When did children's birthday parties go from small gatherings of a few friends and relatives to full blown galas? We've seen princess parties for four-year-olds complete with invitations that looked like they could have come from the renaissance, pony rides and inflatable castles.
Your child's special day does not have to throw you into debt just to make it memorable. Here are a few tips on planning the perfect party and managing your child's expectations (and your own)
Start planning early. The earlier you start stocking up on supplies, the less it will hurt your budget. Invitations, decorations and favors can be purchased well in advance. A theme can be helpful with planning, but it's not necessary.
Set a start time and an end time. Unless you are interested in firing up the grill, pick times that don't coincide with meals like 1:00-3:00 p.m. or 2:00-4:00 p.m. If your child still takes an afternoon nap, why not have a morning party at 10:00 a.m.? This prevents afternoon meltdowns and allows your guests to have the rest of their day free.
Think of the parents. If you are partying with preschoolers, chances are the parents will be there too. Make sure to have plenty of adult snacks (and maybe some beverages, too). Have a place for them to sit and don't be afraid to ask for help. Chances are parents will jump at a chance to escape the small talk.
Activities. Kids are pretty good about entertaining themselves but planned activities can help considerably. Have a craft ready for the children to make as well as a more physical activity (piñata, kiddie pool or monkey bars) for the more rambunctious guests.
Party in a box. Sometimes the easiest and even most economical option is to rent out a space for your child's party. Whether it's a local pool, a party room at the zoo, or an indoor playspace, you can sit back and let a professional take over. This is a great option when inviting your child's entire class or when you just don't feel like cleaning the house twice.
To open or not to open. More and more often, we go to parties where the gifts are piled in a corner and left unopened until the guests leave. Though there are arguments that this prevents jealousy, guests often place quite a bit of thought into the gifts that they select and would like to see them opened. Also, this gives your child the opportunity to thank them in person. Opening gifts after the cake cutting gives people a chance to duck out if they don't want to sit through the paper flying. If you do opt to open them in private, be sure to send a thank you note, phone call, or at the very least, an email.
The most important things to remember are that kids are pretty happy little creatures as long as there is sugar around and that birthday parties only have to last about two hours. Relax and have fun!
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