12 Kids Party Tips From a Celebrity Event Planner

Filed under: Holidays, Decor, Birthdays

kids party

Party City's punky princess party calls for balloons, funky hats and tutus everywhere! Credit: Party City

Never ones to turn down a great party, ParentDish was all too happy to take party specialty retailer Party City up on its offer to host an all-expenses paid mother/daughter trip to Hilton Head, S.C., earlier this month for a whirlwind of family festivities.

Party City partnered with celebrity event and home stylist Tara Riceberg to throw the event, and we suffered for our craft, attending seven parties in three days. It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it. And, amid the games, food and fun, we picked up a slew of great kid party tips along with our goodie bags.

kids party

Use pinatas as fences or decorations. Credit: Party City

Put this advice to use and you'll be saving money while dazzling your guests with your creativity and party-throwing know-how. We'll assume our invitations are in the mail.

1. Use your space. All of your space. "Most people think windows are simply for looking out," Riceberg says. "I, personally, interpret window space as actually being a wall space."

So, try taping streamers to the windows in a criss-cross pattern or hanging plastic tablecloths on the walls.

"Put décor down on the floor," Riceberg adds, "so you really get a full effect."

For a punky princess party, place tutus over lamp shades or hang them from ceiling fans. You can also place tutus around the base of candles or serving bowls, or layer two or three on top of each other and hang them on the front door like a wreath. Tie funky hats to the backs of chairs for guests to later take home.

2. Layering isn't just for fashion. "There's the table top and then table cloth, and then we layer it with a fishnet over it," Riceberg says, describing a SpongeBob SquarePants-themed party. "That just gives more dimension and texture to the room and more visual interest."

3. Budget wisely. Riceberg says if budget is an issue, put your money into the table.

"It's such a focal point to your party that, if you really have to budget your money, go all out when you do table scaping," she says.


kids party

Don't go in there! Paper lanterns are a chic way to block a room or area. Credit: Party City

Get creative, too. For a SpongeBob buffet, Riceberg made food cardholders by standing whole pineapples upright and placing cards in the stems.

"Instead of just saying 'hamburger' or 'french fries,' hamburgers are now 'Krabby Patties' and french fries are now 'Plankton Sticks,'" she adds. "So, for very little money and a little creativity you can really personalize the party to the theme."

4. Blend your theme. When Riceberg was asked to come up with a SpongeBob-themed party, she says she added a pirate element to keep the look less generic.

"By combining it with a pirate party, you now have this dynamic one-of-a-kind look that nobody else is going to have," she says. "So, I think, the pirate ship has sunk to the bottom of Bikini Bottom. Help SpongeBob and Patrick find the treasure. When you narrow and really focus the theme, it really kind of explodes."

5. Get your game on. Activities are a must, so plan something fun. Try a treasure hunt for a pirate party, complete with maps and clues -- with a piñata reward.

Buy plain mini cakes or cupcakes, along with lots of different colored icings, sprinkles and toppings and let the kids decorate. Plan a carnival theme, and offer trinkets for winning simple games like the ring toss or have a face-painting station.

For a Halloween party, hand out baskets, place candy and small toys around the house and let the kids trick-or-treat the room.

6. Shop the entire party store. Don't limit yourself to one particular event aisle. For a Halloween-themed party, Riceberg used candles from the wedding section, and items from the premium and servicewear departments, as well.

"Don't get hemmed in," she says. "Halloween is not just four aisles. Halloween is the entire store."

kids party

Get creative: Cover windows with banners, the ceiling with streamers, use pineapples as card holders. Credit: Party City

7. Plan, plan, plan. "(When) trying to save money, a big mistake people make is they go shopping and they're really not sure, so they buy stuff they may not need or they don't buy enough," Riceberg says. "And, then, that last minute, it's 'oh, my gosh, I'm not really prepared,' and instead of going to Costco to buy food they have to dash to Whole Foods or Publix and they're paying more because it's a last minute fix."

8. Face your fears. "I think a lot of people don't celebrate because they're afraid -- are people going to judge me?" Riceberg says. "If you have fear, you can't go wrong with balloons (or) using candy as a decoration. Start off simple. If you're really challenged and scared about menu, just have game night. Have your friends over for something simple just to get comfortable with actually becoming an entertainer."

9. Don't think you have to break out the good stuff. Riceberg says it's totally acceptable these days to worry about people breaking Grandma's crystal when you're having a large party.

"There is nothing wrong with using faux," she says. "In the same way you travel and take costume jewelry -- you don't take the good stuff with you. Even your guests may not feel comfortable using your grandmother's Waterford. So, if you are having company and you want to make them comfortable and put them at ease, use the faux stuff that still has the look (of being real)."

10. Mark your space creatively. "Laterns you expect to see on the ceiling (can) block the doorway," Riceberg says.

Likewise, votives placed on several steps of a staircase make it obvious no one should be walking up the stairs. You can eve use several pinatas to create fencing around the yard.

11. Don't skimp on supplies. "My peeve is not enough party supplies," Riceberg says. There's (drinks), but there's no cups. There's food but there are no plates. Overbuy on the supplies."

Use the extras for playdates or lunchboxes. When it comes to napkins, get a few packs of pricier printed styles, but combine them with a solid color.

"You can stretch that look and you have the extras on hand, but then you can use them again for Mother's Day or a bridal shower or whatever the next party's going to be."

12. Don't forget the favors. Send kids home with fun, thoughtful goodies. For a pirate theme, think eye patches, bandanas, pirate hats and hooks. For a punky princess theme, offer sequined hair bands, neon accessories and fun sunglasses. Halloween? Trick-or-treat baskets filled with candy, eyeball rings and glow sticks.

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