They Say It’s Her Birthday

November 12, 2009

Emilia’s birthday is this weekend. She will be four years old. Four year olds, she informs me, always have birthday parties.

“So do five year olds. And sixes. I don’t what happens when you get really old, but I hope you still get cake.”

I didn’t tell her that when you’re really old, like, thirty-something, you’re lucky if someone fixes you a bowl of cereal and washes the dishes. No point in rushing the disillusionment.

She asked for a birthday party, so we’re giving her a birthday party. The problem is, it has only just occurred to me today that throwing a birthday might mean doing something more than sending out invitations and cleaning the house (memo to self: clean house). There should be a cake, I suppose. And games. Do kids play games at birthday parties? Is Pin-The-Tail-On-The-Donkey still an acceptable game, or has PETA come out against that? Do I have to hire a clown or something? Can I drink? God, please tell me that I can drink.

We threw her a birthday party when she turned one, but that was more for us than for her, and really, with a birthday party full of babies and toddlers you just give them some teething biscuits and then sit back with your martini and watch them get jacked up on cookies and roll into each other. Four year olds, I’m guessing, are a bit of a tougher crowd.

I have about 48 hours to pull this together, and a limited budget. I need inspiration, advice and suggestions on how to turn a juice-box into a cocktail.


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    liz November 12, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    Cake or cupcakes: mandatory.

    Games: Pin the eye-patch on the pirate? Just draw a picture of a pirate, cut out black construction paper eye patches.

    Treasure hunt.

    Duck duck goose.

    Prizes: pirate eye patches and chocolate Hannukah coins.
    .-= liz´s last blog ..This was a comment in reply to Josh, but it got a bit lengthy. =-.

    Heather @ Cool Zebras November 12, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    My older kids have July birthdays so we always have a swimming party. Not really an option for you, but this last summer I bought some packages of ceramic figurines at Michaels. They have 2 figurines in a package and come with a paint brush and paints. The kids got to paint their figurines and they also filled the “party favor” role too.
    .-= Heather @ Cool Zebras´s last blog ..Parking Lot Poem =-.

    Annie @ PhD in Parenting November 12, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    According to a recent Dear Abby column, you can’t drink. My friends and I scoffed at that as we enjoyed our wine at my 5 year old’s birthday party recently. If I was going to be caring for 20 4 year olds on my own, I might not drink (even though I’d really want to), but I think if kids are coming with their parents a drink or two can’t hurt.

    For ideas, we did a scavenger hunt for Julian’s birthday party. It was a Scooby Doo party and the kids were given clues to go and find Scooby Doo hiding with the Scooby Snacks (mini chocolate bars) that they then got to devour.

    For cakes I usually use the PC Organics chocolate cake mix (yummy and easy) and then decorate myself. Pink Panther last year and Scooby Doo this year (those are Croc charms decorating the cake, which the kids got to take home afterwards).

    Have fun!
    .-= Annie @ PhD in Parenting´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday: Funny Faces =-.

    Her Bad Mother November 12, 2009 at 7:18 pm

    um, no liquor? for serious? **SADFACE**

    I think that I’m going to buck Dear Abby on this one.

    Jenn November 12, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    Our parties always get out of control with a lot of family. You can always do a swimming party at a local rec centre. To keep the cost down I have heard the rule of “number of guests equals child’s age”.

    Other than that, I got a princess cupcake kit from Michael’s that you just had to bake the cupcakes and put the decals on and then the kids got to paint with edible paints. Kept them busy. You can also always do a cheap and easy Costco cake.

    Good luck!

    Her Bad Mother November 12, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    Her guests have already been invited *here*, which means that alternate locations are out (even if I could arrange for them last minute.)

    Cupcake decorating is a good idea. Jack them up with sugar!

