Help! My little munchkin Taylor is turning 4. We had small family gatherings to celebrate birthdays 1, 2 and 3 but this year I’d like to include Taylor’s pre-school friends. I’m nervous because I don’t entertain a lot and I don’t know the other parents very well. How can I make sure the party will be a success?
— Hazy on Hosting, Southern California
Planning a party can be enjoyable. It just takes a bit of time, a bit of organization and a bit of creativity. Start by checking out this Step-by-Step Guide.
Here are my top 20 tips for coordinating an event that’s fun for everyone — your birthday munchkin, your guests and especially you, the proud parent and happy host.
1. Remember that your child is the reason for the party. As much as possible, involve him or her in decisions about the theme, guests, activities and food. Don’t worry about trying to impress the other parents.
2. Kids’ birthday parties typically last about two hours. Don’t schedule the party during your child’s usual nap time. Specify start and end times on the invitations.
3. For younger children, it may be best to have the party at home. Little kids usually feel more comfortable in a familiar environment.
4. Be mindful of the season. If your child’s birthday is in August, avoid the heat by holding the party in the morning or late afternoon. If festivities will take place outdoors, check that there’s adequate shade, or consider renting a tent.
5. If you’re planning an outdoor celebration for a child born between November and March, reserve a back-up venue in case it rains.
7. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Enlist your spouse, babysitter, relatives or neighbors for assistance. An extra pair of hands is especially important if guests will be dropped off by their parents.
8. Remove pets from the party area. Some children are allergic to or afraid of animals.
9. Tie balloons to your mailbox or use other decorations to mark the party location.
10. Play music to create a festive atmosphere.
11. As guests arrive, invite them to do arts and crafts. Some children need time to transition into party-mode. A little later, playparty.net will kick-off the Ultimate Race Car Party or Best LEGO Party. Afterwards, serve refreshments and the birthday cake. Let the kids wind down as the party ends. Guide the birthday child in saying “thank you” and giving party favors to each guest as he or she departs.
12. Serve kid-friendly refreshments. Simple, familiar foods like hamburgers, hot dogs or sandwiches are good choices. Consider ordering pizza to be delivered — it’s much easier than preparing the refreshments yourself.
13. Avoid serving any food containing nuts or shellfish, as many kids are allergic to them.
14. Place trash cans and recycling bins in strategic locations to simplify clean-up.
15. Ensure that the party site is safe for kids. Be especially attentive to potential hazards such as vehicle traffic on the street, a pool, steps or stairs, decks or balconies, glass doors, windows and chemicals.
16. Check and restock your first aid kit. Put extra ice in the freezer or ice chest. Bandages, antiseptic spray and ice will come in handy if a guest gets a cut, scrape or bruise.
17. With younger children, be prepared for possible melt-downs. Their moods can change suddenly. Keep a box of tissues handy.
18. If babies will be present, make sure that party favors are large enough not to be a choking hazard.
19. Be flexible. If kids don’t like an activity, move onto something else. On the other hand, if a game is unexpectedly popular, allow kids to continue to play. The goal is for guests to have fun, not to check-off items on an agenda.
20. Enjoy this special milestone in your child’s life. Celebrate the unique person that he is. Show her how much she is loved. And most of all, have fun!