Ah, another Saturday spent standing around the local kids' gym or a classmate's backyard watching your child nibble a slice of pizza and sip a juice box. Happy birthday to Emma, or is it Ashley? Let's face it, after a while kids' parties can tend to run together. The good news: There are simple things you can do to make your child's next birthday a bash to remember. For inspiration, we turned to Celebrations.com expert and celebrity event producer Jes Gordon, author of Party Lika a Rock Star, who has lent her talents to soirees for the likes of Madonna, Jennifer Lopez and Barbra Streisand. Steal some of her star-worthy ideas and take your child's party from "been there" to blowout!
- Start with a theme. Okay, so this isn't a newsflash - most everyone at least goes for the themed plates and napkins - but choosing a theme that reflects your child's special interests really personalizes the party, and makes it easier for you to pull everything together. Some ideas: "If your child loves animals, go for a zoo or safari theme. If she loves sports, turn your backyard or living room into a basketball court," suggests Gordon. "If your child loves stripes, do everything in stripes!"
- Have fun with the food. To make the fare more festive, Gordon loves setting up interactive stations where kids can have a hand in their meal. Consider a kid-height buffet with faves such as chicken fingers ("I've done events for children all over the world, and kids love chicken fingers!" says Gordon.), fries, quesadillas or mini sandwiches, fruit kabobs and veggies and dip. For dessert, think sundae bar, frost-your-own cupcake station or a fruit smoothie bar. To give a sweet send-off, set up a self-service candy bar and provide take-away bags so kids can choose their favorite treats to bring home.
- Think beyond the table. Couches seating and chairs around a table? Good for grown-ups, not so much for kids. "Kids are flexible and like sitting on the floor so utilize areas where adults don't normally like to sit," says Gordon. She suggests creating a pillow lounge ("always a huge hit!") instead of chair seating or blowing up air mattresses to make "bed lounges."
- Let kids deck the walls (really!). Kids love to get creative so try this trick from Gordon: Set up large chalkboards against the walls of the party room or cover the walls in art paper so your guests can create their own party décor.
- When it comes to activities, give kids some freedom. Definitely plan activities but give kids room to express themselves. For example, Gordon suggests equipping kids with a bevy of props and costumes and having them create their own skit or reenactment of a favorite kids' film. Another idea: Set up art stations around the party area where kids can choose which projects they want to create. Finally, kids love to dance so give them a chance to get down.
- Hire some help. "Kids have a ton of energy normally, and when they're at a party it quadruples," says Gordon. "Having babysitters on hand to help out can make life easier." An extra teen or adult can especially come in handy if a shy child needs some encouragement to join the fun. Find a sitter to help at the party right here at Care.com.
- Go pro. Consider hiring an entertainer to wow your pint-size guests. Here again your theme can guide you. Fancy girls' tea party? Hire a princess in full royal attire to tell stories and give mini-makeovers. For an animal lover's bash, bring in a reptile wrangler or some other type of critter pro. Other options: A juggler, musical group, puppeteer, or magician. Bonus: "It's wonderful for the parents to also sit back and relax a bit with each other while the kids are enjoying the entertainment," says Gordon.
For more fantastic party ideas, check out Celebrations.com.