    Jenn November 12, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    Forgot to mention, if you do it at home, take and bake Costco pizza is cheap and easy and so are hot dogs with Pilsbury Wiener Wraps. At four, by the time you do a craft, feed them, have cake and open presents they are done and so are the parents!

    liz November 12, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    I recommend AGAINST opening presents at the party. Save them for later. Minimizes party-guest melt-downs.
    .-= liz´s last blog ..This was a comment in reply to Josh, but it got a bit lengthy. =-.

    Hall November 14, 2009 at 12:49 am

    I was raised this way, but presents were opened at the party at every single birthday party my daughter ever attended.

    kootnygirl November 16, 2009 at 7:48 am

    I’ve always heard about opening the presents after the party too, and yet I’ve never, ever seen it in real life. There is no way that would fly with my kids (or their friends).
    .-= kootnygirl´s last blog year’s resolution =-.

    Val November 12, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    Cupcakes are a definite win. Pre bake them. Then they take up the whole party – Kids decorate them, kids sing to Emilia, kids eat cupcakes. Kids get sugar high and run around the house while you sneak a drink in the kitchen.

    pixielation November 12, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    On the food front, here’s an easy Australian favourite – Fairy Bread. Butter white bread, cut each slice into 4 triangles, sprinkle 100′s and 1000′s on it. Voila.
    .-= pixielation´s last blog ..A story about pumping =-.

    kathy November 12, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    try the Hostess with the Mostess

    she always knows whats what.

    jenn marie November 12, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    birthday birthday birthday …
    I do like the treasure hunt idea… but that is pretty time consuming if you have tons of kids but great for max 8 kids… from experience. (you can do it for more kids but you will need time for set up and you need to make teams)
    games like those at carnivals are great.
    give each child a favor bag and have them play for their favors
    ~I also love a big tub of dry beans and putting party favor in the beans and have the kids seek for their favors.
    ~fishing for plastic swimming pool with paper clips on favors and a pole with a magnet
    ~easter egg hunt… a year round favorite

    ~if you are brave enough for a pinata it takes up time and kids love the thrill of everything falling out… you can uses small toys instead of candy.

    You can find small toys and and “prizes” at a party store in a big bag you can save money. Little kids do not care what prizes they get they just want some.

    cake of any kind and some ice cream is great. I like to pre-scoop the ice cream into small cups so it can be passed out quickly. (you can buy it in the mini cups but it cost more of money)

    there is no hard a fast rules on parties just having the kids over is all your daughter is looking for. A day when it is all about her.

    Her Bad Mother November 12, 2009 at 7:19 pm

    can four year olds/five year olds manage a pinata? do they bash each other? or does it actually work and distract them?

    Crystal D November 12, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    There are “pull string” pinatas now. They are perfect for 4 year old kids.

    Also, I am pretty sure “adult” punch is totally OK as long as it doesn’t get mixed up with the kid punch.
    .-= Crystal D´s last blog ..Charlotte is One (plus 35 days) =-.

    kootnygirl November 16, 2009 at 7:50 am

    We’ve done pinatas for both my girls at/around this age. BIG HIT. We gave everyone a turn to be blindfolded and try to bash it, knowing full well they would never break the thing, but it was fun. Then everyone got a string and pulled the thing open. Zip-lock bags, pre-labelled with the kids names, helps with the candy after.
    .-= kootnygirl´s last blog year’s resolution =-.

    gurukarm (@karma_musings) November 13, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    NO piñatas! (my rule, overrulling my DD for years on that one) – parties where there were pinatas always ended up with lots of crying from the kids who didn’t end up being the successful basher – which means everyone, pretty much, except for one kid.

    Srsly. NO piñatas.

    Cupcakes = good. Make your own craft/take home = good usually too – no party bags needed then.

    Have fun!
    .-= gurukarm (@karma_musings)´s last blog ..Everybody Needs an Editor =-.

    Hall November 14, 2009 at 12:51 am

    Some of the pinatas these days are insanely strong. I remember one party when after 10 rounds of bashing, the dad started taking a turn between rounds with a big knife. Even so, it was several more rounds before the candy emptied. I’m not sure whether all pinatas are equal.

