The collective wisdom of the internet

As a mom, I tend to take the easy route for most things. This is why neither of my kids has ever really had a birthday party with friends and games and all that stuff. We've usually had some kind of family get together instead, and last year I just invited S-Boogie's friends over for cupcakes. This year, however, she is obsessed with birthday parties. She's also been to a few hosted by her friends and is eagerly looking forward to hers. The only problem is that we won't be here for her birthday in August. So I had the bright idea of having a going-away party for her; the only problem is that I realized the other day that we only have about seven weeks left here (I know!) and I don't know what I'm doing. So hopefully my online friends can help me out. Has anyone out there had a birthday party for their kid?

First of all, I'm not sure about timing. I'm thinking a weekday afternoon, since Saturdays are usually full for people. Most of the kids are either not in school or are in her preschool class that is ending in two weeks, so that should be all right. Would 2 be a good time?

Then we need something to eat. Since it would be a mid-afternoon party, just a snack is good, right? I had the idea of doing fruit and yogurt parfaits, since they did them at school and S-Boogie thought they were a hit. Should I make it something where they can put them together themselves or just serve stuff. What else? Mini muffins? Veggies and dip? Also, I was thinking they could have cupcakes and I'll let them frost them by themselves. But if we let them make their own snacks that might be too many things for them to do (these kids are all about 5 or so).

We also need stuff to do besides run around and scream. I'm thinking a fun project would be decorating photo frames, because then they can take them home to remember the party. I'll take a picture of everyone together and send it out to them later. Plus then they have something to take home and I don't have to make goodie bags (I hate those, by the way). Should we play a game or two also? Maybe something like dancing to music and then they have to freeze when the music stops or "duck, duck, goose". I don't know many games, but I also don't want to have anything too competitive or elaborate.

Is there anything else I am not thinking of? Invitations are pretty easy to make with the computer, so I'm not too worried about that. Hopefully I can recruit another mom or two to help me out with crowd control.


Gina said…
This probably depends a lot on your kid and her friends. I just had a five year old boy birthday party after foolishly setting the precedent with a 3rd birthday bash, and a 4th. Here are my suggestions:

One hour.

Not at your house (playgrounds are free, easy to clean up, don't need many decorations)

*Maybe* one activity other than singing happy birthday and eating cupcakes or parfait or whatever. I recently went to a 5yo birthday party with all these games and the kids didn't get them, and we kept having to say things to the effect of: stop having fun and come wait in line to do this relay race that you think is boring. One year we did a baking soda a vinegar volcano demonstration that lasted about 5 minutes for a dinosaur party and the kids really liked it.

Instead of party bags we've given some sort of cheap toy they can use at the party like a shovel and bubbles or something like that.

Keep it really low key. My experience is if there is cake, a few presents, and some friends your kid will have a really great time. The rest is made up by grown ups and just adds stress.
I think you've got it figured out really well. I've been thinking I would like to do a tie-dye part for my son. Mainly because I think it is fun to do and if I'm going to bother making the dye for my kids we may as well do it for a few more.
Have fun!
Emily M. said…
I love Tons of free party ideas, with various levels of preparation required--anything from lots to hardly any. I've done a magical pony party and a space alien party with their ideas, and they were pretty successful.
Julie said…
My personal opinion, I wouldn't be thrilled with a party right in the middle of the afternoon. I have younger ones napping, and older ones I have to get from school shortly. If it was me, I would say 3pm. I would do like an hour and a half. You don't have to do a lot of food, just cupcakes work, maybe veggies and dip to snack on. The photo frame idea is good, kids that age love crafts. I've even just bought a couple of pieces of poster board before, put the kids all around the perimiter and given them markers and said draw a picture of fill-in-the blank (your favorite things about birthday, etc.) A park is also a good idea, I've done that and it worked well, not a bunch of kids in my little house and no decorations and the kids just play.

Musical chairs or freeze dance are easy games, or if there's something particular she likes you could make a game with a specific theme. One game and one craft should probably suffice, especially if they are also decorating cup cakes. Good luck, I always find planning birthday parties stressful. =)
Kailey said…
I always have blown up balloons laying around on the floor when the kids get there. They can throw them around and are completely entertained until I am ready to start the show. And if you are doing a shorter party, I would stick to a craft, a game, and then cupcakes and gifts. If you end up done early... the balloons are still there to throw!
Mary said…
When my kids were growing up we always had a "pin the" game to go along with the theme. We did pin the torch on the Olympic runner, pin the braid on Rapunzel, pin the sword on Link... you get the idea. We also liked to have a piƱata. One year when they were a little older we did a treasure hunt.
Earth Sign Mama said…
A really really easy photo frame concept: (I did this with everyone in Primary once--lots of kids!)Get a tub of those foam shapes from the craft department of a general-purpose store. Then, glue together (do this earlier) tongue depressors (also available at craft departments) with the hot glue gun. Voila--photo frames. The party goers then just peel off the backing and decorate their frames and you can write their name on the back with a marker. When the photos come in the mail, their mom can put them into the frames. Pratice a little with a photo you have to get the frame sizes right before you glue, but if you're doing them for just a few kids, it should be a cinch to plan ahead. It'll take about five minutes at the party to finish the project and there's no messing with glue with the kids. I like the idea of having them get a picture later on, and of S-Boogie having a photo for her keepsake. A "going away" party--great idea!!
Lady Steed said…

I think you've got a pretty good plan there. Ask S-Boogie what kind of party she would like to have, make that your theme. Or you could just pick a color or a letter--I think a theme makes it seem more like a party, plus it makes decorating (The Big O loved the decorations from his last party--it was so neat to see him so excited over streamers and balloons) and making the invitations easier too.

