Top 10 – No, Make That 15 – Ways to Make A Successful Kids’ Party

It’s scary to add it up, but we’ve done animal programs at nearly 3,000 kids’ birthday parties. So, we have seen the best and the worst parties you can possibly imagine. Here are our top 15 ways to make a successful party that kids and parents will remember (for GOOD reasons) for years to come:

1. Limit the number of  guests. Forget inviting the whole class — we suggest 10 or fewer guests for children below the age of 6 years, 15 or fewer guests for ages 6-8 years, and 20 or fewer guests for ages 9-12 years. If your party space is small, reduce those numbers even more. Consider having a second "family" party to keep your numbers down.

2. "Cherry pick" your guests. Come on, you know which kids are "nice" and which can be "naughty," so only invite those kids that you really enjoy having around your child. Forget social obligations, you’re paying big money for this party, so invite only the great kids for a great party.

3. "Please don’t bring additional guests." If worded gently, it is perfectly acceptable to discourage additional guests. We’ve seen too many nice parties swell from 10 guests up to 25 kids because all the siblings wanted to stay and the hostess was too nice to turn them away. Head it off with a mention in the invitation — we encourage you to blame your party performer for the size restriction.

4. Build a party agenda and stick to it. Yep, plan for every minute of the party and keep those kids busy and focused every second. Plan for a steady stream of activities — craft tables, quiet indoor games, treasure hunts, photo sessions, balloon animals, face painting, performances, etc. And, have EXTRA stuff planned, because they’ll move through your plan faster than expected.

5. Banish the words: "Just play." Aughhhh! "Just play" will create chaos in about one nanosecond. Boys will be battling the stairs with swords and girls will be chasing each other screaming at decibels that will break glass. You’ll regret it, we promise.

6. Recruit 2 to 3 adult helpers to run the activities. Dads and Grandmas are good, but teachers, coaches and scout leaders are the greatest — they know best how to keep kids focused. Bribe them to give you a hand.

7. Cancel the bounce house. We know you think this is a great baby sitter, but you are guaranteed to be have bonked heads, smashed fingers, tears, and kids who get more pumped up than the bounce house. Not to mention, the liability.

8. Forget the piñata. We can’t tell you how many accidents we’ve witnessed with piñata bats and kids stampeding for candy. Besides, there’s always the one slugger who ruins it for the kids who were patiently waiting their turn.

9. Decorate, decorate, decorate! Here’s one area where you should go overboard. Turn your house or party venue into your party theme. For instance, for a Birthday Safari, create an indoor jungle, make a passport check-point, have a mess tent, put animal tracks up your front walk. Search online for great ideas. See our animal party ideas.

10. Make food and drinks to match your theme. Yes, pizza is easy. But it lacks all fun and imagination. Search online for great party food ideas to match your theme. Make up theme names for the food — such as Swamp Juice (green Gatorade with pop rocks) or Lizard Tongues (Cheetos). Make it fun! See our animal party ideas.

11. Skip the cake mess. You’ve got better things to do than to spend 15 minutes cutting cake and dropping frosting on the carpet. Opt for theme cupcakes or individual decorated cookie pops. Easy to hand out and less mess. Better yet…send them home as a favor!

12. Set-up a kids table for eating. Don’t expect a child to eat from a buffet (they’re much too busy) or to eat neatly on your family room floor. Set-up a table for the kids to sit at and eat. Less mess and much calmer. And, another decorating opportunity!

13. Put Fido or Kitty away for the party. Other children may be allergic or just plain scared of your precious pet. And, your pet shouldn’t have to endure the stress of all those kids either.

14. Encourage "drop offs." Your child’s party is really not the time or place for the local Mommy group to socialize. We’ve attended countless parties ruined by chatting parents who were oblivious to the host’s efforts to keep the party flowing and calm. If parents stay, provide them with a different area to chat — like outside.

15. Don’t serve alcohol. Although it sounds hospitable, the focus should be on the kids. Serving alcohol will quickly turn your kid’s party into a cocktail party. Oh, the stories we could tell of obnoxious adult guests who decided they wanted to steal the spotlight.

We know you have lots of other party "do’s" and "don’ts" — please share them here or click on the Comment link at the top of this article. Share your party secrets!

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