    After Words November 12, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    I’m all about minimum effort. Decorate your own cupcakes are a good activity for kids: make (or buy) cupcakes with white frosting. Get all different kinds of sparkles and cake decorations and let them have at it.

    For my son’s 4th birthday it was rainy so “let them run around outside” didn’t work as an activity. I got a Color Me House ( on sale at Costco and lots of new markers and stickers for everyone to decorate.

    End of party.
    .-= After Words´s last blog ..More Redshirting =-.

    Fairly Odd Mother November 12, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    I’ve done “four” three times and lived through it each time, so you’ll be fine. First, please offer the adults alcohol, especially if the party isn’t at 10am (ha!); I’m so tired of bday parties where I have to hang around without an adult beverage.

    If you have the party from 2-4, no one will expect a meal, just cake and maybe ice cream.

    At four, you don’t want to go too over the top. I’ve found that all you really need to do is put out some toys for the kids to play with, and maybe a very simple craft—you can buy entire kits in the craft store—think “easy” craft.

    If you have loads of dress up stuff/costume jewelry, they may want to dress up and flit around a while.

    Scavenger hunts or egg hunts are really fun. For my son’s 5th pirate party, we did a scavenger hunt but b/c he gets freaked out by everyone grabbing things, each clue led the kids to a different “task” (sink the enemy ships! swab the deck!) they had to complete together. ..the last thing they found was a pinata.

    I find it easier to have a “theme” (otherwise, I’d wander the party store forever, lost in thought), but not everyone feels that way. Some themese we have done include: a mock sleepover (super cute b/c the guests come in PJ’s and you end with them watching a movie in their sleeping bags, eating popcorn—you can do this later in the day too and have them go home at bedtime), pirate party, tea party, fairy party, Candyland (ugh, too much work and too much sugar!), all-things-red, things with wheels, luau, disco. . .makes my head hurt thinking about it.

    If you want to talk about any of these, please email me—I love to brainstorm this subject!
    .-= Fairly Odd Mother´s last blog ..It’s good to have foraging friends =-.

    WestEndMom November 12, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    We started birthday parties for my daughter when she was four. I got all ready with crafts and activities,for her and her friends to do. They pretty much ran around our house and giggled in her room and did the crafts for like 10 minutes. The cupcake idea is a good one and they LOVE it, if you have a basement and a stereo system turn on some fun music, blow up some balloons and call it a dance party. Best advice, keep it to more than 2 hours, and don’t open presents. Good Luck!

    PS. I have never commented before, but I really enjoy your writing. Thanks for sharing!

    a November 12, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    I have nothing useful to add, but now I have some ideas to mull over in the next 11 months before I have to do the same thing. It would help me if you follow up with a post on what worked and what didn’t. ;)
    .-= a´s last blog ..Show and Tell =-.

    Maureen@IslandRoar November 12, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    White butcher wrap paper taped over the table instead of a table cloth, and markers or crayons for them to color all over it. cupcakes. Fruit loops or big O-shaped cereal to string on rope licorice as a necklace for your craft. pass the potato musical chair type game; each kid gets a sticker when they’re “out.” goody bags with the necklace, stickers, small bubbles. One and a half hours. Good Luck!
    .-= Maureen@IslandRoar´s last blog ..At A Loss (part two) =-.

    Her Bad Mother November 12, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    ooooh, butcher wrap. GOOD IDEA.

    thepsychobabble November 12, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    One of those paint your own crafts (suncatchers, plaster thingys,) do them right off the bat so they at least start to dry before end of the party!
    .-= thepsychobabble´s last blog ..Where I am From =-.

    thepsychobabble November 12, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    PS: My four year old was bribed with a camping trip in an attempt to postpone parties just one more year :p

    robin November 12, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    bouncehouses are really cheap (here in Los Angeles they are about $65 for the whole day)and the company does the set-up and takedown for you. 5 year olds always love those things, and they occupy the entire day’s worth of activities. Plus, the kids come home tired, so the parents win as well.
    .-= robin´s last blog ..What we’re up to =-.

    maggie, dammit November 12, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    I have a lot of experience with this and basically what you do is sit on your hands so you WON’T drink. The end.

