Practical Tips for Hosting A Stress-Free Kid’s Birthday Party
by Christina Simon- Contributor
I just counted… I’ve hosted 17 birthday parties for my kids. Wow! That’s a lot of parties. My son is 9 and my daughter is 12 years old. After so many parties (and a few mishaps), I’ve learned a thing or two. Here are some tips to help you and your family have fun, memorable and stress-free parties.
Keep it simple! When your child is a baby or toddler, I think simple is better. For my daughter’s 2ND birthday, we hired a singer/storyteller to entertain the kids in our backyard. We invited a few families from our neighborhood. The kids were fascinated by the stories (I selected 3 of my daughter’s favorite books for read-aloud) and then the singer led us in a beautiful bluesy rendition of “Happy Birthday.”
I’ve been to over-the-top baby/toddler parties where the parents go all out, inviting 35-50 kids, petting zoos, face painting, a bouncy house, a band and more. It’s just too much stress and too many kids for the birthday boy/girl to handle. Inevitably, tears start flowing.
While your kids are very young, host their parties together if possible. My kids are born in July, eight days apart, so we combined their parties until my daughter was 6 years old. The kids loved it and it helped keep costs reasonable. After years of hosting separate parties a week apart, this year I was burned out on parties so we combined their birthdays by spending the day at Disneyland.
Home Parties vs. Venue Parties: Hosting a birthday party at your house can be really fun and convenient. But, sometimes you just want to have somebody else do the set up/clean up. Parties at indoor play spaces and other party spaces are great, but they can be expensive. And, each location varies. Some require you to bring a cake and/or food/drinks and party favors. Make sure you double-check details with the party place the day before your event. I hosted a party where the kid’s gym “lost” our drinks! Turns out they gave them to the wrong party.
When you select a venue for your party, try to be mindful of your child’s friends and their ability to participate in the activity. If you daughter ice skates, but her friends don’t, you might want to think about other options.
Pool Parties: Safety First! When my son turned 8 years old, he wanted a pool party at our house. I loved the idea, but this was our first year with a pool and I was nervous about safety issues. My son and his friends are good swimmers, but with a lot of kids in the water, anything can happen. If you don’t have family or friend(s) who will attend the party without kids and dedicate themselves to life guarding for the entire event, hire a lifeguard!
For a few hundred dollars, disaster can be avoided with a lifeguard. Even though I wrote, “please no siblings” on the invitation, younger siblings who aren’t strong swimmers showed up unannounced. When parents say they will watch their own kids, they almost always get distracted chatting with other families and stop watching their kids. Personal responsibility and liability issues necessitate a lifeguard! My kids have had parties at Beverlywood Swim School in Los Angeles where they have at least two lifeguards on duty during the party. Keeping a first aid kit is also a smart idea.
Party Food: Any kid’s party means you need lots of food. Fruit, chips, snacks, baby carrots, pizza or sandwiches, juice boxes and water are all great options. I always like to have at least the appetizers and snacks ready when guests arrive. Kids come hungry! Waiting for food at a party with a bunch of hungry kids will inevitably lead to meltdowns. If you’re ordering food, it helps to keep your credit card or money ready to go for when the food arrives. I also plan for the food delivery to be at least 30 minutes late. Whenever possible I make sure the order arrives before the guests get there.
Beware of the Faulty Bouncy House: We hosted a party for my kids with a bouncy house in our backyard. I found the company through a friend and everything seemed fine. Then, while the kids were happily jumping and bouncing around inside the Elmo-themed house, it began to deflate. A bunch of dads rushed in and pulled the kids out of the collapsing bouncy house. Then, suddenly it inflated again. It had been installed by the rental company so I thought it was safe. I’m not sure what happened, but my advice is to only hire companies with clean, safe bouncy houses. Ask about power failures and deflating, along with how often the houses are cleaned.
Photos: I like to ask a friend to be our designated photographer. Whenever my husband or I plan to take photos at our kids’ parties, we get distracted and end up with only a few pictures. I love family photos, so I’ve learned I can’t be counted on to host and take pictures.
Shade, Shade, Shade: If you haven’t been to a kid’s party without shade, let me tell you…its miserable. Sitting in the sun for several hours is just too much for everyone and will ruin the vibe of the party. I’ve borrowed outdoor umbrellas from friends and neighbors to make sure everyone has some place to sit out of the sun. Rentals are also a good option too.
Christina Simon is the co-author of Beyond The Brochure: An Insider’s Guide To Private Elementary Schools In Los Angeles. She is the mom of a 3rd grade son and a 5th grade daughter who attend The Willows Community School. Christina’s work has been published on Salon.com, The Mother Company, Ecomom, Macaroni Kids Santa Monica and numerous other sites. She writes the blog, www.beyondthebrochurela.com
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