9 Easy Steps To Throw A Surprise Party For Kids

by Ann Mifsud


Throwing a surprise party for kids might be your opportunity to push a normal family celebration a higher notch. Whilst surprise parties are nothing new, especially when done for an adult guest of honor, they can be a novelty with kids, particularly if you have never thought of the idea for your own kids before.

Organizing a surprise party for kids comes with its own challenges, but it can result into a memorable experience for all, mostly for the girl or the boy for whom the family is celebrating. It is also very satisfying for the parent or guardian to have come up with an unusual way to celebrate and therefore more special.

Thus, a surprise party for kids might be the answer if you’re aiming at treating your child with a celebration out of the normal.

If you’re interested in making your kid feel more special this time round, you should read on.

We have hereunder listed all you need to know to make a surprise party for kids a reality. These are the our 9 easy steps to throw a surprise party for kids…

1. Make sure it is a good idea to do a surprise party for kids in the first place

Even when you are considering a surprise party for an adult you need to make sure that the person you want to honor will enjoy the surprise, let alone little kids.

Some people just don’t like surprises.

Certain people don’t like to be the center of attention, they might be shy or they’re not even fussy about celebrating their birthday for example. On the other hand, other love it. They like to be the center of attention, most of the times they have an outgoing personality and they love the adrenalin rush that comes from the unknown.

When it comes to children it could be a bit more complex, but here are some guiding principles.

Generally speaking, younger kids, around the ages of 3 and 5 appreciate anything that is novel because they are curious and want to experience new things. However, at this tender age, children feel most secure when their routine is not broken.

Some kids might even get anxious and distressed at the notion that they will be exposed to an experience that is alien to what they are used to.

In their article “Surprise! I don’t like surprises”, the authors affirm that,

“Children who are trying to manage their anxiety rely on their normal routine to give them a sense of calm and control.  When that is interrupted with a surprise or change in plans—even when it is positive—a child can react with fear, worry and avoidance.”

In such cases, when knowing that children are going to become anxious and distressed, one might safely argue that throwing a surprise party for kids like these might not be a good idea.

The good news is that the older children get, the more able they will become to handle experiences out of the norm. The same above mentioned authors claim that,

“Eventually, the unexpected will not be experienced as stressful and your child will be able to enjoy the true delight of a spontaneous surprise!”

Consequently, we can confidently advise that it is better to leave a surprise party for kids that are older.

A landmark birthday, for example, such as the 13th one, will be appreciated with almost 100% certainty by the birthday kid. It is a well-known fact that teens and tweens will appreciate the extra effort made by family and friends to celebrate their important milestone.

Our take on this issue is, if you know that surprises don’t create fear or anxiety in your child, be it because of their age or personality, just go ahead and throw the surprise party for kids. Having said that if you’re unsure, it is better if you err in favor of caution and wait until you know your child is ready to enjoy a surprise party.

2. Plan a surprise party date that comes earlier than the actual day of the celebration

This is not the usual planning in advance advice. It is very particular to a surprise party. Creating an element of surprise is very difficult to achieve if you wait to launch the party on the actual date the celebration usually takes place. For example, if your kids are used to have a party on the actual day of their birthday, you can’t expect that they will not be assuming that what usually happens in the family, will not be happening this time round.

On the one hand you cannot pretend as if nothing will be happening on the actual day. Children may interpret this as though you have forgotten about their important day, with all the consequences that come from such an impression. Sensitive kids, in particular, might feel hurt if they think their family has overlooked what is high-priority for them.

Even worse, is to leave a surprise party for kids, for after the proper day of when the celebration is expected to happen.

Thus, as a general guideline, it is best to hold a surprise party for kids on a day that comes prior to when the child will be expecting to have the party. So if for example this year, your kid’s birthday is falling on a Wednesday, you could throw a surprise party for him or her during the preceding weekend.

3. Decide on the location that is best suited for a surprise party for kids

The only advantage you have when you do a surprise party for kids at home is that you would know your way around your own space and things. Other than that, any other location where a party could be held will be ideal for a surprise party. The reason for that, especially with older kids is that it will be extremely difficult to keep your plans undercover when you’re preparing at home.

