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My "Top 10 (well, 9) Birthday Party Tips"

How many children should I invite?

Some parents worry about how many children to invite. The good news is, you don’t have to invite a lot of children to have a good party. More children will not necessarily make a better party, but they will make things more hectic for you. A good rule of thumb is to multiply the child’s age 1-1. That is, a six-year-old should have six guests, a seven-year-old can have seven guests and so on. (Some of those you invite will not be able to come.)

But some children can’t come Saturday and others are tied up on Sunday!

No matter when you plan your party, there will always be some children who can’t attend on that particular day. My advice is: don’t worry about it. Pick the date on which your child’s best friend can come and enjoy it with whomever else can attend!

How long should the party be?

Unless you’re having an all-day or all-evening event for families, I find that 2 hours is the ideal for most children.

Should I plan an all boys or all girls party?

The majority of your child’s friends will probably be the same gender as your child, but there’s no need to plan an all boys or girls party. Children usually get along better when there’s a mix of both boys and girls.

What time and day should I schedule the party for?

95% of parents schedule the party for the weekend, regardless of their child’s actual birthday. This allows the maximum number of children to attend. However, this is not a given. Some parties held on, say, a Friday still have a decent turnout.

What if you are already booked for the date and time I want?

If you want to secure a particular entertainer for your party and he or she is already booked, there are a number of things you can do. Ask yourself these questions:

Can you change the day of the party? Most birthday parties are not held on the child’s actual birthday anyway, so it is an easy matter to switch it from Saturday to Sunday or vice versa if the entertainer is booked for the day you want. A weekday after school can work well, as can a school holiday such as Columbus Day.

Can you change the time of the party? Perhaps you can hold the party in early rather than late afternoon, or even in the morning. Most parties are held in the late afternoon, so you can often secure the entertainer you want by holding it at a different time. You can make it a lunchtime party. Just serve a light lunch to the kids, such as pizza. Or, you could hold your party in the evening, especially in the summer time, when it stays light later, or when you are entertaining at a hired hall.

You can have a successful party and greatly increase your chances of getting the entertainer you want by holding your party during one of the “non-peak” hours. Also, remember that the sooner you book your entertainer, the greater your chances of getting the time and date you want. Allowing at least three week’s time is a good rule of thumb.

When should I start the show?

It is a good plan to have the birthday party entertainer arrive about half an hour after the party starts. If not, some of the children will not be at the party yet and will miss out on some of the fun! (No matter when you start the party, there will always be some late arrivals). You could start the party with simple games, or have the children play in the yard in the summertime (after all, they're all friends already).

Do I need to provide goodie bags for the party? A piñata? Games?

With a birthday party entertainer at your party, games are not necessary. The entertainer will have some games for the children, leaving you free to relax and to enjoy your child’s special day.

I have them pretty well occupied for the full length of my visit. After that, there's usually just enough time to feed them cake and let them go home (doesn’t that work out nicely?). Even for a longer party, after my visit they’ve usually had enough structured activity — they’d rather just run and play some more.

Some parents feel they need a piñata or other elaborate games. If a piñata is part of your cultural tradition, by all means include it. We’re losing too many of our traditions these days. Otherwise, a piñata may not be the best idea.

Think about it: you get together a bunch of kids, blindfold one of them and hand him a baseball bat! (Who thought of this anyway?) Usually, the kids find it impossible to hit the darned thing and you end up breaking it open for them!

RELAX! Enjoy this moment with your child! You don't need two hours of unrelenting frantic activity, and your child doesn't care about decorations, fancy plates or invitations, he cares about YOU and your presence. Your undivided, calm attention means more than anything you could do in the way of planned activities. 

BE AT THE PARTY, don't be a stagehand worrying about making the next act of the show a hit (and then the next, and the next…) Trust the children, they already know how to have fun!

Then, when the day is finished you won't have that "I'm glad we managed to get through the ordeal" feeling. Instead, you and your child will have the only thing anyone can ever really keep: a cherished memory of sharing a happy day as your child passes a milestone!

Should the gift opening be a part of the party?

Not necessarily. The gift opening can make some of the children jealous, and there is always a possibility that toys can get broken before the party even ends!

What is a good order of events for the party?

As noted above, the entertainer should not be the first event of the party. Otherwise, some of the children will come in late and interrupt the show, as well as miss out on some of the fun. The best plan is to start the party with a little play time for the children, followed by the party entertainer, then the cake and ice cream and finally the gift opening, if you choose to make that a part of the party. However, the entertainer should never follow the gift opening because the toys will be a distraction during the show. Play time, the show, cake and ice cream, and maybe a little more play time and you have the perfect party! By that time, the kids will probably be tired anyway, and ready to go home for a nice nap!

How do I keep from going crazy?

Stop fussing, relax and have some fun! My job is to make it possible for you to enjoy your child’s special day! Your child will never be this age again, and the day will be full of special moments you can share if you're not so busy. Your presence and attention is much more important to your child than anything else you could be doing.