Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Magic of Other People's Children

Running parties for other people's children has forced me to, well like other people's children. Oh come on, I'm not alone here. How many of you really only tolerate your children's friends? You're saying "but you're a freaking children's party planner! You're supposed to like children!" Save your horror for the morning mirror. It's not that I don't like children, it's that up until I started this whole party business, I didn't quite appreciate the magic of other people's children.

Take little Magnum, for instance. (Yes, I Googled wacky children's names.) When it was time for the treasure hunt, I showed the party guests a shell with a picture of a stove taped inside. The idea was for them to go to the stove and find the next shell with the clue in it. Little Magnum yelled "toilet!" and ran in the opposite direction of the kitchen. Now how bizarre yet cute is that?

Or little Chutney (seriously, someone named their child Chutney) who looked at me with his sad little eyes and said "do I get a pwize?" (He also, bless his brilliant little heart" declared that "this is the best party ever!") These little guys make my head spin with comes out of their mouths. They make me re-adjust my thinking, lose the tunnel vision and really take a second look around me.

I can walk into a party on "Game Day", all control-freakish and organized but kids don't let you stay that way for long. Just when I think I have it all figured out, they remind me that's there's always the need to keep my mind receptive to what's really important to them. Some embrace wearing costumes, doing crafts, sitting still...others have their own plans. You just don't get that with adults. Too bad.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Lose the Guilt and Still Plan a Great Party

It's time to plan your child's party and you may be feeling a bit stressed about it. The stress is coming from this niggling place in you that says you better get it right, or else. Or else what? Someone once said "show me a woman without guilt and I'll show you a man." I love that expression because isn't it so true? We feel guilt from the moment we wake up until the moment we lay down our head and sometimes even as we sleep. Well guess what, ladies?! You DO enough and you ARE enough. So shake off that mantle of guilt, look around you and see all that you have accomplished. Do you think any of what you see around you would be possible without you? You did all this! So congratulations. I don't even know most of you, but I'm proud of you and proud to be a woman because I know that day in and day out you give it your all. Are you feeling better about yourself? Then let's get started with this party planning because this one will be your best ever and it will be guilt-free!


~ determine how much you want to spend on your child's party. You can discuss the budget with children as young as eight. Explain why you can't invite everyone in your child's class (if you can't) and make decisions together, based on the budget.
~ break the budget down into invitations, decorations, partyware, accessories, food, cake, activities, prizes, loot bags and thank-you.

Date and Time

~ pick a date ~ decide on the time of the party - this is usually 1 to 3 or 2 to 4. The time of the party determines whether you need to provide a meal or just snacks.


~ decide on the number of guests. It has to work with your budget. You have more flexibility if you are just serving snacks, but remember that the cost of loot bags can really add up when there is a large number of children. Will this party include family members? Make sure to include anyone who might attend - even parents of the children who might decide to stick around. You don't want to be foraging at the last minute in your cobweb-infested basement for more paper plates.


~ ensure you have at least one person to help you at the party. This is your child’s special day and he or she will appreciate having a mama who has more than a few tufts of hair left in her head at the end of the party. You want to witness and enjoy this fabulous party you created. Friends, relatives, the babysitter, parents o the guests – ask any and all to help you out in any way that they can. No one will say no.


~ Pick a theme. If you have one, everything will nicely fall into place around it. Ask your child what he or she wants and really listen. You might want a princess party for your little girl but maybe she wants a puppy party. Before you agree to the theme, ask yourself if it’s feasible. How would you execute a Transformers party? The good news is, there is a plethora of information on the internet. Google your party theme and then copy and paste any ideas you find into a document. Then you can go through all of the information and keep the good stuff.


~ Decide where the party will be held. Assuming it will be at your home, will it be indoor or outdoor? (If outdoor, allow for the possibility of foul weather and have a back-up plan.


~ Make or buy the invitations. I personally love hand-made invitations. They make great keepsakes and you may be able to include your child in their creation. This will also save you the trouble of finding invitations for your theme and doesn’t limit your theme choice to what’s available in partyware. But if you would prefer to buy invitations, give yourself the time to find what you really want.
~ Include an RSVP with a date, your name and phone number. Including an e-mail address may increase responses since some people prefer that to picking up a phone and talking.
~ Distribute the invitations at least two weeks before the party. If it’s a summer party, deliver them before school ends.


~ Make and/or buy the decorations that go with your theme. Keep your budget in mind and include your child. If he or she has toys that complement the theme, haul them out. You don’t have to buy pricey partyware in your theme. Be creative a la Google and see what others have done. Use the colours in your theme for balloons and streamers. Here’s where the helpers come in. They can mass-produce balloons that can be attached to the ceiling with ribbon trailing down for a very festive effect. You can direct from your comfortable chair, cocktail in hand. Hand streamers in doorways – the kids love to walk through them. Again, leave yourself lots of time to find just what you need.
~ Decorate the day before the party so the day of the party is not chaotic.


