When it comes to party planning, there's more to consider than who to invite. Each child is an individual and their birthday celebration should be a reflection of their personal style, temperament and personality. For example, my daughter loved a challenge, and each year involved the newest version of a Treasure Hunt that we dreamed up. On the other hand, my neighbor's she daughter loved to watch movies with her friends.
To plan a customized celebration that your child will truly enjoy, take these 10 points into consideration.
1. Consider your child's age. An age appropriate party assures that everyone will have fun. While having a clown or a costumed character may sound like a great idea, children younger than four of five, who can't yet distinguish between what's real and what's not, could easily become frightened by masked man. Instead, consider a puppet show, music performer or age appropriate games for your entertainment.
2. Consider your child's temperament. Some children love to be the center of attention and would be ecstatic to have a party, complete with colorful decorations and games in their honor, while others may feel overwhelmed by the idea. Pay attention to how your child embraces different environments. If he consistently clams up when in a loud crowd, it may be best to have a small, low-key gathering of family and close friends.
3. Consider your child's ideas. Even preschool aged children may have their own vision of what their birthday celebration should be like. If your child expresses interest in his or her upcoming birthday, ask questions to understand their vision. For younger children, ask a question and provide two choices. "I'm thinking about your birthday cake. Would you like Elmo or Big Bird on your cake?" For older kids, ask open ended questions like "Can you tell me what you'd like on your cake?"
4. Consider your guest list. For young children, the general rule of thumb is to invite the number of children that matches your child's age in years, plus one. Children older than 8 or 9 can better handle a larger crowd. You'll also need to think about the children's parents. If your child is younger, you may want to coach the parents to stay for the duration of the party by suggesting they enjoy coffee or tea.
5. Consider having a theme. Having a party theme can make the whole planning process a lot easier. From your invitations to your activities, a theme will help your guests easily transition from one activity to the next. If you're having a jungle theme party, for example, your invitations and paper products could have animals on them, your activity could be making animal masks or singing animal songs, and your menu could include jungle juice and animal crackers.
6. Consider a location. The more kids you have, the more space you'll need. If your child and his or her crew are active, you may wish to have the party outside, in a gym or in other places where the kids will be able to move around without breaking things or bumping into each other. If the guests are younger, your family room at home may be fine. Wherever you choose to have your party, be sure that the environment is safe to play in and explore.
7. Consider the timing. Consider your child's daily schedule when planning his or her celebration. Planning the celebration around your child's normal schedule help assure your child is well rested and ready to celebrate. Some kids are naturally more energetic in the morning while some seem to do better in the afternoon. Be sure to take the time of day your child is most centered, alert and interactive into consideration when party planning.
8. Consider the menu. In addition to taking allergies and intolerances into consideration, you'll want to choose easy, age appropriate foods to serve your guests. While pizza is an easy standby, sandwiches cut into creative shapes to match your party theme, fresh fruit salad, raw veggies and cup cakes are also great menu ideas for young kids. Preschool age kids and older may enjoy making their own mini-pizzas or frosting their own cup cakes.
9. Consider your budget. While parties can be expensive, they don't have to be. You can save money by making your own invitations or sending electronic ones, shopping at discount stores for paper products and having family and friends bring a dish to share.
10. Consider your conversation. Talk about the party planning with your child. For kids who prefer to be informed about everything, walk your child through what will happen at their party in advance. Role-play situations that may occur and coach your child how to communicate to you if things get too loud or too wild. If you can't meet your child's party expectations, talk about it in advance and brainstorm other things you can add to the celebration.
Birthday celebrations are a great way to celebrate your child and to let him or her know how special and precious they are. With a little planning, you can put together a celebration that your child will truly enjoy by embracing his or her personal style.
Caron Goode's (EdD) insights are drawn from her fifteen years in private psychotherapy practice and thirty years of experience in the fields of education, personal empowerment, and health and wellness. She is the author of ten books (www.inspiredparenting.net) and the founder of the Academy for Coaching Parents,(www.acpi.biz) a training program for parents & professionals who wish to mentor other parents. A mom and step-mom, she and her husband live in Ft. Worth, Texas. Reach her at email@example.com.