10 Tips for Throwing a Birthday Theme Party

Filed under: Big Kids, Activities: Babies, Birthdays, Cabin Fever

Birthdays. The kids keep having them. And from the age of five, we've allowed each to celebrate by inviting friends to a birthday party in our home. At these parties, we aim for homemade, low-key fun. But even low-key fun requires advance preparation and thought. No worries. The kids start planning their next party the day after their last one. That leaves Cabin Fever with just one big task: lowering expectations.

Oh, and about five hundred little tasks. Here's our top ten checklist. Let's get started.

1. Pick a theme, and rein in the dreams. Daughter is turning seven. She loves horses. We love daughter. We love horses, too, but not in the living room. Not even in the backyard. Does daughter turning seven know what it costs to rent a pony? Daughter does not. Nor does she care. "We have to ride horses at the party!" Dad swoops in with a creative solution: hobby horses. Better yet, we can make them ourselves. Guests can decorate their own, and take them home as party favours. Two birds, one stone.

2. Enlist talent. In this case, Grandpa agrees to put the skill saw in his garage to use. In short order, turns out twelve wooden horse heads stuck on long wooden poles. Dad buys yarn, leather and paint. Cuts ears and reins out of leather, and attaches them to the horse heads the night before the party. Guests will personalize their horses by painting them and choosing yarn for the mane.
3. Visit the library. Bring home armload of books on party's themed topic: great for ideas, but also handy at the party. During a lull, guests can look at books. Younger children enjoy being read to.

4. It's almost party time! Quick! Bake a cake and decorate. Observation: guests at children's birthday parties would be content to eat bowls of frosting. In other words, great effort need not be spent upon the making and design of the cake. Confession: for our children's parties, we bake from a boxed mix, and frost out of a bought jar. The birthday girl herself is enlisted to stir, pour, and, of course, to decorate. The result? A search-and-find horse cake. Try this at home! Just keep adding candies till you've used them all up.

5. Use all available space. Set up an obstacle course in the backyard (if seasonally practical). The living room, basement, or playroom will suffice, too. For our hobby horse course, Dad borrows miniature straw bales from a neighbour and empties the garage of anything that resembles an obstacle. There are logs to jump over, boards to balance upon, and jumps made of broom handles resting on overturned buckets. Mom's childhood saddle is dragged out of the attic and placed upon a sawhorse.

6. If serving food, choose a flexible menu. Children's tastes vary wildly. We buy fresh bagels and croissants and offer a variety of toppings: jam, cream cheese, butter, mayonnaise, mustard, cheese, cucumbers, tomatoes, pickles, and grapes on the side. One child makes herself two mustard sandwiches. And eats them both.

7. Make a schedule in advance.
All you need is a scrawled list of planned activities (and a few emergency back-ups). You will thank yourself approximately fifteen minutes into the party, when the craft has been completed by all but two artistically-minded guests and the others are turning your couch into a trampoline. Our set list looks like this: craft; reading/story time while waiting for craft to be finished by everyone; scavenger hunt; lunch, cake and colouring; outdoor playtime and games. Emergency back-ups include magic tricks by Dad. Thankfully, Dad is not called upon to perform.

8. Games. Go with the classics. The less competitive, the better. Freeze dancing. Pass the hot potato. Telephone. Pin the tail on the donkey (or any themed variation). For our scavenger hunt, we hide pictures of horses around the house, and every child takes a crayon and a piece of paper with corresponding pictures, and hunts around the house. This works for pre-readers, too.

9. Colouring at the table
. A great activity for any party: cover your table with large sheets of paper (doubles as a tablecloth), tape them down, and give everyone a handful of crayons. Depending on the age of your crowd, you'll end up with adorable drawings, greetings for the birthday child, questionable graffiti, or a mixture of all of the above.

10. Don't forget: candles, singing happy birthday, and to take a few photographs. When two hours are up and you're waving goodbye to happy hobby-horse-riding children, the party will suddenly seem like a distant blur. Do a quick debrief on what worked and what didn't. Because the birthday girl is already planning for next year...

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.