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Birthday Party DOs and DON'Ts - a Parents' Guide

Aug 17, 2007
You'd love to throw a birthday party for your child, but such events are not without their headaches. Kids expectations, the clown that did not turn up, and the treasure hunt with permanently hidden treasure. All parents have party stories to tell, and I gathered dozens of them together to give you a list of children's party DOs and DON'Ts which will hopefully make your party pains a thing of the past.


FIND the time to organise the party yourself. Get help from family or friends if you need it, because a child's party is at least a two person job. Parents know that it takes time to organise a child's party, which has lead to the trend for hired party organisers. But such events lack the personal touch and cost a fortune. A good kid's party should not cost a lot: it's your love and imagination that will win the day with your child, not your money.

LET your child in on the planning. Learning to plan is all part of growing up, and who better than your child to tell you what children like.

THINK twice before running an activity party such as rock climbing at the local gym/sports facility. The cost can be very high per head, and you'll often find kids who are not interested in the activity. Then what do you do with them for the next hour?

HAVE a theme and stick to it. This means sticking with your theme from the invitations, to the children's dress, the decorations, through the fun and games and into jelly and ice cream. You need to create a unified experience, whether it is super heroes, outer space, dinosaurs or cartoon characters. A themed party will definitely streamline your planning and it will give you ideas for activities, whereas running an unconnected series of games is to invite chaos. Being a parent is hard enough.

CONSIDER your child's interests when picking your theme. Horses, rockets, cartoons, football...let his or her interests be a guide.

SPEND time thinking about the birthday invitations. See the invitation as the first party activity and set up anticipation and excitement. Invitations with a gift are a good idea. A pirate party invite with an eye patch, or football party invite with a football chocolate. Balloons with hidden invites are always a winner.

DRESS for the part. Where is the magic when the pirate games master is dressed in jeans and a t-shirt? - or worse, in a shirt and tie?

START with a bang. A good idea at the start, when everyone is gathered round, is to reinforce the theme with something visual, and incorporate a little gift. For example, pirates get a pirate medallion, cowboys get neck scarves. Then it's into something energetic like a relay race, obstacle course, followed by something creative and calming, then something active, and so on. In this way, you can to moderate energy levels during the party.

LET the children have a small snack early on to keep energy levels up.

KEEP your party short, but active. Two hours is fine. If you keep it short, the children's experience will be richer and they will enjoy things so much more than if you drag things out. Your child has a reputation to keep after all, and having parents who throw a good party is important, stupid.

PLAN for quick changes in activity and focus. Kids will love it if there is always something new to do, so plan a selection of activities. Jumping from one to the next is the key to success. As a guide, plan for one activity for each 15 minutes of party time, and have two or three as backup.

KEEP the prizes and surprises coming, and give the children a goal in doing the activity. For example, 'the first one to find five chocolate eggs gets...'

AIM to have the children go wishing the party had never ended. The end is all about show biz and pizzaz. Have the pile of coats and goodie bags all ready before this final activity, then fill the final minutes with spectacle. You could release helium balloons, or run a silly race. Do anything that will send the kids off with smiles on their faces and leave one on yours.

STAY relaxed and enjoy yourself. Yes, you have to make the whole thing run smoothly but make sure you enjoy yourself. You are running a birthday party not a trade conference.


LET your child pressure you into an overly complicated or expensive event at a local restaurant complex, with all manner of fee charging special entertainers. Your child is a consultant, you are the parent. Have the party at home, space allowing, where you can control it, and have maybe one entertainer if you think it necessary. Remember that YOU can create sufficient fun and excitement in your own back garden with careful planning and high energy on the day.

GREET arriving guests at your child's dinosaur themed party by charging out the front door dressed as Godzilla, roaring like a formula one car. If you do, things will most likely start with tears when some of the more nervous guests don't see the funny side of this six foot terror coming down the garden path.

FORGET to write down your plan. Know where you're going and what's next. As any teacher will tell you (your author has ten years teaching experience) once a child loses confidence in the games master, non-cooperation and trouble are never far away.

FORGET to add a bit of make believe. If your theme is pirates and treasure, build up the story. 'You are shipwrecked, but all is not lost because you have found a clue to the location of the magic coconut. Find the coconut, knock it off the perch and...'

FORGET to allow enough time for jelly and ice cream. Twenty minutes should be fine.

TRY to reinvent the wheel. The tried and tested party games like relays and treasure hunts are so popular because they work. You can always build in more novel ideas around them, but have the tried and tested activities central to your plan. They will save the day.

LISTEN to anyone who tells you nonsense rules about how many children should attend for a 5 year old, how many for a 6 year old. Ask your child who they want to invite and take it from there, keeping things manageable. Make sure that no one important is left out due to a recent children's argument, and make sure you don't have a room full of strangers.

FORGET to ask the invitees' parents for an RSVP/reply by a certain date then follow up with a phone call.

PANIC! Expect the unexpected because it will happen, and you will just have to adapt. Such is the lot of the parent.
About the Author
Stephen Turner 2006. Stephen has set up http://www.invitationbirthday.co.uk. You'll find birthday invitation information, ideas, articles and links. This article may be reproduced provided that this 'author resource box' paragraph is displayed below the article.
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