By Pam Teel
Whether you’re celebrating indoors or in the backyard, with pin the tail on the donkey or an entire petting zoo, this timeline will make for a very happy birthday with all the bases covered. Make sure you preplan it weeks ahead!
- Discuss with your child what kind of party he or she wants. Dinosaur party? Star Wars Party? Teenage Mutant Turtles or Princess Party; let your child help pick out the theme. This will help you to narrow down decoration and activity choices.
- Decide whom to invite. Do you need to ask the entire class, or does your child just want his six best friends?
- Line up any entertainment you may want. The earlier the better. It’s no fun telling your child that the magician that she has her heart set on is already booked. Ask for references of people who have used the entertainers recently, and check up. Be sure to ask if there are any setup requirements.
- Before setting a date, check with essential guests to make sure they’re available. Your child won’t be happy if his best friend is going to be out of town.
- Send invitations. Make written invitations creative and coordinated with the party theme. Indicate whether parents are invited to stay (parents of toddlers should remain), and include an RSVP date and start and end times.
- Make a schedule of activities for the party. Plan to fill two to three hours with a mix of energetic games and calmer activities (like crafts or storytelling). You also need to factor in time for entertainment, snacks, and general freewheeling ruckus. If the presents will be opened, save that for the end; if you start running out of time, you can skip it. Keep in mind that an outdoor party may become an indoor party in case of rain, so plan alternate, rainy-day activities, just in case.
- Make a master list of supplies you’ll need. Make sure you have the following covered, and note if you need to buy or borrow anything. Check online party ware sources like plumparty.com and discountschoolsupply.com to save time.
- game and craft essentials
- sports equipment
- portable tables to hold food or presents
- coolers and serving dishes
- tablecloths, plates, cups, and utensil
- Buy or order party favors that fit the theme (and goody bags to put them in) and prizes for the games. Plan the menu.
- Keep it simple— finger foods, pizza, things kids actually like are super easy and sure to please. If you like, plan a few special treats (like a cocktail) for parents. Make a list of how far in advance each dish can be made.