Party Planning Guide - Plan a party that dazzles!
By Teri Sutton, copyright 1997 - 2003
An invitation arrives and the excitement begins! Visions of colorful balloons, dangling streamers, scrumptious cake, piles of presents, and lots of children fill the child’s mind. The anticipation is almost too much to bare! When the party day finally arrives, the joy of being with other children can be enough to meet all of a child’s expectations. Long after the party is over the memories stay with the child, many times for a lifetime. Children are little for such a short time. While they are still small, why not delight them with a fabulous party? Here are some party ideas I think you will enjoy and your children will love, as well as party tips, great games and fun decorating ideas.
Where do I begin?
Start by picking a theme. Plan to carry the theme through all of the aspects of the party. The theme will be what will shape the party into a charming event.
Next, follow our party planning guide to help cover all of the bases. It is important to plan way ahead! This saves money, time and lots of stress. Starting ahead allows your creativity to get going as well.
One of the best resources for creative ideas can be your friends and family. Let them know what you are planning and ask for ideas.
When choosing a theme, consider your child's interests. Involve them in the planning. When my first son was two we would go on walks and listen to a neighborhood frog. His interest in frogs grew. That interest prompted his "Frog Jumping Contest" party. The next year he was interested in bugs and a sweet bug party with children flying about the yard as butterflies and lady bugs was the result. As we look back now, we are reminded of all of those special memories that led up to the party. His parties have been a celebration of his interests.
If you decide to let your child pick a theme be prepared for some unusual requests! My son's little friend Austin was lucky to have a very creative mother when he chose to have "A Big Bad Wolf" party. His mother, Amy of Bakersfield, California dressed as Little Red Riding Hood and all of the "Big Bad Wolves" got to chase her around and howl at the moon.
You might choose to give them three theme options to choose from. Be prepared for your child to try to change the theme again and again. Once the planning is under way, be firm.
You have the ideas, the games are planned, and you know just what kind of cake to bake. But how do you put it all together so the party flows and the kids have a great time? Here is one party outline that works. Try it and see for yourself. Every party is unique. Adjust the party schedule to fit your plans.
- Greeting and Opening Activity - (20 minutes)
- Games - (30 minutes)
- Refreshments - (15 minutes)
- Present Opening - (15 minutes)
- Last of games - (10 minutes)
- Supervised free play
- Good byes
- Greeting and Opening Activity - (20 minutes)
Time for you and your birthday child to welcome the children and parents. Let them know where to set their gift and offer them a seat. You might have the child join in on the opening activity rather than waiting for all of the others to arrive.
If the parents will be staying, you might show them where you have a refreshment are set up for parents and ask them to please help themselves. This will relieve you from being a hostess for the adults on your child's special day.
For a greeting you may want to use a rubber stamp to give each guest a handstamp as they arrive. Invite them to join in on what you are doing. "We are making bird masks, come and join us!" This is a good time to have a easy craft or game that guests can participate in while waiting for the others to arrive.
When the children have arrived and you are ready to get started with the activities, gather the children together and share with them a brief schedule of the party events.
Games - (30 minutes)
Just before starting the games is a good time to get a group photo. Get the party under way now with the bulk of the games. Time will go by quickly. You may find having a schedule on a clipboard handy to keep you on track. It is easy to forget with so much activity going on around you. You will want to keep things moving along but avoid moving so quickly that the children won't have a nice time. It is often recommended to alternate active games with calmer ones for a good balance. The last game before refreshments should be a calm one.
Refreshments - (15 minutes)
Don’t forget to sing! You might try asking the children to sing out nicely because you need lots of help. It is so sweet to hear their little voices carrying the song. You might try singing a little quieter yourself and let them watch your lips to keep them singing.
Present Opening - (15 minutes)
There are some things you can do to make this go more smoothly.
Last of games
They will be glad to be done watching the gift opening and welcome participating in one more game.
Supervised free play
Let the children know that the party activities are over and they are free to play as they wait for their parents.
Hand out favor bags as guests are leaving. This prevents mix ups over who is the rightful owner and will ensure you will not have to hunt for missing items that are scattered about. Thank them again for coming.
The excitement begins with the invitation! It will set the tone and should reflect the theme of your party. I have heard many reports of the girls that are invited to a Once Upon a Time party carrying the invitation around with them for days. That kind of excitement is priceless.
Whether you use a paint pen to write the invitation out on a wooden spoon for a cooking party, a sand shovel for a beach party, or roll a glittery paper and tie it with a royal purple ribbon for a princess party, guests will know this is an extra special party!
