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Do you open presents at your parties? I sure didn’t.

I recently did a party where the birthday girl insisted we open presents during her party. I was really concerned – I have seen the opening process turn out badly, and so I had a negative reaction, an echo from when I was the Mom and my kids wanted to open their gifts in front of their friends. I worried that the present opening time would be stressful for the little guests, challenging for the birthday kid, and a crazy disorganized mess for the Mom.

My experience had been that the children became anxious because each one wants their present to be opened first, each child is concerned their present is not enough, or too awesome, or might be over shadowed or lost in the heap. Little guests have trouble understanding not everyone’s present can be opened first. Then the birthday child inevitably does or says something wrong… Maybe they don’t become “wowed” enough, or show enough excitement, or they inadvertently favor one gift over another (they are kids!).  The there’s Mom; what a mess! Who is writing down the gifts? Is the right card attached to the right present? Did little Susie forget her gift, not give one, or did we lose it in the rush to open presents? Thinking about this again is giving me palpitations!

Then a few weeks ago I worked at a ten year old’s birthday party who insisted on opening her gifts. Here is what I did to make it a positive fun part of the party:

  1. We planned the activity as part of the party schedule. One problem people always encounter is that present opening occurs just after the end of the party when most kids are heading out the door with their parents. By making the present opening scheduled in the last 15 minutes of the party, everybody could stay and watch and participate.
  2. I made sure to have pen and paper and trash/recycling bag ready! Instead of scrambling at the last minute to be organized, planning the event allowed us to have all the recording elements ready. Thank you cards should be easier!
  3. We made it a game! My favorite game for opening presents is to make it “Musical”. This is how it works: every guest takes the present he or she brought in hand. Seated in a circle, the music starts and all presents get passed to the right. When the music stops, the present our birthday girl or boy has in their hands is the one they open. The gift is exposed, card is read, trash collected, and then the music resumes. When it stops again, the next present is opened. The opening becomes completely random and exciting for everyone!
  4. Always prepare your child with some guidelines/suggestions for good host behavior. This is a great teaching opportunity to have them express in a very public way that they are grateful and appreciate their friends.

I think I’ve changed my mind. Maybe opening gifts at the party isn’t such a bad idea, especially if your child really wants it… and it is their party, after all! Let me know in the comments below what you have done to make the present opening process a fun part of the party!

The Summer Birthday Blues 

My daughter just celebrated her birthday, and it was a mixed emotional event. You see, we used to live in the north where school begins later and ends later. Her birthday, which is June 3rd, would fall near the end of the school year – a hectic time of year, to be sure, but still a time when school was in session and everyone was in town to celebrate. This year school was over, friends were on vacation with their families, and her birthday was a bummer. I got my first personal glimpse of what lots of other kids go through every single year – the summer birthday blues.

Do you have a summer birthday in your life? Is your child all depressed because they want to celebrate but half their friends are away at overnight camp, family vacations, or just not around?

Here are three ideas that might help you make your child’s summer birthday a little brighter:

  1. Pull the party forward or push it out. Who said you have to celebrate on the actual birth date? If your child’s birthday falls anywhere near the beginning or end of the summer, just push it a few weeks or even a month. You would move it for other reasons (work, family availability, travel), why not for his or her friends? A celebration is a celebration, no matter when.
  2. Make it on the Half. I’ve suggested this for holiday birthdays too – consider having the big friend celebration on the half birthday. When you are a kid, a half birthday is just as special. Its unique, memorable, and a celebration is a celebration, after all.
  3. Take advantage of summer. The best part about summer birthdays are all of the options/activities you have with the season. This is the time of year of water parks and beaches, baseball, BBQ, leisurely summer nights, so take advantage. It is also more likely to be a smaller more intimate group – and you can do very cool things with a small group. Consider a small group of friends camping out in the back yard on a warm summer night. Imagine loading up the car for a picnic and water play at the beach. Picture going to a fun summer movie followed by a great burger place with an outdoor patio. You can’t do any of those activities in the winter with 30 kids from the class. It can be very freeing to not have to invite everyone and to not have to be inside – your winter birthday mamas are jealous! And of course, the celebration is what counts.

What have you done to make your summer birthday celebration special? How have you made it an advantage? Please share your ideas and comments below!

Have A Bashery’s Newest Theme Parties!

