By Sharen Pearson
As a mother of five and now grandmother of seven, I’ve planned my share of birthday events. I am a creative person, so my problem is “going over the top.” My expectations supersede those of the birthday child. So, I have to step back and say, “Whose birthday is it anyway?” And, therein lies the key to a successful birthday party.
I recently assisted with my grandson, Waylon’s party. He was reaching that big-boy age of 5 years. He knew what theme he wanted: Herbie the Love Bug. He wanted a backyard campfire and a cake with Herbie on it. Simple—Herbie, campfire, cake. Got it! My daughter complied. She invited a few families from church that Waylon knew well and was comfortable around. Since entire families were represented, parents were there to help with crowd control. Bowls of chips and dip provided a place to gather around as people arrived. Children scattered to play in the back yard, parents grouped to watch and chat. Easy, huh? Daddy lit a small fire in the campfire ring in the yard. More talk, more easy playing. The cake was a simple giant chocolate chip cookie with a frosting “Herbie.” Waylon thought it was wonderful.
Mommy announced that it was gift-opening time and everyone pulled up lawn chairs and sat in family groups. Waylon sat in the middle of the circle on the grass and guests watched as he opened each gift and thanked the giver. He received many nice gifts, but to everyone’s delight, a small, inexpensive VW bug toy car was his favorite. He opened it, raised it above his head as if it were a trophy and yelled in delight. Waylon slept with his “Herbie;” woke up and greeted it; placed it on the edge of the tub so he could see it. He had the birthday he wanted. Simple party, simple gift, simple fun!
Some suggestions to consider when planning your party:
- If your child is old enough to have input, allow it.
- For ages 1-5 years, simple is best. Simple decorations, simple food, simple games.
- Invite only one party guest per age of the child. Young children are very intimidated by many children of the same age. Remember, “Whose birthday is it?”
- If guests include family/friends with older children, add activities especially for them.
- Home is the best place for children ages 5 and under. Big party venues are confusing, scary and do not position the “birthday child” as the center of attention as he should be.
Some traps that parents fall into:
- Making the party so complicated that you, as the parent, no longer enjoy it. (Been there, done that.)
- Allowing young party guests to get close to and grab for gifts as the birthday child is opening them. (Admit it, you’ve seen this haven’t you?)
- Spending too much money. (Guilty as charged.)
- Preparing food for adults and not age-appropriate to the guests. (The only thing to show off today is your wonderful child)
- Engaging in sleepover parties before the age of 9 years. (Children younger than 9 or 10 years often find sleeping at someone else’s home frightening and uncomfortable.)