- NO PLAN
“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” is a famous quote by Benjamin Franklyn and never were truer words spoken. Unlike many things in life, your child’s birthday is definitely going to come around every year on the same date, so you have no excuse for not planning well in advance. Write a plan of action steps, then like a project manager, write what you need to do and by when.
Put your plan up where everyone can see it, then like an Advent Calendar, not only will everyone in the family know where you’re at with the plan, but it will help build the excitement as they see the plan taking shape as the big day draws near. It might also explain why you’re stressed – win-win!
Recommendation: write an action plan, then write another plan in case your action plan fails, like what to do if your party is at a park and it rains.
2. DON’T PLAN EARLY ENOUGH
If I had a dollar for every parent who said “OMG, I wish I had started planning a few months ago” when they can’t get the day or time that they want for their child’s birthday party. Many Mums these days are not only highly competitive but highly organized. You know the ones, immaculate children, wearing make-up and the latest fashion to pick up the kids from school in their highly polished new car, manicured lawns and spotless houses, yes, and they are the ones who, 2 months ago booked the day and time you wanted for your child’s birthday party.
Recommendation: Book the venue or entertainment no later than 8 weeks before the party.
3. SIBLINGS YES OR NO!
Unless you want Mum, Dad, the five kids and the Grandma of your invited guest turning up at your party, be clear about who is invited. It can get ugly if parents assume they can bring along brothers and sisters. It changes the dynamics of the party, with different ages affecting games and activities, quantities of food, loot bags and prizes etc.
When planning a kid’s party, siblings yes or no, should be part of the discussion. Yes, of course include the siblings of the birthday child, I meant all the other siblings.
Recommendation: Add ‘Sorry – No Siblings” if you don’t want brothers and sisters
4. GIVE CLEAR INSTRUCTIONS ON THE INVITATIONS
Turning up late when the entertainment has already started, leaving early before the loot bags are given out can turn a well-planned party into chaos. Siblings can blow out the numbers, as well as the candles, turning up at the house when the party is at a venue, not responding to RSVP, all problems arising from invitations without clear instructions. Ask about food allergies too, you don’t want to have to deal with an anaphylactic reaction in the middle of a game of “pass the parcel”
Recommendation: Include all relevant information on the invitation. Follow the who, when, where, what, why, how and RSVP “or else” rule if in doubt.
5. MAKE POOR FOOD DECISIONS
To be healthy or not to be healthy, that is the question. Answer – a little bit of both in the right order and the right quantities. That is, 80% healthy food offered first, followed by 20% unhealthy. We all know from experience that if you lay out a spread of healthy and unhealthy options, kids will go for the sugary treats and drinks every time, so would I. The excuse that it’s only once a year doesn’t wash these days because kids might go to 3 parties in one day. To assume that they only have food considered treats when they go to party is also a furphy. You don’t want to get the blame when the kids go home all sugared up and climbing the walls. Sugar is a poison, we shouldn’t fill our kids up with it, no matter what the occasion.
Recommendation: Offer more healthy food choices than not, and save the sugary treat for the birthday cake at the end.
6. FORGET TO CATER FOR PARENTS OF GUESTS
If you don’t want to be talked about in the school car park, plan to have some appropriate food and drink for parents who stay at the party. Helicopter parents are a product of today’s society, and can be a disaster at a kid’s birthday party. However, if invited guests are pre-school age or perhaps even just very shy, those same parents can be a God-send and may save you from being driven to distraction trying to get a child to eat or join in.
Set some boundaries for parents but don’t cut of your nose to spite your face by not taking advantage of a cake – maker extraordinaire or a king of the kids. You are going to need an adult or two to help, just choose carefully, usually parents are happy to be included.
Recommendation: Have a bottle or two of champers in a fridge, and a couple of large pizzas for parents who stay and hopefully will help!
7. SUPPLY WATER
I thought I was very clever once by having a carton of small water bottles for kids who were having a Gymbus party, which is very physical and it was a warm day. I thought it was a labour-saving and efficient way to deal with thirst rather than the kids coming inside the house in drips and drabs, wanting a drink of water.
What happened – the kids grabbed a bottle, had a drink, put the bottle down and continued playing which was all well and good until they came out for a 2nd drink – whose bottle was who’s – no one knew, so they all took another full bottle. The result was 30 partly-drunk bottles of water, all of which had to be thrown away.
Recommendation: Put the name on each child’s drink container at the start of the party. Supply lots of water through-out. Maybe even make a fancy water bottle the take-home-gift from the party, instead of a loot bag!!
8. TREASURED GIFT OR LAND FILL
Ripping open the gift seems to be the most enjoyed part of the party. Allow for this by wrapping the gift accordingly. It doesn’t matter if the wrapping paper is home-made or store-brought, wrap it carefully and make it look attractive, interesting, and like you took some pride in wrapping it. What’s inside the wrapping paper is important too. Many parents gather gifts throughout the year when they see things on special and that’s all well and good as long as the gift is age-appropriate to the child, is well made and will be valued.
a land fill is a big enough problem without plastic toys that parent perceives as cheap or fall apart on the first use, which is usually at the party. Birthday cards are helpful to identify who gave what, by otherwise they too will end up in the recycling bin at some stage. You can include a recommendation for presents on the invitations or even no presents if that what your child has agreed too. In case you were wondering, having a gift registry for a child’s party IS over the top.
Recommendation: Educational toys or homemade gifts and cards are always a winner, take care over the wrapping.
9. THINK ABOUT THE ATTIRE
Although princess and pirate costumes are great, kicking a soccer ball in high heels or swinging on a trapeze with an eye patch and sword is a recipe for injury. Give an idea of the activities you are planning for the party and let parents and children know what to expect, including a suggested dress code. It’s not a good idea to send off your little princess in the ankle-length layered tulle number they wore at your sister wedding to a Gymbus party, where they will be climbing through tunnels and hanging upside down, better to stick with shorts and T-shirt.
Recommendation: Advise guests of the activities at the party and suggest a dress code.
10. CONSIDER NUMBER OF GUESTS
If you live in a townhouse with no backyard, don’t invite 30 guests if you plan to have your party at home. All too often parents are lured into inviting the whole class without first considering the cost, how many children the venue will hold, who will be left out, how many extended family members will expect to be invited, or if the party will fall during school holidays.
You can’t always keep up with the Kardashians or be totally inclusive but you can try to make informed decisions, trust your judgement, and be aware of your limitations.
Recommendation: Consider the space you have, your budget, the number of helpers you will have, the age of the child and family members when deciding on the number of invited guests.
Forget fear and trepidation, keep these ‘DON’TS” in mind and you’ll be eagerly looking forward to your next child’s birthday party.