You know me. I’m the one who helps wrangle the sugar-high masses for party games, the one who passes out napkins, refills drinks, and helps dispose of half-eaten cake with the frosting scraped off.
Like you, I love a good party. I love a birthday boy or girl who beams with pride on their special day. Like you, I worry about the chips to child ratio, the balance of free play versus scheduled activities, and above all else, the fact that everyone has a great time.
So what is it exactly that makes or breaks a birthday party? Is it the food? The entertainment? The venue? Nope, it’s the valuable lessons acquired as a party guest along the way.
Take a look at 10 things I learned at your kid’s birthday party:
1. It’s not about you
I once attended a completely over-the-top, super lavish eighth birthday party in the Hollywood Hills. The party boasted live entertainment, catered cuisine, and even an open bar for adults. While it may have seemed as if the party had it all, something very important was missing — a happy birthday boy. You see, while the boy’s parents had the best of intentions by hosting the party at a family friend’s incredible backyard, the location was too far away for many of the boy’s friends to attend. The guest of honor didn’t care about fancy food or a hilltop view, all he wanted were his friends to come over to his house and swim.
2. Kids are picky
Most kids have a hard time getting behind food they don’t know, and while adults can’t think of better party fare than grilled kebobs or handmade tamales, kids would have to respectfully disagree. Serve kid basics, such as pizza, subs, fried chicken, hot dogs, or burgers. What kid favorites lack in nutritional value, they make up for in massive kid appeal.
3. Gossip happens
And not by the kids. Parents can often be found gossiping about school, teachers, other parents, and sometimes even other kids. In an effort to mitigate the inevitable gossip, plan for a few fun activities that involve both kids and parents!
4. Kids don’t like clowns
While it’s entirely possible that I just haven’t met the right clown, experience has taught me that kids are either unimpressed or frightened by comic entertainers wearing exaggerated makeup and giant shoes. Send in the clowns if you must, but first, ask yourself why.
5. Bounce houses need rules
Playing safety officer may be a bit of a bummer at a party, but tending to kids who have just gotten the frosting trampled out of them is worse. Youngsters should jump with youngsters. Olders should jump with olders. No one should jump on a man when he’s down. And body slamming for recreational purposes is strictly prohibited.
6. Be prepared
Cuts and scrapes happen. So do bumps, bruises, and allergic reactions. If parents are dropping off their children to be supervised under your care, be sure to inquire about things like food allergies and medical conditions. Keep a list of parent contact information on hand and always be on the lookout for safety risks and hazards.
7. Don’t plan too much or too little
Activities and games are a great way to introduce party guests to each other and keep them entertained, but allow enough free time for self-directed fun!
8. Keep the gift train moving
Gifts are great, but in large parties, they tend to slooooooooow the party doooooooown. If opening gifts are on the agenda, keep the pace moving quickly as not to gift your guests to sleep.
9. You can never have too many trash cans
The easiest way to keep a party tidy is with lots and lots of trash cans. Too few trash cans and you have rubbish everywhere. Too full trash cans and you have litter everywhere. Too many trash cans in conspicuous locations and you have very little to clean up afterward.
10. Goodie bags are unnecessary
While I agree that goodie bags are fun for kids, they’re also: expensive, full of junk parents don’t want in their house, and way too easy to forget to hand out. Ditch the goodie bag and focus on the party experience instead.