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!

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!

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.

RSVP – Why Bother?

There is some debate in the party community about how to deal with the RSVP. Some invitations give phone numbers, emails, dates to respond by, others ask for regrets only, or don’t specify at all. What is the proper etiquette?
The party host should specify the information they need to run a successful party. The invitee should reply as asked. It’s that simple.
if you are the person hosting the party, ask for exactly what you need. If you need an exact number 5 days in advance, then ask. Specify how to best contact you, and give a reply date. Do follow up if you don’t hear. Do not follow up/call/badger for more information or earlier information than you requested. A tie dye or a cooking party, for which materials are being ordered or created for exact numbers, require knowledge of who is coming. A magician party or a rental blow-up play house does not need an exact count. Be realistic, ask because you need the information. The reason I suggest a follow up call? Not only might you require the information, but sometimes that call can catch a lost or miss-mailed invitation.
If you are the recipient of an invitation with an RSVP, PLEASE RESPOND as requested. Do not apply your own philosophy to the situation. I had a Mom once tell me that she never responds as a policy, she believes in regrets only. Well, good for her, but its not what the host wanted or needed. It is not too much to ask to be considerate!
Finally, always include in your response if you will be late or need to leave early… again, it’s just polite!
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