They’re everywhere! Professional party planners, “celebratory party planners”, television shows about party planning, computer software on party planning, the do-it-yourself party planner books, magazines, websites…and the checklists…have you ever “googled” “party planning checklist”? Holy COW there are a lot of checklists.
Don’t get me wrong. Good party planners work very hard and they earn their money. Professional party planners juggle the needs, expectations and demands of their clients, party guests, suppliers…the list goes on. Busy people depend on their party planner to create an exciting and memorable event for their guests so that they can focus on other things – you know, like making a living or raising their kids. Turning to a professional party planner for your “grown up” meetings and events makes sense. There can be a lot riding on the outcome of these events, they can be huge with hundreds of attendees and the consequences of something going wrong can be major.
But let’s take a look at planning kids’ parties. We’ve got to take a step back and ask ourselves – When did planning your kid’s 7th birthday party start to take more time, energy and resources that it took to plan your wedding?
In “olden times” (you know, way back in the late 20th century) planning a birthday party was half the fun. Expectations were realistic and the goal wasn’t to outdo the six year old down the street. The goal was to have 7 of your child’s friends over for a three hour party with games, a few gifts, cake and a goody bag. The parents brought their children to your party and then they left thereby eliminating the necessity for also providing a full bar and “grown up” food to entertain the parents of the 6 year olds running around the living room.
Now many parents feel overwhelmed at the thought of planning their child’s birthday party. It has to be BETTER than the seven other parties the kid’s been to this year. There have to be MORE goodies in the goody bag and the cake has to LOOK like SOMETHING – a spaceship (with real booster rockets), a ballerina that can actually dance. Once again I’m afraid that we’ve kind of lost sight of what’s important here.
Think back to when you were a kid…half the fun was the birthday party planning. YOU helped…picked decorations, decided on “chocolate” or “vanilla” for the cake and you hand delivered the invitations. I realize that things are different now – faster, bigger, splashier, newer…..and that’s fine….but parents who, for whatever reason – (feeling guilty for spending too many hours at the office, their desire to “stick it” to the Jones family across the street because they had two ponies and a jumpy castle!!) – abdicate their birthday party planning to a professional are really missing out on a lot.
So what to do?
Scale back and plan the party yourself – with the help of the birthday boy/girl and his/her brothers and sisters. You hear frustrated and disappointed parents talk about how much money they spent on their 4 year old twin’s CAMELOT party only to have the kids literally forget that it even happened…. the following week. In this age of mass consumption we’re creating a “that was nice – what’s next” generation. When kids are involved in helping to make invitations, decorations…even some of the food…the whole experience lasts longer for them and they’ll be more likely to remember their party for more than two days.
Less is more
Encourage your child’s friends (OK..their parents) that one gift is fine and that it doesn’t have to cost $200. Again, there is a lot of pressure to “compete” on the “who brought the best gift” front but you don’t have to buy into that. Remember – they’re kids!
Fortunately, we’re starting to hear of more and more children – some very young – who actually ask their friends to bring a toy for a children’s charity or to donate something to the local food bank. Scale back on MY gift and let’s all do something great for somebody else. This way the birthday boy or girl and his/her friends will leave the party with a sense of accomplishment – of doing something for somebody else. This can be a very positive and powerful experience – at any age.
Make a cake. Maybe do it with your child. Or, if the pressure is just too much, by all means get to your favorite bakery but keep things in perspective. Professionally decorated birthday cakes can range in price from $40 …up. The cake’s gotta look good but at the end of the day – they’re KIDS – and the taste is more important.
Birthday Party Planning – Do You Really Need the Pony?
Kids are more sophisticated today and chances are your child has been to some pretty action-packed birthday parties. Jumpy castles, clowns, entertainers…the whole shebang! The sad truth is, again, if there’s too much going on the children are not going to remember any of it. Have one focus – the big surprise or activity – and make that one aspect as memorable as you can. This could be asking the local fire department if you can bring them in for a tour. Getting the latest in karaoke machines and having a concert in your basement. Even….dare I say it…crafts!? Have supplies on had so that the kids can make something to remember the day by.
At the end of the day, we all want our kids to be happy. But by abdicating the birthday party planning we’re missing out on a great opportunity to spend time with our kids and to create a party that is personalized and meaningful. And, the old adage certainly rings true here – money does not buy happiness. So there’s no guarantee that going the professional party planner route will ensure your child has a better time at his/her professionally organized party than he/she would at your personalized “happy birthday” event.