Braveheart never had to throw a kids party…
Anyone who’s ever thrown a kids birthday party knows that this is no task to take on light heartedly! This is a task for the brave with nerves of steel! Having thrown my share of kids themed parties and having worked at a daycare and kindergarten for several years, let me share with you my best survival tactics on how to throw a themed birthday party and stay sane enough to do it again the next year without throwing in the towel.
The Master Plan
The biggest favour you can do yourself is to plan ahead and then plan some more. I have been to birthday parties where the parents decided to just hang up a “Happy Birthday” sign and buy a cake and some paper plates. And there is nothing wrong with that, but I would never do that, because as the time passed and the hours trickled away, you could tell that said parents were slowly but surely going insane and felt like a slow painful death would be the kind way out of this situation.
I’m obviously joking (or am I?), but my point is, there is nothing worse (NOTHING) than a hoard of bored kids running through your house finding their own way to keep themselves entertained (usually at the expense of every item in your house that you have ever cherished).
I plan a birthday party like I planned a playgroup or a kindergarten class. Because, let’s face it, is there really a difference? 10 kids confined to one area, that you are responsible for, for about 3 to 4 hours.
I wrote down a nice guide for you to follow when you plan your next themed kids party. This way, you can use it for any theme you (or your kid) picks.
The 3 Key Areas to Manage… in a Nutshell
If you choose to have your party during a meal time try to think of a way to integrate that into the theme too (if possible). For example, Pizza at a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles party or spinach pie at a Popeye party.
Just like with food, there are hundreds of ideas on almost all themes you could come up with on the internet. If you can’t find enough activities (wondering what theme you picked actually) then you can often take other activities from another theme and adjust them a little to work with your theme. The best example for this is “Pin the tail on the Donkey”. This game can be used at almost any party! We pinned the salami on the pizza during our Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles party.
Planning… Things to brainstorm and check off
…What key objects define your theme? Example: Gold coins for Super Mario or bandanas at a pirate party.
… Will there be costumes or little gadgets for each guest to wear? I make sure that the kids always have some sort of costume on at every themed party, it’s like walking decorations and just adds that little extra to the atmosphere. Costumes can be made out of a piece of fabric with a whole for the head and a rope as a belt or a piece of fabric cut into strips as Ninja headbands. The important part is the colors and not whether it’s store bought (i have never bought any of them). The kids can then take the costumes home at the end of the party.
… What foods fit the theme and is there somewhat a balance in the type of foods being offered. Once you have done all your research for ideas, pick out a nice assortment of types of food so that there aren’t all salty or all sweet snacks on the buffet.
… Will there be a cake? Most likely this is the case at a birthday party. Remember that muffins can also be a nice substitute if you are not a big cake maker. Try being creative (if you enjoy baking). Don’t be scared off by something seeming too hard or never having made certain decorations before. It’s a kids party and it’s supposed to be creative. Who knows, maybe you have a hidden talent that you never knew about… and worst case scenario you have a funny story that is documented with pictures and can be told for years to come. Trust me, your kid (as long as their not teenagers yet) will love the cake and love the fact that you took the time to make it yourself, even if they don’t actually tell you. If you are pressed on time or just not that great of a baker then you can easily buy a plain cake at the supermarket and decorate it with some icing, food coloring and sprinkles to make it your own. Don’t think we’ve never ordered a ready made, amazing looking cake, there is nothing wrong with that. All I am saying is, have fun with it, it’s your party too!
… LED ACVTIVITIES: I always have a led activity or two on hand. Something that gets the kids moving and is the focus of the party. It is a great way to get the kids back onto common ground when you notice that they start getting antsy or start fighting over things. Ideally these activities are outside and allow them to run and let some energy out. For example, a treasure hunt, a foam light saber fight, three legged races and so on. Find a way to tie into this activity what the theme of the party is. We made a Egg-on-spoon race in teams at our “Angry Birds” Party.
Various things to decide:
What time of the day does the party take place? How long is the party for? I like to plan a window of about 3 to 4 hours for a party, depending on whether the kids will be eating a meal at the party or not.
Is the party mainly inside or outside? If there are key elements that take place outside, remember to have an alternative ready in case the weather is not your friend that day.
What will the kids get to take home? Are there going to be goodie bags? Remember to place them somewhere where you won’t forget to give them on the way out but where the kids don’t eat them before they leave (trust me, they won’t need any more sugar while still in your house)
Where will the kids drop off the birthday gifts when they walk in? Sounds silly, but that is always good to have. If 10 kids arrive at the same time you don’t want to run around and find gifts being deposited everywhere and lying around to be stepped on.
Highlight of the party
Yes, I like to make sure there is one highlight at the party. It could be the led activity or the cake eating time or anything you want to be really special. Make sure you time that event correctly. This means, do this when the kids are receptive and not overhyped so they can’t focus anymore. If you have to, make a game where they all have to run a lap around the house and then sit down in a row to power them out a bit. Little things like that can make everyone enjoy the party more and make the highlight special and remembered.
Make sure you remember to make the invites theme oriented too. It’s the first step to getting them excited for the party. And I don’t mean a card with the picture of the theme… I mean, bring the theme to life. For example: Invite the kids to attend the “Ninja Training Academy” if you are throwing a “Lego Ninjago” party. Again, you will find hundreds of ideas online if you need some inspiration.
Keep your house in one piece
Make sure that the areas that are not “party areas” are clearly marked with a sign. This means, private bedrooms, garage, or any other room you don’t want kids to enter. You might have taught your kid not to walk into closed rooms at a strangers house, but that doesn’t mean that other people have taught their kids this.
Last piece of advice…
After the kids have all arrived and had a few minutes to talk and so on, I always sit them all down in a circle to do the following:
- Introduce myself (again) and the other members of the family or friends that are present.
- Tell them where they can find the bathroom.
- Inform them who they can turn to if they need anything.
- Let them know roughly what the schedule is like. “We will do a couple of games together, then we’ll have cake time, then there will be the gift opening…” etc.
- Advice them on what the rules are for the buffet. Can they just take food and drinks whenever they feel like it? Do they have a cup with their name on it? Does food and drinks have to stay in a certain area?
- Give them the costumes if they don’t already have them.
- Explain the Activity Stations and the rules. Is there a limited number of kids per station? Do they have to clean up? And so on.
- Show them how the “off limits” rooms are marked.
- And any other information that they might need to know
This beginning circle is extremely important to a smooth and fun party. Just remember, they are kids from different families and may be used to different rules. Some might be too shy to ask about certain things and others might just act completely rude in your eyes because they have a different upbringing than your kids do. This quick circle allows the kids the chance to understand what behaviour is expected of them, much like a teacher does in a class room and a councelor does at the beginning of summer camp. You would be surprised how much the kids immediately adjust their behaviour and feel comfortable, even in a new house, when you pick them up at the beginning of the party and give them some guidance throughout.
I hope that this has helped you in planning a great day and a perfect party for you and your kids! I look forward to hearing about what themed kids parties you have done in the past and what tips and tricks have helped you keep your sanity! Please let me know in the comments below 🙂
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