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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

31 Days: Day 12 - Orchestrating the Fun

What is a celebration all about? Why, to add a little fun to our lives, of course! Right? When it comes right down to it, a party is simply a reason to get together with people you like and to have a few laughs. A way to break up our regular, every day, normal lives. And while every person is responsible for their own fun, it's our job as hosts to facilitate that.

The amount of thought and planning that needs to go into the activities at a party varies. Sometimes all you are really shooting for is to get a group of people together to talk - a dinner party, lunch with friends, etc. So all you really need is a time, a place, and some food. And maybe a couple of good conversation starters up your sleeve. At other times you will need to keep the guests engaged at all times. Some factors to consider:
-Adults always require less direction than children, and are also less likely to enjoy party games. -Some occasions are more suited to games/planned activities than others. Would it really be a baby shower without a couple of corny party games? :)
-Children, if left to their own devices, will always get into trouble. Guaranteed.
-Sometimes the party IS the activity, like when I do my craft days with the ladies in my neighborhood or if you were doing a murder mystery dinner or whatever.

I repeat - children need to be entertained! So let's explore that one a little further. If you are having a neighborhood BBQ or a gathering of your extended family, it's likely you'll have a pack of kids running around and a group of parents that want to spend as much time as they can chatting with the other grown ups. Your best option would be to make sure children have a way of entertaining themselves, with or without supervision. This may be as simple as planning the BBQ at the park so the kids can swing and slide and run to their hearts' content. Set up a TV with a kid-friendly movie playing. Put out a few toys or games that you don't mind if the kids play with. My biggest pet peeve is seeing children running and screaming around and around a crowded room and parents pretending to ignore them. I don't blame that on the host, but really can it hurt to try to avoid having that situation? Nope, not at all.

My own personal notes on children's parties:
-I have developed my own little formula for putting together the activities for my children's birthday parties. For variety, I like select one or two active games, one that is more quiet, and one craft project.
-the activities almost always go faster than you think they will so keep one extra game idea in reserve just in case you need to fill some time. But don't be afraid to go back repeat games either.
-3-5 activities, plus time to eat and open gifts is usually all you need
-keep the party moving. Bored children = chaos.
-fill all of the time during the party. When there is down time (usually at the beginning and end of every party), make sure it is structured down time. As soon as they arrive, give the kids something to do. They will all be really excited and loud and tend to run around like crazy monkeys if you don't, so plan a small activity for everyone to do while other guests are arriving. Coloring pages, puzzles, etc are good options.
-Most people are late to parties. Again, plan for this with a low key activity to fill the time and plan on starting the "real" party games 10-15 minutes after the designated party start time
-if you are hosting a children's party, focus on the kids and only the kids. I know you want to huddle over in the corner with the other moms and watch the fun, but save that for the time after the cake is cut, the gifts are open and the party is winding down.
-open the gifts at the party if you choose to, but then put the gifts aside and don't take them out of the packaging for the kids to play with. There is nothing worse than having to break up a fight over a toy, or having a new toy broken or pieces lost before the child gets a chance to play with it himself.
-1 1/2 to 2 hours is just about the right amount of time. I'm exhausted by the end of the 2 hours and so are the kids. (slumber parties are the exception to this, obviously)

I was at a couple of children's birthday parties recently (I'm starting to think half the neighborhood was born in the fall!) and it occurred to me that not all people are good hosts. Maybe they just don't know how to be good hosts. Or maybe they just aren't into throwing parties yet feel compelled to try give their child a good time anyway. There isn't anything wrong with that. But I think Miss Manners would tell you there are a few things that every host should know. Since she (Miss Manners) isn't around (nor do I feel like googling it!), here is my short list:
-every guest should be greeted individually, preferably as soon as they arrive
-the host and guest of honor should strive to have a little bit of one on one time with every single guest at some point during the party. Some people call this mingling :)
-if you are the host, you are in charge. Don't leave it up to someone else to decide when to cut the cake or open gifts. Be decisive, be assertive, and stay on top of things.
-never ever leave the children unattended. This may require you to enlist an extra set of hands at the party. Plan ahead for it.

Whew! That one was kinda long and rambling! :)

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