April 1, 2016

We are thrilled to announce that Have A Bashery, the fun and engaging provider of activity based theme parties, is adding a few new themes to their repertoire. We specialize in putting games and crafts around themes and bringing them to children, families, and institutions. Our themes come from what people request, so we know we’ve hit the nail on the head with these!

  • Dentist Party – Nothing says fun more than inflicting pain on the people you love! In this unique party we explore dental health with lectures, flossing demonstrations, and then move right into dentist games of scaling, extractions, and microair abrasion. Crafts of veneer painting and resin molding become a brilliant white goodie bag.
  • Potty Training Party – Perfect for 3 year olds who need the practice. If all goes well, there will be prizes. We are not above bribery.
  • Back CameraWar Party – Great party for large (aggressive) groups, ages 7 – 9! We start with an exhausting and slightly dangerous boot camp, and then conduct super fun drills with assorted hand weapons, cannons, and tanks. After battle planning, troops run a scavenger hunt to find a missing fugitive!
  • Dictionary Party – So much titillation for the gumptious birthday child!  Looking up provocative words is only the commencement of the regalement!
  • Watching the Paint Dry Party – The furthest thing from boring, this party allows for meditation and reflection. Games of observation using all the senses skills will be played. The Quietest party we have ever had!
  • Household Chores Party – Perfect for the Mom who needs a little help around the house! Kids will get to clean the garage, sort and fold laundry, and weed the garden. Your dream come true.

Opening April 1st, 2016! Call to schedule your foolish party today!

Oh the Scavenger Hunts I Love

IMG_5507A game of searching for something you want.
Or maybe it’s the journey that counts…

 

I love Scavenger hunts! Scavenger hunts can be Indoors or outdoors, Individual or team, require set up or not, materials and tools, or not, simple or complex. Themes, location, ages, numbers and goals all play a role in choosing the scavenger hunt of your dreams. There are so many kinds, but here are 4 of my favorite scavenger hunts for parties:

 

  1. Clue to Clue – in this kind of scavenger hunt individuals or small teams are sent from clue to clue with rhymes or puzzles, each clue sending the players on a journey to the next clue and eventually the final prize. I especially like to sprinkle in puzzles that reveal where to go next when solved, and hint at the story of the mystery itself. The participants can be almost any age, but must be readers or have a reader with them. The beauty of this style of hunt is that clues can be made simple for younger kids and really complex and challenging for older kids and adults. This kind of hunt is the foundation for our Mystery Party, a super challenging hunt to write and plant, but really tremendous fun.

 

  1. Web Hunt – This crazy fun hunt works well for ages 4 – 8, especially when you have a small prize to give. Tie a ribbon to the prize and have the participants follow the ribbon all around a room or area, under and over furniture and through other ribbons to find the goodie. Imagine a room filled with a web of ribbons, all leading to little animals or candies and all of the party kids following their ribbons through the web to find them. I call this hunt a “Spiderman Web Hunt” at a Super Hero Party or a “French Poodle Hunt” in an Around the World party. I just used this at a Harry Potter Party and called it the “Care of Magical Creatures” Class!

 

  1. Information Hunt and Photo Hunt – These two kinds of hunts can be each be on their own, but I like them together. Imagine sending small groups (3 to 6 people) with a list of information needed and pictures they must take to prove they found something. I have used this hunt as a fun challenge to help the players get to know a school or church. This kind of hunt can also be very competitive. I have a party called Extreme Home Survivor which is mostly a challenge photo hunt, and very recently, I ran hunts that were heavier on the information side for a New Student Event and a Confirmation Group hunt.

 

  1. Egg Hunt – This is the best kind of hunt for the littlest players, where they search for prizes hidden in an indoor area like a family room, or outside, like the back yard. I use this hunt to create a little running around time and its always filled with excitement and delight. My favorite way to introduce this kind of hunt is to tie it to a story where they have to go searching for something in the story. I hide Frogs or Pumpkins for my Royal Party and Shells for the Hawaiian Hula Luau.

 

There are certainly more kinds of hunts out there and I recommend you give them a whirl whenever possible! I would love to hear about your favorite hunts, so please comment below and share your fun ideas!

Delegate your way to Fun!