    Have fun!
    .-= maggie, dammit´s last blog to the gun show =-.

    monstergirlee November 12, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    Juice boxes into cocktails? Just add cheap champagne a la Mimosa.

    Hope it all works out well.
    .-= monstergirlee´s last blog ..Danny and the Concertina =-.

    Motherhood Uncensored November 12, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    Cake or cupcakes (YES)

    Depending on what time of day – snacks are good – I love designmom’s party suggestions based on color – that always makes it easy to pick snacks. So what’s her favorite color (probably black, right? HA!) Yellow, Orange – all fun.

    Don’t open presents – no need.

    Party games can be fun or just do an activity. We decorated cloth bags with markers and those were the goody bags (then you don’t need goody bags!!) You could stuff them with something if you felt the need…

    We did party games at Q’s party (depends on how many kids) but did old fashioned ones – like pin the tail, egg races (hard boiled egg with a BIG spoon – like a ladle).

    red pen mama November 12, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    I shipped the party out this year, to our city’s children’s museum. It’s still small (just family/friends — not Flora’s school friends yet). And I just have to bring the cake. And ice cream.

    I did this because I knew I did not have the energy or time for step 1, which is Clean the House. Nope.

    I would think 4-year-olds would care more about cake and presents than games. I haven’t done the game thing for mine at party. And I think a drink (providing it’s an afternoon party) is just fine.

    .-= red pen mama´s last blog ..Five, in Words =-.

    Heather @ Domestic Extraordinaire November 12, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    Pin the tail on whatever is still acceptable. I always adapted it for the theme we were doing. Like for my nephew’s 4th birthday we were playing Pin the Tail on Jaguar (from Diego) We played a game in which the kids tried to bounce a bouncy ball into a bucket that had prizes in it. You hide objects and have a scavenger hunt. Also great game that kids will love. Get a roll of bubble wrap from the local package place. Roll out said bubble wrap on ground.(preferably a non carpeted space) Have kids take off shoes, turn up the music and let them jump up and down on the bubble wrap.
    .-= Heather @ Domestic Extraordinaire´s last blog ..Birthdays make me nervous =-.

    Nenette November 12, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    Crafts. Buy a bunch of stuff at your local craft store, and have them go at it.

    Cupcake/cookie decorating. I totally second that!

    Pizza decorating. And while the pizza cooks, they can do crafts.

    Then birthday cake, gift opening, then you’re done!
    .-= Nenette´s last blog ..dear idiot humans I live with who don’t know how to hunt: this is for you. =-.

    liz November 12, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    Twister. Freeze Dance. Simon Says.
    .-= liz´s last blog ..This was a comment in reply to Josh, but it got a bit lengthy. =-.

    Jacquie November 12, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    How many kids are you having? What time?

    The kids just want to play, if you have a room where they can be contained, that’s good. Keep activities simple and non-competitive. I’d avoid anything where people get “out”, talk all you want about how we are raising our kids to be entitled wimps with the “everyone wins” mentality, but we are talking about a 4 year old birthday party – this is the epitome of an emotionally charged, sugar fueled, expectation laden ticking bomb. Give the people what they want.

    I’d suggest snacks, cupcakes, little bottles of water, and a scarcely controlled free for all where parents can have a drink and watch the melee. Cupcake decorating always sounds like a really good idea – visualize it for a minute though… frosting, sprinkles, plastic knives, four year olds, fingers, germs…. gag.

    I agree that bounce houses are great and cheap and easy, and we’ve always had a really great time when a bounce house was available, except for that one time when my 5 year old fractured his tibia on the AIR in there, and had to wear a cast from toe to hip for six weeks.

