Birthday Party No-Nos

Let’s face it. It’s a big day for you and your child. You want it to be perfect. Here are some things that will ruin them if you don’t avoid them.

Going over budget –Don’t do it. Figure out how much you can afford to spend and stick to it. Whether it’s a party at your home, in a restaurant or a party facility, figure out how much you want to spend and be careful not to go over. Keep in mind that party places usually charge by the head, so the more invitees, the more you will spend.

Also, recognize that kids under four will not remember much of the party. So don’t go all out. Your three-year-old won’t be disappointed in the slightest if his preschool friends are not invited and won’t notice if there are no costumed characters. The party you are making to celebrate a child’s birthday who is under four is for your friends and relatives and their children. So keep it small and invite the closest of friends and relatives to stay in budget.

If your child is school-age, invited friends six and under are likely to be accompanied by an adult who may stay the whole time, which means adult refreshments too.

You may be planning on hiring entertainment. Shop around, prices vary, and so does quality. It’s not necessary to hire the very best, most expensive show, but don’t let price be your only guide. The adage, ‘you get what you pay for’ is especially true for entertainment. You don’t want the entertainer to cancel on you last minute or show up late in a dirty costume. And you don’t want someone to do puppetry for young adults or a bunch of card tricks for four-year-olds. If you can’t afford the right entertainment this year, wait until next year.


No Shows –
How disappointing it will be for a child if his best friends can’t attend? Prevention is the only remedy, and that requires lots of planning. Start by choosing a day and time when your child’s friends are likely to be available to come. If his friends play soccer, avoid the time when games are usually scheduled and certainly not when the season finals are likely to be played. Contact the parents of your child’s best friends before sending out invitations. It’s easier to change the date or time to accommodate your son or daughter’s best friend before invitations are sent, and the RSVPs are returned.

Too Scared to Have Fun –One kid’s fun can be another kid’s horror. Your son may love scary movie characters like Freddy Krueger, but not all kids do. He’s a terrifying character who spooks me. Don’t invite Freddy. For that matter, even clowns can terrify some kids. The ones in full clown make-up with white-face can be especially scary. If you invite a clown to entertain, look at photos before you hire. Pick someone with little or no make-up, especially if you are expecting very young guests. Even the ever-friendly family dog can scare the bejeebers out of some kids. So put Fido away. That will also keep him from stealing the guests’ food, and from leaving the house if he’s one of those adventurous pets that take every opportunity to escape the confines of your home. It can be quite a drag to have to stop the party games and ask all the guests to search the neighborhood for your wandering dog.

Allergies –It seems more and more people are allergic to things today, or we are just more conscious about allergies. While you can’t know what any guest may be allergic to, there are a few that can be very dangerous and you should avoid at all costs. Peanuts are one. The parents of most kids who have a severe allergy to peanuts will undoubtedly let you know beforehand, but not all know. Just avoid serving nuts or anything made with nuts to be on the safe side. Some children are allergic to latex. If you are unsure, use mylar balloons to decorate instead of latex balloons. Bees can be more than a bother at a backyard party, and being stung by a bee can bring on more than a few tears. Avoid the chance of a dangerous allergic reaction and make sure the bees are banished from the yard before the party.


Balloons –
Ever a favorite at parties, balloons can be dangerous. Aside from a possible latex reaction, broken balloons can be a choking hazard. Check to see beforehand if any of the guests have a latex allergy. And if children who still put things in their mouth are attending, consider passing on balloons. Many magicians, myself included, are sometimes asked to twist animal balloons at the parties they work. I always make a habit of picking up and discarding any broken balloons I see and ask parents to make sure their children don’t put balloons in their mouths. I also don’t give balloons to very young children. If a parent insists on a balloon for their very young child, I give the balloon to the parent along with a cautionary word.

Piñata Problems –Piñatas can be a lot of fun, outdoors. Too often, parents attempt to set up a piñata indoors. Unless you have a huge room and strong support from which to hang the piñata, keep it outside. The most significant danger and party downer is a guest getting clobbered by a blindfolded seven-year-old swinging a bat. Take time to create a boundary past which no one can pass until it is his turn to swing the bat, or the Piñata has burst.

It’s best to let the smallest have a chance at breaking the Piñata first so that everyone gets a chance before Mikey, who will be the next Derek Jeter, starts swinging.

Another way to make sure there are no tears is to have a supply of Piñata fillings set aside so that you can fill the hands of the kids who are slow to react when the Piñata gets broken.


Too Much of A Good Thing –
Everyone planning a backyard party has their fingers crossed, hoping for a sunny, pleasant day. But as we all know, too much sun can cause sunburn. Most parents today know to prepare their children for the outdoors with the proper attire and sunscreen, but not everyone does. Sunburn can occur in less than 15 minutes, and the skin may turn red in as little as 30 minutes during the hottest part of the day. Have a few extra baseball caps and plenty of sunscreen on hand, just in case.

Not Enough of a Good Thing –While too much sun can be a bummer without sunscreen and a cap, if you are planning a pool party or outdoor party, no sun can be even worse. You can’t do much about the weather, but you can plan an alternative. Look at the forecast. If showers are forecast, start looking for a magician or other entertainer to come to your rescue and have on hand the things you’ll need to provide hours of indoor party games.

More of a Good Thing, Please –Helpers can be lifesavers, especially for an in-home birthday party. A helper can be an older child, a neighborhood teen that you hire for a few hours, a close friend, or your spouse. Too often, mom tries to do it all, i.e., help with crafts, run games, set the table, clean up spills, kiss boo-boos, hand out goody bags, etc. not to mention the planning and preparation beforehand. You will be surprised by all the things that need doing during a typical two-hours home birthday party. Make sure your helpers know what you want them to do. It might be as simple as handing out craft materials while you deal with something in the kitchen, run a game while you set up the next one or clean up a spill before it becomes a sticky mess.

Gifts Like ’em, and Leave ’em –Not every child is good at giving thanks and showing appreciation for the gifts they receive. Children can be quite candid. Spare the guests the disappointment of learning that the gifts they gave are not wanted or something the birthday child already owns, by opening gifts after the guests leave. That will also allow you the opportunity to write down who gave what so your child can send a proper thank-you note to each gift-giver.

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