One of the three themes that MOPs (Mothers of Preschoolers) International has for the 2015/16 year is to “Embrace Rest”. I love this! My first thought was that it meant we should all go rest and relax in a hammock on a beach in the Caribbean. Wonderful vision, not always possible. What I believe “Embracing Rest” means more practically is delegating what exhausts you and enjoying the activities that energize you.

I love parties, it’s what I do, and I want you to celebrate. I truly believe that a festive gathering is one of the best, most joyful experiences to have. But if celebrating is only an exhausting stressful experience for you, then you are not going to do it. I have met many people who tell me that they would love to have a party for their kids, but it’s just too much work. Or their house isn’t clean, or they can’t bake a cake, or managing fifteen seven year olds is too overwhelming. These complaints can be very real. So what if you could get rid of the things that hold you back so you could get to the fun part. What if you could let someone else who is really good at that thing that drains you take care of it?
If you could delegate the things that exhaust you and keep the things that bring you joy, fulfill you, and energize you, wouldn’t that be perfect? Would you say YES to celebrating if it was fun, brought joy to your family and friends, and was filled with things you love? I gift
you a plan for getting rid of the exhaustion so you can embrace the best!

First, figure out what’s sucking the life out of you:

  1. Determine the things you hate to do.
  2. Figure out what is stopping you from moving forward.
  3. Ask if these things are essential.

Next ask, “Can these things be delegated, given away, or hired out?” If yes, then get rid of them and do the things you want to do! Find a baby sitter, Mother, friend, house keeper, or a professional. If cooking makes you stressed, then bring it in. If planning crafts makes you cringe, then bring someone in. Don’t do what you don’t want to do, do the stuff you love.

Finally, and most importantly, focus on the fun:

  1. What brings you joy?
  2. What do you find fun to do?
  3. What leaves you happy, proud?
  4. When you picture the after party time, are you glad you did it?

If you love making a pretty table, then do that. If being the party photographer brings you pleasure, then be it. Find the joy in your celebration. This is what Embracing Rest means to me – doing the fun stuff, having the celebration, and getting rid of the things that drain you.

Moms can have fun too!Need help with your party? We bring the games and crafts and run the party. Just ask if you need help to enjoy your child’s special day. I think this is an essential idea when preparing for your child’s next birthday. Do what you love, delegate the rest!

Birthdays at the Holidays – The challenge of sharing your special day

 My friend Nicole has her birthday on Thanksgiving. Why must she share  her birthday with a turkey? How can we make our kids’ birthdays special,  or even remembered, when the rest of the world enjoys a different special  moment. Jonathan has it even worse with a December 25th birthday. He  only gets one present a year while his big sister has two days of receiving  gifts. Jonathan and Nicole can’t even have a friend filled birthday party  because their friends have to travel or have family obligations during the  holidays. It’s not fair!

Not only is it hard on the birthday boy or girl, it’s hard on the family. As a  busy parent who knows the importance of celebrating my wonderful child  on his or her special day, I know it can be hard to focus and give the  attention to the planning needed during this crazy busy season. Nicole  claims she didn’t have an actual birthday party until she was 10!

Sure, when the kids are young, it might not be such a big deal to share a birthday when there is so much joy, family, and celebration. They might actually get multiple parties! My Grandfather who shared his birthday with the 4th of July had us all convinced the fireworks were just for him. The notoriety of being a New Year Baby or having a spooky Halloween birthday can actually be fun…. but only for a while.

Here are three things you can do for those people you love, big and small, who share birthdays with major holidays.

  1. Make sure to create a special birthday tradition that is just for them. Make chocolate chip happy face pancakes on the morning of her birthday, special even when there is Christmas dinner that night. How about a special shopping trip for a birthday gift, or a visit to the aquarium. In my family every person gets to pick their dinner restaurant on the night (or close to the night) of their birthday, even when it’s holiday vacation and we are traveling out of town.
  2. Keep the birthday distinct and allow time and space for other themes. Halloween themed birthday parties every year will get stale. Make room for Super Heroes, and Harry Potter, Cooking, and American Doll themed parties.
  3.  Move the party to a new date to avoid direct conflicts and vacations so that friends can attend and celebrate. Missing friends is the biggest hardship I hear from Holiday Birthday kids. The party doesn’t have to be on the actual birthday, so move it for maximum celebration! Mom and Dad birthday planners will appreciate this too.

