Birthday parties can be a mine field...
Who to invite - who not to invite?
How long should it go for?
Are kids too sophisicated for pin the tail on the donkey these days?
Do we really need to pay $250 for a clown who'll stay for 45 minutes?
I'm a teacher and tend to run birthday parties with military precision - but I have to say, the planning we put into it and the organisiation on the day is what makes it work
For what it's worth...here are some tips.
1. Give all of the grown ups a job...Mum can run the games, Dad can be working one game ahead, getting things set up so there's a smooth transition, Grandparents can be in charge of food (it makes them feel useful and keeps them involved) Other parents who insist on hanging around become the photographers etc
2. As soon as everyone has arrived, feed the children! They're excited, so sitting down to eat can settle some behaviours. We pre-plate some hot food, eg party pie, hot dog, pizza slices etc for each child and when they have eaten that, serve a pre-plated cold - eg small bag of chips, cupcake, sandwich and a chocolate crackle. You'd be amazed how much better it runs when kids are given what they need to eat rather than having a free for all on the communal bowl of preservative laden lollies!
3. Have a series of traditional party games that are well organised and have clear rules. Eg musical chairs, pin the tail on the donkey, pass the parcel, musical statues, pass the orange under the chin relays etc. If possible , set each game up in a differnt part of the yard or house and move the children from one area to another. This allows you to set each one up and maintain a sense of control (!)
4. After games, have a simple craft activity. Again,this settles the children and gives them something to take home.
5. The final activity is the birthday cake.If you've timed it right, mums and dads will be arriving to collect their children just as the singing starts. Everyone says happy birthday, the lollie bags are distributed and it's clear to all that the party is over and it's time to go home.
If grandma and grandad have been doing their thing, most of the mess is under control, you've got a happy child and your guests have departed...leaving you to share your child's excitement over their presents before having a chardonnay and a good lie down!