    I sound like Debbie Downer, I know. I do spend my days with preschoolers though, so I have some experience in the matter. Keep it simple, everyone wins.

    Happy Birthday, Emilia!

    Maya November 12, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    If you do cupcakes, decorating the cupcake could be one of the activities. One of the families I nannied for did a cookout for their 4 yr old’s bday party and the parents came and ate burgers and drank beer while the little kids ran around. I attended a party for a 3 yr old last week and they played red light/green light and that was the only game. And we totally played pin-the-tail-on-the-dinosaur at one of my parties. Good luck!!!
    .-= Maya´s last blog ..Piece of Cake =-.

    liz November 12, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    Make-your-own-sundaes if you don’t want to do cake.
    .-= liz´s last blog ..This was a comment in reply to Josh, but it got a bit lengthy. =-.

    Caet November 12, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    Decorate your own cupcakes. Bake the cupcakes and frost them. (Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t trust 4 year olds to frost their own…) Then give each kid an assortment of things to decorate with: Teddy grahams, gummi bears, M&Ms, etc. I did this for my son’s fourth birthday and it was a big hit. Food and entertainment all in one!

    Vanessa November 12, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    Totally agree with all of the above. Keep it simple – 2 hours max. 1-3 is perfect, or even can do 10am- noon. Have them make their own mini-pizzas on english muffins – you can have that for lunch and they can decorate their own cupcakes while the pizzas bake. Add some raw veggies, ranch dip and plain chips on the side, and you’ve got a balanced birthday meal (guffaw). Take a photo of Emilia with each guest and you can print those off as thank you cards after the party :) They won’t be “looking” for things to do – they tend to entertain themselves – but something as simple as musical chairs, freeze dance will keep them busy for a good chunk of time.

    dale November 12, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    Keep it simple!!!! Cupcakes, juice, maybe some cut up fruit. No more than 6 kids -TOPS. Hve beer or mimosas or something for the grownups. No more than 2 hours. Do you have a farm nearby? See if they’ll host – we did that last year when my kid turned 4. Kids loved it! They see the animals. Mess is no problem. Lots to do and no games to worry about.

    kelly November 12, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    I think a drink is probably a necessity. Vodka leaves no scent.

    Her Bad Mother November 13, 2009 at 8:05 pm

    and if I slip in some apple juice, no-one will be the wiser.

    Dina Williams November 12, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    One of my friends always does games at her kids’ parties, and sometimes they’re pretty complicated for the ages of her kids. I’m an anti-games person. Basically I’m lazy and never in the mood to herd a bunch of kids around my backyard. (I’d rather be socializing with their parents!) I’ve done games once or twice but won’t do it again. In the past we rented a bounce house for my son’s summer parties and that took care of the entertainment. We always went with a company that provided an attendant, which is quite expensive but does provide another supervising adult provided the attendant is on the ball. This past year we did a package party at an outdoor “funplex” place. After the success of that I will never do another party at my house if I can help it! I found it was a lot cheaper than a home party, because we would rent the bounce house as well as provide food and cocktails for the grownups who attend — and we always encouraged the grownups to attend with their kids because many of them are our friends too. We’d have about 30 people at our summer party. The grownups who stayed for the funplex party missed our cocktails, though! 8-)

    My daughter’s birthday is in the winter and we always do a much smaller party for her. She’ll be 4 in January, by the way. We usually invite several family friends with kids over for an informal Sunday lunch, with a crowd of 10-12 usually. We tend not to do the “kid party” with friends her own age because, honestly, up until recently she didn’t know that many other kids her own age. So we had to come up with activities that would please a somewhat multi-age crowd. We did a pinata indoors last year, just hung it off our balcony and the kids whacked it. I like the idea of the craft activity too, but I would caution you not to make it too structured. My friend gave her daughter and friends butterflies cut from poster board, and provided materials to decorate them. That was a big hit. The super-structured craft activity where the kids made charts of the life cycle of a frog, however, was not such a big hit!

