Thursday, August 15, 2013

Weekly Party Planning Tips - The Kids Are Always Right

I think the number one question us party planners get asked is what our "very best"party planning tips are. While sometimes advice will vary based on the type of party or theme of the article being written (stress-free, on a budget, new trends, etc) there are a few tips that are applicable no matter what type of party you’re planning. So I thought I’d do a weekly blog with my best advice on how to wow your little ones. 

This week I wanted to focus on the cardinal rule of planning kids birthday parties: The Kids Are Always Right.  In my experience, if you listen to the mini guest of honor it will make your job easier creatively and help them feel a part of their big day. 

Let the birthday child choose the theme(s).
The past few years my kids have generally known what their next birthday theme will be... the day after their last party. I haven’t always been given such a clear vision though. In the past when my kids ideas stall out, I sit down with them and start listing the things that interest and make them happy.  They could respond with something as simple as a favorite color, activity, animal, character, object, flower, etc. But you will be surprised how many ideas start flowing once you get a few things on paper. 

Also, kids define themselves by their likes and dislikes so don’t be afraid to mix and match themes. For instance, my daughter wanted a teddy bear theme for her 5th birthday but wanted a Little Mermaid cake. Or, your child may want a princess party but rather than a pretty dress would prefer to wear her favorite t-shirt on the big day. So let her. There’s no need to stick to any rules or try to create the ultimate cohesive theme. It’s her day after all, so encourage her to express herself by taking her thoughts and ideas, no matter how much they stray from the original theme, and incorporate them into the party.

Keep the kids involved during the planning.
My kids love to be involved with all aspects of their party planning. In fact, I often joke that I may be the lowest paid professional on the planet as months before the big day I become my daughter’s very own personal party planner. I don’t mind working for smiles, though, and she has wonderful ideas that only a child’s imagination can conjure. 

For my daughter's seventh birthday party she wanted an owl themed sleepover party. She decided that we should make an owl pillow for each guest and I was crazy enough to agree. I have to admit that I felt more that just a little overwhelmed when 16 kids RSVP'd (um... yes 16!). Even though I spent 3 weeks working every waking minute on the pillows, it was without a doubt one of the best parties I have ever had the pleasure of creating.  Moments that I will cherish forever are working on the pillows with my daughter and giggling as we came up with a poem for each owl. One of my best proud mom moments was watching her learn a blanket stitch in ten minutes flat (the girl is a crafting natural)!  


Let the birthday child create their very own signature dish.
It’s no surprise why kid’s love of baking starts early. The kitchen is a place where they can make a huge mess and get a sugar fix! Serving kid-approved dishes are a must so I have always let my kids approve the menu and create their own signature dishes.  For my son's Diggin' for Dino's party he came up with a recipe that we properly named "Gavin's Diggin' Dessert."  We layered pudding with crushed Oreo cookies, gummy worms, and candy bones in Mason jars.  YUM! He worked for hours on the treats and made a point to show all of his guests the creations.

Oh, and on the big day he also had the brilliant idea to stack the "stegosaurus burgers" like a dinosaur (cute!).

Determine how many kids to invite based on your child's personality.
I’ve read that the best number of kids to invite is determined simply by adding one to your child’s age. I don't necessarily agree with this theory but it is one to consider. Let me offer a few thoughts. On your child’s big day he or she may notice that certain close friends are not there. As an example, the year my son turned three he already had five “besties” from his pre-school that did everything together. They even came up with the theme for his party together. Let me tell you, I would not have had a happy birthday boy if I’d told him he had to choose between them. On the flip side, if your child tends to get overwhelmed in large groups, then a smaller party would be the better option. Parties take any anxiety your child may already have and magnify it by ten. Bottom line is this: As a parent you know your child better than anyone and only you can be the judge of how many partygoers would make the perfect celebration.

Give them complete control over the mulla!  
You are probably thinking right about now that I can not be serious. Oh, but I am!  I’ve found that birthday parties are a great way to teach kids a valuable life lesson—how to set a budget and stick to it. {This method works best with kids who have a basic understanding of math.} Before you make any plans for the event discuss the budget with your child. Go through your child’s wish list and then add realistic costs next to each one. Add it up, and if you’re over the set budget ask your child what he would like to change or cut.

A few places that you can easily save on the budget:

  • Find your nearest dollar store! They offer great prices on tableware (plates, cups, napkins, etc.)
  • Invest in party essentials when you find good deals. These are items that can be reused such as cake stands, cake molds, candy jars, etc.
  • Keep in mind that products displaying licensed characters usually cost more than generic ones. If your kids are set on SpongeBob tableware you can compromise and mix and match with generic ones.
  • Professionally made cakes are a big budget busters. If you need to cut costs that would be the first place to start. 
  • Rather than serve a meal consider hosting a cake and ice cream party.  If you do though don’t hold the party during meal times when guests will assume something hearty will be served and state on the invitation that it is a “Dessert Party.”
  • Prepare and cut food, such as fruit and vegetables, yourself.
  • Rather than buying bottles of water or juice, consider buying by the gallon.


What are YOUR favorite party planning or home entertaining tips? Are there any tips or tricks you find yourself relying on time and again that might be helpful to others?

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