Let me know how you handle the holiday birthdays in your life. What are your frustrations and solutions? Reply here or on Facebook!

Happy Halloween!!

Happy Halloween

Halloween is a great reason to celebrate, and a wonderful spirited “kickoff celebration” to the entire American holiday season.  Halloween is so much fun with costumes, candy, and parties… I have lots of friends, clients, and acquaintances that can’t get enough of this crazy spooky festival!

How about you? Are you a decorator and put lights, cobwebs, blow-ups, and grave stones all over your yard? Maybe you just love to carve or decorate a pumpkin or two. Do you spend the year concocting scary treats and candy goodies to bring to school or pass out to neighborhood kids? Are you the crafty parent who loves creating amazing costumes from fabric and clothes hangers or maybe you scour the web with your kids, or just take them to Party City? How much fun is this holiday!

There are lots of ways to celebrate, with kids and with adult friends. My tradition has been to help my kids create their own costume ideas (trips to several stores and makeup support), carve a few Jack-o-lanterns to illuminate, and cook up a storm. My kids love my homemade green mac-and-cheese, and my adult friends have always loved my stew baked in a pumpkin and my famous hot mulled wine. We lived on one of these Halloween crazy streets for years in Chicago, and after the 14 huge bags of candy was gone, adults and kids would come inside for candy trading and feasting. My kids are bigger now, and we live on a quieter street, but we are still outside for the block party with a cauldron of green mac-and-cheese and my coffee taurine filled with the hot mulled wine… traditions I can’t resist!

What are your traditions? What’s fun for you? Let me know in the comments below or on Facebook!

Keep the celebrations coming, and be sure to get a running start and a big leap for this “gateway” holiday for the season!

Curse You, Pinterest!

The Parties You Can Do Are The Parties You Should Do

Have you tried to plan a party with Pinterest? They make it look so easy, don’t they? Your child imagines a perfect theme, or you imagine a perfect party for your child, and you head over to one of the best places for beautiful ideas: Pinterest. A few clicks, and you see your whole vision is possible. Not only possible, amazing, outstanding, even fantastic! All of your paper goods match and are enhanced, the theme is present in every detail of the delicious food selections, center pieces coordinate, perfect colors in perfect lighting, perfect fonts, and best of all, the over reaching coordination is breathtaking. Each picture is better than the next and pretty soon your head is swimming with possibilities. All you need? A color printer, raffia string the shade of turquoise blue, a Wilton tip, and a hot glue gun. That’s all.

Yup, they make it look so easy. But we know it’s not. It’s overwhelming, even intimidating.  And an hour of clicking around later, you need a nap. At this point in the process, you are thinking of ways to get out of it.

Pinterest ruined you. The fantasy of “Martha” ruined the possibility of fun. If it wasn’t so exhausting, you might even be angry!

Well, it’s time to take back the fun, take back the party. Look for your ideas on line, but don’t let yourself get sucked into the vortex of perfection and appearances. Those Pinterest pictures are for someone who had much more time on their hands and a much better glue gun. Don’t let them scare you away, that stuff may be nice dressing, but the main course is what you can actually put on the plate without killing yourself. Don’t let them scare you off, forcing you to give up on the party, you can do this.

Stay away from the perfectly coiffed table setting and don’t be lured by the overlyIMG_1413 themed recipes. If it requires you to quit your day job and risk personal injury, it’s not necessary. Focus on your child, focus on the activity, and focus on the fun. If you need help with any of these, just give us a call, we are always available for a free party strategy session, and we promise to be less scary and way more fun than Pinterest.

Best Back to School Party: The Sleep Under! 

IMG_1143Everyone loves a Pajama Party – there is something wonderful about bringing the casual cozy fun of the night into a celebration. Especially at this time of year, when the sun is still up late, but you know the days will only get shorter. Whether your children are celebrating a birthday or just having a back to school get together with old friends or new, the end of summer and beginning of the school year Sleep Under is awesome.

Now I like a Sleep Over Party, don’t get me wrong, but the Sleep Under is so much better. You can put all of your party fun into a more contained time period, plan all of the fun games, crafts, and activities, and even a movie with blankets and pillows, but leave out the boring late night stuff like sleeping or maybe not sleeping. Skip the home sickness, the late night tummy aches, the giggling insomniacs – let them all go home and spend the night in their own beds. Keep the fun awake time party, and skip the rest!

