Thursday, March 27, 2008

Give a Memorable Gift

I haven’t done this yet... but when I read the article, I thought, that’s a GREAT idea... I thought I’d share it!

So many birthday parties, so many birthday presents. I don’t know about you, but I find it all a bit overwhelming. I ask my child what he/she thinks his friend wants.... “uhh, I don’t know, maybe a [doll/car/something-that-will-break instantly and the parent will definitely not want their child to receive].” You know how it goes.

So, next step, I email the parent. “What’s your child into these days?”

That’s worked very well lately. I’ve gotten a much better insight into a possible gift that will be appreciated by both kid and parent, and can pretty much immediately head out to my local toy store and purchase.

Done. Check off the to do list.... I should feel satisfied, but then I remind myself of this article. It said instead of one of these gifts, give the friend a the gift of time (I know, corny, isn’t it...) --- but it sounded great. Give the friend a coupon for a playdate - a movie with just your child and his/her friend, a trip to the ice cream shop for a sundae for the 2 of them, maybe even just a picnic and trip to a park they both like.

Sounds like just another playdate, I know, but if it’s “hyped” up, it may be an outing the 2 really remember and get to spend some special time together. Bring a camera. Take a picture and give it to them in a frame remembering the day. You get the idea.

I know it seems like a lot more work then just running to the toy store and “checking it off the list.” But it could end up being easier in the end.... they wanted a playdate anyway!

So, now I need to take some of my own advice. I’m convinced too! Next party, it’s a coupon for an afternoon outing-- no toy that gets discarded into a basket of endless toys before the recycling folks even take the packaging away!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I Want a Dooooora Party!

I must tell you, I’m a little bit of a character-birthday snob. I’ve gone back and forth in my head, “Should I, or shouldn’t I?” I guess it’s my own desire to create something more unique for my kids birthdays that steers me away from picking up a package of [Your Child’s Favorite Character Here] invites and just going with it.

There’s nothing wrong with a character birthday. I must admit, I do think some of the shows my kids have watched or are currently watching are quite creative... I love how the Backyardigans invent adventures, dress up and have a great time, all in their own backyard... this is what childhood is all about!

So, your child wants a [Your Child’s Favorite Character Here] party. What should you do? I read this GREAT article several years ago, and it really stuck with me.... here’s the gist of it:

Go with the STYLE of the character and/or character’s show...
What do I mean by this... well it’s simple, look beyond the character and tell me what you see. The article I read took Sponge Bob Square Pants as an example. Can you imagine, a Sponge Bob party... could get pretty obnoxious, right? Not at all. Beyond Sponge Bob and Squidward is Bikini Bottom where they live... a tiki inspired underwater land. Great hawaiian motifs, oranges and turquoise, and of course a pineapple. Now think of a party-- colors, decorations, music, food, etc... How could you have a Sponge Bob party and make it more than just something commercial.... Think of Hawaiian music, tiki inspired fabrics to hang, drape on the table, fishing nets, a centerpiece of pineapples stuck in sand, bright turquoise cups and orange paper plates... and of course, maybe one Sponge Bob pillow.

You did it! A Sponge Bob party that doesn’t SCREAM Sponge Bob... he’s there of course, but so are we, immersed in the style of his world... Bikini Bottom

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Kids Birthday Parties - Big vs. Small?

It seems like the number of people to invite to your child’s birthday party can be such a struggle. Do you keep it small, and only invite a few of your child’s closest friends, or do you go all out and invite the whole class? Heck, the more the merrier, right? Maybe, maybe not... Here’s some things to think about when trying to come up with that magic number:

1. Intimate or Not?
One of the questions in my mind to ask yourself is how intimate do you want the party to be? When a party is kept to a small size, say 1-5 friends, your child has a very good chance of interacting and playing with all his/her friends. This size can make the party very memorable for everyone, since intimate (or one on one) moments may occur that last longer than just a few seconds. Of course, a larger party can still have many memorable moments... a spirited game with all the children can be loads of fun, but it will be less likely that your child will be able to spend any significant amount of time with each guest without being distracted by all the activity. Just something to think about.

2. Will the Party Scale?
Most themes can scale to very large sizes when planned out right, but planning is important... especially when the size grows. For instance, perhaps you’re child is aching for a party with a fairy theme. A great goodie gift for all the kids may be a personalized pair of fairy wings (easily available at many craft stores.) Great idea, right? Yes and No. (Trust me, I did this one.) Picking up the fairy wings was easy enough, and relatively inexpensive (I didn’t go high end), but personalizing them for each child -- even just adding a little splash of decoration is another story. It took time... a lot of time. Thinking through some of the details of your party before you finalize the invite list may help this-- in particular the details which involve multiples of something- like food, goodie bags, individual art projects for each kid, etc. I would never want you to skimp on all the fun you can provide, but possibly with fewer kids, the work load won’t deter you from ever having a theme party year after year!

