How to host a great party for your little ones and not so little ones.
A couple of smart tips to begin your journey of hosting a great party:
First, plan ahead. Start making your plans for the party at least 2 months (preferably more) prior to the party date! Second, make a list of everything! You should list the food items you choose, the list of guests to be invited, the list of supplies you will need, even a list of helpers. And don’t forget to decide if the party will be outside or in and whether you will need extra tables (don’t forget to have a table set up for the gifts if there will be any), chairs, or canopies. Decide what games will be played and how you will set them up. Be sure to get game prizes if you plan to give them out to the winners. And relax, you have this all 'wrapped' up (pun intended).
What should I do?
Should I be a pirate, a clown, a dancer, or a queen? Should I use under the ocean, on a beach, or a spooky castle idea? What should my color scheme be: red with black; green with yellow? What date should I host the party: Saturday, Sunday, or Thursday night?
Chose a theme:
The first decision you should make is a theme. The theme can be simple, like their favorite colors, or it can be complex, like their favorite cartoon character. If it is an adult party, think of Mardi Gras or Football/Baseball themes. If it is a child party, think of Dora, Pirates, Princess, and Cars. You can also use the colors of their favorite thing as opposed to the actual licensed decorations (for instance you could decorate with pinks for princess, black for pirates, or team colors for adults).
Next, choose a date, once you have the theme, your date will guide you in how you time your party. For instance, if your date is on a weekday, many participants will be in school or work during the day, so the party will have to be scheduled for the evening. However, if you schedule it on Sunday, the participants will most likely have to rise early the next day so the party won’t be able to last well into the night. Pay attention to the little details so that you have a good turnout for your party. Weekends are generally best, Saturday being the choice of most.
A simple list of decorations to brighten any party:
- Crepe paper in colors to match the theme
- Balloons-match the theme-don’t forget the helium
- Curling ribbon-white or match the theme
- Paper plates for food and cake as well as cups, bowls, silverware etc. (hint, you can purchase plain white ones if cost is a problem)
- Theme characters
- Theme centerpieces
- Theme favor bags-along with a choice of small favors and a candy or two (HINT: you can use plain paper lunch bags and let the kids decorate them themselves with stickers and crayons)
- Theme hats, horns, bells, etc.
- Remember that a theme can simply be the colors you have chosen
How will you decorate?
Next, decide how you will decorate for your theme. Will you be elaborate with store bought licensed items or will you make your own? Sometimes it is better to keep the theme simple and then you can make your own decorations at a much cheaper rate. You need to choose what you will use, where you will put it, and how you will use it. For example, if the party will be held in your living room, you should sit in the room and look around you. You could decide to run crepe paper in the theme colors from each corner of the room to the center and then hang a party decoration from the area where they meet. You could remove breakables and replace them with baskets filled with the favor bags, game pieces, and your snacks.
You can choose a specific chair where the guest of honor will sit (if a birthday party) and decorate it with balloons and crepe paper or, to be really unique, wrap the back of the chair in birthday wrapping paper. You could temporarily remove pieces of furniture that might interfere with easy movement (not now, on the day of the party of course). You could lay paper doilies on your tables to protect them from rings. You could purchase plastic table covers (they come in several different colors or you can choose white) and cut them to the desired shape. By looking at the room and deciding ahead of time how you will decorate, it will be easier for you to choose the decorations you will need because you will already know what you want to do.
Now that you have a date, time, and theme....
You should think about invitations. Invitations should go out about 3-4 weeks prior to the party and then a gentle reminder a week before, say on your social network, with a phone call, or in an e-mail. You can make your invitations by hand (if it is for a child, have them help make them because it will mean so much more to them); or you can buy invitations. There are many out there that will match a character or there are plain ones that you can write in. You can also buy ones with balloons or characteristic items for the season. You can even make extras to put as part of your decorations.
NOTE: if you are planning an adult only party, you should specify that on your invitation. A good way to ensure that people with children will still come to the party is to ask for a volunteer to feed and entertain the children while the party is going on, then put that information on the invitation.
What food will you have?
Next, you should begin thinking about food. If the party will be held during the dinner hour (or lunch hour), you should provide quick and easy foods like finger foods, english muffin pizzas, or pizza from a pizza house. If it will be in between meals or too late for dinner, then you could provide snacks like crackers and cheese, pickles, olives, carrot sticks, etc. Chips and dip are a favorite (try mixing dry onion soup mix with cream cheese and milk - you can remove the onion pieces if you like - this creates a creamy and delicious dip for any item you want to dip.) Salad dressings make great vegetable dips, as well. How much food you will need depends on how many people are coming. If the party is for little ones, be prepared to accommodate the parents, and if the party is for adults, be prepared to accommodate the little ones.
