In the worst case scenario, you'll be left with a ton of perishable food, and you'll have to eat cupcakes for the next week (hey, maybe that’s not actually so bad after all!).

Get a Permit for Your Party

If you plan to have 20 people or more in a NYC park, you'll need a Special Events Permit. The permit is super easy to get - just fill in this form on the City of New York Parks and Recreation site, submit it at least a month in advance and pay the $25 fee.

Playground Party Decorating Tips

Obviously it’s a lot different decorating a shared outdoor space, than your home, but it can be done. Print out a birthday banner and tie it on the playground's fence. Attach balloons behind the table so people can find you. Turn the food into decorations with cute cupcake toppers (which can also be stuck into other food, like fruit). Gift bags also add color and festivity to the area, as do little stuffed animals placed on the table (which make great take-home gifts for kids who get particularly attached to them by the way!).

Playground Party Extras

Consider bringing some fun things for kids to play with around the party area like balls, chalk and bubbles. These ideas are great for keeping little kids occupied so you and the other parents don’t have to chase them around the playground the whole time. If there’s a sandbox, bring a few buckets and shovels. At the end of the party, give these items to the kids who enjoyed them the most - they'll be excited to take home something new, and you'll have less stuff to cart back home.

Playground Birthday Party Food

Don’t get carried away with food, unless you’re having it delivered. Carefully assess how you’re going to get everything there first. One easy idea is to host an afternoon tea party because you can get away with simply offering cupcakes, fruit and crackers. Finger food is the easiest to supply and the easiest for busy parents to grab and eat with one hand. Offering cupcakes instead of a cake eliminates the need for forks and plates. Cupcake tip: As well as having delicious cupcakes, Georgetown Cupcake (111 Mercer Street, Soho) lets you order fondant toppers at no extra cost.

Transportation To and From the Party

If you don’t have a car or don’t want to hire a car service, you can get creative with transporting your party supplies. One idea: load up your stroller with the party goods. Your child can be put in a carrier if they’re not old enough to walk the distance on their own.

— Christine Knight

Have you thrown a NYC playground birthday party? What tips do you have for doing it right? 

photos: Kristy May Photography



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