Kid Party Planning 101

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Party Planning

I’ve been hearing about the party for months now.  Which is a good thing–in a way–since sometimes that’s how long I need to get the creative juices flowing.  Kate, my soon to be 5-year-old has had her eyes on party day since her little sister celebrated her’s in January.   Here are a few tips to planning an old-fashioned at-hom kid’s birthday party–some learned the hard way: 

  • Give yourself enough time to mull over ideas, shop, collect, and look for bargains.  A good 2 months to party time should be enough.
  • A theme is the way to go.  Think of some of your child’s favorite activities, characters, colors, movies, books, and pick one.  You could even do a seasonal theme like snowmen and hot cocoa or–like us, “April Showers Bring May Flowers.”
  • But reign yourself in.  Your 5-year old isn’t likely to remember all the time and effort you put into making umbrella shaped chocolate molds or homemade marshmallows for that hot cocoa.   However, if you really get a ton of pleasure out of that kind of thing, then by all means, knock yourself out!
  • The invitation sets the stage.  Pick–or make–ones that represent the spirit of the party.  It should include a peek at your theme, along with core colors you’ll use in your party decor. 
  • You don’t have to run out an purchase expensive scrapbooking machines to make ones like we did here.  It’s simple–and pretty inexpensive–to make your own.  The cards were plain but the colors were right–and they were on sale!  I found stickers that matched perfectly and waited for them to go on sale, too.  I typed up party details in Word, picked a fun font and printed in color.  Done! 
  • Rule of thumb is to invite your child’s new age + 1.  In our case, that would be 6 kids + the Birthday girl.  Not always easy to do, but you don’t want the guest of honor (or you) to have a melt-down. 
  • Keep the duration of the party manageable.  No more than 2 hours, but I have found that 90 minutes is plenty.
  • If you are comfortable entertaining a house-full of kids (especially older ones),  let the parents know ahead of time so they can plan to run and grab a cup of coffee and a piece of quiet. 
  • Insist that your child use her best manners and greet each guest at the door.  “Hi, Sofia.  Thanks for coming.  Come on in!” 
  • Helpers:  You may consider asking grandma, your sister, or neighborhood kids (you can offer to pay them) to be helpers at the party.  You’ll be glad you did.  Think: gift table, snack and beverage person, photographer, and kid corral-er.  Make sure they know what their “job” is beforehand or you’ll feel flabbergasted delegating. 
  • Party activities:  Have two-three activities to keep kids busy.  I usually do a “warm-up” activity that kids can work on while waiting for all of the guests to arrive.  Move into a more active thing like a scavenger hunt or pin-the-tail on the donkey.  Finally, wrap up with a quiet crafty activity.  Of course, you’ll want time for cake, snacks, and ice cream. 
  • Food:  It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive.  Depending on the time of your party, you can get away with just cake and icecream.  Simple snacks, kid-friendly hot appetizers, veggies and dip, fresh fruit should do the trick.  Have a variety of salty vs. sweet.  Ask parents ahead of time if there are allergies or other considerations such as gluten-free or vegetarian. 
  • Gifts:  If you decide to open gifts at the party (some don’t:  kids too young to really “get” it, time consuming, want to play with the new toy right away, jealously from others), keep it snappy.  Have three helpers…the first helps the child unwrap, the second stashes trash, the third writes down gift specifics for thank you cards later.  Another idea is to pass out goody bags just at the Birthday kid is opening his gifts.  That way, guests sort of feel like they have a gift to open, too.
  • Goody Bags:  No parent really wants their child to come home with a bag of “tinkets and trash.”  Make sure you stuff the bags with something you’d actually be o.k. with if your child came home with one.  Some parents just give one “big” goody such as a nice coloring book and pack of crayons, a Little Golden book that goes along with the party theme, or a make-and-take party activity. 
  • Wrap-it-Up:  So folks don’t linger–and so you don’t feel too rude pushing them out–offer to do a group photo before kids leave.  If you haven’t already, now’s a good time to hand out goody bags and passing out coats and jackets.
  • Relax:  Once everyone is gone, it’s time to chill.  Take note of what went well and what not to do in the future.  Linger over the gifts and talk about each and every one.  Who gave you this?  Why do you think they chose this for you?  If your child received any books, consider attaching the card that came with the gift right inside the front cover.
  • Thank-you cards:  They’re a must at our house.  To make them go faster, you can purchase “kid thank-you’s” in which they are sort of a fill-in-the-blank style.  Another option is to send photo cards of the kids at the party (that group photo you took)–look into your options at Walgreens or on-line photo venues.  Let you child have a hand in saying “thanks,” too even if she can’t write yet.  She can add stickers or her own scribbles.  Read her the thank-you card before you pop it in the envelope. 
  • Too much?  You’ll survey all of this “stuff” and think you have way too many things.  Consider stashing some gifts and pulling them out on a rainy day.  It will be just like a new gift all over again.   

Most of all–have fun!  One of the cool things about being a parent is,you get to relive some of  your favorite childhood memories. 

Party on! 

About leslie1218

Author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA (Woodbine House, 2012) frantically working on a novel that should be ready for submission this fall. Mom of two spritely redheads & one chubby basset hound whose stories & images appear in my writing from time-to-time.

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