Quick Punch Recipe:
One of my favorites is to freeze water and several pieces of fruit in a small bowl to make a frozen center for your punch. Put a bottle of sparkling soda (1 liter), a bottle of your favorite fruit flavored soda (l liter) (orange is my favorite) and a complimentary flavored pint of frozen sherbet. Mix until the sherbet is melted and then drop the ice 'bowl' in. As the frozen center melts, it will keep the punch cold and free the fruit for snacking. Make this recipe just before the party begins or the frozen center will melt too soon. The more frozen centers you make, the slower they will melt. Of course if you don't have a lot of small bowls around, you can use ice cube trays.
Remember that everyone will have to drink something as well. You can offer tea and coffee (don't forget sweetener and cream). You can also offer soda, fruit drinks, sweetened drinks, or make a bowl of punch. There are several different recipes out there (see my favorite to the right). An easy way to figure out who will want what is to ask each person to bring their favorite punch (soda, coffee, creamer, etc.) to share. You will get a huge variety that will be certain to please everyone's tastes. Make sure you have a bowl for each punch and/or even a ladle to spoon it out.
A quick cake idea: is to make a simple sheet cake, frost with white frosting and then decorate with small plastic items that match the theme. For instance, if you are doing a pirate theme, you could go into the toy aisle of a department store and purchase a pirate play set. Wash the items with warm soapy water and let them dry. Then place on the cake. Not only will you have a perfect cake, but the items can be rewashed and then given to the child (adults will like things like this too, just think adult.)
Get your supplies and order or plan the cake.
OK, you have the theme, the date, the time, the food, and the decorations planned out. Now what? Well, you will need to begin picking up your decorations and any food items that will last till the party (examples would be pickles, soda and olives). Buy them a little each week so that you are not overburdened when the week of the party arrives. Also, be sure to order the cake from whomever you will have making it well in advance. You can ask a family member, make a simple sheet cake yourself, or order one from a bakery. The cost is what will help you to determine what you will choose.
If you are going to have lots of balloons, you might want to invest in a canister of helium so that you and your helpers are not winded trying to blow up all of those balloons. Just remember, helium will make the balloons float so you will need to tie them down, especially if the party will be outside.
Here we go--get started....
*Make sure anything you made and froze ahead of time is pulled out of the freezer the day before the party so it can thaw!
*Make sure you have all of the items you need before the big day so you don't have to run out at the last minute!
*Keep your list handy and check off items as they are complete.
Simple ideas for party games are dropping painted clothes pins into a clean milk jug--while standing on a chair; pin the tail on a donkey (or nose on a pumpkin, or feather on a pirate hat); sit on balloons to pop them (you can put tiny pieces of paper in the balloons listing a prize they win or you can put something like “sorry, better luck next time”). Save yourself money by using the balloons for decoration and then pull them down to play the game. Bingo, card games, match games, or even putting a hand into a hat and drawing a piece of paper with a prize or a funny message on it, are all good ideas. Another is to put things like ‘bark like a dog to win a prize” or “jump like a rabbit to win a prize”; these are popular with kids.
Things to do before the big day:
Now that everything is planned out and you have purchased nearly everything you need, you will need to do a few things before the party day arrives. Assemble your favors several days before the party and store them in a box or basket until needed. Make ahead any items that can be frozen so that all you will have to do is remove the item from the freezer and thaw. Decorate your room (inside or out) the day before if at all possible; however, never blow up balloons until just before the party or they will be ‘wilted’ by the time your party guests arrive. And if the party is held outside, place the balloons in the shade to prevent the sun from popping them. (And keep an eye on the weather. If it will be very windy or rainy, etc., you might want to move the party indoors.)
If you are going to have games, and you have decided to make the game supplies yourself, you should begin making them several days before the party so they can dry (glue, paint, marker) and so you can have time to repair any mistakes.
AHHHHHHH, the big day!
OK, everything that could be done ahead of time is done and the party is today. DON’T PANIC! Most of the work is already done, remember. Now, gather your helpers about 3 hours before the party and set up your decorations according to your plan. Once the decorations are up, begin preparing the food. Anything that was frozen ahead of time was pulled out the day before, (don’t fret if you forgot, just get it now and soak it in a bowl of cool water). The rest should be relatively easy for you to put together. For the English Muffin Pizzas, do all the cutting and put in individual bowls so the party guests can make their own. About 20 minutes before the party time, blow up the balloons and put them up according to your plan. Then lay out your snacks, set out the favor basket and the prize basket, set out your cake and smile. You are done! Just a quick note: be prepared for problems, that way you are also prepared to fix them; and nothing is put in stone (or you can always use something else that will be just as good if you need to do so).
Good Luck and Happy Partying!
I get many of my photos from:
- Free Images - Pixabay
Over 640,000 high quality photos, illustrations, and vector graphics. Free for commercial use. No attribution required.
© 2012 Cheryl Simonds
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