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Is your little one celebrating a birthday soon? Thinking about throwing a party but nervous about picking the perfect theme, party favors, food, entertainment, and/or venue? Whether it’s your first time entertaining dozens of kids half your height for hours, or are looking for some fresh ideas and helpful tips, we’re here to help.
Planning a party for the three- to five-year-old set can be a challenge. Some kids are active and independent enough that a series of games and activities that kindergartners would love are suitable, while others are shy and still cling to their parents’ side, unsure of what to expect when facing a crowd. We recently sat down with party-planner Linda Kaye of Partymakers and “mommy blogger” Catherine McCord of Weelicious — both highly experienced when it comes to creating exciting and memorable parties for all ages — to discuss navigating the preschool party scene and what the essential components of a successful party are.
1. Theme or No Theme?
When planning a party for kids, using a theme to inspire and guide the activities and menu is helpful — but it’s not always necessary as long enough as you have enough going on says McCord. “I love featuring activity “stations” at parties.” For example, put out cupcakes and let kids ice and decorate their own with candies. “Kids just want to have fun at a party and as long as you provide something to do or watch, they'll be thrilled.”
If you're set on a theme, Kaye advises keeping it simple for the three- to five-year-old set, like the ever-popular teddy bear picnic. “Little ones love to bring something that they’re comfortable with along them to a party,” she adds. Kids bring their bears, and all you need to do is set up a picnic table or blanket, serve teddy bear-shaped food and desserts, and have story time as a part of the party (and play the song, of course). Carnival and luau themes are also popular when the weather is warm.
2. When Should the Party Start?
Keep the party short and sweet to ensure your youngsters don't get overstimulated (and tired). McCord finds that two hours is ideal (“take that from a mom who goes to her fair share of parties,” she adds), and Kaye agrees. “You want to plan the party around nap times and feeding schedules,” Kaye adds. “Parties are a great way to start or end the day — I’ve found that parties that run from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. or three to five p.m. are most preferable,” adds McCord.
The Ultimate Party Planning Checklist Template
Whether you own a party planning business or you’re just throwing an event for family and friends, this party planning checklist will help you get organized before the big day!
What does a successful party look like?
Using a party planning checklist and creating an event timeline are just some of the many things you can do to make sure everything goes smoothly. Even if you don’t have any experience with party planning, you can still throw a memorable get together.
At the end of the day, parties are all about bringing people together and having fun. Keeping this in mind throughout the process and using it as a compass as you make your major party planning decisions is a foolproof way to throw one of the best parties of all time.
Though it may sound strange if you haven’t tried it, beer and cheese is a flavor combination that hits it out of the park every time. This recipe for beer and cheese fondue is guaranteed to have your guests dipping and dunking all night (or at least until the cheese runs out). Mini soft pretzel bites make the perfect dipping companions for this sharp, savory cheese fondue!
If you’re from the South, we don’t need to explain pimento cheese to you, but for those who haven’t experienced its sharp and tangy ways, I’ll just say this stuff is the bomb! When melted down into creamy liquid perfection, pimento cheese becomes almost like a southwest queso cheese dip, perfect for dipping bell peppers, celery or crunchy corn chips.
How to Plan the Perfect Pool Party
Nothing rings in the summer season quite like a pool party. Gathering family and friends together to cool off in the water and enjoy the sun is the perfect way to usher in the start of the long, hot days ahead. But there's so much that goes into planning a fun poolside bash. From decorations and cocktails to favors and pool accessories, we're giving you some major inspiration so you can craft the type of party that summertime dreams are made of.
Begin your planning process by notifying guests of your upcoming festivities with an invitation that sets the mood. Next up on your checklist? The decorations. Set the scene for your summer pool party by displaying a number of pineapple-inspired party decorations you can make yourself or create colorful paper straw garlands that the kids will have a blast helping to craft. Another fun addition is to create your own outdoor lighting with light columns. They're perfect for when guests linger past sunset, or if you choose to go for a nighttime dip.
No party is complete without a mouthwatering menu. We're dishing out some of our best finger food ideas and recipes for warm weather treats that will have everyone coming back for seconds. Toast to the summer sun with our wow-worthy Lemon Mezcal Margaritas or tropical Pineapple and Mango Rum Cocktails. Look to the sea for your summer menu planning inspiration&mdashour Spicy Grilled Shrimp and Fish Tacos with Lime and Cabbage are two crowd-pleasing options. We've got options for the vegetarians in attendance, too. Serve up West Coast Grilled Vegetable Pizza for a quick meat-free main we like that it comes together in 25 minutes, which means you can spend less time cooking and more time swimming. Celebrate the season's fresh produce with a taste of the Mediterranean our Stuffed Tomatoes, which are filled with goat cheese, are guaranteed winners. Finish off the meal with a treat that's sure to please adults and kids alike: Ice Cream Waffle Sandwiches. The frosted treat sits between two waffle cookies for a sweet dessert.