Tweens and teens especially will notice unusual activity in the house and they will ask about what’s happening. With younger children it might be more doable. You can “mislead” kids as young as 5 that nothing special is occurring in the house. But with older children you won’t have a chance.

So, deciding to do a surprise party for kids at a place other than your house, will give you extra flexibility to plan and prepare without being “caught”.

A good location for a surprise party would be a friend’s house. This will also come at no extra cost, assuming that your (or your kid’s friend’s parents) won’t be charging you anything.

Other good locations would be a town hall, a football field, a roof top or a bowling alley. When choosing a place for a surprise party keep in mind what excuse you are going to be using to get the party boy or girl to the place without raising any suspicion. Thus, for example, if you’re able to book a room or a hall at your town’s library (yes, library!), a good reason would be returning some lent books.

Your best bet is a place where your child is familiar with.

If you organize a surprise party for him or her somewhere that is unusual, you will be finding it more difficult to come up with a good reason to get your child to the party place without telling him or her the real purpose why you are taking them there. This is especially true for older kids. With younger children you might get away with murder. But don’t risk it!

4. Rope in very few accomplices to organize a surprise party for kids

Two things are true here. Help to organize a surprise party for kids (or for anyone) is always needed. Secondly, it is a well-known fact that the more people who know about the surprise, the riskier it is that all your plans will be ruined. Someone might give away the surprise even unknowingly.

If you have a young child, it will be enough that both parents or older siblings give their share in organizing the surprise party.

With older children, it is a good idea to rope in one or two of your kid’s friends. They will be able to tell you who are all your son’s or daughter’s friends, where they like to hang and what they like to do. They might even surprise you with things they know about your child, which you don’t know. Such knowledge might be handy as to what and how you plan for your child’s surprise party.

When you get out invitations for a surprise party for kids, be careful not to give the surprise away yourself by, for example, leaving extra invitations around. You can use online invitations to avoid such a mishap. Here, be also careful who will be using the same computer or laptop.

Older kids understand the importance of keeping secret, a secret. So make it clear in the invitation that this is going to be a surprise party. Use a bold large font to write: Surprise Party!

With younger children it is important that only the parents know about the surprise party. It is a given that little children don’t know how to hide things and they will certainly tell your kid that they will be coming to his or her “surprise” party and that they are very excited! Give instructions to the parents about not telling their children about the party from much before. Even better is to suggest to parents to just get their children to the party and tell them what will be happening in the car whilst they driving to the party place.

5. Getting the party kid to the surprise party without giving away the surprise

As we mentioned above, it is always easier to trick younger children. The older they get the sneakier  and more suspicious they will get. It could be a real challenge to get a tween or a teen to a surprise party without raising any undesired curiosity.

The rule of thumb here is not to invent lame excuses with your tween or teen as a reason for them to come with you. The more familiar and ordinary what you’ll be asking them is, the greater the chance you have to be convincing with them.

The same goes for the location you choose for the surprise party for kids. As was specified above, don’t choose a place that your child is not familiar with. Like that you’ll be breeding more questions. Choose a site where your child goes frequently, like for example a football field, a bowling alley, a restaurant or a friend’s house.

Plan to do the surprise party in these locations on a day and time that your kids usually goes.

So, if for instance your kid visits his or her friend at their house on a Saturday afternoon, make sure that you plan the surprise party to be on a Saturday afternoon. It will make your life much easier! If then your kid is accustomed to go bowling with their friends on a particular day and time, see to it that the surprise party will be held on the same day and time they usually go there.

6. Get everything ready 60 to 30 minutes before the party kid arrives

Don’t make the mistake of getting the party boy or girl to the party venue while guests are still sneaking in.  When you invite your guests make sure to set the time when you wish them to be there, that is some 60 to 30 minutes before you plan the surprise party to start.

State it clearly in the invitation. If you think that some guests might not be able to make it from much before, you may suggest to them to come in, after the party boy or girl has arrived – but then what’s a surprise party if they miss the surprise element at the beginning!

