Your child will soon have a birthday, and you’ll be forced to decide the least painful way to mark the occasion. There’s no way out.
It doesn’t have to be a “Fear Factor” type of event. A little planning, some shrewd negotiations and a pinch of luck can mean the difference between a grand ol’ party and something your child will tell a therapist in numbing detail. We just pulled off a relatively successful 5th birthday bash for our son, Eli. Yeah, we got lucky.
Here are a few pointers our family learned through trial, error and smushed birthday cake.
- Keep It Short and Sweet: Your son or daughter will want the birthday bash to go on forever. Bad move. Keep the party under two hours if possible, particularly if your children are young. The kids a Eli’s party were all flush in the face after the first half hour, their rosy cheeks a sign they were having a blast. Had the party kept raging for much longer that glow would have morphed into a meltdown or three.
- Beware Social Media Picture Posts: Chances are your fellow parents would love seeing online photos of their kids at your party. Not everyone embraces social media with equal passion. Some fathers prefer to keep their children’s faces off the web for a number of reasons, none of which are your concern, ultimately. So take care in posting photographs. Perhaps if you have a great picture you’re dying to share, let the parents of the children in the image know you’d like to post it on Facebook. That will give them a chance to complain if it doesn’t suit their wishes.
- We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Theme: Parents tend to go overboard for birthday parties. That means picking a theme and scurrying around time to find matching cups, napkins and plates. Skip it. Your child likely won’t care, and it will leave you more time for planning and clean up. If your child insists, have a local baker put a grand design on top of the cake that matches the theme requested. Then, take lots of pictures before the little monsters wolf it all down.
- Hold a Private Gift-Opening Ceremony: It’s great that all the kids who came to your party brought a gift, and it feels a tad rude not to open them all then and there. Resist the urge. Children don’t always exhibit flawless social skills – “a stuffed toy? I HATE stuffed toys.” Our sons get worked up when they open more than one toy at a time, and that makes discipline and restraint much harder to make happen. Do be sure to write down which guest gave which toy to help with the “Thank You” note writing later.
- Don’t Blow Your Savings (or Vacation Fund): Spend only what you are comfortable with for the party. For Eli, we splurged on the venue, Monkey Bizness, but didn’t order the pizza meal, the party favors or balloons offered by the company. Instead we served cake, apple sauce, string cheese and juice. Our party favor was a $.25 cent ring pop that we gave to the kids as they left.
- Busy Kids Are Happy Kids (and Parents): A birthday venue like Monkey Bizness offers a stream of activities for kids to enjoy. We recently attended a birthday party where the parents hired an actress to play Rapunzel and read the kids stories. At least I think she was acting. The hair looked good. Old school board games, crafts or a build your own pizza party will also do the trick.
- Birthday Cakes Are Fragile. Just saying …