    I would advise you to keep it informal, loose and fun if you can. It’s less work for you and more fun for the kids, hopefully. Enjoy!

    Kate House November 12, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    First, in response to the alcohol issue, you can just have a big bowl of punch. Then you have your husband nudge the other parents discreetly and show them the flask hidden in his pocket. It makes for the appearance of good, clean family fun, if not the reality.

    I second (and third, etc.) the craft ideas. Hit up a Michael’s or other craft chain and grab a bunch of those foam cut-out thingies (hats, doorknob hangers, bookmarks–whatever), a few bottles of glitter glue (the washable kind, please! not the kind I bought that is now on every molding in the entire house, please!), and some foam stickers. Buys you at least 20 minutes of occupied party time…
    .-= Kate House´s last blog ..A Fruity Fairy Tale (Parenting Fail #48) =-.

    Stone Fox November 12, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    at the dollar store you can get Stick The Fireman on the Firetruck. i got it for my son’s 4th birthday earlier this year, the kids had a blast.

    cake is a requirement. if you feel like making your own and getting a bit fancy, go to and look at their birthday cakes. they are easy peasy lemon squeezy to do.

    the kids will pretty much play with toys until it’s time for cake and presents. or, you can do musical chairs or hot potato.
    .-= Stone Fox´s last blog ..In Remembrance.. =-.

    The Chapsitck Pezbian November 12, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    I don’t remember which birthday party this was, but at one of my parties, there was lots and lots of dancing. There were only a few of us, but we dressed up in my mother’s old prom dresses and ran around dancing and singing to whoever the cool pop girl band was at the time.

    Of course, this was all after getting really hopped up on fruit punch, cake, and probably some M&Ms and gummy bears.
    .-= The Chapsitck Pezbian´s last blog ..Decaf =-.

    Trilby November 12, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    I’m not sure that I’ve ever been to, or hosted, for that matter, a kids birthday party where the adults *DIDN’T* drink. But I’m from south Louisiana, so that may have something to do with it. :)

    jennifer martin November 12, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    Hi Catherine, I am not a big fan of over the top birthday parties like most of the families in my neighbourhood (some of them spend more on their kids parties than I did on my wedding). When my daughter Clara turned 4 the end of August we had a “Paper Bag Princess” party(after Robert Munsch’s book of the same name) This was the anti princess party compaired to my neighbour who hired a “call girl Dysney princess” for 200+ dollars. I got the kids to decorate crowns (I made the base out of metalic fabric), made a 3D dragon cake (out of two round cakes -I found out how to do it on the internet). I also was going to get the girls to make paperbag dresses but I ran out of time. If I had even more time I would have made a prince Ronald pinata for the kids to bash. The loot bags were paper lunch bags and very simple (-a mini chocolate bar, a pocket sized copy of The Paper Bag Princess and hair clips + the crown they made -I despise dollar store items that clutter up my house and end up in a landfill. I don’t think the party costed me more than 100$. PS, I am a friend of Mother Bumper’s and can send you some pictures through her.

    Her Bad Mother November 13, 2009 at 8:06 pm

    people hire Disney Princesses???


    Liz November 12, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    I have to second, (or is this third or fourth or?) the cupcake decorating thing. Or decorating cookies if you do cake. Otherwise, stick with cupcakes, throw some candles on one and let the bday girl blow that out. Much easier. I find simple is best. they really don’t know any better at this age and they will be thrilled anyways. With games, I would just pick out one or two multi-player games that you already have (ie. blocks, trains, lincoln logs) and put everything else away.

    Also, love it and did the butcher paper as table cloth/art work thing – worked great for the kids – use markers and stamps or even outline some basic designs for them to color in.

    As for not opening presents at the party. I just dont get this new fad. Part of the fun of going to a bday party is picking out a special present and watching the bday boy or girl open it up. It is so disappointing for kids to go through the trouble of picking out just the right gift, help wrap, and then never get to see the child’s reaction for when they open it. big bummer. I like to take a picture of the gift with the bday person and the giver. be present during gift opening and be swift to move on to the next gift if you see a meltdown is going to occur (never had to experience this one).