Mail invitations three weeks before the party. Even if your child&aposs school permits distribution of invitations on the premises (many don&apost unless the whole class is included), it&aposs better not to. That way, children who aren&apost invited are less likely to feel slighted. Include the date, location (with directions), drop-off and pick-up times, and R.S.V.P. information. Spell out anything to bring, such as a swimsuit and towel. Say if you&aposll be serving lunch or dinner. Mention specific entertainment, such as a movie. Call parents who have not responded the week before the party after all, invitations do get lost.
Filling the cooler with ice-cold beer is a barbecue tradition. While you can pick up a case of your trusted go-to brand, there are many fantastic beers to explore.
Pairing barbecued foods with wine is another adventure that can keep you busy all summer. It's fun to discover the "rules" of finding a great cookout wine and you'll often find that inexpensive red wines are the best picks.
You can also show off your bartending skills and there are many fun cookout-worthy cocktails. They're typically easy to mix and play up the freshest fruits of the summer.
6. Ensuring safety
The concern of accident liability has many steering clear of allowing the BBQ grill or bounce house on their property. How to handle this worry? “We have everyone sign a waiver to protect homeowners and reduce potential neighborhood tension,” says veteran block party-goer Beth Schwebber of Newark, New York.
And even if everyone’s signed the waiver and you have homeowner’s insurance, still take the time to minimize any tripping hazards (loose stepping stones, uneven pavement, hoses or sprinklers in the way) and ensure any dogs and/or other pets are safely out of the wayif there is any tendency whatsoever to bite or scare people.
It is also a good idea to inform everyone on the street of the details of the party — regardless of whether or not they’re coming to the gala. In the event they’re not going to be home or attending, they can take precautions to not park vehicles on the street or leave out any potentially hazardous items — such as tools, garden equipment or baby pools — in the yard.
Supplies and Favors
Hunt for on-sale supplies all year. Start supply-hunting early it’ll give you time to comparison shop. Plus, you’ll save yourself from running out at the last minute to buy overpriced things you’ve forgotten. “I’m on the lookout all year for party items that go on sale, usually in the dollar bin at Target, Dollar Tree, or the 99-cent store,” says Helen Holden, author of the blog Counting Candles.
Go digital for kids&apos birthday party invitations. In a Parents survey of nearly 1,500 parents, 73 percent of you said you sent paper invitations for your kid’s last birthday party. Next time, send your guests a free electronic one you’ll save what you𠆝 normally spend on paper invites.
Avoid party-store traps. Don’t pay a markup for party-store items that you could find elsewhere for less. For example, chocolates may be sold five for $1 (20 cents each) at party shops, but a bag of minis from a big-box store can be half as much.
Dress up humble supplies. Use what you have on hand to make plain party supplies feel special, as they typically cost half as much as decorated supplies. For example, use a hole-puncher to jazz up paper plates and napkins (punch holes around the outer edge of each plate and one corner of each napkin to create a design). You can also rely on binder- and dot-stickers to decorate plain balloons. Buy a few key items to establish the theme, like a special foil balloon, and stick to affordable basics for everything else.
Order supplies online. Prices aren’t always better if you shop online, but hitting the web for your favors and decorations may help you avoid impulse purchases. Here are a few of our favorite sites for discount kids&apos birthday party supplies:
Upcycle old kids&apos birthday party favors. Hate goody bags? Jodi Levine, of SuperMakeIt.com, suggests embracing the stuff kids bring home. “I save all the goody-bag candy that I𠆝 rather they didn’t eat and the toys that they forget about immediately. Then I use them for pi༚ta filler at their own parties,” she says. Bonus: The pi༚ta acts as an activity and its fillings as favors. Find pi༚tas for less than $20 each at orientaltrading.com.
Streamline the swag bag. These trinkets are usually sold in sets divide them up for affordable party favors that are way better than your average birthday goody bag:
- right-Colored Wooden Yo-yos ($13 for 12)
- ꂺlloon Helicopter Classroom Pack ($12 for 12)
- Way to Celebrate Punch Balloons, Multi-Color ($2 for four)
- Mr. Men 40th Anniversary Box Set ($14 for 10 books)
- Titta Djur finger puppets ($5 for 10)
- rayola Crayons ($8 for 96)
Make a semi-homemade cake. Karen Tack, coauthor of Cake My Day!, suggests baking an inexpensive box mix, but substituting buttermilk for the water for a firmer, less-sweet cake. Then frost the cake with a homemade buttercream, combining milk, unsalted butter, vanilla, and confectioners&apos sugar (many boxes of sugar contain the recipe).
Give Tea Party Favors
Send your tea party guests home with a special keepsake. A teacup filled with small wrapped chocolate candies is a lovely idea for a party favor. You can also package cute cupcakes or cookies in decorative boxes or wrap a pretty ribbon around a box of tea. Your guests may also like to keep the tea party going when they get home, so a little play tea set or a beautiful tea party hat would be nice as well.
Prepare for Presents
Presents can be a highlight of the special day. If you decide to open them during the festivities, you may need to coach your child a little. If your child gets a duplicate or something they do not like, make sure they understands not to announce it to the world. Toys should also stay in their boxes to avoid losing pieces.
When all is said and done, be sure to mail (not e-mail) thank-you notes. This job will most likely fall on you, but your child can certainly practice good manners by drawing a picture or writing their name (if this is something they are capable of doing).