For the Frog Jumping Contest, we handed out flyers to announce the event accompanied by tickets for admittance. Use your imagination! How about home made movie tickets for a movie star party, a paint brush for an art party etc. Handmade invitations add lots of charm! For the bug party, we enlarged a bee graphic from a rubber stamp, colored it in and covered the wings with ultra fine glitter. That invitation was on the front of many refrigerators for some time. Having your child draw pictures on cardstock is so sweet! You can’t buy invitations that are as priceless.
There are many games that can be adapted to most any theme. Consider customizing; races, relays, bean bag toss, sand digs, duck-duck-goose, bingo, treasure huts, pin the tail on the donkey, Simon says, bowling and other common games to match the theme of the party. For example, duck-duck-goose becomes cow-cow-horse for a Wild West theme. Simon says becomes "Cinderella says" for a princess party. Pin the tail on the lion instead of a donkey. Treasure hunt, can be gathering the coins that dropped from the sky as the dragon fled from the castle with the stolen treasure.
Choose games that allow everyone to feel like a winner. Avoid games like musical chairs that will leave a child feeling like a looser, and team games tat require a child to be chosen leaving a child last to be picked for a team. Remember, parties are for making magical memories!
Here are a few ways to handle the gift time. Decide hat works best for your party.
*Give each child a small present to open as the birthday child opens their gift or let them pick a party favor.
*Draw names of the children to decide which gift will be next to be opened.
*Open presents later with the family and reserve the party time for activities.
*Let the gift giver present the gift themselves to the birthday child.
*play ring around the rosies or a customized version. When they all fall down, bring the presents and place in the center of the ring for the opening time.
To make waiting for the gift they brought to be opened a fun time try one of these ideas...
*Have matching items such as a number written on a slip of paper, coins etc. Separate them into two containers. Give one to each guest that has brought a present and one to the birthday child. To select the next person who's gift will be opened the birthday child reaches in and draws out a number or an item, raises it up for all to see. The child who has the match brings their gift forward to be opened. Continue until all gifts are opened.
*Advice - There are usually so many gifts. Saving family gifts for another time is a good idea. The children will grow restless and you could lose control.
*Prior to the party practice with your child the art of thankfulness and expressing thanks. Give them silly examples and see how they an graciously show thanks even in unusual situations. You may do role playing. Name a present they could possibly receive and have them practice saying thank you for it. Make a game of it and you will both have fun while developing excellent social skills in your child.
Some examples, the third copy in row of their favorite book, a bag of potting soil, a what is it? gift, etc. Give them possible answers to show them the way such as "Potting soil! I can grow some sunflowers in this. Thank you. For the what is it? gift, "I will put this on my special shelf, thank you." "This is such a good book, I won't have a hard time finding it now. Thank you.
If all your efforts fail, thank the guests yourself clearly for the gift.
Here are a few alternatives to the regular birthday cake.
*Have a cake for adults and cupcakes for the children.
*Let each child decorate their own piece of cake or cupcake with candy sprinkles etc.
*Cupcakes can become a craft as well! Guests can follow your instructions to make their cupcake into a cat, a bee etc to match the theme.
*Make a banana split cake. This is a banana cake that has been frosted with whipped cream. Set out toppings such as; hot fudge, marshmallow cream, butterscotch, nuts, and cherries. Older guests might make their own while younger guests can be treated to having you or your helper make it to their specifications. Serve with ice cream!
When it comes to filling goody bags, some extra thought helps. If you start looking early you'll be able to find lots of things to match your theme. Some basic items to consider are: stickers, candy, cookies, wind up toys, homemade coloring books. The Oriental Trading Company has a huge assortment of small novelty items in many, many themes. Call them for a catalog: 800-228-2269. Depending on the party: awards, certificates, or ribbons make darling favors. Three favors are plenty. Plan on spending about $4 per child for party favors. One nice favor and two smaller favors will do nicely. You might also browse your local dollar stores. You might be pleasantly surprised at what you will find! Their stock changes constantly, so check back if you don't find something appropriate.
Party guests will need a bag of some sort that will hold their treasures. Small bags with handles can be found at paper stores, card shops or craft stores. Here are a few ideas for making some darling goody bags. Remember to have the names on the bags ahead of time to save confusion and to hand these out as the guests are on the way out the door.
The bug bag:
Little Austin came to the bug party with his gift in a giant purple bag with handles. On the outside his mom had hot glued plastic bugs to match the party theme. It was darling. After the party, the bugs came off easily for an extra gift! This will work well for tiny bags as well. Glue on frogs, flowers, cars, dolls, wrapped candies etc.