    I always have the child open gifts while everyone is eating cake (not afterward – the bday child is served first so that by the time you have given everyone cake, they are done and can move onto presents)

    good luck and simple, simple, simple!! It’s just a big playdate to them! :)

    Dina Williams November 12, 2009 at 7:23 pm

    I have to say I’m firmly in the “open the presents at the party” camp. Unless everyone is way over-tired and you have to end the party early, it’s fine. The kids get really excited for the birthday child to open the present he/she brought. At some parties I’ve even seen them get in line for it! Too funny!

    Jacquie November 12, 2009 at 7:38 pm

    I totally agree about opening presents – I want my birthday kid to make eye contact and say thank you. We practice beforehand how to react if you open a present that you hate, my kids are both pros at the “OH, Wow!” with a knowing glance at me that reads: “Target will TOTALLY take the return.”

    Bonnie November 12, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    I ran a kids riding camp this summer and they kids were IN LOVE with pearler beads – who knows why, but they are cheap and one of the parents can iron them while you enjoy a cocktail. Another game they loved was a steeplechase around an obstacle course. We found little hobby horses at the dollar store, but you could get them to make cardboard ones and just tape them to dowel, using ribbon for the mane – then they have a craft and a game.

    I think that the more active you can get them before they have to come in for cake and presents the better – so Birthday Tag and duck-duck-goose [or pony-pony-horse] kind of games are low-budget and they will wear them out a bit hopefully.

    Her Bad Mother November 13, 2009 at 8:06 pm

    What are pearler beads? (is this the dumbest question ever? I really don’t know.)

    chichimama November 14, 2009 at 9:55 am

    DON’T do pearler beads!!! They are these tiny little plastic beads (think a little bigger than the head of a pin, seriously) that kids put onto tiny pin sized pegs to make patterns. You then have to iron them so they stay together. The beads end up ALL over the floor when one child is doing it, I can only imagine what happens when multiple children whose eye-hand coordination levels are unknown could do.

    My five year old loves them and it keeps her occupied for hours, but it is a “mommy has to get some work done” activity, she is not allowed to even mention them if a friend comes over.

    I second the butcher paper on the table. Have the kids decorate their own goodie bags (cheap brown paper bags with handles) with crayons, stickers etc. Have a few game “stations,” with a “prize (read: handstamp, sticker or bulk-bin toy)” after each station. For A’s last party we did freeze dance (all you need is music and with 5 year olds it can last a real long time), a dress up relay race (throw all the dress up clothes in your house in a pile and the kids take turns running to get the clothes on, two items per child per turn) and then have them pose for “silly” pictures that you can stick into the thank you notes. We then did pass the parcel which is a big giant ball of wrapping paper with tiny presents (think candy) stuck between each layer. The kids pass it around and when the music stops, whoever is holding it gets to unwrap a layer. Somehow, it magically works out that the music stops when a different child is holding the parcel each time!

    By this point it should be pizza/cake time. Decorate your own cupcakes is a fun idea, depends on how much mess and time you have.

    Good luck….

    MommaSunshine November 12, 2009 at 7:35 pm

    For my kid’s birthday parties, I always avoid the big crowd watching the birthday kid opening the presents – it’s too hard on the other little kids. Plus, it puts too much emphasis on the present part of things, when really, the whole point is the party, isn’t it? My kids open the presents as the guests arrive. They go off in the corner so the gift-giver can watch the kid open the present, the receiver oohs and aahs, and then the present gets put away to be fully enjoyed after the party. This has worked well for years for mine (they’re now 4 and 6) and other friends have started doing this as well.
    .-= MommaSunshine´s last blog ..Clarity =-.

    d November 12, 2009 at 8:21 pm

    how about make your own english muffin pizza? keep simple toppings, tomatoe sauce, pepperoni, cheese, maybe tomoatoes or veggie something.

    jennifer martin November 12, 2009 at 11:59 pm

    I did that for my 7 year old’s party this year. Not only was it less expensive and more nutritious than buying a pizza at Pizza Pizza, the kids felt like they were being creative and helpful (most of them has never eaten anything but a store bought pizza)!

