Stop the madness: Just enjoy the party

Family Celebrating Birthday Party
Bigstock Photos

Three times a year, I begin the birthday party planning for my kiddos. While some of you may love planning parties, these events fill me with a sense of dread that is indescribable. I want the day to be perfect for each child but easy for me. How do you balance both?  I’ve had nine years of birthday party planning experience, and every time the dread returns. Every child is different. Every party is different. The timing of every event conflicts with the other things happening in life.

Then the questions and doubt arise. How do I balance creativity with time? How do I balance cool with cost? Have I been inclusive enough to ensure that no children have been left out that would care? What about food? What about attendance? What about…

I am in the midst of planning my soon-to-be three year old’s birthday party this week and next week. Technically, the party was this weekend, but I’ve started a new job, traveled for work, and quite a few of our family has conflicts, so we pushed it back. That was seriously the only option to save my sanity. How do I plan a party in three days when I haven’t even bought a present?

Interestingly, I’ve approached this party differently. Maybe I’m finally learning!

  1. Catering is key – I can order pizza, a tray of sandwiches, and snacks for 30 people relatively inexpensively if I look to grocery stores and warehouse clubs instead of restaurants. Food is decent too.
  2. Keep it simple – While every site that you can think of throws a million ideas at you on great games and crafts and decorations and themes and…, all your kids want is cake, friends and fun. It’s ok to keep things simple. When did birthday parties turn in to something that resembles a wedding from a planning perspective???
  3. Be inclusive but realistic – I can’t invite 100 people to a birthday party, but I also can’t pick and choose kids to join with no real logic.  If you can, invite a class versus a few kids. If you can’t, be considerate in helping your child understand that some people were excluded and feelings might be hurt. It becomes a teaching moment, particularly if kids are older. I try when I can to do full class. If not, I keep it very small – pick 3 friends only and we’ll do a special thing vs. a big party.
  4. Joint parties are amazing –  We’ve recently discovered how amazing joint parties can be.  Find a family whose child has a birthday near yours. If you team up, the kids can get a bigger, better party, but cost and time ultimately ends up split, making it better to your bottom line.
  5. Outsourcing is okay – No one says you have to have a huge bash at your place. For years, we didn’t have the space to have a real party at our home because we lived in a teeny, tiny condo.  Search your neighborhood and talk to fellow parents, I have been amazed at the number of alternative venues that do all the work for you and pricing is relatively modest. Jump Zone, Sky High, even just renting out the gym or pool at your local YMCA can be a blast for the kiddos. Pair that with sharing a party, and you end up with the easiest event ever.

Good luck with your birthday party planning!

Now it is time for me to put what I say into practice, in theory. I will admit Pinterest had the coolest ideas on a Ironman themed parties this morning…

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