Sticker or stamped bags:
Decorate outside of bags with stickers, or stamps to match the party theme. You can even give the children a sheet of stickers and their own bag to decorate as an opening craft activity.
Clear cellophane bags or wrap:
Clear crisp cellophane bags can be found in floral shops (ask for corsage bags). Put a little green Easter grass in the bottom and fill with bug items for a bug party. Stickers on the outside work well also.
Wrapping favors in tulle is pretty. Especially pretty when you use two colors. Cut a large round circle of peach and pink tulle for example, place favors in the center, tie with a peach ribbon and fluff the tulle attractively. The two colors together make it look extra special.
Mug boxes (found in card stores) can be decorated in darling ways. Spray one black, add 2 big wiggly eyes in front and 8 construction paper legs and you have a spider to guard their treasures. Use your imagination ad you can come up with some darling ideas. Lady bugs and bees would be fun.
The Doggy Bag
For a puppy party decorate a lunch bag to look like a puppy's face. Add ears to the side and draw on a face. Cut out a red tongue out of construction paper and glue on. For girls, add a bow to the top. Very cute!
A bag with each child's name on it makes them feel special. Write their names on them with a marker and use dot lettering to make it look cute.
In American Samoa which is in the South Pacific, they have a tradition of greeting young guests with a Samoan necklace that is similar to the Hawaiian lei. Made from a long length of tulle, the necklace is a treasure of toys, candy, etc. Place toys and small packages of candy in the tulle and tie a knot after each addition. When the necklace is long enough to fit the child, knot the ends together. Young guests will keep busy untying knots to release each treasure!
Tea cups, beach pail, sports tumbler, clay flower pot, sport sock (tuck the match inside), draw string pouch, Christmas stocking, lunch bag, metal pail, etc. All of these make great goody bags!
*On your child's birthday, fill their closet with balloons. When they open the door they are covered by a wave of fun!
*Dress your family with the theme of the party. For example; for a frog party you might choose one or more of the following: wear a frog t-shirt, all green, a frog button, frog stickers on your clothing, a frog hat, frog hand stamps, face painting on your cheek of a frog etc.
*Use clear plastic cups and decorate them with stickers that match your theme.
*Give your child a gift that matches the theme of your party.
*Ask your guests to dress in a specified way to add to the fun. "Come wearing pink" for example.
*Make a time capsule for your child. Put away some of their favorite things from the previous year to be treasured later in life. Be sure to include a recent photo of your child.
*Bring your child to the hospital with a gift for a baby that was born on the same day that they were.
*Make a tradition of your child giving someone special in their life a gift each year on their birthday.
*In the weeks and days before the party, watch related movies and read related books. It will extend the excitement for the whole family.
*Write a very special letter to your child at least each birthday. Keep it and save it for them in their baby book. Absolutely priceless!
*Take a group photo.
*Take a picture of your child with each guest to include in the thank you note.
*Obtain a Polaroid camera for party day and send each guest with a photo of themselves.
*Take pictures before the guests arrive of the birthday child, family, decorations the cake etc.
*Mom, please make sure to get photos with you in them! A sweet pose is mom and child touching cheeks together.
*Have new batteries in the camera and video camera and plenty of film ready! Have video batteries charged up.
Make it less stressful!
*Plan on ordering pizza after the party or eating out. Anything that keeps you from cooking.
*Get your home ready the day before. Don’t wait until the last minute.
*Buy your birthday gift and have it wrapped days ahead!
*Make sure guests know how to get to your home 2 days ahead so they are not calling 5 minutes before party time. This happens all of the time.
*Have a helper there to help you with the unexpected.
*Assign a friend to take photos and another to run the video camera.
*Have your families clothing picked out the day ahead.
*Check your camera and video camera. You may need to recharge or replace batteries and have film.
*Have tables and chairs out.
*Take care of your self!
A Final Note...
Everything doesn’t have to be perfect! Things may not go just the way you planned. Smile anyway and go on. If the kids have a good time, you know the party was a tremendous success! If you can't throw a big party every year with all of the details, you might try to make sure you do one very special party before they get too old for such kinds of fun. Remember, children care most about who was with them on their special day and that they felt loved and special. That is what really matters.
Also, many times dads feel uncomfortable staying for the party and consider it to be the moms area of specialty. They grow up so fast and we can't get these times back. Make sure dad feels involved in the planning and knows how important it is to the child that he is there.
Fabulous Birthdays! - Party Planning Guide - Plan a party that dazzles! was written by: Teri Sutton, creator and owner of: Once Upon a Time... Dreamy Tea Parties and Enchanting Play Wear for Children" http://www.princessparty.com/ and Founder of Children's Parties International.