This post was also featured on TODAY Parents.
Now that we live in the Pinterest era, no party is ever enough. (Because there is always more, more, more that you can do. Oh, the pressure.) Well, now that I’m almost 5 years into motherhood, I’ve cut the crap and just started having fun. No more trying to plan the perfect kid party. Here are my favorite tips.
11 Ways to Actually Have Fun at Your Own Kid’s Birthday Party
1. Email your invites. I love putting together a personal invite, and sending it through the mail (like we did for our Little Aviators party). But, let’s be honest: it’s really something I do for me. Take the pressure off yourself and just send an online invite that tells people the basics. It’s so much simpler.
2. Make sure you are totally ready 30 minutes before guests arrive. This means clothes, makeup, jewelry, shoes and all. Usually, when I’m getting close to party time, there are several things left to do for the party, and my hair is still wet and face bare. So, as a rule, I stop myself from readying party stuff, go into my bathroom, close the door, and get myself ready. The reason is simple. If I feel put-together and settled, then I can have fun at the party. No one cares if all the food isn’t out or the pillows aren’t fluffed with they arrive. But they do notice if they can’t find the hostess. It’s easy to finish prepping the party as people are arriving. It’s not easy to put on eyeliner.
3. Invite people who know each other. This isn’t always possible, especially if you’re planning a big party, but in general, try as best you can to make sure most of the guests know each other. And if not, ask someone to help you. Sometimes, if we’re having a big party and inviting some friends that most of the guests won’t know, I’ll tell one of my outgoing girlfriends beforehand, “Hey, so-and-so will be at this party. Can you find them and make sure they feel comfortable?” This way, everyone has fun, and there’s a little less pressure on me.
4. Take family pictures before guests arrive. Again, since you have taken the time to get yourself ready, take the pressure off of squeezing in a family picture moment during the party, and those family photos done before the guests arrive. At our Gilligan’s Island party, I found that the kids were in better moods (because we weren’t taking them away from their friends), and the energy was much calmer.
5. Ask a couple family members to come 30 minutes early to help with your kids. If any family asks, “How can I help?” I always ask a couple people to come early to help with our kids. This way, I don’t have to worry about our little ones while I’m tying up all the last-minute details, and escaping to my room to finish getting ready.
6. Give people jobs. Along the same line, when people ask how they can help, give them a job! Usually, I ask my father-in-law to pick up ice on the way to our house, and my mom will greet guests at the door and show them the gift table. My husband is usually the bartender. Again, this takes the pressure off of me, so that everything isn’t on my shoulders.
7. Let someone else video and photograph the big candle-blowing moment. Again, delegate. Don’t spend the whole party behind the camera! Find a couple friends, and at least for the cake moment, ask them to photograph and video for you. This way, you can actually be in the pictures too! (*mom mind blown*)
8. Plan the party time based on the kid-of-honor’s schedule and no one else’s. Make no apologies, and don’t feel bad about it. It’s their party, so make it at a time when their happiness will be maximized. When we had our Shipwrecked Pirate birthday party at 10am on the beach, some of the kids had to leave early. Oh well.
9. Serve foods you can make ahead of time. I loved our Gilligan’s Island party because all the food was ready-to-go that morning. I’d already cut up the fruit and made the pineapple-coconut rice, and all I had to do that morning was pop a bunch of frozen popcorn shrimp into the oven (which I delegated to my mother-in-law). Instead of killing myself in the kitchen, I was able to focus on other details and enjoy the process of prepping for the party. (And at our Little Aviators party, I kept it even simpler and just brought a bunch of donuts, fruit orange juice I’d bought at Sam’s Club. Everyone loved it.)
10. Buy decor that you can use later. This isn’t really about enjoying yourself at the party, per se, but for me, it helps maximize my enjoyment to use non-disposable decor because I know I’m not going to be throwing a bunch of stuff away. One of my favorite ways to do this is to decorate with items you can eat! At our Gilligan’s Island party, I used coconuts and pineapples as decor, and it was awesome! Not only did it look cute, but we could eat the fruits later.
11. Serve alcohol. This isn’t for everyone, but have fun at the party and make it your own! There’s nothing wrong with adults having fun too, whether that means playing fun music or serving daiquiris.
How do you have fun at your own parties? Share your tips in the comments section below.