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Party tips

Being prepared makes hosting a party a much smoother process. Here are a few tips to consider when getting started.

The date

When choosing a date, the availability of people, entertainment and venues can potentially be impacted by  …

  • clashes with public holidays
  • special events and festivals
  • school holidays/activities
It's also important to consider your ability to prepare for the event both on the day and in the lead up to it.

The party time

Shorter parties are best for young kids:

  • 1-1.5hrs for toddlers
  • 1.5-2hrs for preschoolers
  • 2hrs for 5-6 year olds
Plan around nap times for young children.

Mornings are often best as kids are fresh.  It also saves little ones being exhausted by the end of the day with anticipation of the party.

As kids start school, naps are no longer an issue and attention spans are greater party times can be longer, 2-3 hours is long enough.

The venue

When selecting any venue you need to ensure...

  • the venue is suitable for the number of guests (including potential parents and siblings) even when the weather changes
  • can you child proof the area for your party or quarantine ares you don't want visitors going
  • is it safe - are kids secured from broken fences near busy roads, kept out of pool areas, away from creeks, ponds, beaches etc
  • how accssible is the venue (parking availability or time restrictions, transport, even dropping off food and decorations)

More information on selecting a venue

The guest list

When planning your guest list consider …

The invitation

Be sensitive on how invitations are distributed.  It might be handy to put the invites in kid’s pigeon-holes but it is also obvious who is and isn’t invited to an event.

Sticking a magnet on the back of the invitation is a great way to ensure the invite makes it to the fridge door and isn’t lost.

Include a photo of the person holding the party - great for when kids are little and receive lots of invitations from play school and friends.  It helps the parents know which child is holding the party.

Your invitation should be clearly legible and include the following…

  • Who is invited?
  • Whose party it is (and their age – it can be embarrassing turning up with the wrong age on a card)
  • The time and duration of the party (so parents can plan to stay or drop off and pick up as needed)
  • The day and date of the party (including the day helps people quickly assess availability when children or parents have regular weekly events ie sports)
  • special instructions:
  • party theme
  • special things to bring or wear
  • if you require advice on special diets
  • if you are serving meals or just cake and party food
  • if parents or siblings are expected to stay
  • special directions or parking options
  • RSVP details
  • Who to RSVP to – include the name and relationship to the child ie RSVP to Erica (Jackie’s Mum).  Often parents know the children but not the name of their parent or guardian
  • RSVP date
  • if an RSVP is required for siblings or parents who might be staying so catering or extra party supplies are required
  • How to RSVP – mobile, email, in person.  Providing a couple of options provides flexibility for people to RSVP more easily

The party welcome

Make sure people feel welcome as soon as they arrive by putting a welcome sign or some balloons at the entrance.  This makes the venue easy to spot and ensures people feel confident they are in the right place.

  • If possible arrange for someone to meet and great arriving guests to make them feel welcome.
  • If you don’t know many parents, chances are they won’t know you.  Introduce yourself with your name and relationship to the party child.  You may even want to wear a name-tag.  This is also a great opportunity to provide name-tags for kids and parents as they come in.  Not all parents and kids might know each other – particularly if coming from different schools or a mix of family and friends.
  • Organise a place for people to safely place bags and jackets if they don’t wish to hang on to them.
  • Invite those with gifts to place them in a spot reserved for gifts as they come in.  This avoids gifts being opened by little party guests or excited birthday children and separating cards preventing you from properly thanking people.
  • Having a few ‘help-yourself’ drinks and nibbles ready for arriving guests allows you to keep an eye on the door yet still cater for people.

The unexpected guest

Busy parents might forget to RSVP and turn up unannounced.
  • If organising the party yourself make sure you have a few extra party bags or place settings on hand just in case.
  • If holding an event at a professional party venue check in advance how ‘surprise’ guests will be handled to avoid embarrassment.

The misbehaving guest

  • Tired children and sugar can overexcite little kids.  If a little guest does get a little too much try…
  • removing them from trouble by redirecting attention to another activity
  • giving them a ‘special helper’ sticker and enlisting their help on a few ‘special’ activities so you can keep them busy and keep an eye on them ie help press the music button for pass-the-parcel, help put out food items etc
  • If you have to, move them to a safe, quiet spot, away from the stimulating noise and activity.  Perhaps with a few cushions or picture books to allow them to settle down or have a sleep if needed.
  • Make sure you explain that to the child what is going on and why they are being move ie their behaviour is upsetting the other children or isn’t acceptable and they need to settle down.  If you must, tell them you will need to call parents to take them home if they don’t settle down.

