MONEY-SMART KIDS


Keep Birthday Parties Grounded

Janet Bodnar

These four simple tips will help keep your kids' parties on budget and under control -- and help you keep your sanity.



Regarding your column on parents who throw over-the-top birthday parties for preschoolers: excellent article. What I found most disturbing was that an adult would care about being "talked about" for having a traditional party with musical chairs.

No sooner had that column been published when I heard from another reader who forwarded me an e-mail from a mom who said she was new to the kids' party scene. "This unnecessarily stressed-out parent needs your advice," the reader wrote.

The parent in question had invited more than 30 children from two preschool classes to her 3-year-old daughter's party. She had hired entertainment, planned to serve a buffet of pizza, chicken strips, veggies and dip, and wanted to know if she needed a craft to keep the kids occupied -- someone had suggested letting them stick feathers onto contact paper.

Yikes! The mind boggles at the prospect of 30 squirming 3-year-olds sticking feathers on contact paper. And good luck getting them to form an orderly buffet line and choose politely between pizza and veggie dip.

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Mom also wanted creative suggestions for goodie bags, a "seemingly essential party element." Oh, and one more thing: Her son would soon be 2, and did anyone have ideas for what to do at a party for 2-year-olds?

Here's my advice for this mother and other stressed-out parents:

  • Don't have formal parties until your children turn 5. Younger children are overwhelmed -- as are their parents -- and can't appreciate the occasion anyway. Inviting family members or a few neighborhood children for cake and ice cream is plenty.

  • Hold down the guest list. Thirty guests for a 3-year-old is about 27 too many. One rule of thumb: Invite a number of children equal to your child's age, with perhaps one to grow on.

  • Keep it simple. With a handful of guests, it's much easier to keep things under control, whether you're sticking feathers on contact paper or -- horrors -- playing musical chairs. Serve pizza or chicken, but not both.

  • Goodie bags are not an essential party element. If you do give them, take a tip from our family: We used brown paper lunch bags, decorated (with stickers and markers) by my kids. I bought lollipops and treats from the dollar store, and the kids filled the bags -- one less thing for me to do on party day.




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