Planning Children’s Parties

Lori Bonner, author of “Putting on a Party” shares some stress busting tips and ways to get kids involved.

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Before you begin planning, set a budget for the party. This should include both a dollar amount and the amount of time you can reasonably devote. Fortunately, a party’s success is not determined by how much you spend.

Planning well in advance of the party will also help dissipate anxiety you may otherwise feel.

The best way to relieve the pressure you may associate with a party, however, is to switch from production mode to teaching mode. As a learning experience, the criteria for success are much less exacting than those for a major production. After all, it’s impossible to mess up a learning experience. A party is the ideal tool for helping your child learn and practice valuable life skills such as organization, etiquette, budgeting, and evaluation. This is why Putting on a Party is written for kids, rather than adults.

Use the party as a teaching tool by involving your child in various aspects of the party. The more your child contributes, the more memorable the event will be for him. Even children as young as two or three can help color invitations or pick from two games the one they like best. Children of all ages can help decorate the table or another central location. Confining decorations to one or two areas simplifies cleanup – another area in which everyone can help.

I find it helpful for the party to have a theme to build around. Older children can decide on a theme themselves, but younger children may need suggestions from you. Things that your child is interested in (dinosaurs, fairies, balls), places they like (beach, mountains), or a favorite story or movie character all make great themes. Favorite games and activities can easily be adapted to the theme with a name change or some slight modifications. For example, “gathering eggs” at my son’s farm party and the “fossil dig” at his dinosaur party were just variations of a “treasure hunt.”

A guest list is another important item to work on with your child. After all, a party is a great way for you child to expand their social circle. Both my children have made new friends by extending a party invitation to someone they didn’t know well. But don’t assume that your child knows how to choose whom to invite. Some of the suggestions found in Putting on a Party that you may wish to present to your child are:

• Someone your child thinks they would like to be friends with or they would just like to know better

• Someone that invited your child to a party

• Someone who might benefit from being included. This could be someone new in your child’s class or neighborhood. It could be someone that has been sick or otherwise absent from social activity for an extended period. It could be someone of a different culture or religion than your own.

• Members of a group you child belongs to. If your child is friends with several of his teammates, it’s a good idea to consider inviting everyone on the team.

This is also a great time to help your child prepare a response to the almost inevitable question, “Why wasn’t I invited?” Rehearsing an answer in advance will equip your child with the ability to handle a potentially hurtful situation with tact and confidence. This is an ability that will serve them well in future interactions at school, on dates, and in the workplace.

In fact, hosting a party can greatly increase your child’s overall self confidence. When a child understands what specific behaviors are expected in a certain situation, they will feel more comfortable in that and in similar situations. Review basic etiquette several times with them before the party. Even very young children (with help) can welcome guests and politely thank them for gifts. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your child picks up on these desirable behaviors when taught in the fun context of a party.

It’s gratifying to see your child independently demonstrate these skills in other areas of their lives. My daughter accepted the position of stage manger for a dramatic production at her school. Her success in organizing rehearsals, developing cast unity despite a wide variety of personalities, and following through on mundane but essential tasks such as cleanup, was due in large part to the fact that she had already learned and practiced these skills by planning and hosting parties.

Invitation

This is a favorite party invitation idea that can be easily adapted to any type of party. In fact, this is such a fun invitation that guests will likely keep it after the party is over.
First, divide a plain sheet of paper (8 1/2 inches by 11 inches) in half. Have your child decorate each invitation. Stickers are a quick way to do this. Or, they can use computer clip art or draw with markers or crayons. Make sure to include the party information somewhere on each invitation.

On a separate sheet, draw (or use clip art) a flashlight with a light beam that extends about 2 inches (you could also use a magic wand or a light saber). You’ll need one flashlight for every invitation. You should be able to fit several on one sheet of paper. At a copy center, copy the flashlights onto white cardstock. Have the invitations color copied onto overhead (clear plastic) sheets. To assemble the invitations, first cut them apart. Next, attach one edge of the invitation to a piece of black construction paper slightly larger than the invitation. Finally, cut out the flashlights and paper clip one to each invitation.

Here’s the fun part! Take the flashlight and slide it between the overhead sheet and the black paper. The pictures and words on the overhead sheet are “illuminated” just as if you were shining a beam of light on them!

Snow Paint

This easy to make and fun to use earth-friendly paint from Putting on a Party turns something readily available – snow – into a giant canvas, a game board, a volleyball court, a race course, or a myriad of other things that will readily fit your party theme.

Materials:

Cornstarch

Water

Small packages of unsweetened drink mix in several colors

Several small, empty spray bottles

Place 3 tablespoons of cornstarch, 1 cup of water, and the contents of one package of drink mix in a spray bottle. Shake to mix. Spray the paint onto the snow.

Hoagie

I will show how, with just a few edible embellishments, you can transform a hoagie sandwich into a crocodile, dinosaur, or dragon.

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Putting on a Party is available online from amazon.com, gibbs-smith.com, or can be ordered at Barnes & Noble.

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