By Catherine Jackman
Is it party time for your kiddo? Bring it! Whether you’re hosting inside or out, at home or at a venue, these easy ideas and party tricks will help ensure the guests, the star of the celebration and even the host will have a blast.
First things first: Never forget who the VIP is for this special event. As such, let him or her have a say in picking the party theme and in organizing the fun. Kanata mom Rachel Francoeur gives her kids options, based on their ages and interests, and says, “They can choose which one they like. I want them to enjoy their party because it’s for them and not for me!”
Rachel, mother to Emma, 11, Kaylyn, 6, and Max, five months, has planned her fair share of parties. Most recently, her daughter Kaylyn wanted a party based on her favourite Disney movie, Frozen. With help from her daughters, Rachel transformed their townhouse into an icy wonderland with homemade paper stars, blue tablecloths and an abundance of snowflake crafts for the guests to do. What’s her secret to party success?
Keep relaxed about the whole planning process, she advises. Rachel plans a few activities—besides the crafts for this party, there was also Pin the Carrot on Olaf’s Nose—but is always aware that her kids just want to play and have fun.
Second, use your resources! Tons of great options for kids’ parties can be found via a quick internet search. Try some of the DIY projects with your kids; this will keep them excited and involved. (To boot, they’ll be learning some organizational skills!) “Pinterest is a great place for ideas from other moms,” notes Barrhaven mom Kaytee Wood. As a former event planner, Kaytee knows a thing or two about putting together a party.
“If you are ordering in services (such as cake, balloons and entertainers), I recommend picking up these items the night before to make sure they are there, or [confirming] with vendors,” she says. Here’s another tip: “Always have a backup plan for everything; kids will zip through activities quickly so you want to make sure you have more things to do. In the end, the kids just want to play and they aren’t going to notice if the cake is the wrong colour or one balloon popped.” As the mother of seven-year-old Hayden, and twin one-year-old girls Paisley and Delilah, Kaytee’s strategies are tried and true.
Concerned about people showing up? Invite some close family friends as well as family members to the party. Also, make sure to send out invitations at least two weeks in advance, giving other parents time to mark the date down in their calendars.
Looking to keep the party at home this summer? Why not roll out a drive-in theatre in your backyard. This plan is perfect for children aged five to 11. For starters, get boxes from a local storage company and let the party-goers paint their own cars while you set up the movie. Want to “up” the dazzle factor? Have the party in the evening. Use a white bed sheet as the screen and set up some lights outside. After the kids have decorated their cars, they can munch on some barbequed goodies and fill up their containers at a homemade popcorn bar. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, this party can always be moved inside or to the garage. Renting the projector is a little pricey, $120, but for party of eight or more kids, it’ll have some major show-time impact.
Another at-home idea—this one geared to little boys—is to hold a construction party. On the invitations, ask guests to arrive in “work” clothes suitable for getting dirty, because this fete is full of dirt, literally!
To set the scene, head to the hardware store or dollar store and buy a tarp to set out in your backyard. Cover it with a couple of bags of dirt and bring out the plastic shovels and dump trucks. (At the dollar store, you’ll also be able to pick up yellow construction hats, shovels and lots of construction toys). Later, instead of giving out party favors, send the kids home with the toys they played with. Want to include a craft at the event? Set up a Make Your Own Paintbrush table, only instead of the standard version, think along the lines of a large marshmallow on a pretzel and fun toppings as paint. Less into sugary ideas? Let the kids design their own traffic cones. Depending on your number of guests, this party should run you just under $200.
Little girls—and their mammas—love their parties too, so why not host a Ladies Who Tea event? Tell guests to come dressed for tea with the queen or, in this case, your little princess. Provide tea for the adults, juice for the younger ones and an array of finger sandwiches and desserts. Set your tables with white tablecloths along with all your very best tableware, and don’t be stingy with the sometimes-pesky glitter. If you don’t have any china in the house or you’re worried about it breaking, no problem. Thrift stores are full of someone’s used china and it doesn’t have to match. At the end of the party, send the girls home with take-away princess kits, including feather boas, rings, gloves and maybe even a tiara.
Whether they’re all about clowns or soccer, Lego or teddy bears, the very best kids’ parties have one key ingredient: F.U.N. So make the planning fun too and get your children involved in the whole shebang.