Thursday, August 7, 2008

Birthday Party Blues???: Time and Location

Congratulations!  As a mom, you get to plan, host, serve, and clean up at least 18 birthday parties for your child.  And that's only if you stop at one kid.  And planning the first birthday party can be as nerve racking as planning a wedding.  But it doesn't have to be.  With a little planning, some common sense, and a dash of "saying NO," it can be painless, and dare I say fun, to celebrate with family and friends.  

First Things First

What comes to mind when planning a birthday party is often the decorations.  Moms picture elaboration balloon bouquets and a beautifully decorated home, punctuated by a detailed circus themed cake, homemade by you of course.  But is this really where the planning needs to start?

The first order of planning a party should be considering the time of the event.  No birthday party will be a celebration if it's attended by a sleepy baby or a cranky toddler.  Some things to keep in mind are nap and meal times, knowing that missing these are sure to put a damper on the party.  Try to plan around these time to start the party with a rested and happy baby.  If it's impossible to work around a meal, keep finger foods handy to ward off a rumbly tummy.

If you are planning a party for a little one, you're likely to have the party in your home.  In this case, you can always put the baby down for a nap while you still have guests in your home.  Turn on a fan to block some of the noise and enjoy the company.  Most babies won't last for more than a couple of hours anyway and out of town guests won't feel like they have to spend the rest of the afternoon in the hotel.

Not only is the timing important, but the date is as well.  Ideally you will want to plan the party as close to the actual birthday as possible.  However, that's not always possible. Things to keep in mind include: religious services and events, planning around work schedules, and local events.  Although Saturday mornings are often the most popular times for a birthday party, there are other options.

If hostessing a party outside of your home, some venues may give you a discounted rate for a party on a week night or Sunday afternoon.  Planning a party in the park may also be best planned for a Sunday morning if there are no religious objections.  Parks will often be less busy during this time of the week.  

Location is the third element of your pre-planning.  If you have the room to accommodate guests, your home is the most likely choice.  It keeps you from having to transport food, decorations, gifts, and possibly guests to a secondary location and back. Bathrooms are also readily accessible, important if your hosting a group of potty training toddlers. And the ice cream can remain in the freezer till serving.

If your home is not an option, be sure to check out the local park.  Local parks may range from a small grassy area for kickball and cake to larger neighborhood parks with swing sets, slides, and water fountains.  Some things to keep in mind are the accessibility to your home, the size of the park, how visible kids are from the picnic area, and the amount and type of foot traffic the park receives, as well as the afore mentioned bathroom facilities.  Some parks may provide more in the way of entertainment, but be large.  Other parks will have less to do, but may be easier to keep an eye on the kids, making it more relaxing.  Keep in mind the age of your guests and your own personal parenting and entertaining styles.

Other options for locations include gymnastics centers, bouncy places, water parks, the local McDonald's, etc.  Be sure to talk to other parents in your circle to generate more ideas that are unique to your area of the country.  Other parents are often your best resource.  Utilize them.  

What's Next?

Once you're picked your date, time, and location, you're ready to start thinking about invitations.  Don't get too far ahead of yourself.  Our next article will explore possible themes for different age groups.  But if you'd like to start dreaming, here are a few websites to help you come up with ideas of your own:

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