#1 - Planned by Kids for Kids: The number-one party tip several American Greetings parents recommended was involving the children in party planning and preparation. Surprises are fun, but the kids like to get involved in planning, and this is a time when the kids are motivated to be especially helpful.
Let them plan the theme, location, guest list, menu, games, etc. They can write invitations or create them on the computer with fun computer paper, fill loot bags, blow up balloons, decorate, even help "child-proof," "crowd-proof" or straighten the house.
#2 - Party Basics: The second most frequently mentioned tip from experienced party moms is to make the party manageable. It's tempting to invite the whole second grade class for the afternoon, but you'll likely regret it.
Children's party planning standards, such as the old rule of inviting the same number of young guests as your child's age, have been passed along by experienced moms for a reason. The company's research indicates on average children's birthday parties had included eight other children.
How long? One hour is more than enough time for a toddler or pre-school party. For older children two to three hours is recommended.
#3 - Popular Themes: What's in a theme? According to company research, one third of kids' parties have a theme. American Greetings DesignWare company advises that many of the most popular themes are kids' favorite characters from the entertainment world.
For the younger set, Bear in the Big Blue House, Clifford the Big Red Dog, The Busy World of Richard Scarry and Paddington Bear are favorites loved by parents and kids alike.
The most popular themes are available inexpensively in discount, party or toy stores. You can purchase all the trappings, including themed games, decorations, balloons, stickers, favors, etc... Or theme with a few basic store-bought items, such as disposable plates, cups, table covers, loot bags and napkins and make your own accessories.
#4 - Keep Them Busy: Another top tip was keep them busy. Jill Hooley, marketing director for American Greetings educational products subsidiary Learning Horizons, said, "Both of my sons have summer birthdays, so we have always had backyard parties. I've found that it's best to plan plenty of activities to keep them busy. One sure hit was a wacky relay." Teams compete in relays that include putting on dress up clothing and hats. Another version of this wacky relay had teams competing in stuffing balloons into extra large clothing.
#5 - Plan "B": Michele Vrooman Kennett, a card writer/editor for kids cards, advised, "I learned the hard way, always have back up plans, like rainy day alternative location and activities if you're having a party in the yard, as we generally do for our girls."
Some good fall-back games mentioned were variations on simple games, such as spud, hot potato (or whatever you can find to toss -- "hot pillow" or "hot tennis ball"), limbo, teaching the kids line dances, Simon Sez, or even rename duck-duck goose to match the theme.
#6 - Beware of Sleep-overs: Sleep-overs? All agreed that sleep-overs are a challenge. For those under age 10, carefully consider the viability of making it through the evening without midnight calls to "pick me up, I want to come home." For pre-teens (though not their parents), sleep-overs seem to have become the party of choice. Sleep-over tips included being in touch with the guests' parents and being very specific about sleep time rules, or they never will. Older children may enjoy a summertime tent camp-out party in the back yard. But BEWARE; when it's time for "lights out" at least one parent should sleep outside with the group, especially in today's world.
#7 - Party Destinations: In addition to home or yard party tips, many American Greetings associates noted taking birthday parties outside the home, as well. Popular destinations include roller and ice rinks, local parks, recreation centers or swimming pools. Outings such as laser tag, sporting events, entertainment complexes and other commercial destinations are popular and fun, but pricey.
#8 - Thank You: Party etiquette was another subject commented on by many. "Thank you for the gift... for coming to my party" thank you notes are important social skill builders. Children actually enjoy writing thank you cards when they have fun note cards or when they're producing thank yous' on the computer and printing on decorative paper.
#9 - Their Special Day: Whether with a party or not, the object of the day is to make your child feel special. Alternative birthday celebrations include special rituals, such as birthday plates, breakfasts, dinners, or birthday cake with grandma, measuring to see how much they've grown, reminiscing about "the day you were born" or previous parties over photo albums or by watching videos of younger years. Jim Morrison, the company's multi-media productions manager, and his family annually celebrate "plane day," the anniversaries of the dates each of his two children came to him and his wife via international adoption. Jim notes that some adoptive families call this "adoption day."
#10 - Keeper Cards: Certainly a greeting card that tells children how special they are and are important keepsake reminder for them of the day. Pam McGrath, American Greetings senior editorial manager, said, "Our tradition is to have family parties for every birthday, whether it's a full dinner celebration or just cake and ice cream. Birthdays give families the chance to let the child know how precious he or she is to them. And children love to get cards as much as adults do. My children love to save their cards as keepsakes of the day. We write kids' birthday cards with this in mind -- to help let kids know just how important and special they are."
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