I am not the birthday theme sort. We choose a nice venue and invite friends for company. We have a cake and candles. We sing happy birthday and open our presents at home. (I've found that asking a crowd of 3-5 year olds to sit and watch someone else open presents for 15-20 minutes while they'd rather be playing is just painful.)
I do like the relatively new tradition of having small gifts/party favors for the guests - particularly when those guests are very young children. This year I, rather ambitiously, decided to make something. I didn't want to do the party favor aisle stuff this year. I know from experience most parents end up throwing that stuff out. I also liked the idea that I could make something more unique that the kids and parents would like out of materials I already had lying around from my busy book days (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7).
I'm making little felt crayon rolls in a variety of colors. I'm going to include a small piece of paper that says "Thank you for coming to Michael's party!" with cute clip art. I'll attach balloons to each one and use them to decorate the table. Then each child can choose one they like and take the crayon roll and balloon home. The crayons in each roll will coordinate with the color of the felt.
I took 9x12 pieces of craft felt and cut 1.5 inches off length-wise. Then I cut the remaining piece in half. Fold that piece over by about 2/3. Also cut a 18 inch long piece of ribbon or cord of some kind, fold it in half and stick in in-between the fold on one side. Sew a U shape around one side, the bottom, and other side making sure to securely attach the string/ribbon. Then just make four evenly spaced lines from the bottom to the top of the pouch to form the pockets for the five crayons. Insert crayons, roll-up, and tie. Repeat 14 more times. (I didn't get very many RSVP's from Michael's classmates so I want extras just in case.) Done.
Well, then make the thank-you for coming notes on the computer, print out 15 of those, cut them out and insert them in the rolls. Then remember to actually bring the favors to the party and attach balloons to them and place them on the table. But then you're done.
Ok, fine. Then you have to set up the cake, loosely supervise children and chat with parents, orchestrate the gathering of children and singing of Happy Birthday, cut and serve the cake, take pictures, pay the venue, gather all of your things, and get out of there before the next party. Then you're really done.
Hmm... well, I can actually think of a few more things, but I think you get the idea. :-)
(Inspiration found here.)