Planning Your Child’s Party

Planning a child’s party can be frustrating for any parent, especially if you don’t know where to begin. With a few lists and a time schedule, I’m going to show you how to make your party not only a hit, but extremely gratifying for yourself as well.

First things first, get a notebook to keep your lists, phone numbers, ideas and concerns in. Guard this book like the Holy Grail, sacrificing almost anything for the safety and well-being of this book. Next, let’s brainstorm; write down ideas you might think are fun, food you want and anything else you might think relevant. I usually add a budget page to this notebook. You can and will go crazy spending money if you don’t know what is going where, I give myself about a $30 dollar cushion.

The “It” List – This part can be tricky. If you can’t remember all the children in your child’s class, ask the teacher for a class list. If you are planning a big party, let your child choose who they would like to come. You might also like to ask on your invitations, “Samantha and Family”. If you plan to have the family over for each child, ask the family to R.S.V.P. by a certain date, usually a week ahead of time. Print out a list of all the people you invited and tape this list to the wall nearest your phone.This way, anyone else answering the phone besides you, can mark if the family is coming and how many will be attending. If you are planning a pricy outing such as arcade or snowboarding, tell your child to choose three or five friends. Keep the number of party-goers even if you’ll be attending an outing, this way, each child has a partner to play with, ride with and trade with. Please remember that children have feelings as we all do. I remember as a child not being invited to a few parties and it feels like crap! I like to give all the invitations to the child’s teacher and ask him/her to slip the invitations into the backpacks at either snack time or lunch time when the children are pre-occupied.

Themes – As with any event I’m planning, I first go to the guest of honor, this is usually the 3’9″ munchkin I call my son. Ask your guest of honor what special things they would like to do on their day. My son has had Sesame Street, Monsters Inc., Spiderman and Sponge Bob; the usual suspects. The theme will usually be a popular cartoon or something the child is very interested in, like Monster Trucks or Ponies. Always ask for two or three theme choices. It’s Murphy’s Law that you get to the store and they are completely out of your child’s favorite character, which can be very discouraging and time consuming if you’re driving from store to store like Psycho Mom. Also plan your trips. By this I mean, make a list of everthing you need and seperate them into stores, such as Grocery Store, Party Store, Toys R Us and Meat Market. This will definitely save you from running around.

Games & Activities – So now you have a few themes in mind. Next, think of activities to keep the children busy. Remember that the children are just that, little bundles of energy with shorter attention spans than you and I. This means, pick one maybe two activities for the children to do. Some ideas include, traditional pin the tail on the donkey, hide and seek, renting a moon bounce, renting pony rides, musical chairs, if weather permits, swimming, sledding, skating and last but not least, also my personal favorite, the piÃ?±ata. Accordingly, each game winner should be awarded with a prize, I avoid small gifts such as dolls or trucks because unless you have enough for every child to win at the party, someone inevitably feels left out. I prefer a large bowl of candy, (think Halloween) and letting the winner choose a few. Do not feel compelled to play every game or force the children to play. It is their party and believe me…they will cry if they want to. Moving right along….

Food – We have numerous options here. Do you want to feed the kids? That depends on time of day, if it’s 2-4, you aren’t expected to provide lunch, but maybe chips, pretzels etc. However if it’s near lunchtime or dinner time, do plan on giving the children a small meal. I find ordering pizza and having it “double-sliced” (ask your pizza provider to cut the pizza in 16 slices, this way there will be minimal waste) is easy and a big hit. If you’ll be having a large party with parents and family, I recommend makng a lunch meat platter. Go to your local deli and ask for your favorite lunch meats, next roll these and place on a platter, cover in saran wrap and pull out as guests arrive. I also like to add cheese, celery, carrots, brocolli, Ranch dip and crackers. A barbeque is also a great idea for summer time. Don’t forget drinks, these can include, soda, juice, juice boxes and ice.

The Cake – Make sure to pre-order your cake at least a week in advance. They always have themes at the bakery counter and you can even put your child’s picture on the cake sometimes! Also don’t forget the candles. You can also bake your own cake for more intimate agtherings.

Decorations – This is the fun part for me. Depending on your location, you may need more or less. About 4 rolls of streamer would decorate a 15′ x 15′ room. Add helium latex balloons and a few mylar balloons in the theme you’ve chosen and you’re ready to go! Don’t forget to buy the plates, napkins, cups, birthday banners, party hats and kazzoos. These can all be found in the party store or grocery store you go to for your theme.

The Big Day – Check your list the night before, are there any last minute details you need to button up? Is there anything you’ve forgotten at the store? Also make a time schedule. If your party is at 4pm, I’d make a schedule like this…..12pm, pick up cake and last minute items, 2pm, start to decorate the location, 3pm, order the pizza, ask them to promptly deliver at 4:15pm, 3:30pm, start to bring the food, drinks, ice, plates, cups, cutlery out to the table. Re-check your list, any last minute details? Did you remember candles? Now your guests are arriving. They’ll ask if they can help; don’t be bashful! Parents who stay are looking for something to do! Have them help dole out pizza or pour drinks. Everyone likes to feel useful.

In planning your party, just remember it’s supposed to be fun! If the stress gets to be too much, ask your freinds and family to help. Maybe cut your shopping list in half and give one half to your sister. Ask one of your more athletic relatives to help hang decorations. If you know you’re coming home with a big load of groceries or presents, call ahead and have everyone lend a hand bringing in and organizing all of your purchases. Just remember you are the Birthday Planner, that gives you the right to delegate duties, but not turn into Party-ZIlla. I hope this article has helped someone somewhere, while I’m no professional party planner, these tips have always worked for me.

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