Depending on where you live, kids’ birthday parties can be a really BIG deal. I live in an area in Los Angeles where the competition heats up starting as early as preschool to see who can have the most “fun” party. I put “fun” in quotes because it’s also code for the most expensive or elaborate party. The most extravagant parties we’ve attended have been at the American Girl Store and private parties featuring numerous entertainers, petting zoos, food stations, fancy catered menus, and over-the-top party favors.
My daughter is ten and my son is seven, so we’ve had a LOT of birthday parties over the years. Most of them have been incredibly fun and very special. I tend to give my kids options for their parties that fall somewhere in between extremely low-key and overly elaborate. With birthday parties for kids, you never know what can happen. Seriously, we’re talking about little ones, so expect the best… but prepare for anything.
Expect minor problems
Sure, a few of our parties had minor problems. I won’t go into detail about the party where one of my friend’s kids punched my neighbor (a grown-up) in the stomach. The party where the puppet lady was an hour late and got my daughter’s name wrong? Don’t even ask! Then there were the Funky Divas, a fabulous dance group that coordinates parties where the girls put on costumes and perform, dance, and sing. The only drawback? After the party, my husband told me several of the dads had their eyes glued to the Funky Diva dance teachers. Gross.
If you’re theming it, pick a theme that you can pull off
At age two my daughter wasn’t in preschool yet, so her friends were kids in the neighborhood. I invited a singer/storyteller to sing and read stories to the kids in our back yard. I set out blankets and everyone sat on the grass, eating treats and listening to songs or running around. Most of the kids were mesmerized by the singer’s beautiful, soulful voice. After songs and story time (I selected three of my daughter’s favorite books), she concluded the party by leading us in a stunning, R&B rendition of “Happy Birthday” to my daughter. That party remains one of our all-time favorites.
When my daughter turned nine she wanted to have a party at a local cooking school. I agreed, but let me say this: it was definitely over-the-top. After selecting the menu they would cook, my daughter and about 15 friends (boys and girls) spent the morning and early afternoon making an amazing selection of salads, pizzas, pastas, cookies, and other foods, and learning cooking techniques with professional chefs. Then, after cooking an entire meal — and I mean really cooking: chopping, slicing, dicing, baking, and supervised sautés — the kids were ready to eat. This party is still the one my daughter loved the most. I think going over the top for your kids parties once or twice is worth it. The cooking party was one of our favorites parties ever… and the most expensive. (Editor’s note: To me, this is the type of thing you could probably recreate on your own at home with a few alterations — kid-sized chef’s hats are pretty easy to come by!)
Joint parties = potential for a whole lotta stress
Both of our kids were born in late July — what could be more perfect than a pool party? Nothing, right? Well, not exactly. I planned a pool party at our former apartment complex, which had a beautiful hotel-like pool. We invited a very small group of families to celebrate my kids at a combined party. The logistics of the party were complicated since getting in and out of the building was a nightmare. On top of that, it rained! But, we raced through the party, sang “Happy Birthday,” and served the cake. Mission accomplished.
Does your family have a favorite birthday party memory? What has and hasn’t worked for you?