Party Tips

Top Tips to survive a party

1. Involve your child in planning the party as much as possible. Choosing the invitations, guest list, menu, programme, decor, cake party packs and party favours together is a great opportunity for the child to learn about what goes into organising a party, about making decisions & about expenses. 

2. Start the party with a less structured activity like drawing - this way early kids have something to do and late kids don't feel like they've missed out on too much.

3. Have more games/activities than you think you need. Kids are unpredictable. You may sense halfway through a game that it's not working out. Have enough options on standby to immediately introduce another activity. 

4. Have more prizes than you think you need. Offer consolation prizes, no matter how small. A little nuancing can go a long way - avoid saying "loser" when you can say "third" or "final" prize!

5. Have a plan but be 100% prepared to ditch it. The aim is to have fun - and the plan must serve that aim.

Party Safety Tips:

Don't forget about safety. You don't usually think of children's birthday parties as especially dangerous, but there a few safety tips to remember that could make the day trouble free.

* If you plan to decorate with balloons, remember that balloons are a major choking hazard for young kids. Keep the balloons out of reach or use Mylar balloons.

* If you give out birthday favours, make sure they are age-appropriate for your guests. Many of the favours you find in party stores contain small parts that could choke a young child. These favours also tend to break very easily.

* If you have a pool, make sure that the safety gate is locked or that it is covered with a safety net.

* If you are holding a birthday party somewhere other than your house, ask each parent to tell you who will be picking their child up at the end of the birthday party. Do not release a child to anyone you don't know. 

* During the birthday party, make sure you have an adult who can run kids to the bathroom if it's not close to where the main action is. 

* Also, make sure you have enough adults to adequately supervise all the kids, and if necessary, assign each adult a kid or two to supervise.

Party Planning Tips:

Here are some general guidelines for planning successful parties for your child based on his/her age. However, all children develop on their own time lines and have widely varying personalities and skills, so plan with your child in mind

Decide who the party is 'really' for... 

Is it for your child? 

For you? 

Or for other parents? 

There's nothing wrong with any of these answers - first birthday parties are often more for the parents then for the children, who are too young to know what's going on anyway. The important thing is to be clear in your own mind. There's no quicker route to all-round misery than kidding yourself, thinking you're giving a party for your baby, when actually what matters most to you is impressing other parents with incredible styling and trendy food.

Invite only as many children as you have space and mental energy for: a large garden can accommodate a lot more chaos than a small flat. And, if possible, keep the range of ages small. If there's an older sibling it's only fair that they should have a same-age-mate or two to play with, but otherwise mixing toddlers, older children and sugar is asking for trouble. Five and six-year-olds on a rampage are just not capable of noticing when they're about to trip over a toddler, no matter how many times they get shouted at.

Approximately two hours on a weekend afternoon is plenty of time for a group of toddlers and their parents to socialise, eat, exhaust themselves and head for home before the tears start.

If you have an even smaller garden, you have no worries: just turn the kids loose and relax. If you don't, or if there is a chance of rain, you need to consider your options more carefully. An indoor party at home is just about possible with a hand full of one-year-olds who aren't very mobile yet; but even the largest house will seem amazingly small with the same amount of three-year-olds.

The food is where things get serious: there is nothing to match the single-minded focus of toddlers munching their way through an array of normally forbidden goodies. Do yourself and all the other parents a favor, though, and keep the refined sugar rations low. 

One mother I know had the inspired idea of keeping all the sweeties in reserve until after she'd served snacks and cheese cubes, pickles, sausage chunks, baby tomatoes and dried fruit, all threaded excitingly onto kebab sticks (this stick works well with fresh fruit chunks, too). The children loved them - eating anything off a stick is exciting - and they already had half full tummies by the time the cake came out.

Other popular savouries include baby sausages, mini pizzas, nuts or tartrazine-free chips; I've even seen toddlers tuck happily into cucumber and carrot sticks if there's something yummy (and messy!) like hummus to dip them into. The secret is not to serve savouries next to sweets.