Two out of my three girls have parties during busy times of year. One before Christmas and the other around Chinese New Year. So careful planing becomes all the more necessary. At the moment I am preparing for a Viking Party for, my soon to be, 7 year old. She loves the delicate beauty of the viking knots and motifs, but at the same time, likes the idea of being a strong and mighty warrior princess...! We decided on the theme together and then have both been researching on-line to get our facts straight and to get inspiration. But with so little time before the 18th February, I need to strictly follow my steps for planning perfect parties. I have worked these out over the years through trial and error and bitter experience!
I think the theme choice and then the research, has to be Step One. You need to know that you will be able to carry the theme through successfully. And I think this is where it's wonderful to get your kids involved. I always like to bring educational elements into my parties, not only for my girls during preparation, but for their friends at the party itself. What is a more perfect time to educate, than when kids are having fun! They learned so much at Amber's American Indian party last year ( http://www.hoppingharesparties.com/american-indian-party/ ). Hopefully they will learn more about Vikings this year! Or more than they already know from the movie 'How to train your Dragon'! But whatever your theme, I think you can always find something to educate them on. Whether it be an under-the-sea party and you tell them about conservation, the damage that plastic causes, or a vintage aeroplane party and they learn about the history of flight or Leonardo's inventions. This of course doesn't necessarily mean a 'lesson' but learning through the games you play and the crafts you make.
I would probably say step two is to think through the logistics and all the practical stuff. Decide on the day and time, the venue (and the back-up venue should you be hoping for an outdoor party.) The guest list and your method of inviting them: Are you going to buy invitations? Design your own? Or go paperless and send out text messages or emails? I always like to set up a Whatsapp group, so any discussion on costumes, worries about the weather, change of venue and so forth, can easily and speedily take place.
This is the time for thinking. Thinking through the colour scheme that would best suit your party theme and your venue. Thinking through how you can apply the theme to some fun and interesting games (I feel you need at least 2 games to fit into your average 2-3 hour party.) Deciding what crafts would be good to do to reinforce the theme (always being mindful of course to the age group, their capabilities and their attention span!). Working out how you are going to decorate your venue. Thinking through how to make costumes, if applicable. And planning a 'going home present' that also links with the theme.
You also need to come up with the menu. What can you make or buy that could also fit in with your theme? What will the cake look like? I always find Pinterest a great help at this stage...!
This is where I am at now with our Viking party. We researched authentic viking games and chose a board game that is a bit like tic-tac-toe. I am in the process of making individual boards for them to take home, but also a giant one for us to play at the party itself. Busy, designing, cutting, sanding, painting, gluing!
They'll also play at being marauding vikings raiding England, Sicily, Russia and Greenland to find hidden treasures...whether they be slaves, silver, wine, silk or the like. So I'm having to source the treasure and think how best to hide it! I'm also wandering whether a simple treasure hunt is enough or whether at this age I should introduce some questions or clues.
I also need to quickly think through how to make Amber's costume, as other mummies are asking me for ideas for what their kid's can wear! But also think through what the kids can make themselves at the party, like necklaces or arm bands, that will help those that don't come dressed up, feel included.
Once the thinking process is over, it's then important to crack on with implementing your ideas as soon as possible. My problem is that I always have a thousand ideas, but find it hard whittling them down to what I can feasibly achieve in the time and within the budget. Write a list of every small little thing that you need to do and tick them off as you go. Try and keep ahead of time! I always try to start planning my parties at least a month before the date, just because I am always so busy with other things...this time I have just over two weeks, I have a lot to do to pull it off...!
Think through and write down how you want the party to flow. Will you start with a craft, that the kids can start on as they arrive in dribs and drabs? Will you alternate crafts with games? When will you eat? What will the last kids do as they wait for their parents to pick them up? Do you have enough man power to help with the crafts? If you have quite a number of kids, however simple the crafts may seem, there are always those that need a helping hand.
The last step is to prepare your venue and your fresh food. Get the whole family involved! Always get your decorations up the day/night before! NEVER think, 'oh I only have to do that...and that....I'll do it tomorrow...it won't take long.' It ALWAYS takes longer than you think! Then your kid is over-excited and needs attention and then a mummy calls to say something's cropped up and needs to drop her kids early, then you run out of something vital and have to dash to the shops.....whatever it is, there's always something to slow you down! The last thing you want to be doing is preparing food or hanging decorations as guests arrive. Believe me, I've been there on a number of occasions!
Then last but not least, make sure the camera is charged!
So I think if you follow these basic party planning steps and keep as much ahead of time as possible, you'll end up with a perfect party! Wish me luck for ours...!