Working in PR, part of my job is to plan events for my clients. This is absolutely one of my favourite things to do. Who doesn’t like a good party? But let’s face it, not all parties are created equally. We’ve all been to an event that was a complete snooze-fest, or where something went horribly wrong. As in the grown-up world, kids’ parties can just as easily miss the mark. Here are a few tips to making your next kids’ party fun for everyone.
1. Choose a theme.
This seems evident, but it’s simply easier to have a theme for the party then to run without one. Just as every good corporate event has a purpose, so should your child’s party. Whether for a birthday, a holiday or “just because,” a central theme can help you to decorate, design your menu, and choose your activities.
2. Create a guest list.
Who do you really want at the party? I know it sounds snooty to be selective, but group dynamics are important. There is nothing worse than a child being alienated by his or her fellow revellers. Kids don’t always have the emotional depth to include everyone in their play. Make sure the group gets along, and that the combination of children isn’t a recipe for disaster.
3. Send out invitations two weeks ahead.
I think it’s only polite to give advance notice when party planning. With so many organized sports and extra-curricular activities, you might find yourself short on guests if you don’t give people time to prepare. Follow up at the one week mark if you haven’t heard from them, or to confirm your plans. Be specific in the invitation that an RSVP is required, and set a date for said response.
4. Set goals.
I had to throw this one in, mainly as I look at this process from a professional standpoint. But we all know that kids need structure. Goals include setting a schedule for the party, defining the activities you’ll provide for the kids, creating a menu, and outlining a contingency plan if weather is going to be an issue. The larger the group, the more defined the goals should be. We recently held an Easter Egg Hunt for my son and seven of his friends. There was rigorous strategic planning involved. We had timelines for everything, and set activities. It went off without a hitch.
5. Recruit volunteers.
No one wants to set themselves up alone against more than three children—no one. Recruit volunteers to help you. Please, for the love of all that’s holy!
6. Invite the paparazzi.
It’s an event, so make it feel like one! You don’t have to have strangers with cameras hiding behind bushes (in fact, please don’t, that’s creepy), but plan to take pictures, or record the event. For some reason, it’s always the last thing I think about, and I always regret it. For clients, I hire pros, but when it’s my son’s party, I can settle for my own skill and a good camera. Plus, the benefit is that you can take a great shot of each child, and send them in thank you cards to parents after the fact.
7. Swag bags.
This might be as simple as the ubiquitous birthday party loot bag, or in the case of our Easter party, chocolate treats. Sending the children home with a little something is a nice way to say thank you to them for coming. Another alternative is to create an activity station where the kids make a craft they can take home.
8. Menu selection.
When defining the menu, make sure that healthy alternatives are taken into consideration. Ten kids on a sugar high is not what anyone wants to deal with. Cake is great—especially at a birthday—but balance it out. Also, think about food sensitivities, and find out if any of the children are allergic to anything beforehand. The menu selection should be built around the theme of the party, and it’s always fun to have a menu item that the kids can help make.
9. Thank the parents.
As I mentioned, sending a thank you card to the parents after the event is a great way to build rapport, and to show them you appreciate the time and money they’ve invested in your child’s party. I love something personal – like a photo-card—but even a phone call will do. I’ll give you this tip as an option, but in my job it’s a must, and I’m a stickler for detail.
10. Have fun!
Part of me wants to tell you to throw out all the rules and have a blast—whatever that may look like. However, the PR pro wants to tell you to remember all the details, and leave no stone unturned. Let’s settle for a balance between the two, shall we? These are children, after all. So be creative, be flexible, and have fun.