I like to think that I'm a pretty fun mom, but parties totally intimidate me. So when Henry said he really, really wanted a party *with friends* for his birthday this year I had to gird up my loins. At first, all I could think was, this is going to be so much work! But then I changed my thinking to, this can be as fun as we make it. My mantra was Simple Fun. And a little bit cute if we can manage that, too.
I hardly feel qualified to dole out party planning advice; I just confessed to being "not much of a party person." But it doesn't take much experience to glean a bit of party-throwing wisdom.
* Remember who you're throwing the party for. Sometimes I look at party blogs and see those elaborate dessert spreads and think, "who is that all for?!" Kids are just as happy with a few pieces of licorice and some Cheez-its as they are with gourmet macarons and homemade marshmallows. Don't get so caught up in all the pomp that you forget who you're really celebrating and trying to please.
* When it comes to entertainment - less is more. Simple games are best - a beanbag toss, a relay race, pin the ______ on the ______. If you're at a park (which I totally recommend) just turn the kids loose on the playground and let them play! A word to the wise: if you do decide to party at the park, choose one that is contained and facilitates easy supervision. I chose the worst park in town and felt anxious the whole time wondering if someone had wandered off unseen.
* When I first started planning Henry's party I didn't even consider a venue like the bowling alley or an indoor play facility, assuming it would be much more expensive than doing our own thing. But in talking to a few other moms, I discovered that the party rates for those places are more reasonable than I'd thought. And by the time you figure the cost of food and favors and paper goods and decorations...it might not be as much of a discrepancy as you first imagined. And being able to just show up and turn things over to the party coordinator at KidZone (not to mention sparing your home the trauma of a dozen energetic six year olds) -- you can't really put a price tag on that!
* Anticipate siblings and stragglers :) I ended up having a bit of a goodie bag fiasco because I didn't have enough for the little brother of one of the guests. He was pretty distraught about it! I should have anticipated better and at least had a little something I could have offered him. (I ended up being short because a little boy who was playing at the park (the straggler :) just sort of joined the festivities and ended up taking a goodie bag.)
* Think like a kid; that's who you're trying to impress. I guess I kind of already said this with regards to food, but it applies to the whole affair. I know fabric party hats and vintage stickers make for great photographs, but kids, especially boys, really like things like silly string, bubble gum, poppers, noise-makers and punch-balloons. Give them what they want :)
And for a few specific details:
I also made some cupcake toppers because I wanted to. They were super simple. I used my circle punch and my star punch. It took me about 20 minutes to make 24 toppers.
We served cupcakes and Pirate's Booty - easy to transport, easy to serve, no utensils required. The kids drank water (I did not re-label the water bottles; I think that's ridiculous. But you might think it's ridiculous that we watercolored our invitations and made cupcake toppers for 6 year old boys...to each his own).
Henry was over the moon happy about how the party turned out. He had fun; he felt loved. So it was a success in all the ways that matter.
What's your best bit of birthday party wisdom?