Eight Steps to Hosting the Perfect Party
So your child has a birthday coming up and you’re wondering how to play his party. As you think of the elaborate parties he’s been to—one where Batman and Superman showed up and another where the roller skating rink was rented out—you’re feeling some pressure. How can you compete? Well Moms and Dads, you don’t have to. You can host a fun and memorable party for your child without breaking the bank or making your head spin. Here are few simple tips.
1. SETUP & PLANNING
Organize stations so the kids all have a choice of activity. Have one or two craft areas and one or two game areas set up. Young children have very short attention spans, so they may jump from station to station. Also, don’t feel obligated to invite 30 kids. My kids have had wonderful parties with friends at our house. The fewer kids, the more space to play! And if you don’t want to serve a meal and would rather just do cake, host the event between lunch and dinner—like 2:00 to 4:00—so parents know their child likely will not eat a meal at the party. This strategy saves you some money and the extra headache of meal planning.
2. STATION IDEAS
Face painting (hire a teenage neighbor to do it for $20), tattoos, scavenger hunts, piñatas and Twister are still popular after all these years. Another great idea is to create a photo booth area with simple props like funny glasses, mustaches, hats and boas. Then send cute pictures to kids’ parents after the party! Or just blast some music and have a dance party! For the craft, choose something seasonal for easy fun. My kids have winter birthdays so we’ve decorated pinecones (which we found in our yard!) and made ornaments in years past.
3. THE CAKE
Unless you’re a natural in the kitchen (I am NOT!), don’t feel pressured to bake your own elaborate cake. Kids LOVE cupcakes and cookies. They are easier to make (or even buy) and one of your stations can be a “decorate your own cupcake or cookie” table. Set out sprinkles, M&Ms and other candy toppings. You even can let guests frost their own if you want.
Continuing with the theme of “make your own,” let party-goers make their own snacks. Make-your-own pizzas or make-your-own sundaes are always a hit. If kids are making their own pizzas, consider giving each an English muffin to put toppings on and pop them into the oven for 10 minutes. Remember to put out a few extra munchies for any parents who are staying, and avoid common allergy triggers like peanut butter or nuts. If you know a guest has an allergy, check to see what foods are safe to serve.
Again, there is no need to go crazy decorating. Kids LOVE balloons. Blow up 20 balloons and throw them all over the house. You can buy matching napkins and plates, but we all know the kids don’t usually notice that kind of stuff—grown-ups do. If you do want to decorate, hit your local dollar store for good finds. Or check second-hand swap shops. A lot of families will sell their entire party set after their event is over for a good price, and you’ll be able to get a table cloth, a banner and unused plates and napkins for a steal. If you are a Pinterest fan, however, and you DO love decorating, you’ll find endless ideas out there for homemade theme party decor.
6. GOODIE BAGS
Another obligation parents feel is the dreaded goodie bag. Rather than fill 12 bags with cheap plastic toys that inevitably will get lost or broken five minutes after the kids get home, how about planning a craft kids can take home instead? With a few simple materials like tissue paper, glue and plastic squares, kids can make suncatchers. Or you can buy some small canvases and let them paint their own masterpieces. Other ideas include making jewelry, painting rocks or a snowman/snowflake craft. If you have a few non-crafters (like my boys), don’t worry if they don’t take anything home. They will still leave your party with a full belly and hours of fun memories.
The new trend is to have your child wait to open gifts after the party. This avoids awkwardness and competition over who gave what gift. It also means you don’t have to ask a bunch of kids to sit still for 20 minutes! Feel like your kids have too many toys already? Consider a no-gift party or, if guests still want to bring something, ask for a new, unopened toy to donate to a local foster home or children’s hospital.
8. MANAGE EXPECTATIONS
Follow up with those who haven’t RSVP’d so you know how many guests to expect. Also, remember that kids are kids. They may end up just playing with your kids’ toys and not spending much time doing the craft you set up or playing the game you organized. Be okay with it, let them have fun and soak in your child’s joy.
In the end, your child will enjoy whatever you plan because his friends are there and there are sugary treats. He’ll likely run himself to exhaustion and tell you, “That was the best party ever, Mommy!” as he falls asleep that night. Happy party planning!
1. Which of the following is NOT a basic requirement for a successful party?
C. fun games/activities
D. goodie bags
2. How many kids should you invite?
A. As many as you and your child are comfortable with
B. Every child your child knows
C. The entire class
D. No more than five.
3. What should you serve for food?
B. finger foods
C. a meal like pizza if party is during lunch or dinnertime
D. all of the above
4. Which of the following should you expect to occur?
A. some kids participate in all of the stations you set up
B. some kids don’t participate and just run around and play
C. Both A & B
D. Neither A nor B
5. Which of the following is a good idea for a party?
A. face painting
C. dance party
D. all of the above
Olathe mom Karen Johnson has three kids, ages 8, 6 and 4. She writes at The21stCenturySAHM.com.