Birthday parties can be so much fun but also very intimidating for a child, depending on their age, personality and the location of the party. One rule of thumb for a ‘good’ birthday party is that the number of kids invited should equal the child’s age. So if your child is turning one, then you should invite one child, if they are turning two, then two children and so on. This can be actually quite hard for a parent, considering the pride that you hold each year your child reaches reaches a milestone. In addition, let’s get real…most of us have many good friends with or without kids whom we would like to share in the joy of a birthday.
So, I am going to revise this old adage based on my experience.
The first birthday party is NEVER for the child. We think that it is but quite frankly they don’t remember it. Sure, they will have loads of fun dunking their faces in cake, eating too much cake and lying around a fountain of balloons. However, because they are soo young (and you will have to guage their personality, social vs. more shy), its probably just fine to invite all your friends, the grandparents’ friends for a good ole laugh.
The second birthday party is quite similar to the first, in that your boo is still quite little. However, at 2 they are willful and sadly, quite tantrumly. Its all about the power at this age, they are trying to assert their independence and you are trying to set boundaries, so this can be quite a tricky time. However, at this stage a child knows what they want and (more often than not, unfortunately, what they don’t want). So you can actually plan a party theme.
So here are some very broad brushed takeaways on throwing a second or even a third birthday party:
1) Send your invites out ahead of time (see www.paperlesspost.com for some great ideas). Plan for everyone to attend. Nothing worse than expecting a 70% attendance rate but then everyone shows and you either don’t have enough room (as is so characteristic in big cities), or your child freaks out.
2) Pick a number of guests that coincide with the personality of the child: a social child will certainly be more comfortable in a crowd than a shier and more withdrawn individual who might shut down and choose not to participate or hide if overwhelmed by the attention and the people.
3) Select a location that is familiar and comfortable to the child: home, the place where your child does his/her weekly gym class, a frequented playspace, etc. Note if the party is at home, clear away toys (you don’t need a tug of war (starring your child as the main culprit) over a favorite toy.
3) Have a short party and stress that people need to ‘leave on time’: Its probably not too important what time your guests arrive, but be mindful that your child has been playing host (or not) for the duration of the party, and may need to ‘switch off’ after a couple of hours. One and a half to two hours is a good guideline.
4) Pick a theme based on your child’s favorite toy or character, be it Elmo, Thomas, The backyardigans (no bias here obviously), princesses, Pirates or Dora the Explorer and then decorate accordingly. There are so many party stores in most big cities that stock theme-based party supplies (banner, paper plates, balloons), so get a package and have fun decorating. Amazon also has some birthday stuff (www.amazon.com) Two and three-year olds love balloons, so definitely a must have. Also, the helium balloons are the best…they last longer, and kids don’t have to freak out and then have a melt down, each time yet another balloon pops. If you are really into it, your cake can match the theme of the party. (Check out my next blog on cool cakes!!)
5)Get some entertainment: Two hour long parties can be quite tough for the children and the parents…its pretty challenging keeping many little munchkins happy in a small space. Divide the party into segments: maybe have an activity for the intro when people arrive (like a drawing activity) and then a ‘going away activity: bubbles).
Some ideas for entertainment include: Having sheets of paper with crayons, stickers and stamp aside, this can kill maybe 1-15 minutes give or take and ‘on and off’ of course, coz few children this age can concentrate that long. Also, remember that children this young cannot be scheduled so expect them to participate at will whenever it suits them.
Playdough: with cookie cutters and rolling pins, kids this young love the texture, the cutting and kneading.
Organize a treasure hunt: We had hid plastic eggs in the garden and stuck little chocolates inside each! But you don’t need to use sugar (you can choose to pity the poor parents who need to take a sugar-high child home), stickers or tatoos will also do the trick.
Sandboxes: Who doesn’t like them? Although, plan to have a back up activity, some kids don’t really like the ‘feel’ of sand
Play musical statues: This is an awesome and easy game for a two or three year old to get the hang of
Get an entertainer: A musician is a great idea! Make sure they bring instruments that involve the kids, scarves, shakers, drums, sticks, etc.
Bubbles:No birthday party at this age is complete without them!
6)Food:Juice boxes and peanut-free (to be safe) snacks for kids (Keep it simple, you aren’t having a 40th birthday party)
Don’t forget the adults: Have water and other drinks; and maybe sandwiches or warm hors d’oevres if you are upto it
7)Designate a picture taker. I think we had one terrific party, where we had absolutely no pictures. It was great…but gosh, how do we know that we didn’t just dream the whole thing up?
Good luck with it!