“Nobody can be uncheered with a balloon.” Winnie the Pooh
Determine your color scheme. I typically choose multiple coordinating colors. Instead of going all matchy-poo-poo with the decorations, I like to buy solid color tableware in the pre-determined colors. One color for dinner plates, one color for dinner napkins, one color for cups, etc… It makes everything look bright and festive.
You can still purchase some items with your theme on them. Maybe you want to have a tablecloth or dessert plates and napkins with your theme. I generally like to reserve the theme tablecloth for the cake table and use solid cloths for other tables.
Buying packages of solid dinnerware is typically a cheaper way to decorate. Plus, it’s easier for you to reuse any leftover plates. In case you over-buy, you don’t want to be eating off of “Happy First Birthday” cups when the child is in kindergarten!
For children’s parties, in particular, I am a fan of crepe paper! Streamers provide a lot of bang for your buck. For a few dollars, you can purchase enough crepe paper to decorate your entire neighborhood. Plus, crepe paper comes in a large variety of colors. I like to twist two colors together before hanging. At our house, everything but the dog gets draped with streamers.
Balloons are just plain fun! I like to get a large bunch of helium-filled, latex balloons and one or two fancier mylar balloons. Latex balloons will lose their floating ability in about a day. Mylar balloons will last for much longer. I have had great success in purchasing a small helium tank to fill my own latex balloons. (It works better if you have a spare person to help fill the balloons!) Be sure to purchase curling ribbon to tie off your balloons, if you are filling your own.
Don’t forget that popped balloons are choking hazards to young children. Be sure the balloons are out of reach when you have little ones around.
Consider having a poster made of the party child. You can upload your favorite digital photo to a film-developing site (like Walgreens.com) and have a poster size print mailed to your home. The cost is about $10-$20, depending on the size poster. You can also have collage posters made and utilize many of your favorite photos.