Today's must-haves: Magic shows. DJs. Tattoo artists. Party hosts and games. Dances to be danced. Games to be played. Prizes to be won. Theme based invites, decorations and return gifts. Moon walkers, trampolines and hair braiding.
Todays parties are not home-made
If you have accompanied your child to even one party, you will agree with me. Gone are the days when a bunch of kids played tail-the-donkey and ate cheese sandwiches and chips. Today, birthday parties can be nearly as elaborate and as stressful as planning her wedding will be a few years hence!
Your child has got used to these high excitement levels in a party. And will probably long to be lording over one too, where he or she has the right of way, and the chance to be the first the tattoo man paints.
In a few years, the best friends only parties will set in. When parties may not be as much of a come-one-come-all affair.
So let them be prince/princess for the day.
Small or big
Never forget whose party it is. As long as your child is under 4, you can invite your own friends. And so spare your child the stress of having to share prized possessions with lots of other children. Invite only his special friends from nursery, he needs to feel special and comfortable. Once over 4, you may as well invite the whole class, it saves having to choose who to invite, and economies of scale can be applied for bulk discounts. Over 7's will want only a handful of close friends. Your years of hard labour have now well and truly ended!
What to hold on to
With a few rules, parties can be not such a bank-breaking situation.
Keep the planning child-focused. Thematic parties are very nice, but the kids will have too many other things to do than notice the plates and decor don't match.
Restrict the numbers if you can. Children need a break and it is great to let them just be able to relax and have a good time with a few close friends. Another good way of explaining numbers to children is to say 'as many friends as years'.
If you hand out invitations personally, don't have the guest of honor do it in a play group or classroom situation. Not only does this result in lost invitations, it avoids having to invite more to avoid hurting the feelings of children who are not invited.
Pick an inexpensive location. Parks and building compounds are perfect for large groups of kids - they're free, and there's plenty of room to have fun. If your child wants to go somewhere expensive, such as an amusement park, have him or her invite just one special friend.
There are restaurants and malls that have special play centers that are let out for birthdays. Some even come with hosts, gifts and food as part of the package. These often work out cheaper (and more relaxing for mom) than even an at-home party.
Invites can be got cheap. There are sites, for instance, with templates you can mix and match and create your own personal invites.
Keep the decor simple. Balloons are cheap, easy and affordable. And creates the ambience that is exciting to any child, however jaded the adults may feel.
Get a good host to do the hard work, and organize the games. This may not fall into the "cheap" category, but it definitely falls into "sensible". A good host does the hard work, leaving you free to be with the moms.
Kids get too excited to eat too much. A party comes to an end when the food is served and the mothers all try to get the little guests to do justice to the spread. Pasta, french fries and jelly make a meal children can handle themselves, and which they can enjoy without getting overwhelmed.
What to let go of
Get them a birthday cake with all the flowers, animals, silver stuff and characters. Children end up eating the decorations more than the actual cake; watch them oooh and aaah and poke a sly finger even before the candles are blown.
Kids often judge the party by the return gifts. Spoiling all the little ones in this one issue may be well worth the pleasure it brings them. There are various stores these days specializing in quality return gifts at discounted prices.
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- The Indiaparenting Team