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Save time making that birthday party a hit

March 24, 2014
Original Author: Aimee Lewis Strain


“If you’re kid is the life of the party then invite the whole class but if shy and would rather have two of their friends over to throw mud pies, do that instead.”

Sophie Maletsky


Sophie’s Stress-Free Soirees

Chances are that if your child has a birthday during the school year, you’re finding yourself frantically searching for ways to save time when planning the big bash. From invitations to entertainment, cake and goody bags, busy moms are always looking for ways to save time while making each year’s milestone celebration a memorable and enjoyable experience.

Redwood City mother Rachel Chetcuti knows all too well how each year her son Mason’s April birthday seems to sneak up on her. It’s as though she gets through the winter holidays, Valentine’s Day and then Wham! – time for another party.

“No matter how I try to prepare for it, Mason’s birthday comes around quickly and we love to celebrate it with big parties,” says Chetcuti, a single mom who works full time.

We spoke with some local party experts to identify some timesaving tips that are sure to make your child’s party a timeless hit:

Ditch the traditional invitation: offers electronic invitations that don numerous creative touches, allowing you to attach a photo, use a themed backdrop and also remotely monitor RSVPs as they come in. Using an Evite will save time and money, as you can view attendees’ responses without having to answer the phone or waste time with printing, addressing and mailing paper invitations and awaiting an RSVP that may never come, says popular Bay Area clown Daffy Dave. David Mampel, a Palo Alto resident, also known as Daffy Dave, has spent 19 years entertaining Bay Area children with his slapstick humor, juggling, clowning, magic and balloon sculpture.

Order up fun over the phone:

Many busy parents are opting to host parties for their children at inflatable jump houses or gymnastics venues as a way of offloading much of the planning and preparation, says Joobin Bahrami, who used to own Bounce U of San Carlos.  He said, “Our target market is busy parents who don’t have time to plan a party or who live in an environment that is not conducive to hosting their own party.”  At Bounce U or Pump It Up, parents can expect to spend as little as 10 minutes on the phone with a party coordinator to determine the date, party theme, number of attendees and amount of food to serve. The staff then gets to work, taking care of set-up, food, cake, snacks, drinks, goody bags, and best timesaver of all – clean up!

Hire someone to entertain the troops:

“You want to have some kind of entertainment that will take up the majority of the time and focus of the party,” says Mampel. This will allow parents to visit during a party or allow for extra time to prepare for the next activity at the party, whether it be cake or presents, he says.  An added bonus is when an entertainer is able to buy you additional time with balloon sculptures or activity that might lengthen a show. Daffy Dave gives parents an option to have him create goody bags for his captive young audiences, which consists of a CD, Daffy Dollars, tattoos, stickers and spinning tops. “This cuts down on another huge time commitment in having to pre-make goody bags, not to mention you never know who’s going to show up so you must prepare for more. I do the on the spot, so we don’t have to worry about an exact headcount,” says Mampel.

Organize your efforts:

Sophie Maletsky, owner and founder of Sophie’s Stress-Free Soirees in Northern California suggests that parents really sit down and plan a party that suits the personality of your child. “If you’re kid is the life of the party then invite the whole class but if shy and would rather have two of their friends over to throw mud pies, do that instead.”  She says finding the right party to fit your child’s personality might be the biggest saver of time and unnecessary effort.

Kill two birds with one stone: 

Mampel suggests finding out whether your child’s school or preschool has an accepting birthday party policy. “This way you can have a birthday party at school during the week and then you just show up with a cake and all your child’s friends are already there. You can make it more special by bringing in a cake, goody bags and hire a funny entertainer, this way there are no invites and no weekend time is spent.

Create a neutral zone:

Plan your child’s party at a park, a local pizzeria party room or an apartment of condominium common room.  Not having to complete those last-minute projects at your home or do that deep clean up before and after the party will cut down on crunch time, says Mampel.

Timing is everything:

Maletsky, who has run her creative birthday party planning service for more than 15 years, says the most successful parties are those that follow a natural four- to five-step planned out progression. She says by following this model, the party is sure to be a hit and will reduce planning time on behalf of the parents.

Step 1: First there’s the entry time that consists of about 10 minutes prior to the party for the early bird until about 10 minutes after the start time of the party, so for those 20 minutes or so, Maletsky recommends a craft project, a birthday banner or face-painting and tattoos. She suggests any little project that keeps the children busy before the real fun begins.

Step 2: Play a little game to pull people together. Basic games like Duck, Duck, Goose but changed to fit your theme, as in Princess, Princess, Knight, etc. “Kids love the games when they have to sneak up on someone and steal something and they receive a reaction and it gets them working as a team,” says Maletsky.

Step 3: Have the children do a craft project. “This gives kids some time to mellow out, get creative and they also get to take something home,” she says. But if you hire an entertainer, take out craft time and have the production at this time.

Step 4: Time for cake!

Step 5: End with a treasure hunt or a piñata. Maletsky suggests always ending with the “big bang” thing at the end. “You want them to leave wanting more,” she says.

Don’t overdue and overproduce – keep it simple and fun. Don’t throw a party for 50 kids in a small house. Also, keep the party short and age-appropriate. If the party is for a 3-year-old, recognize that many kids that age still nap, so it’s probably a good idea to have a 10 a.m. party or a 4 p.m. party. Limit any child’s party to no more than two hours, party experts suggest.

And most important — have fun! Remember this is a party to celebrate and enjoy the birthday of one of the most special people in your life.