3. Parents Too?
When kids are still young (typically around 5-6 or under), many times the parents come to the party as well. This can be a benefit to both the party host as well as the child who is attending. They like having their mommy and daddy around, and you like having their mommy and daddy around to hopefully keep a closer eye out for them! That being said, when parents come too, the numbers and size of the party add up quickly... very quickly! And these guests are many times hungry adults (i.e., more food.) Another thing to think about when coming up with that guest list.

4. Your Child’s Demeanor... at that Time
As we all know, some kids are VERY independent (you know, the “spirited” kind ;) ) and some seem like they’ll be momma or daddies little one forever. When thinking of the size of your party, think first about not how much YOU like a big fun party, but how your child does in smaller or bigger situations. Perhaps too many people, and too many friends will just be too overwhelming. Maybe a party with only a handful of friends won’t be enough for your active little one. I’ve noticed that my kids have an overall demeanor about them, but they do rise to the occasion at various times.... so evaluating their behavior close to the party makes the best sense to know you’re creating an environment and party that your child will LOVE.

5. Are You Up for It? - Patience, Timing, and Your Energy Level
I know, I know, you didn’t throw them a party last year, because you were SUPER busy, so this year you need a BLOW OUT event like none other... inviting half the school seems about right... Sounds like your heart is definitely in the right place, but are you totally INSANE?? Life is busy enough... if it’s not one commitment, it’s another. Give yourself a break and don’t think about last year (I bet you lots of money, they don’t really remember the details from the past year), and throw a party that’s within your means--- not only monetary means, but within the means of your temperament. Even a party where you are hiring out the whole thing (say, all the kids are going to the local jumpy house, or bowling alley), there still is work on your end... and on the day of, you will need a lot of energy. So, if things are hectic, crazy and just too busy, possibly a nice toned down, smaller event will suit everyone just fine. Your kids will feed off your stress, so make it fun for everyone and give yourself a break, then afterwards, pat yourself on your back for the great party you threw.
6. It’s for Your Child, but Also for Your Family and You
Yes, yes, it’s your child’s “special” day... and they will not let you forget it, but also remember there are several parties involved when giving a party... most importantly you, your spouse/sig other, and possibly siblings. A dictator at the helm, telling everyone what he/she wants makes for unhappy helpers. The party will be a much happier, memorable and fun event when everyone can get involved, and give a little to it in their own way. Get everyone’s input (including the birthday girl/boy) and then give everyone a job of their own. When the parties in full action, they’ll most likely feel a little sense of pride at the part they helped create, or contributed to. (My husband is always the best bartender.... picks out the beverages, sets up the bar, and keeps everyone’s drink -- adults and kids-- brimming full till the end of the party. What a good man! :) )

I hope some of these tips help. Do you have some suggestions too? I would love to hear it! Let me know your thinking on big or small parties... if you want I’d be happy to post your thoughts!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Themes Aren’t for Everyone... or Are They?

So, I have to tell a story... I love this story, it makes me smile in satisfaction every time I think of it!

For my wedding, I did the theme-thing... I know, you’re thinking, “eeeeghads, she’s one of those types of people...” I think I could get away with the theme-thing for a wedding in my family because a) I’m the youngest of 4, so our family had experienced many traditional weddings, and a theme would be a good change... and b) I’m the “artist-one”, so I could get away with it!!

We had our wedding weekend up in Lake Tahoe, California. A place that holds so many memories for me, from the time I was a baby, to even living up there a couple years right after college. I decided on going with an “old time Tahoe”/summer camp theme. Think of the rustic lodge-look, mixed with that Tatum O’Neill/Kristy McNickel movie about coming of age in summer camp. I wanted that. Sophistication, fun and maybe a little wild behavior too! :)

As I dove into creating the theme; grouping the guests into “cabins”, coming up with camp activities like knot tying, lanyards, learning guitar, and creating boy scout inspired badge books for each guest, I got a little feedback from my father, one who’s opinion I always take to heart.

He said, “I think your ideas are great, this will be so much fun, but when I think of many of our friends that we’ve invited, I just don’t know how many will really participate, Sweetie. I’d expect only 20-30% or so. Will that be OK with you?”

“Yes.” I said... I heard him, I’d be OK with that, but I thought, maybe he’s wrong with this one??

Sure enough, the participation was AMAZING... 100% if not even more. We ran out of boy scout badges! My husband’s elderly grandfather and my grandmother were giving it their all learning guitar chords... one of my mom’s friends artistically created a nature-inspired frame that hangs in her home even today, and many folks put on their bi-focals to figure out how on earth you make a lanyard! And, yes, the bar badge (received by drinking a good amount of beverages), was a hit too!

At toast time, I had the counselors add up all the badges per cabin, and announce the winning cabin. It was quite a scene... no matter the age, everyone loves a little competition. The winning cabin all got camp t-shirts, and wore them with pride!

I know, there are still many theme-nay-sayers out there.... I saw a t-shirt on a woman at a Halloween party. It read, “I don’t do costumes.” Well she doesn’t know what she’s missing! She needs to come to a bnute party-- that will change her mind!