Here is how to make a truly awesome Sleep Under: First invite everyone to come in their pajamas, you can even have a PJ fashion show as everyone arrives. Dinner is a great way to start, but keep it simple and choose your child’s favorite eats. Next, have games and crafts and more games. Finish the night with a movie on a huge pile of blankets and pillows.

Here is my favorite Sleep Under formula:

  1. Everyone arrives in PJs
  2. Sleep over Mad Libs
  3. Dinner (pizza, nuggets, or another finger food for ease)
  4. Scavenger hunt (to find craft materials for pillow making, pillow case decorating, or slipper making)
  5. Make fleece tie pillows
  6. Play games like charades or improv games, egg and spoon or other relays, or Minute to Win It games
  7. Decorate Flashlights
  8. Play story games with the flashlights
  9. Have an ice cream sundae bar – set out ice cream and toppings and let everyone make their own creation
  10. Then let them snuggle with blankets and pillows in front a fun movie (never ever scary)
  11. Parent pickup!

Make sure all of the games and crafts are at the right age and ability level for the kids invited. Also make a note of any allergies you need to be sensitive to when selecting your food and snack choices. Pick a light fun movie, nothing scary! Your child will tell you what activities they want and what games they love, so be sure to ask. Have fun and then send them home!

A Sleep Under is a great party theme for any reason at all. It’s a great at-home, simple, even low cost gathering you can do, but if you need help, you can always call Have A Bashery!

The 3 Most Important Places to Spend Your Money

Olivia and pink pig1Most people plan their child’s party within a budget, and no matter how big or small your particular budget is, you have to make a decision about what is worthy of your attention and resources and what can go with less. I’ve simplified this to three elements I think you should spend your money and effort on, to get the most bang for your buck.

I have experienced many kinds of parties on many different budgets. I have been to parties with modest spending, and parties with no limits, and this is consistently true: If these three spend-worthy items are skimped on, the party will be impacted negatively. If these items are considered, and taken care of, the party will hold greater pleasure for children and parents alike.

No matter the ultimate size of your budget, this is where your money should go:

  1. Fun

A great place to focus your party budget is the main event. Whether you are creating crafts or games or hiring entertainment, the thing that engages the guests at the party is worth the most investment. Really good entertainment that fits your child is worth every penny. If you are having an entertainer or bringing in an activity, get something or someone super engaging. If you are having crafts for the kids, you can be more economical by making sure those crafts do double duty as part of a game or part of the goodie bag. If the party is more game based, then the items you purchase for the game or its prizes can be awesome take home items. Don’t make a beautiful extravagant tablescape, but leave nothing for the children to do during the party. Spend on the engaging activities; it makes the party fun and memorable!

  1. Food

So important! What you serve matters, and do not leave kids hungry! If you don’t want to spend as much money on food, then do not plan your party over meal time. If your party is planned over a meal time, it is imperative that you feed your guests – nothing can kill a party faster than hungry children. It is possible to keep it simple: bagels or sandwiches for lunch, or pizza, if it makes it easy and it’s what your child likes. I think themed food is always a fun addition to a party and worth a little more expense. Serving hot dogs at a Puppy Party is really cute (have you made puppy chow snacks? Yum!), making monster faced pizzas at Halloween, really fun. Consider a food craft like cookie decorating that can double as dessert. Finally, the cake should be special too, no matter whether you buy your themed cake from your favorite bakery, the grocery store or make it yourself, make sure it’s pretty, delicious, and there is enough to go around.

  1. Help

If you need help, then admit it, and hire it. If food is a challenge for you, purchase already made items or hire a caterer.  If getting the house in shape is a stressor, pay your kids to help you straighten the house or hire a cleaning service for before and/or after. If you need extra hands for the crafts, hire a babysitter to be a helper.  Find someone to help you stay relaxed and have fun, it’s worth the money. A stressed Mom is never ever good for a party.

These three items are not only spend worthy, they are critical to an impactful and memorable party for your child. No matter what your budget is, prioritize your party elements to make sure you get the important things taken care of, and if there is money left, there are lots of wonderful ways to spend it!

Call us any time for a free party strategy session. We are happy to help you think through the elements, and most happy to work with you to plan an amazing event with all the fun food and help provided by Have A Bashery!