My son turned 5 last week. After considering different options, we opted for a home party with only 7 of his friends. I never shy away from hosting a party at home. A few parents told me I was courageous to receive 7 kids ages 4 to 7 – some who never have been at our house before – without parents. But, it went very well! Like my husband said, the mess in the playroom is the same whether you have two kids or 8 in it.
Get your kids involved!
I did a few things differently this year. First, I involved my son in the party preparations. We designed and made the invitations together. Zack take pride in making the invitations with me. He enjoyed delivering by hand the invites to the guests living in our neighbourhood. Involving him in the process built excitement, made the celebrations more real in his mind and was a learning experience.
The night before the party, I asked him to sign the Thank You cards and to draw something simple inside the cards. He took the drawing to the next level. Each friend got its own drawing. At one point, he told me that he was tired. I gave him a few sheets of stickers thinking that he would simply stick a few stickers on the remaining cards and be done. No. He used the stickers as the foundation for more detailed scenes. The process became a lesson in persevering when you’re doing a task.
Keep the agenda simple
Let’s go back to the party planning. For his 4th birthday, the main attraction was a 45-minute science show followed by the cotton candy machine. It was a hit! This year, I decided to not hire an entertainer. I prioritized free plays instead. With all the kids already going to school or attending daycare full-time, I thought the kids would welcome an open-play agenda. They did! As any good party planner, I planned age-appropriate games and activities. I designed themed bingo cards, set up a photo booth, a toss game, and asked them to make pizza. The kids participated or gave it a try but once they did it once, they quickly return to free play.
My ultimate party planning tips
Here are why my son’s birthday party went smoothly:
Time: It was from 11 am to 2 pm. Three hours is ideal at this age. It’s not too long. It’s not too short.
Dedicated areas: We have a large playroom for the kids to play. The toys don’t leave the playroom. This rule limits where the mess is. All eating and drinking happened in the dining room. The rules are simple to follow for the kids. We simply manage where the actions were taken place.
We served lunch: To make our life easy, I served lunch followed by the birthday cake. I went with a crowd-pleasing menu. We cooked homemade pizza. And served it with crudites and dip. I didn’t display food in bowls or platters. The only time they ate was lunch. I originally planned to serve popcorn after lunch but I forgot to make it. I served drinks in a cup, at the table. There were no bottles or juice boxes spread everywhere. I’ll do it again because a lunch at a table simplifies many things that can go wrong at a kids party. You don’t have to clean up messes all around the house. Kids are already used to eating like that 5 days a week. I simply reproduced an habit.
Gift unwrapping: Opening the gifts happened in our living room. I wanted my son to sit down but it didn’t happen like that. The kids were too excited to give their gifts and my son gladly hurried up to open the gifts that were presented to him. This is when you simply go with flow. Their way worked better anyway. It was faster and not boring at all. All the kids smiled and jumped to see what he has received. After that, the kids asked to get back downstairs and play.
Party Decorations: I simplified my life in two ways. First, by opting for an Angry Birds theme. That meant that I could buy almost everything at my local Party Experts. I bought the cake at the grocery store. I tailored the cake closer to my taste by asking them to change one color in their design. Second, by only decorating the dining room. We have a large open kitchen-dining room space with a big white wall that is perfect for the photo booth. We bought this house because the layout is made for entertaining. This party showed again that we were right.
Helpers: Only three adults were present: my husband, a dad who is a good friend and I. Our friend arrived one hour before the start of the party to give us a hand with decorating the space and later, to check on the kids from time to time. Having his young daughter early meant that our son was occupied while we took care of the finishing touches.
Hosting a kids birthday party at home doesn’t have to be complicated to be fun and memorable for your children. I made the invites, the bingo cards, the pig nose props for the photo booth and the labels for the part favor bags. We prepared two homemade pizzas and cut the vegetables. Besides that, everything was store-bought. Overall, the party planning was fairly quick and simple. My son was delighted by his birthday party. This is the only seal of approval that matters to me, as a mom.