When your kid has its first ‛big’ birthday party you realize that the simple get-enough-snacks-and-soda plan is just not gonna work.
The first thing that comes into your mind is that you’re gonna need a set of rules in order to avoid all hell breaking loose. But the birthday should be THE day without rules and there is not any other way to make a place for some discipline in that mess.
The trick is to make the rules invisible and creative, to make them a part of the game.
Through the looking glass
The base of every attempt to make rules is a theme for the party. A particular theme requires particular decorations and activities, but it also eliminates all the other ones. But don’t try to persuade your kid to chose a theme he or she is not that interested in just because it’s easier for you to provide. Maybe it will work during the preparation process, but at some point during the party, your kid will feel cheated and then the whole plan comes to nothing. Remember, picking the theme is like opening the door to another world, just like through the looking glass. The only difference is that you’ll be making the rules, not Alice.
Choose the battlefield
Here you have two choices: to throw the party at your home or to rent some other location. On one hand, after the party, your home can really look like a battlefield. On the other hand, professional birthday party places you can rent usually include their own staff, decorations, and activities, which means you’re not the party master anymore. Maybe it’s cleaner to rent a place, but in your own home, you have all the freedom to create the exact world your kid wants.
Hear ye, hear ye!
Your rules should be known to everyone long before the party starts. The best way to ensure that is to send out creative invitations at least two weeks before the party. These invitations should be crafted in a way to present the theme of the party, including all important guidelines for ‛entering the magical world’. It would be a good idea to write a short story of introduction to that world in order to ignite the phantasy of the kids on the guest list and make them thrilled to follow the rules you’ve set for them.
Turn guests into characters
No matter how hard you try there will always be some kids who are not satisfied with your schedule, activities or food. To avoid that you have to know the characters of the world you’ve chosen for the theme of the party. In other words, you need to ignite a pretend play. Maybe some kids don’t like lasagna, but their characters do. It’s not a schedule, it’s the quest of the hero, and so on.
Create memories as a part of the game
Following your rules and keeping everything in order can be a tough job, but if you planned everything right you could actually be enjoying yourself as much as the kids. In that kind of playful atmosphere, you can easily forget to capture the moment with your camera or cell phone and end up with no photographs, which will, sooner or later, be a catastrophe. So, while leading the story, you need to run around with a camera, too? Not quite. You can make that process a part of the game as well. For example, you can create a game where every kid (every character) must create its own portrait. To make it even more interesting, you can call the guys from PhotoBhootMe and choose among various photo boots to accompany the setting of your story.
Define the quest
Don’t let yourself think even for the minute that with the planning of the theme you’re done with your job. It’s not enough to lure the kids into your ‛magical world’ – you need to keep it interesting until the end. Create a list of games that allow character development, quests to complete in order to win the prize. Make a competition, but don’t allow any kid to be left without the prize. Yes, you have to cheat, but they mustn’t notice. Also, don’t let the prizes differ too much in value and make sure they are the same for each gender. That way everyone will go home satisfied and count the days until your kid’s next birthday.