Remember when a preschool birthday party meant gathering in someone’s home to bat around a few balloons, streaking through the hallways like sugared-up cheetahs, and pausing just long enough to enjoy home-baked cake?
We still think this sounds like a wonderfully age-appropriate celebration. Unfortunately, many city families just don’t have the space, and many of us just simply don’t have the emotional fortitude to watch every single toy in our homes get hurled around and subsequently ground in with the cheddar bunnies into the freshly-vacuumed carpet.
And then there’s Pinterest. The wolf in sheep’s clothing of party planning. Pop on to get an idea for a cake you might order and 20 minutes later you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of planning your very own fondant creation (never mind that you hardly have time to butter bread) and spending 25 minutes apiece hand-assembling party hats (true story).
This is how the stress starts and we, as parents, don’t need any more of that. Fortunately, having hosted several hundred parties for the six-and-under set at Purple Monkey Playroom, we have a few simple, and guilt-free tips that can help you create a fun, welcoming celebration, without picking up a glue stick.
Set your budget
This is key to figuring out how your party should come together. A home party is wonderful if you have the space and don’t get stressed out by the clumsy antics of young children. If the preceding two criteria don’t apply (raising our hands), you’ll want to dedicate a decent percentage of your dollars toward a venue. The next largest expense should be food and cake, which are the other two cornerstones of a successful children’s party. If you still have money to spend after that, it can be fun to go for trendy “extras,” such as elaborate pastries sweet tables, decorations, and performers. But remember, the fondant is the icing on the cake. Not the actual cake. Which, trust us, will be the singular focus of your young guests.
Consider Your Entertainment
If you have an in-home party or choose to rent out a restaurant, for example, it’s a good idea to have some form of entertainment. On the less expensive side, you can provide an activity mat for toddlers and maybe plan some games for older children. Other popular options are guitar players, costumed characters, face painters, and fairy tale performers.
A child-centric venue such as a playroom or art studio is a great way to avoid paying for entertainment, as it’s already included in what the space has to offer. A larger budget may allow you to do both, but you should only go over-the-top if that’s what you really want and can do comfortably. If your guests are entertained, they don’t expect a buffet of options.
Feed Your Guests
In our opinion, this is as important as hosting the party itself. Your guests will come expecting some sort of food and drink. If you plan your party during mealtimes, you will definitely want to provide something substantial. If your budget is tight, you can plan your celebration between lunch and dinner and get away with some fruit, veggies, and chips. At Purple Monkey we recommend breakfast pastries, a budget-friendly and substantial way to feed your guests. Pizza is always a favorite for lunch and dinner.
As moms, we also think it’s nice to be fed when we’re supervising our children at a 2 hour+ celebration. Make sure you offer your adult guests a bite to eat, and plan your dessert servings to include adults in attendance, as well. This will leave your guests with a nice impression of your hospitality.
Decide what to outsource
Is Pinterest calling to you? We know. It’s a seductive beast. Water bottle labels and hand-made centerpieces are adorable if the budget allows for it. But only start this type of project if you think you will enjoy the time it will take to put them together. A fully assembled product off of Etsy is worth the $10 extra, to avoid all of the cutting, tying, and gluing, that comes with putting together your own banner or centerpiece. There are also local artists who specialize in making these extras (we recommend September Blooms).
Drop the guilt
Repeat after us. “I will not make myself crazy.”
Yes – people love to throw wonderland-style celebrations for their toddlers and that can be a lot of fun – *IF* time and money allows. Purple Monkey’s newest package, the King Kong, is designed for families that want it all – and want it all done for them. As owners and staff of a party space, we’ve also all indulged in our share of the madness, because well – monkey-see-monkey do – and we love our incredible vendors.
But we host many celebrations with proudly home-baked cakes, a few balloons and streamers, and party-themed plates. And trust us. The birthday celebrants and their guests who drink from plainly wrapped organic juice boxes have just as much fun as the ones whose boxes are wrapped with themed paper before making their way to the recycle bin.
There’s no one way to host a party. Just try to enjoy the process, and don’t forget to take lots of pics of your birthday child!
Bucktown Music for musical storytime
Goldenfeather Productions for fairytale theatre
Ice Cream Team for costumed characters, princesses, magicians, and balloon twisters
Miss Jamie from the Farm for a costumed music performance
The StoryBook Mom to make books truly come alive
UrbanSitter for party assistance!
Happy Party Planning!