Party On Kids!

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At some point, birthday parties for kids got way out of control.  I had a wonderful childhood but I couldn’t tell you one memory I have of a birthday party.  I know I always had cake and a favorite meal, but I think the extent of an actual party was a couple of friends getting to spend the night – maybe.

But then something happened several years ago where big, thematic parties were expected – and I have to admit, as a part of full disclosure, that I found myself immersed in the pressure cooker of birthday expectations.  I threw some big complicated bashes for my son – and do you know what?  It was a pain!  And, to add salt to the wound, the party he remembers most was the one where I let his young teen friends build a tarp tent in the backyard, move out the TV, video games, an air mattress and stay in the yard for a couple of days.  Cost:  $0!

So, if there’s one good thing about the economic challenges of late – it’s the effect on our expectations of celebrations.  Potlucks have replaced dinner parties and kid’s parties are no exception. 

Here are some simple guidelines that will help you keep it simple and if all else fails, just toss them in the backyard – they’ll love it!

Birthday Party Planning Basics
Pick a simple theme – even something like your child’s favorite color works.  Or, if it’s a TV show or movie character, just do the minimal as far as décor.  Remember, children remember what they DID at a party, much more than what they ate, what the plates and napkins looked like or whether your house was spotless.  Don’t sweat the little details.

Best Party Times
If your budget doesn’t allow serving a meal – that’s fine.  The best party times are 1pm – 3pm or 2pm – 4pm.  You won’t need to serve that full meal, just have some snacks.

For little ones try 10 am – 11:30 to work around nap times.

The Invitation Equation
For kids under 8, here it is:
Child’s age + 1 = happy party
You can add 1 or 2 to this equation and this is just a guideline.  The key here is to think about your limits and your child’s.  Some thrive on kid chaos – others cringe at the thought of more than 6 – 8 little ones running around.  Keep your limits in mind and you’ll be relaxed and everyone will have more fun.

As your child gets older the formula will change.  But always keep in mind what is comfortable for you.

I Don’t Want to Leave Anyone Out
This is a really common dilemma especially when your child is in school.  Be discreet, mail invites, talk to parents and speak to the teacher about bringing in a small treat for a class celebration – this is usually built into the teacher’s plan for birthdays anyway. Don’t feel you have to invite everyone – just be smart and thoughtful about how you invite your child’s best friends.

So the bottom-line, make yourself and your child happy.  Don’t fall into any “keep up with everyone else” pressure and trust me.  If you have a fun, simple party – all the other parents will thank you.   It sets an achievable bar!

Live and Learn.