Suzanne Singleton knows what she's talking about when it comes to festive, creative parties for kids and teens. With years spent as a corporate special events planner, not to mention her on-the-job training as a mom, Girl Scout leader, and all-around party enthusiast, Suzanne has assembled a book, "Clever Party Planning", full of innovative ideas for parties for kids ages 3-17. Singleton comes up with ideas that most of wouldn't even think of. Some examples:
In the Planning Stages - Involve your child: if age-appropriate, involve your child in the planning and preparation of the birthday party so that it will be his event - and not yours.
-If you are already sure about the party's theme, don't ask your child for ideas and then not count his input. Instead, suggest a theme. (This is probably more acceptable to very small children vs. older ones who want their ideas used).
-Drop off or stay? Indicate on the invitation whether parents should drop off or stay with their children. Sometimes parents are unsure of what is appropriate in each case.
-Will they be fed? If you will be feeding children pizza or something substantial other than cake and ice cream, indicate this on the invitation so parents know whether to feed them beforehand.
The Party Environment -Homemade Tablecloth: Cover the party table with white butcher paper and let the guests color and decorate it with stickers, rubber stamps, markers and crayons to match the party theme. This is a good opening activity, and provides a throwaway tablecloth.
-Little Bodies, Little Chairs: Use child-sized tables and chairs. Little guests will be more comfortable. Borrow if you don't have enough.
Party Favors -Favorable Favors: Hand out the favors at the door as the children leave. Be creative. The typical favor bag of a bunch of small, junky cheap items are not popular with most kids and parents and only get lost in the shuffle once at home. One item of a nicer quality to match the party theme may be more appreciated. For instance, stuff a pair of mittens with a few packages of hot cocoa for your "North Pole Expedition" party.
The Party's Underway -No Pets Allowed: Place pets in a room separate from the party area. Some kids may be allergic to or afraid of your pet.
-A Place to Put It: Line up a row of paper bags labeled with guests' names. When a child finishes a craft, wins a prize, doesn't eat all of his cake, takes off an accessory (barrette, hat), or collects his favor bag, have the child drop the item in his/her paper bag so that everything is together for that child upon leaving.
- "I Don't Want To": It's OK if a child does not want to participate in a specific activity, craft, or game. Some children feel more comfortable as observers.
-Everyone Wins: "Winning" and "Losing" games are not recommended; this will only invite tears. Let everyone participate in every game without making kids sit out. Award prizes only when each guest wins one.
The Party's Over -Thank You Picture Postcard: You can send a thank-you note written on the back of a picture from the party, mailing it like a postcard.
-Yes, Now You Can Open Them: Save the gifts to open after the party. During, it may be too confusing and usually there isn't time anyway. This provides your child a chance to descend from his Œparty high' and gives parents and child time together. Also, he may appreciate the gifts more in a quiet setting rather than during the party when children are clamoring for him to open their gifts all at once.