I have three kids, my oldest is 12, so I'm very familiar with hosting and attending kids' birthday parties. To be truthfully honest my favorite kind of kids party is a "drop off" because I don't want to be around other peoples kids, there, I said it. With that being said I have attended good old house parties as well as over-the-top: "Here's a gift for every month of your baby's first year of life party." I prefer to keep it simple because the reality is even basic parties are expensive and your kid is going to have another birthday and another party, and it's okay if you don't want to pay for the glow in the dark strobe light and circus performers flown in from Las Vegas.
Here are my top tips for hosting your kid's party the way YOU want it!
#1 When choosing a location let your child choose, but, make it central to your invitees and a reasonably priced one, because, really- Who are you trying to impress? I am not impressed when a family shells out thousands of dollars, I am saddened, because that could have been a nice purse for Mommy.
#2 Keep the guest list reasonable and under control and to the people who really matter in your child's life. It is not necessary to reciprocate birthday party invites if it's going to throw the entire group off.
#3 Keep the party length to 90 minutes. When it's short and sweet the kids leave on a high note. If you're not throwing a "drop off" party the parents who are forced to hang around will be less bored watching the clock thinking how they have better things to do and places to be than a child's birthday party and get to stare at their watches way less. I have shortened a pre-set party package of 2 hours down to 90 minutes because that is plenty. Don't be afraid to do the same.
HOME TIP: If partying at your house keep the children in a centrally located spot with room to accommodate everyone, but, in no way does that mean running through your home. Boundaries = Easier Clean Up!
#4 Get yourself dressed and put together first! If you love what you're wearing you'll not only feel better, but, you'll be a more relaxed and confident hostess. Then get your house cleaned up and presentable, lastly your kids. You know what time your party is starting so do generous math and back it up to allow plenty of time to accomplish all of this. Enlist your husband and anyone else's help, delegate tasks then you can fix whatever isn't to your liking right before go time.
#5 Be a generous host and feed the grown-ups. If you're keeping the parents hostage you better serve them food and drinks (beer and wine anyone?!) It does not need to be anything fancy, but, include parents in your head count and it's always better to have more than look cheap because you ran out of food. Set-up an organized layout for your guests to have easy access to water, vino, napkins, paper towels, and food. The more comfortable guests feel the better time they'll have (and less serving you'll have to do) so you get to conversate and have fun with everyone! Make a plate of food for yourself and set it to the side so you don't miss out on eating or or end up shoveling it into your mouth while you're trying to play hostess. This will give you something to look forward to after all of the clean-up.
#6 Do not micro-manage your party, your husband, your children or your guests. You decided it'd be "fun" to throw a party so chill out, get rid of your nervous energy and let go as your home becomes a disaster zone. I'm the hugest neat freak and even I can sit back & not let what everyone is doing to my house not bug me! If you have some real "work horse" guests at your party chomping at the bit wanting to clean up, let them have at it! Well, that is unless everyone else is still eating because I've been to parties where I'm still trying to eat and my plate is removed. That is the epitome of your guests being crazy freaks themselves, no crazy freaks please.
#7 While your child is opening gifts keep a record of whom bought what so you can be the evil parent and make your child write thank you cards. Thank you notes are a way of teaching your child how to say "Thank you" and show gratitude and appreciation. Children as young as 4 are able to sign their names or you can even make letters with dots that can be traced over. To keep the whining away I spread out this tedious, boring task by keeping it to 4 notes per weekend otherwise your child may revolt.
My favorite calming advice after throwing a kid's birthday party is strike a deal with your partner to shock and awe the situation: Your partner gets the kids away from you and puts them to bed, you clean up the kitchen or the party room, or simply shove all of the presents in 1 central location so they don't take over your home. Then the two of you can re-convene to enjoy your food and wine in peace and talk about all the weird things your relatives just said to you.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY CALM MOMMY!