Birthday Party Basics

by Tania Cowling

After many years as a birthday party mom, I’ve accumulated lots of children’s party ideas to make your birthday party stress-free and fun. The following tips will aid you in your birthday party planning. It’s a very important day in your child’s life and they deserve your very best efforts.

Set the Party Date

It’s sometimes tough to hold the party on your child’s actual birth date. This day can be reserved for a celebration with just the immediate family and grandparents. The traditional date for parties has always been a Saturday or Sunday. So, plan your date and get your invitations out in the mail at least 2-3 weeks in advance.

Set the Party Time

Your child’s age should determine the length of the party. For children ages three and four, two hours should be enough for a party, including a simple mealtime. It can be morning or afternoon, with time for finger foods, cake and opening presents. With school-age children you can add more time to the party. This age group likes to play games along with the traditional party activities. With both age groups, be specific in your starting and ending times. By the time the party is ready to end you’ll be ready for a break, so don’t leave yourself in the position of having late parents by leaving the ending time non-specific. Please note that with the younger group, it’s wise to invite the parents as well to help take care of their children.

Choose A Party Theme

This is the most important event of your child’s year and children think of favorite themes or characters sometimes a year in advance. Start by sitting down with your child and discussing a theme together. If they don’t have a theme in mind, look for areas of interest by talking about what is most interesting to them at this particular time in their life.

Decide How Many Guests

It can be a touchy situation deciding who to invite to the party. Seasoned party planners feel that the age of the child plus one equals a nice party guest list. Having too large of a guest list can be overwhelming to young children—too much noise and action. Also think about your budget—a large of amount of guests equals more food and favors. Professional planners feel that very large parties should be saved for milestone birthdays—maybe double digits at age 10, sweet 16, and so on.

Getting Ready

Once you and your child have found the theme, this helps you focus on invitations, decorations, games, food and favors. Many party stores have these products grouped by theme. Also think about using disposables; After the party, you can wrap all the cups, plates, and such up in the disposable tablecloth, drop it in a garbage bag and toss it. Not only is clean-up easier, but you will not have to worry about broken dishes. Think balloons—all kinds and lots of colors. Helium balloons are a favorite of children and great for decorating, along with crepe paper streamers and banners. It might be nice to have as many balloons as there are children, so each child can take one home as a party favor. Welcome your guests with balloons attached to your mailbox or some fixture in front of your home. It’s party fun from the start and lets your guests know they reached the right place.

What about Party Food?

Are you puzzled about what to serve? Easy to handle food such as hot dogs or pizza is standard. Apple juice is still a favorite. Try to make snacks low in sugar and high in nutrition, such as pieces of fruit, cut-up veggies, raisins, and cheese and crackers. Of course there will be cake and ice cream. If you prefer to serve a more nutritious birthday cake, try angel food or carrot cake topped with frozen yogurt.

Fun and Games

Plan some games to entertain the children at the party. Traditional games from the past will never lose interest, such as Pin the Tail on the Donkey (or any character you choose), or Musical Chairs. The older children may enjoy going on a scavenger hunt (indoors or outside). Some parents plan a make-and-take craft for the children to do together. It’s best to give prizes to all the participants and maybe a special one for the winner. Keep it simple—maybe some stickers or a favorite candy.

It’s Time To Open Presents

This may be the most exciting time for the birthday child, but the other children enjoy watching as well. To help prevent the problem of who gets their gift opened first—make a game out of it. Have the children sitting in a circle. You can put on some music and have the children pass the presents around the circle. When the music stops, whichever present the birthday child is holding is the one that gets opened. You can do this until all gifts have been opened.

Protect Your Pets

Fido and Kitty may not be excited about all the children and noise that have invaded their territory. It’s best to keep your pets separated from the party area. All it takes is one child to be bitten or scratched to ruin your event, not to mention a possible lawsuit.

Say Thank You

It’s a good habit and common courtesy to send thank you notes to all the guests. One great party idea is to have a picture taken with the birthday child and each friend. Get the film developed quickly and get double prints. When your child writes his notes, enclose each individual picture in the envelope. Writing thank you notes teaches your child from an early age the importance of saying “thanks,” and the guests and their parents will enjoy the picture as a memory of a fun occasion.

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