Make your child’s annual celebrations something really special with these practical tips that won’t cost you the earth
THE INVITATIONS For something really special, make party invitations in the form of CDS. Use Powerpoint or any other picture and text editor on your computer. Scan in a photograph of your little one with a big invitation: “I want you at my party!” You can put the venue, date and time on as well, along with the fun activities you have planned. Pop the CD in a bag or wrapped package and deliver it.
If you don’t feel like burning CDS, buy empty CD cases, and make a “cover”, on your computer of your child’s photo with his name and something like: “I’m a star. Come and be a star with me” and print it out. Or you can make a “band” and write all the members’ names on the CD: “Louis – guitar”, “Danielle – drums” and so on.
Use dotted lines to draw a birthday cake, but only do it halfway. Then write on the invite, “Come to my party, you’ll complete the picture.”
Write out the invitation and place it in an ice-cream cone topped with marshmallows – have it peek out in between the sweets.
Roll up your invite and use an elastic band to fix it to a sucker.
Make old-school, hand-decorated invitations, and get your child to help. Decorate it with her handprint.
Write your invitation on pretty birds or fish you folded from paper. You can use words such as, “Swim/fly on over to my party.”
Make an entry ticket for each guest, with the words “Admit one for tons of fun and sweets.”
Make a list of everyone you’ve invited and make a note of who has RSVP-ED. If you need confirmation, call those who didn’t respond two or three days before the party to make sure they’re really not coming, because people do sometimes just pitch up. THE THEME AND DECORATIONS Keep it simple. You don’t have to have the biggest or most expensive party. The most important thing is that the kids have a good time.
TV characters are always popular themes, but you don’t have to follow the biggest trends. Simple themes such as the ocean, circus, flowers, animals and so forth are cool, and you can – depending on your child’s age – think of your own decorations and make them.
A treasure hunt is always a fun theme for children older than three, as is a tea party for girls.
Remember that balloons and paper decorations create a party vibe, and they’re also cheap.
Big shops have plates, cups and napkins with themes, so if you’re pressed for time, this could be your saving grace.
Use colour when you set a low table, and make sure there’s a plate and cup for each guest.
Paint ordinary white paper cups in bright colours, and fill them with suckers and sweets.
Make pretty table decorations, such as flowers from paper and pipe cleaners, or windmills on a stick.
Fix a rope quite low across the room, and hang it with colourful bags of sweets. Make sure there’s one for each child, and keep a few extra on hand for those who lose theirs or for surprise guests.
Use cardboard to make a fun party hat for each child, and decorate it with paper strips, paint and glitter.
PREPARATIONS Enlist a helper for the day before and after the party, and get them lined up way in advance. Ask a friend, sister or your mom, someone who won’t mind helping.
Make your home and garden completely child-safe before the party – you definitely don’t want anyone to get hurt. Do a quick check again on the day of the party.
Plan a couple of activities for the kids – take their ages into account. Plan active as well as passive games.
If you’re hosting the party at a venue, check if they have alternatives to outdoor events if the weather’s not so great.
Ditto for a house party – think about what you’re going to do if it rains or is chilly.
Start making or buying the decorations a week or two before the party. Don’t leave everything for the day before the party.
Make a list of everything you’ll need, and check off the items as you buy them.
If you’ve ordered a birthday cake, phone to confirm it will be ready on time. Put in a call two days before the party, and then again a day before. Don’t take any chances!
Buy all the food and drinks the day before the party. This way you’ll be calm the morning of the party rather than rushing around for the few things you’ve forgotten.
GUESTS AND DURATION Don’t invite too many children. A first birthday party is usually for the parents. Don’t overwhelm your child with too many people; let him enjoy it! About four 1-year-olds are more than enough!
As your child grows older, you can invite more guests, but eight friends are enough for a 6- and 7-year-old.
Schedule the party for a time your child is well rested. If you know your child becomes difficult by noon or in the late afternoon, rather throw his
party in the morning.two hours is a perfect length for a children’s party. After that, the kids become tired and grumpy.
Make every guest feel welcome and at home, including the parents if they come along. Also remember to say a special thank you for each gift, no matter how small.
A sleepover party isn’t a good idea for children under 8. You’re just looking for trouble, because Tom or someone’s going to phone his Ma to come and fetch him tonight … And small children start fighting when they spend too much time in each other’s company.
THE FOOD Ensure a good mix – savoury as well as sweet. Make sure the children won’t choke on the food you serve. Avoid peanuts, raisins, popcorn and hard sweets.
Make sure there’s also some healthy stuff on the table. Not all children are sugar slaves.
Children always find mini pizzas, hotdogs and burgers appetising. Also make some pretty sandwiches. Cut up some fruit for the table. Make the birthday cake the centre point of the table. When the candles are blown out, make sure all the children are together, so that they can feel part of the ritual.
Make sure there’s enough to eat for the parents if they’re coming along.
ACTIVITIES One- and two-year-olds won’t really play; they’ll be more interested in the eats. Give each one a balloon, but keep an eye on them.
From three years old, you can play some cool music and get the children to dance.
For a summer party you can switch on the sprinkler, and the kids can run through it, or ask them to bring their pushbikes and then they can cycle through the water. (Of course only if water restrictions allow.) Avoid a swimming pool at all times.
Get a heap of sand, and get the children playing.
A jumping castle is always a hit – but choose it according to the age of your children, and always keep a watchful eye.
A clown usually doesn’t work for children under three – they’re often dead scared of the clown.
From five years, kids can start playing games such as sack races and pass the parcel.
From three years you can do crafty activities such as having each one paint a cup or plate, or every child can decorate a bag for sweets.
A tent is always a good place to play. Fill it with cushions and things like pots and pans.
On a rainy day board games or a DVD are the answer. Also supply crayons and paper.
Simple games are always the best – games such as duck, duck, goose, hide and seek and so on are more than ideal for four-year-olds and older children.
GENERAL TIPS Make it clear in your invitation if you’re going to get down and dirty, so that the little ones don’t wear their Sunday best to the party.
You can ask every child to wear a costume – but make it clear parents shouldn’t spend lots of money and that it’s not a competition.
If there are going to be kids of various ages, make sure there are suitable activities for everyone. But try and stick to one age group as far as possible.
Get a helper to assist with the dishes and cleaning up afterwards.
Always keep your camera handy and charged – you want to cherish the special moments forever.
If your child has received a lot of gifts, have him choose two with which he can play immediately, and put the rest away, so that he does not become overwhelmed. Take them out as time goes by.
Stick to your budget – it’s the fun that counts and that your child will remember. It’s no use eating crackers for the rest of the month.
Don’t invite kids your child hardly knows (and whose parents you don’t know) – rather keep it intimate.
Send every guest a thank you note afterwards and tell them how much your child is enjoying the gift.
And relax – your party doesn’t need to be better than the Jones’. YB
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