As far as I’m concerned, my masterpiece of the Rock ’N Roll party was the cake featuring Peeps on paper electric guitars. (This one’s for you, Lisa Yee!) Ridiculously simple and cheap (cheep?), the rockin’ pink Peeps also worked well with the color theme the party had going on. The eight partygoers played Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution, made CD suncatchers and Rockin’ In/Rockin’ Out door hangers, played party games, and had makeup sessions. I sent them home with inflatable electric guitars and their crafts. Then I hit the alcohol. Hard. (C’mon. I’m kidding.)
I have always done home parties for my girls, even thought the trend in Northern Virginia (Motto: It should be a state!) is for ice skating/public pool/circus/laser tag parties. Well, once we went to an indoor playground at the mall, when my daughter kept changing which of her kindergarten friends were invited. For three dollars a kid, we asked the whole class and half of them came. Oh, and once we used a local playground and shelter, though I still did the theme and activities.
We’ve had different themes through the years. Let me see... Blues Clues, Puppy Party, Almost-Sleepover, Barbie, Art Attack, Crafty Kids, Cats and Kittens, and a Make-a-Movie Party. The movie party was my favorite, because we had the guests do a reader’s theater play while we filmed it. Then Bill edited it together and gave it to the kids later. Anyway, I try to keep costs down, and fun up. It’s not hard, but it takes a little preparation and a little help. My broad tips:
- Overplan. Have more than enough things to do, so you’re not stuck with nothing to do. I keep a few quick games on hand for transitions freeze dance, hot potato, even word games.
- Mix it up. Have different types of activities, to appeal to different kids and to pace the party. A couple of easy crafts, a couple of moving games, a couple of quieter games.
- Prep your child. Remind her how to handle gifts of things she already has. Remind her about greeting and saying goodbye to guests. Remind her about saying, “Thank you.” Eventually, it will sink in. With my youngest at eight, I’m still waiting, but I’m sure it will happen.
- Keep kids the focus. Don’t entertain adults when you should be focused on the kids. I’ll sometimes have a few adults stay, but they know they are there to help. (When the kids were younger or when the adults were all our friends, it was hard to get them to leave. As the kids get older, the parents are less likely to stay anyway.)
- Make it simple. Crafts shouldn’t involve lots of steps or specific instructions. Games shouldn’t be hard to understand. Decorations don’t need to be fancy.
- Keep them busy. You can plan for some free time in the party, especially if the kids can run around outside, but don’t let the party turn wild or it will be hard to bring it back under control.
- Prepare for the shy kids. Since some kids get shy in parties, I’ll have a quiet, anytime activity to do. A box of beads with string is perfect.
- Have a present plan. Some people skip this altogether to avoid any issues, but I think kids like to give their presents in person. Since kids can argue over the present opening, I say right away how it works. The birthday girl sits on the couch and one person sits by her and gives the gift. Usually we go alphabetically, but we’ve also used games to decide whose turn it is.
- Have a departure plan. Party endings are hard, which is where the goody bag comes in. Give it out as they leave to open at home.
- Reward yourself. When you know that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel or a Corona after the piñata things just go better. Trust me.