Are you hosting a children’s birthday party in your apartment? Are you concerned that you don’t have enough space and that no one will have fun? Don’t worry. As long as you have a plan and keep the kids busy it will be fun for everyone. Follow these tips for a successful party:
Keep the party short. Two hours is really all you need for a children’s birthday party. As they get older things will change, but if it’s the seven and under crowd, two hours is plenty of time for lots of fun.
Move the furniture. Remember that kids aren’t going to sit down and chat. A children’s birthday party is all about movement, so create as much open space as possible. Move couches and chairs against the wall and put unnecessary furniture in another room. Take toys out of the room if they aren’t specifically for a party game.
Keep your guest list small. You may want to invite the whole kindergarten class to the party, but that’s not realistic in a small space. If the party is for a younger child, keep in mind that you may have to accommodate parents or caregivers. Sit down with your child and make a guest list together. Emphasize how much fun it is to invite his favourite friends, rather than focusing on who he can’t invite.
Chose the right time of day. Timing is crucial. If you want to avoid providing a meal, plan your party at an in-between time such as 2 - 4 p.m., or explicitly say in the invitation that there is no meal, just snacks. If you are planning to offer a meal, choose your party timing based on when your child is at their best e.g. if they usually have a nap or downtime in the afternoon, then have the party in the morning.
Keep food simple. There is a lot of excitement at a birthday party and little interest in sitting down, so it’s best to keep the food choices simple. If you have a sit-down meal, pizza is always popular, or a choice of sandwiches. Don’t forget to include a tray of cut vegetables and fruit. If you want to set out snack items before the meal, try dried fruit, pretzels, crackers, or popcorn. Give kids their drink in a fun lidded cup with a straw (it can be a party take-away) and have them write their name on it so they can keep track of it during the party. If parents have stayed for the party, have some snacks and beverages set aside for them in an “adult only” zone such as the kitchen. (Always ask about allergies when you send out your invitations.)
Pick a theme. It may be hard to believe, but your child probably doesn’t care, or even notice, that there is a decorating theme at their birthday party. Nonetheless, if they love Cinderella, Star Wars, or Ninja Turtles, it is fun to find a few items such as balloons, table cloths etc. that capture the theme. If you are planning activities, a theme can give you a framework for deciding which games or crafts to have, e.g. if it’s princesses the kids could make crowns, or with Angry Birds you could do a bean bag toss at Pig shapes. Of course, the birthday cake could also reflect the theme.
Keep them busy. The easiest way to organize your party is to break it down into blocks of time. This will help you manage the action and keep kids from jumping on the couch and banging off the walls. A two hour party can be planned in 20-minute time slots. The first 20 minutes is arrival time and the last 40 minutes is the meal, cake and departure. So in reality, you only have to prepare activities for 60 minutes of the party. For example, start with a freeze-dance to help the kids get warmed up with one another, and then move them on to a craft tied into your theme. If it’s cars, have the kids decorate wooden cars with markers (paint takes too long to dry) and when the craft is finished put a huge piece of paper on the floor and have the kids draw roadways for their cars. The key is to cheerfully, but firmly, move them on to the next activity.
Open the gifts after the party. If possible, have your child open her gifts after the party. Guests may get bored and feel a little jealous watching the birthday child open gifts. Also, in a small space, pieces of a new toy might get lost and thrown out.