~ Buy plates, cups, napkins, cutlery and a tablecloth. To be eco-friendly, buy ones you can use again (i.e. plastic instead of paper). If themed partyware is not in your budget, select the colours in your theme and use those instead.

~Set the table the night before the party if the crafts will not be done on that table.


~ Decide if you want your birthday child and guests to dress up or accessorize for the theme. Does your budget allow for this? Is it practical (i.e. can you re-use them).
~ Research online what other parents have done in your theme. There are great pictures out there.
~ Buy/make the costumes and/or accessories.


~ Make a list of the food you will need (you already decided on the time of day for the party, so now you know if you are doing a meal or just snacks).
~ Go shopping for the food.
~ Prepare the food the day before the party. If you are having food delivered, arrange and pay for it the day before the party so you don’t have to search around for money on the day of the party.
~ Decide what dishes will hold the food and have them ready the night before the party.
~ Decide where the food will be served: at the table or buffet-style.


~ Research the type of cake you want.
~ Meet with your local bakery well in advance of the party if you want an extra special cake. Bring a picture. The price of the cake must be within your budget. OR
~ Bake and decorate your cake at least a day before the party. Include your child – it will make for a great memory.
~ Consider cupcakes as an alternative to a cake. Homemade ones can be decorated by the party guests.


~ Decide on the activities that go with your theme: face painting is surprisingly simple; everyone loves tattoos; make up, hair accessories are appropriate for some themes; will there be a craft for the children to do?; will there be games? Do an online search on your theme to come up with great ideas. Include your child in the planning. What does he or she want to do?
~ Purchase supplies for the activities well in advance of the party so you have lots of selection and can brainstorm without feeling pressured. Stay within your budget.
~ The day before the party, set up the craft station and game area(s); if it’s an outdoor party, make sure most of the activities can be done indoors if the weather is bad.


~ make a schedule. This will ensure party day goes smoothly. Be flexible on party day but know what time is remaining for all the activities planned. Here is my favourite two-hour schedule:
first half hour: guests arrive - put on accessories/face painting/tattoos/hair and make up/craft (keep them busy until everyone arrives)
second half hour: games
third half hour: food, cake, open presents
final 15 to 30 minutes: games


~ Decide if there will be prizes; if the guests are very young, make sure every guest gets a prize so there are no tears.
~ Purchase the prizes and make good use of the dollar store but ask yourself if you would want your child to bring home these items. Stay within your budget.


~ Decide if you are accepting gifts; an alternative is to accept charitable donations.
~ If you are accepting gifts, decide if they will be opened during the party.

Loot Bags

~ Go shopping well in advance of the party to see what is available in quality items for your loot bags. You don’t have to spend a lots, but avoid buying junk that you wouldn’t want you own child to bring home. Do this buying before you buy the loot holder so you know what size of holder is needed.
~ Make or buy the loot holders. You can be really creative here and include your child. Make sure it goes with your theme, if only in the colours.
~ Assemble the loot bags before party day.
~ Place the loot bags near the door so they aren’t forgotten.

The Thank-You

~ Decide on what form the thank-you will take. It can be a hand-made bookmark signed by your child with “Thank You” on it – these can be handed out as the guests leave – or it can be a thank-you card delivered after the party. Including a picture of the guest/all the guests is a really nice touch and shows the parents what a great time your guests had. Try to incorporate the theme of the party into the thank-you as a nice keepsake.
~ Make/buy the thank-you at least a week before the party.
~ Distribute the thank-you at the party or within a week after the party

Party Tips - Part Une

  1. put name tags on all the guests. And write their names on them. Just sayin’.
  2. get the parents’ phone numbers as they drop off their children.
  3. put a number on each child’s name tag to determine the order for games, gift unwrapping, etc. The kids embrace the structure!
  4. check out for your birthday child for gift-giving - charitable and eco-friendly.
  5. have at least one activity for guests to do as they arrive such as a craft, tattoos, nail polish, etc.
  6. have your child’s party between meals to save money but still provide nutritious snacks.
  7. have a prize for each child if you are doing games with prizes. Nothing is sadder than little Bobby saying “do I get a pwize?”
  8. have cupcakes for the guests to decorate instead of a cake. Tell them it’s a Transformers cake.
  9. put your e-mail address as well on the invitation for the RSVP – some people prefer that to picking up the phone.
  10. if they work with your theme, use your child’s toys as part of the decorations. Their toys. Not yours.