When it comes to putting together a party for your young ones at home (or at a remote venue), there are some basic rules that work well for putting together a great event – where all children are engaged from start to finish – and you can maintain SOME semblance of order!
Rule 1 – boy parties should be constructed different than girl parties. Parties with an audience majority of boys (or male-themed) work well with a build-up. Start with low-key activities then build up to cake, piñata, balloon art, etc. Having all your cards on the table at these events starts the party off with over-excitement which may be difficult to maintain (and keep some control over the party guests in larger numbers). When it comes to more feminine-themed parties or more female guests, its more about organization with an open variety of activities on display. The excitement will be there AND maintained as they know that there is more to come.
Rule 2 – two hour events work best at almost any age (and it’s a curtesy to your guests! Trust me – as busy as everyone is these – your guests will appreciate a timely party). Keeping a good pace where the children and adults are entertained for 120 minutes is no small task – but can be done effectively! After two hours, the children are getting restless and it’s probably time to wrap up.
Rule 3 – this is a rule we do our best to stay true to… if you are hosting a party where your child is receiving gifts, it’s best to unwrap them at home. Think about it – when you’re at a bridal shower or even Christmas morning and the time comes to unveil the gifts, there is an implied pressure, such as – “Did I buy the right size? Is the person going to like my gift (or do a bad job of faking it)? Did I buy enough? Is my gift better than or just as good as everyone else’s’?” And when it comes to faking it – children are THE WORST! Definitely more “P.C.” these days to unwrap at home with family and close friends – remove the pressure!
Rule 4 – “Thank You” cards are so very sweet – yet incredibly time consuming and (let’s face it) becomes a parents’ job after you have planned – paid for – hosted – AND cleaned up the party. Do you really want to (or have the time to) write out 15+ thank you cards? Take care of this task AT THE END OF THE PARTY. Thank each guest with a treat that has a note thanking them for their time and generosity. Better still – if you have the ability to take pictures and print them out prior to guests leaving the party – these keepsakes are a wonderful way to offer appreciation and remind your guests of what a good time was had at your party.
Rule 5 – HAVE A PLAN. No – this is not a board meeting or a formal presentation – it’s much more uncontrollable. You are about to open up your home to 15+ children and adults with all eyes on you to entertain for the next two hours. No worries – YOU GOT THIS. First of all, realize that all your guests will not be arriving at the same time, so start out with an on-going, small activity that requires very little adult supervision, such as coloring pages, even a movie. Maybe a few snacks out (keep in mind, the more salty the snack, the kids will be needing drinks right away)… allow 10-15 minutes for all your guests to arrive before you start your first activity or have your entertainment arrive.
Time your event out in 15 minute intervals; with a 2-hour party, that’s only eight intervals to fill (this is easier than you think!). The following is a good outline for children ages 3-8 years old.
1st Interval – Guests arrive, small on-going activity
2nd & 3rd Interval – Activity, small game matching the party theme, a craft would be key, or entertainment such as face painting
4th Interval – FOOD! Children always need some time to eat and recharge. Plus they enjoy catching up with one another, too!
5th Interval – GREAT time for a game! Or a presentation for the birthday child (if you are having character entertainment, this is the optimal time for them to arrive)
6th & 7th Interval – Cake! And family photo opp! You worked so hard on this party – be sure to take your own keepsake with the person who matters most on this day – the birthday child. During this time, after the cake (while other children are still eating), let the children play! This is when we usually allow the children to run off their sugar high from the sweets and limited, open play is always good for the children. This also allows your “ancy guests” the chance to make their exit without any qualms. Or, if you are forced to open gifts, now is the time.
8th Interval – time to pack everyone up and head home. And now your get to clean up!!
And always have a calm activity (such as a short book reading) ready to go in case one of your crafts or planned activities goes awry. Sometimes, settling the children down becomes a necessary component to your event.
Rule 6 – DON’T FORGET TO HAVE FUN. You’ve planned, organized, prepared, decorated – done it all in hopes that this day will be magical! And the only person’s expectations you should hope to exceed SHOULD BE your child’s. However, you need to remember that this birthday will only happen once in your child’s life. There will be only one time in their existence that they will turn 3, 4, 5, etc., so remember to get IN those pictures, smile and enjoy the memory you’ve worked so hard to create. YOU DESERVE IT.