Throwing a party for a bunch of rambunctious and excited little guests means you can expect the unexpected. Here are our top dos and don'ts for thriving on your child's special day.
Avoid this common error by using the plus-one rule: invite the same number of kids as the child's age, plus one. So if you have a six-year-old, you'd invite seven children to the party. When it comes to a sleepover, you may want to limit the numbers to no more than five or six.
Tell parents if they're invited to stay or if they're free to hand off their tot to you. Inform them of what type of food you'll be serving - just snacks and cake or an actual meal? And let them know if their child should wear or bring something specific (warm clothes if they'll be playing outside, for instance).
Because you most likely won't be inviting the whole class, this once-standard practice is now a no-no. Get addresses from parents and mail the invites.
Your party is sure to please the birthday child if they help with the planning and prep. Discuss themes and games they like, and shop for party favors together. The day before, let them help stuff goodie bags and party decorations.
Timing is everything when it comes to kids' parties. The best time for kids aged 4 and under is mid-morning, when they're most rested. An hour-long party should be sufficient for this age group - any later or longer and they'll get cranky and irritable. For children aged 6 and up, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. is a popular time, and older kids can handle a couple hours. Kids over 6 may also be ready for a sleepover.
Ask friends or hire your regular babysitter to lend a hand and provide an extra set of eyes.
A guest arrives with a little brother in tow; rain ruins an outdoor party; the talent doesn't show; several parents are late for pickup. Stuff happens. The solution? Make up at least three extra goodie bags so everyone goes home happy. Plan extra Birthday Party Activities so you're not scrambling. And have a couple of movies on hand to keep kids occupied while they wait. Deep breaths help, too.
Have parents write down cell phone numbers on a single sheet of paper when they drop off their kids - post it on the fridge for easy access. Be sure to ask about food allergies on the invitation. And always have a first-aid kit on hand for the odd scraped knee or bumped head.