The party does not need to be any longer than an hour and a half. An hour will be fine. Definitely find another adult to help you out.

I like the idea of a weekday party. I think that should work well but you might want to think about the time more. A friend of Oliver's had his on a Friday and it started around 4. What time of day is S-Boogie most agreeable? Have it then.

I like to put out coloring pages and crayons for the kids to work on while they wait for the other guests to arrive. I really liked the idea of putting out balloons to play with. You could do the picture frame craft as the gathering activity.

For the Big O's last party I planned a few games and we did none of them because the main activity was pretty much all they wanted to do (we had a big pile of pea gravel for them to play in with their dump trucks. However, I do think it is a good idea to have a few games planned out and it sounds like you've got a few already.That way if the main activity is a flop, you've got other stuff they can do.

Parfaits sound great. I would also do mini muffins and maybe one kind of sliced fruit. Whther or not they assemble the parfait depends on how much mess you feel you can handle. They will LOVE decorating their own cupcakes, but it will be messy--I decided not to do self-cupcake decorating after witnessing the mess caused by it at another child's party.

If you decide to have it be a birthday party and not just a going away party, do a cake with the singing and the candles--the kids love that. And do presents. At The Big O's last birthday I told the guests to not bring presents and I regret it. Some of the mom told me later that their child really wanted to bring Big O a present. I felt bad that I had denied these kids the chance to give a gift to a friend and the Big O kept asking about when he would get to unwrap his presents. Plus, they will all enjoying watching the unwrapping.

I think you've got a pretty good plan. Hope it goes well!

Perhaps we can throw a "Welcome to CA" party for you after you get settled.
Mimsy Buttons said…
*Best idea ever*: Instead of give-away-bags, get some decent, cheap coloring/activity books. About 10 minutes before the parents arrive to collect their kids, give out the brand new coloring books to the kids and put out some crayons to use. All the other parents will be so impressed by how engrossed (and quiet) the kids are when they arrive. And the kids will have new coloring books to enjoy. It worked when EVERY kid in kindergarten showed up to my party... (was expecting half of them to not be able to make it).
Emma said…
I would say 60 - 90 minutes is good for that age. Most of the time the kids just want to play. We had way too much planned for David's party. But we were really flexible and the kids had fun just doing different things.

Keep it to just a few kids, unless you are outdoors and parents are attending as well. They really don't need much food. We only did pinata candy, cake and ice cream. You've got some great ideas. Just be flexible and have fun.
Cricket said…
Oh Holy cow, When Miss R was in Kindergarten I had this crazy enormous party for THREE hours and a ton of kids. I was exhausted!

I learned alot that day:

no more than 2 hours. the more kids you have, the more time you need for wrangling into the next activity.

MOON BOUNCE- if you can afford it- the moon bounce is like a heaven sent joy for kids of all ages. the best part? you don't need any other activites or gift bags or anything... just add cake! (and if you can't afford it alone, don't be bashful about asking grandparents to chip in as their gift it's one less toy to clean up after!))

Have S-Boogie help you write out the thank you notes BEFORE the party. A generic "Thank you so much for coming to my party and thanks for the cool present" will do. Pass them out as the kids leave- you'll thank me later.

I agree with Mary- Pin the ____ on the___ is a hit too.

Invite the children's parents to stay- now you don't have to worry about scolding or the kid who decides he wants to go home early. AND if they are awesome, they will offer a helping hand (I got to DJ a karaoke party when a bday girl's mom got side-tracked)

Go easy on the food and mention in the invite what will be served so that the parents know to feed their kid lunch before hand.

Oh yeah- about the day and time. Weekdays are only good if you know for sure that the parents don't work. Weekends are best, but I'd shoot for 11am, so that no one's day is cut in half.

skyeJ said…
Hire a goat to pop out of a cake. That's my cool idea. Then the kids could play with the goat for the rest of the party. Cause they're so friendly and playful. :)
FoxyJ said…
Thanks for all the advice guys! I'll definitely post more on how things work out with the party as planning progresses :)
Desi said…
Just my two cents from a working mom point of view...

I have always hated afternoon parties that my daughter got invited to because I either had to take off work to get her there or she had to miss the party and felt bad the next day because all her friends were talking about the party that she didn't get to go to. Where we lived there were a lot of stay at home moms and I hated that our situation was never considered. I know you have to do what is right for you since you are the one throwing the party, but I always hated to see my daughter miss out on things because I was a single mom.

Other than that I think your ideas sound great, but I second the comment on having it at the park. We've always done that and it makes life a lot simpler!
rantipoler said…
Wow, the things I have to look forward to. I think your ideas are great. I would have no idea how to entertain large amounts of little kids. Go you!
skyeJ said…
Rantipoler... get a goat. That is a way to entertain large amounts of kids.

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