The role of the party child

It is easy for the party child to get overwhelmed.  Good preparation can help here. In the lead up to the party talk to the party child about...
  • the special day and the role they have in making the party a success
  • the way gifts will be managed – will you be opening them on the day or after the party
  • where will they sit at the party table
  • when party bags will be given out
  • what games will be played and
  • how important it is for the party child to welcome and farewell each guest, thanking them for coming

The presents

The way presents are handled can make a difference on how kids and parents feel about the party.

Opening presents after the party can…

  • avoid embarrassment of birthday children being unappreciative about a gift they don’t want
  • avoid embarrassment of duplicate gifts
  • avoid embarrassment of comparing gifts
  • ensure you keep the card and presents together so you can properly thank people
  • Invite those with presents to place them in a spot reserved for gifts as they come in.  This avoids presents being opened by little party guests or excited birthday children and separating cards preventing you from properly thanking people.
  • If you do wish to open presents at the party… 
  • make sure your child is briefed in advance to thank each person for their gift no matter what they receive
  • avoid making all children sit and watch the birthday child slowly open each gift.  Try to be ready with scissors and extra hands to open gifts to help the process along
  • a great way to keep the fun in opening presents is to have all the kids sit in a circle and hold their present.  The birthday child sits in the middle and spins a bottle to determine whose gift will be opened next
  • ensure you keep cards with gifts as they are opened

The entertainment

  • Make sure you confirm your entertainment a week before the  party.
  • Check you have a mobile/contact number for your entertainer in case you need to get in touch with them on the day of the party.
  • Ensure you give your entertainer clear instructions on how to get to the venue, parking arrangements and how they can contact you on the party day should they need to.
  • Have a back up plan.  In case of something happens to delay or prevent the entertainment, make sure you have a few games ready that you can run yourself.
  • The clean up

    It’s not fun having to clean up after a busy day setting up and running a party. 

    • Have a few big bins or boxes lined with garbage bags set up ready to toss in rubbish and recycling as you go.  If you are a stickler for recycling, make sure you label bins clearly so people know where to put things.
    • Use disposable paper plates, cups and cutlery or items that are dishwasher safe to save you as much hand washing as possible.
    • Ensure you empty the dishwasher before the party so things can go straight in.
    • Have a few containers ready to store left-over food to make it easy for people helping you.
    • Ensure the fridge and freezer is as empty as you can ready to accept left-overs.
    • Clean and tidy as you go if you can.
    • Make sure you have all the clean-up items ready – garbage bags, dishwashing liquid, paper towels, and rubber gloves.
    • Cordon off areas you don’t want party-goers to go to minimize the areas needed to clean up after.
    • Enlist helpers (local kids, teenage children, willing parents)
    • Have a few ‘clean-up’ games for the kids ie: the child who picks up the most wrapping paper before the bell rings wins.
    The thank you

    It’s easy when you’ve been busy planning and the party is finally over to forget this extra step.  Make it as easy as you can to say thank you.  Thank you notes are not only appreciated, they are good manners.

    Here’s a few tips…

    • When organizing the invite, organise a matching thank you note.  You can ‘pre-fill’ some of the information so it isn’t such a big job later.
    • Make a game out of preparing thank you notes.  Organise a craft table with glitter, stickers and colourful paper pieces and work with your child to create them.
    • Create a standard ‘thank you’ note on the computer and edit it to suit each child and their gift.
    • Use pictures of the party on the thank you.
    The memories

    When you are busy running the party it's hard to take photos as well.  If you can ask a friend or relative to be the official photographer or video person that will help.  In preparation... 
    • make sure you charge all the equipment the day before the event
    • ensure memory cards are clean or spare memory cards are on hand
    • show the person using the equipment how to use it and ensure they are comfortable with it. If they can borrow it prior to the event for a practice, even better
    • make a list of things you want photos of ie people arriving, children playing, special entertainment or the candles being blown out on the cake

    Enjoy!
    Remember to enjoy the event.  Try to take at least a few minutes to stop and remember this special time!

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