Planning a birthday party part 2: invitations, games, location, food, party bags and things to remember.
by Karen Sibal
Continued from Part 1
There are so many choices when it comes to invitations. A nice alternative to buying them is to make your own and involve your child. If your child is old enough, he can decorate and write out the invitation with some help from you. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect – it’s a kid’s party invitation, right? There are also some great websites that give you step-by-step instructions on how to create your own party invitations. Check out: www.bestkidsbirthdayparties.com and www.todaysparent.com.
Selecting the right location is critical to a successful birthday party. Start by thinking about whether your party will be held at home or somewhere else. There are advantages and disadvantages to having the ever-popular home party. Although a home party may seem convenient, be prepared to spend a lot of time preparing your place for the party and cleaning up afterwards.
If you’re having the party at home, will it be indoors or outside? When planning an outdoor party, always have Plan B worked out in case of rain. I will never forget my six year old’s backyard birthday party and the thunderstorm that struck just when we were about to cut the cake. Needless to say, we had made arrangements to accommodate everyone inside, so our planning beforehand saved the day.
If you’re considering a party elsewhere, there are a lot of great venues ranging from the local zoo, museums, kid-friendly restaurants, community swimming pool, local gymnastics centre, amusement parks, bowling, mini-golf, a movie, and much more. Many places have affordable birthday packages that can take the stress out of planning the special day. Check your community’s guide to local attractions for some kid-friendly ideas.
What’s your child interested in? You probably know best what your child likes, so involve her in selecting a theme. Children as young as two can tell you what characters they like and can get really involved in the planning process!
There are so many themes and characters to choose from and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. When you decide on your theme, try to keep the rest of the planning simple – that is, matching the invitations, balloons, decorations, cake, paper plates, cups, napkins, and a few activities is probably all that’s needed.
Games are a must for any great home party. Tried and tested games include: musical chairs, ring toss, freeze dance, pin the tail on the donkey (or theme character), pass the parcel, or even a treasure hunt. Have prizes for the winner, or for everyone, if you wish. If you can find a clown, magician, or theme character, they’re sure to have games and activities that will keep the kids entertained. This is a good option that takes the pressure off of managing the entire party yourself. More game ideas can be found at www.birthdayexpress.com and www.todaysparent.com.
If your child enjoys crafts, you can have the guests complete a small craft project (such as decorating their place mat, creating a party hat, beading a necklace, or making finger puppets). A craft is a cool keepsake for the guests to remember to occasion.
Every great party has great food! If you’re having a home party, some popular ideas are: chips, veggies with dip, cheese and crackers, pizza, small sandwiches, meat and cheese platters with an assortment of rolls and breads for make-your-own sandwiches, pizza, BBQ burgers and hotdogs, pasta and salads. Also, try to have an assortment of juices and soda pop available. If adults are also invited, it’s always appreciated if there are a few munchies for them too. If you have a lot of guests, consider catering if it fits your budget.
The Cake. Will you make it at home or will you buy it? Do you want the cake to reflect your party theme? Maybe you could opt for cupcakes – pre-decorated or you could have the guests decorate their own. And don’t forget the ice cream!
Your little guests will be thrilled to receive goodie bags when leaving. Fill them with age appropriate treats, favors and nifty trinkets.
Thank You Notes
As with the invitations, you can create your own thank you notes, buy them to match your party theme, or find some ideas online (see the websites listed above). Mail or hand-deliver them a few days after the party, or include them in the party bags.
Things to Remember
Camera and video camera – make sure you have enough film and that all equipment is working. Stock up on extra batteries.
Music – really important if the kids will be dancing! Have a good selection on hand.
Candles – yes, it’s happened where parents remember everything except to buy candles for the birthday cake. Make sure this doesn’t happen to you.
The Family Pet – even the most well-behaved pet can become unpredictable in a home full of noisy children, not to mention that guests may be afraid of pets or have allergies. Consider confining your pet for the festivities.
Baby’s First Birthday
Your child’s first birthday is an exciting milestone. To ensure it’s a party to remember, keep everything about the party simple. Invite a few guests, keep the decorations and entertainment minimal and have just a few balloons (remember that little ones can choke on the pieces of popped balloons). Too many people, balloons, and loud music can frighten your child. Schedule the party before or after your baby has napped to ensure she’s well-rested for the festivities. And you may want to feed her beforehand because the excitement of the party may diminish her appetite.
Toddler parties are best planned around the four “S’s”: small, simple, sensible and short. Keep the guest list small – perhaps primarily adults your child knows and a couple of playmates. Go easy on the decorations as tiny tots tend to frighten easily. Be sensible when it comes to food and avoid grapes, small pretzels or popcorn which can cause choking. Keep the party short and sweet – one to one-and-a-half hours is plenty and schedule it to accommodate your toddler’s routine. And, open gifts after the party – sharing can be challenging at this age.
When deciding on your party menu, keep in mind that many children have food allergies. Ask parents ahead of time if there are any food restrictions you need to be aware of. If children are being dropped off for the party, make sure you know where to reach the parent in the event of an emergency.
The Big Day
If you’ve gone through this party planner, you should be relaxed and well-organized when the big day arrives. You may even be as excited as your child and can hardly wait for the party to begin! After all, this is a monumental day in the life of your child. Enjoy the celebration, keep your sense of humour, have fun and create memories that you’ll cherish forever.
- Today’s Parent Magazine, Birthday Party Planner, www.todaysparent.com.
- San Jose Families, www.sanjosefamilies.com
- Eisenberg, Arlene, Heidi E. Murkoff and Sandee E. Hathaway (1989), What to Expect the First Year (pp 363-364).
- Eisenberg, Arlene, Heidi E. Murkoff and Sandee E. Hathaway (1994), What to Expect the Toddler Years) (pp 300, 452).
Karen Sibal is a freelance writer, researcher and communications consultant. She is the owner of Sibal Writing and Consulting, a firm that specializes in public policy research and effective communications and web solutions for all types of organizations. Over the past 15 years, Karen has done work for local and provincial governments and several not-for-profit organizations. Karen has written extensively on children’s issues and has recently helped with launching an association for mothers and children in her community. She is a member of the Halton-Peel Communications Association and has also served as the managing editor of a government child welfare journal. Karen is currently authoring a children’s book series for preschool children and keeps busy with various community projects.
Karen lives with her husband and two girls, ages 2 and 8 years, in Oakville, Ontario Canada. For more information about Karen, please visit her web site at www.sibal.ca or call 416-580-9097.
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