By Carol Band
Birthdays come only once a year, but planning for a child’s party still manages to cause days of stress and nights of insomnia. If you’d rather leave some or all of the party duties to someone else, turn to a pro – for entertainment, location, food and/or cleanup.
Whether you’re booking a magician or inflatable water slide for a party at home, or hosting an event at an indoor playground, a good party requires research and advanced planning – so get going!
Pick a Party Place
Your child’s interests, the size of the group, your budget and the desired date will all be considerations when booking a birthday party. Start planning early. The most popular party locations are often booked months in advance.
Be sure to involve your child in the planning. He or she will definitely have opinions! Chances are, your child will want a party where friends have had parties – and that’s fine. But think beyond the mass-produced birthday party locations. Consider state parks, zoos and farms, mini-golf courses and amusement parks. These places aren’t necessarily in the party business, but may be happy to accommodate a few children and a picnic lunch. Ask parents of slightly older children for ideas; they’ve already been around this block.
Ask the following questions when considering a party venue:
• Has the site hosted birthday parties before?
• What is the total cost? Is it per child? Is there a minimum charge?
• What is provided? Invitations? Cake? Paper goods? Are there options to save money?
• How much of the entertainment is provided and what is your role?
• Can you bring in your own decorations to customize the party?
• Will other parties be sharing the space?
• Can you visit during another party before you book your own?
• What about liability in case of an injury? Must guests sign waivers?
Ask other parents who have hosted parties at a particular venue for their opinions on the location. Find out whether the children who attended enjoyed the party, if the event was well run and whether the place delivered what it promised.
If you’ve got your heart set on a location that is simply beyond your budget, ask your child if she’d like to have a double party with a friend whose birthday is a week or two away. If the other child’s family agrees, you’ll have half the cost and twice the help! While not every child is willing to share a birthday, it might be amenable to kids who have the same circle of friends, especially if it enables the celebrants to enjoy an extra special party location.
The location may dictate what day and time you can have your party, but if you have the freedom to choose, consider having the party on a weekday. There will be fewer crowds, and other parents will be grateful to not have to plan their precious weekend around your party.
When booking a party time, consider the ages of the children attending. Many toddlers need a midday nap. A 5-year-old may fall apart after 8 p.m., while a 10-year-old might think that staying up late is really cool.
Once you’ve decided on a location, the size of your group and how much you want to spend, the fun can really begin.
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