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How to Avoid a Bad Birthday Party

I’ve heard it said that a party isn’t a party until someone is reduced to tears.  Whether it’s an over-stimulated toddler, a jealous party guest or a horrified mom (just look at my couch!), there are many ways to ruin a party.  But there are so many ways to throw a great party that you can minimize the horrors.

   Here are some suggestions to avoid common pitfalls:

1. Keep numbers low
   If your 2-year-old screams when she is in crowded situations, she probably doesn’t want 20 guests at her party.  Limit the number of guests and immediately reduce stress.

2. In-class fun
   If your child is in preschool and wants to invite the 12, 18 or 22 kids in his class, ask your preschool teacher if you can host an in-school party near the end of the day, with cupcakes and one tiny tchotke for each kid.  If the school allows, you can bring party hats and special napkins and plates.  That way, you have built-in party helpers (the preschool teachers) and a self-imposed time limit: the other parents will be collecting their children soon.

3.  Relax your healthy standards
   If you shun white flour and processed sugar in your family, you may feel uncomfortable serving soda, chips and cake, but kids do expect some treats at a party.  One of my kids attended a party where the family was macrobiotic; they served lukewarm barley tea and a rye oat ‘cake’ sweetened with rice syrup.  Most of the kids wept.  You don’t have to turn your whole dietary plan inside out; grapes and strawberries alongside frozen yogurt will likely satisfy most guests.  But don’t impose unusual foods on a bunch of preschoolers.  They will resent this – and believe me, they will remember.

4.  Chill out about your furniture
   If you are hosting a party in your home and you are obsessively neat and clean, you may want to rethink this strategy.  If you do decide to go ahead, remember: grape juice is messy; maybe white grape juice or apple juice would be a better choice.  If you use a paper tablecloth, but a plastic sheet underneath to protect your dining room table.  And stay away from crafts projects, particularly those involving markers, glue, or glitter.  If you really don’t want to mess up your house, consider holding the party elsewhere.  It will cost less in the long run; refinishing your floors doesn’t come cheap.

5.  Don’t open the presents in front of everyone
   Unless your child has studied the teachings of Gandhi extensively, he is probably not suited to the tact necessary when opening presents in front of a crowd.  If he dislikes a present, he is unlikely to hide that distaste.  And if he gets a fantastic present that another kid desires, you may have a fight on your hands.  Save the present opening for family time.


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