    Tina C. November 12, 2009 at 9:09 pm

    i invited a bunch of kid’s to owen’s b-day this summer. only 2 showed up due to illnesses and vacations. it was a great party. i recommend not overdoing it with invitees.

    Tina C. November 12, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    oh also, we did a book exchange instead of presents. so each kid brought a gift wrapped book and each kid got to take one home. that was fun.

    Jenn November 12, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    Obviously we’re bad parents. Two of my three sons have summer birthdays so we have a sno cone machine running for the whole party. The kids get their choice of sugary syrup and the adults pour margarita mix over their sno cones. Works for me!
    Also, just relax. They’re four, they don’t need a lot. If you can handle noise give them kazoos and let them make a parade down the street…

    MadWoman November 12, 2009 at 9:38 pm

    I hate throwing birthday parties but I’m told it’s almost mandatory until they’re at least 12. *sigh*

    As for games, I was going to suggest pin the leaf on the tree, but that might get those folks upset. Who knows? Play pass the parcel…everyone goes home happy that way.
    .-= MadWoman´s last blog ..To Write Love On Her Arms =-.

    Rebecca (Playground Confidential) November 12, 2009 at 10:49 pm

    I know that I hated sitting around opening gifts for my own bridal and baby showers. The pressure to fully appreciate each gift and still keep things moving because most people really don’t care is enormous.
    I’ve seen kiddie guests snatch up brand new gifts out of excitement or tear off wrapping paper. I’ve seen the birthday kid obviously not impressed with a present — nothing outwardly rude, it’s just that kids can’t act.
    There are lots of very good reasons to open the gifts later and then write up Thank You notes.
    Having said that, I’d probably open them if there were a reasonably small number of guests.
    .-= Rebecca (Playground Confidential)´s last blog ..Come Here, Come Here, Go Away =-.

    Angela November 12, 2009 at 11:15 pm

    Good luck with the party. I didn’t see how many invites are out, so hopefully you’ve got a small group. Is it so wrong for the kids to mostly just play? Pull out the dress up stuff, let them go nuts and get all fancied up to their own style and then cake and presents?

    I’m not sure where a 4yo is on game playing ability. My 3.5yo doesn’t really comprehend the whole “take turns” to play a game thing yet. Maybe by 4 he’ll get it? If Emily has a few games she likes (duck duck goose? red light green light?) let her pick a few and try them out. It’s all fun.

    I’m definitely on the “open presents at the party” side though. It knocked me for a loop the first time I went to a party where they didn’t. I think it’s a big thing for both the bday kid to express thanks and for the giver to enjoy the giving. Sure some kids haven’t learned that they’re not always the one opening the presents, and that’s hard, but it’s something they learn. Just like they learn they’re not always the one blowing out the candles.

    I have noticed that the party favors are important these days. Little goody bags to take home. Don’t have to be candy. stickers, mini-crayons and notepads, plastic rings, and noisemakers. Whatever catches Emily’s fancy as presents for her guests.

    As for drinks. As long as there’s a designated driver for each car, go for it! (well maybe not at a 10am party, but if it’s after noon, sure!) Maybe have margarita or daiquiri mix and be able to fix em up with or without alcohol as needed for each adult.
    .-= Angela´s last blog ..7 weeks 6 days and we still have two healthy babies in there =-.

    jennifer martin November 12, 2009 at 11:54 pm

    It’s me again. If you don’t open presents at the party please please write individual thankyou notes (if the kids are older 6and up, they should be writing them). There is nothing that burns me more when I don’t hear back from the receiver -especially if it was a present that I made or put a lot of thought into. It makes the party look like a big gift grab.

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