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by Hillary Needleman


We've all been through year after year of our growing children's birthday parties. Below, some New York City moms share some insights about what works, and some warnings about what doesn't!

Scary costumes Danielle Evans, mother of two- and four-year-old girls, tells of one party for a four-year-old, whose parents had hired performers dressed up in oversized character costumes. While the kids loved the costumes from afar, as soon as the characters reached out towards the children, they were terrified!

Before choosing entertainment, be sure it is fitting for the age of the partygoers. If your child is attending a party, especially for an older child, inquire about the entertainment beforehand.

Party for parents Marcia Gordon, mom of four-year-old Mara, observes that some birthday parties provide barely any entertainment for the children at all. Held in people's homes, they instead become adult gatherings, with bagels and spreads, but no themes and no games. "The basic at-home party runs the risk of ending up an adult hang-out,² she notes, "with, ŒOh, by the way, it's the kid's birthday.'²

Too much to drink Another issue arises when family friends and relatives attend birthday bashes, as is customary at younger children's parties - alcohol. "I've been to parties for toddlers where there were tipsy relatives almost stepping on the kids and falling off chairs,² says one parent. "Please, think carefully about the adults you're inviting!² she continues. "Though you may hate to exclude them from a birthday party for a granddaughter or nephew, it might make more sense to arrange for a separate family party where they could be included. The safety of little kids always has to come first.²

Or Marcia Gordon's solution might work. She explains: "I announced to my family, ŒOn the odd years I will include you in Mara's parties, but on the even years I can't cope.'²

Location, location, location Marcia tells us that the best birthday party she attended recently was held at a nursery school during off-school hours. While it included a musical entertainer who gave a jam-packed, one-hour music lesson filled with guitar playing, sing-alongs and the limbo, as well as some non-musical entertainment, what really made this party great was the location. Marcia comments, "The reason the nursery school was cool was that you were in an environment where the kids had things they could play with when the party wasn't organized.²

Keeping it simple The world of children's birthday parties can often be extremely competitive, among both parents and children. But sometimes it's the simple parties that are better-received than extravagant bashes. Bring your kids to the park for a picnic, decorate cupcakes, make edible necklaces with cereal and licorice, play musical chairs, or, as one parent did, make cardboard cars for the children to "drive². Innovate, organize, and remember that the party is for your child, not for you.



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