Having your child’s birthday party doesn’t need to be stressful (part 2)

Second part of the previous post. 

Now, when should we have this party? If the children at the party will be older than the age that needs naps then between 1 and 4 are the best times, parties should last about 2 hours unless you’re doing several activities and planning a whole day. If that is the case remember to budget the psychotherapy for yourself the day after.  If the party is for younger children (nappers) then between 10 and noon is best. This feeds right into their afternoon nap and their own mom and dad will thank you.  For parties on weekends, remember that many families have church obligations and Sunday AMs might conflict.

How many and who to invite: I have heard a formula that states your child’s age plus one is the number of guests you should invite. I have also seen many parents invite whole classes, up to 25+ kids. The right answer is, invite how many you can handle. If you are using a facility like Gymfinity’s Gymnastics birthday party then you pay more for more kids. Consider your budget. Also consider your chaos tolerance. If you can handle the chaos that having many kids will bring then “Party On!” If you like a little more control, than limit your invites.   Remember that it’s your child’s party and don’t feel pressured to add in siblings of friends and/or kids your child only sort of knows. Parties are more fun when everyone is already friends before the party starts. Many schools have a policy that if you invite one in school that you should invite everyone. Ask your child’s teacher for contact e mails for the families you want to invite, or try to get phone numbers. Do a little pre-invitation inviting and ask parents if they would be interested. Tell them why you are contacting them out of school.

The dilemma of the goodie bag. It has been a trend that parents feel obligated to provide some toys/candy/ meaningless stuff soon to be found in the trash to each guest as a thank you for coming. It was originally intended to satisfy the children attending that gave gifts and felt ripped off because they didn’t get anything back. (Can you feel my position on goodie bags before I come right out and say it?) I suggest downplaying the gifts in the first place, but it is traditional, so if gifts are a part of the plan, then maybe coming up with other activities immediately following the opening of gifts will alleviate the jealousy that kids naturally feel when the birthday child opens gifts and immediately starts playing with them. Setting boundaries for your child beforehand works wonders, explain that they will have the toys after everyone goes home and can play then, and the party is the time to play with friends. Then be sure to have things to do. If you decide to do goodie bags, consider that each child should get different colors of similar toys; this avoids ownership disputes but also alleviates kids feeling that they want what someone else has. As a health-minded professional may I suggest leaving the candy out? It’s not novel, it’s not healthy and they don’t need it.  As I mentioned earlier, kids will remember what fun they had, not what they take home in a little bag. The best idea I’ve seen, other than no goodie bag, is to take home something they made at the party. Two birds-one stone: activity for the party and instant goodie bag.

Games or activities: This is simple; make sure that everyone gets a chance to win. Play cooperative games where if some get’s “out” or loses that it’s temporary and that they can work their way back in. Think “Duck, Duck, Goose” like games, where someone might be out, or in this case in the center, but then they come back to the circle. Stay away from games like “Musical Chairs” where at the end one child wins and everyone else is sidelined and bored. Google “cooperative games” or even “everyone wins games” online for ideas.

If you have boxed games or activities be sure that you have them out and ready to play so if they want to do that game, they don’t have to wait while you look for it in the game closet. Being prepared is 90% of the success of a party.

If you wish to use a service like a gymnastics party check out things other than price. What activities will the children do? For how long? And most importantly, who will be supervising them? Many of the local bounce houses employ peppy little teens who have no sense of responsibility and are easily distracted by shiny objects like cell phones.  Be sure your party leader is having fun with your party, pays attention to the children and takes it seriously. They are, after all, the temporary host of the party; can you trust them to make it great?  Using a birthday party service like a gym or a pool can be great, but be cautious. Make sure they actually have party program and aren’t just doing it on whim to make quick cash. Being in that industry, I have seen many programs, local and outside this area, that add birthday parties for kids to their service intending for the easy income but not realizing or not caring about the importance of the party to the family and especially the birthday child.  Talk to your friends and neighbors, what have they heard? Check reviews online. An hour of research can prevent many hours of disappointment with the wrong place.

Lastly, at some point during the day; and it can be well after the guests have gone home, take a moment to forget the stress and chaos. Look into your child’s face and remember why this day is important in the first place. Whether their 3, 7, 16 or 21 years old; this is their day, appreciate that for them. Give them a little hug and tell them that dispite what they just put you through, you still love them.

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