Have you ventured into the world of hosting your child’s birthday party in your home yet? There are those brave moms that would not have it any other way. Then, there are those moms that dread hearing these words come out of their child’s mouth, “I want my party at home this year.” Whether you are a seasoned at-home party giver or contemplating the idea for the first time, here are a few tidbits to help make this brave journey into at-home birthday party hosting a little easier.
First, having planned activities literally every minute is a must. Hiring a child entertainer will be a big help in this task and will allow you to relax for a bit. However, you will still have the time to kill while the children/parents are arriving, and the time at the end of the party while you are waiting for things to wrap up.
As a seasoned child entertainer, I have seen many different avenues of keeping the children busy and entertained in the lag times. While allowing the children to just play in your child’s room or playroom is the easiest, it is also the avenue that will create the most mess and possible fighting and tears. Depending on the age of the children, at the start of the party, I suggest a coloring activity or some sort of easy arts-n-crafts (stickers are always a great and easy arts-n-crafts). There are also easy games like Simon Says or Pin the Tail to keep them entertained (this will need to be someone other than you leading the games, though, as you will be meeting and greeting your guests).
Once all of your guests have arrived, my suggestion is to proceed with your child entertainer. Please keep in mind that most child entertainers will give you a set start time and will not have extra time to wait for your guests. With that being said, if you have friends/family that perpetually run 30 minutes late, it may be a good idea to 1) let them know that the entertainment will start at such-n-such time, and 2) set your entertainers start time approximately 20-30 minutes after your official start time that you sent out on your invitations.
To keep your party running smoothly, you will need to be on the watch out for a few things (please excuse some of my bluntness).
1) Keep any “wild-children” calm. This could mean asking one or both of the parents to sit with their children (especially if they are younger). You can also remind the children that the party is about the birthday child today and that you are requesting everyone to use their manners today to help make it a super special day. Your entertainer may or may not help out with the “discipline” part of your party, so do not be afraid to step in and help.
In addition, alerting your child entertainer to any “issues” ahead of time will help.
2) During your entertainers “show”, helping keep the adults’ voices down so that the children can hear the entertainer will help things running smoothly for your entertainer.
3) Keep tabs on the temperature in your room. Many people will create lots of heat. Ceiling fans and/or setting a cooler temperature than normal is a big help in keeping everyone comfortable.
Finally, organization is a key point in the success of an at-home party. Your entertainment area should be separate from your cake/eating area (especially if you do not want food/drink in other parts of your home). It is best to have your party table set up with decorations, plates, napkins, etc… ahead of time. Also, have your area where the entertainer will be “entertaining” all cleared and ready to go. Your entertainer will need their own time to get their stuff ready, so it will help if they can come in and get started without having to help move furniture and such.
Once the children are done with the entertainment part of the party, you will need to move them on to the table to prepare for the eating part of your party. As a reminder, children eat much faster than adults do and you will need to keep the eating time short and sweet. As a fellow mom, you may also wish to have handy wipes or sanitizer available for hands, as well, for both before and after eating. In addition, do not be afraid to ask your guests to keep all food and drink at the table. You are being a brave soul in hosting the party in your home, it is okay to have some house rules and set expectations.
Now, to open gifts or not? In all of my experience over the years, it is almost a perfect 50/50 split between opening gifts at the party and waiting to open them later. IF you do plan on opening the gifts at the party, it is best to open the presents at the entertainment area and to have the following ready: 1) pen/paper and a person to help you with writing the gift receiving list, and 2) a special area for the birthday child to sit while the other children sit a bit away from the birthday child. And it is okay to re-remind your guests to keep food and drink in the kitchen area.
If you are not going to have your child open presents at the party, then having one or two more games and/or activities for the children while your party is winding down is highly suggested. When you do not open presents at a party, it is hard for your guests to know that the party is over, therefore, you may want to say something like this, “And now, for the last event of the party, we will have one last game”. Remember, you are the host and your guests are looking to you for “direction”.
Finally, the ending to your party… you will have both the kids that need to leave early and the kids that will stay after the designated time as you wait for parents to pick up their children (if it was a drop off party). Therefore, it is best to have the goody bags already packed up and in a designated area close to the exit. If you are able to put your guests’ names on their goody bags, that will help alleviate any confusion. In the case of my clients, their goody bag is the take-home bag that I supply with their new stuffed animal friend that they made at the party. I personally place (as part of my service that I provide) all of the children’s names on the outside of their bags and have them all packed up and waiting near the exit. You can also discuss ahead of time with your child how to thank everyone for coming and how you plan to say your goodbyes (at the door or back in the entertainment area; handing guests their take home bags or having them grab their own; etc…)
In the end, remember to relax and enjoy the party. Your child will cherish their time with their friends and family. The more planning and preparation you can do ahead of time, the better the party will flow.