7. Decide on what kind of party it’s going to be after the initial surprise is over

What then do you do at a surprise party for kids? You have three options.

  1. You can choose to throw a “normal” party after the initial surprise;
  2. You can opt to make it a party with a theme, say a neon party;
  3. Or stick to the surprise theme by keeping the surprises coming all along the party.

All depends on what you think you kid will love most, his or her age and the budget you have.

If you think that for your child the initial surprise would be special enough for them, then you can leave it at that.

If you know your child is fond of having a themed party or it is your family custom to hold a different one each year, then go for the second option.

Much of our website is dedicated to themed party ideas including what food to serve, how to decorate the party venue and what games and activities go well with particular themes. For example you might want to explore a neon-themed party for your tween or a pirate party for your little boy or girl.

The third option is ideal if you have less budget limitations. You can invite a surprise guest, say a relative or a friend from abroad. You can create a video or a slide show with highlights of the party child. Ask someone to write a song for this special day and perform it live at the surprise party. You can surprise your kid with a gift every so often during the party itself, culminating in a great surprise gift at the end of the party. Go on and think what in particular does excite and surprise your loved one and do it for them if you’re going for this third option.

8. Make sure you won’t ruin the surprise at the very end

The devil is in the detail, as they say. Though it is easier with younger kids to surprise them without being caught, can’t stress enough how important it is when you’re doing the surprise party for a teen or a tween to be careful not to make little blunders even just before the surprise is revealed.

Your surprise may be ruined even by little details that you may overlook.

Ask parents of your kid’s friends and /or relatives to park their car round the corner. Certainly your teenager will recognize their grandparents’ car or the vehicle that belongs to their friend’s mother.

Avoid flickering the lights of the venue to signal that the party child has arrived. Teenagers would notice that something strange is happening. You can instead ask that a particular song is started on their entry.

Resist any temptation to post any pre-surprise party posts on social media.

9. What if the surprise fails?

There’s nothing perfect in life. After you’ve done everything in your control to throw a surprise party for kids and something goes wrong, it’s not the end of the world. You would obviously have preferred that after all that work, secrecy and expectation your plan would have succeeded. But again don’t hassle too much if the surprise goes unveiled before you have meant it.

As was mentioned in various places above the risk of failure of getting a surprise through, grows exponentially with your kid’s age. The older they get the more capable they will get at being aware of what’s happening around them. At the same time the older they are the more they would probably appreciate your efforts to make their day a special one.

Thus, if you’re discovered just go ahead with the rest of the plans.

It would still be a great time with friends and family. Don’t let the initial mishap ruin all that you have carefully prepared. The thought that you have been preparing for this special occasion is a very powerful sign that your kid has been on your mind for very long. That in itself is something more precious than a surprise party that went well!

Some afterthought about throwing a surprise party for kids

Having decided to throw a surprise party for your kid, there are at least 9 considerations which we have discussed in detail above which you have to take note before you even make the first move.

Make sure that your kid is can take a surprise. Plan a date that comes earlier than the actual day of celebration. Choose a location that is familiar to your kid. Involve few people as much as possible. Get your child to the party venue without them catching you’re doing something for them. Get everything ready in good time before the surprise party is thrown. Decide what kind of party you want for your kid after the initial surprise in unveiled. Be attentive to the details not to ruin the surprise at the very end. Don’t fret if something goes wrong.

It will always be a memorable moment for all your family, but especially for the guest of honor. Make sure that you take a lot of photos and video. Rest assured that it will be a great occasion that will be remember for a very long time.

Just go for it!

Hi I'm Ann

Hi I'm Ann

Mom to three kids, I am the proud co-founder of Easy Kids' Parties. After a career in journalism and education, I diverted my skills to creating this website, with the aim of helping all those parents out there who wish to organize amazing and memorable parties for their kids but feel overwhelmed at the idea.  Discover more...

Legal Information

Easy Kids Parties is a participant in Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. As Amazon Associates we earn from qualifying purchases. We also participate in other affiliate programs. Easy Kids Parties is compensated for referring business to these companies at no extra cost to you.