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Monday, June 4, 2012

party planning 101 ~ Sarah T.!

Planning a child's birthday party should be a fun experience - for all involved, not just the child. For me, planning my son's birthday party this year was all about acting like I was a kid again myself! I got to be all creative and silly with his themed tractor party. He loved it. No, he didn't get a ton of what I did for the party, but he loved that it was all about tractors and all for him. I know many moms though have no idea where to start when they think about planning a fun themed birthday party for their child. Now that we have Pinterest in the world it makes things a lot easier. I'll be writing a second blog post explaining the ins and outs of Pinterest and how it's a great resource for we moms. In this post though I've asked one of my good friends, Sarah Tibbetts, about her experience planning a couple of GREAT and very creative and cute birthday parties for her son, Eli. Enjoy this interview for some great tips on how to plan an AWESOME child's birthday party!

1. How did you decide on a particular theme for a birthday party? Why did you choose that theme?
I decide on a theme based on my children’s interest. My son fell in love with Disney’s Cars and Lightning McQueen six months or so before his third birthday party, so I knew that had to be the theme for his party in May. Also, we were due to have our second child in March, so I felt that my son would really appreciate and deserve an extra special birthday party after having his world turned upside down with the invasion of his little sister!

(Cars photos from Sarah Tibbetts)

2. What's the good thing about having a themed birthday party?
Having a theme makes it easier and more fun for me to plan. I am not partiuarly creative on my own, so if I have a theme to work from it’s much easier for me to find decorations and inspirations. For the toddler and preschooler ages it is also extra fun for the birthday child. My son talked for weeks about his “Lightning McQueen party!” and was so delighted by the images of Cars characters and race themed items at the party. I’m sure he would have had just as much fun at an unthemed party, but it made it even more exciting for him.

3. Where did you get a majority of your ideas for the party? 

Yes, I got the majority of my ideas from Pinterest. Some of them I also made up once I had some other ideas to coordinate with. For example, I all of my food had theme related names. The first few (ie- Doc’s Dipsticks- for carrot and celery sticks in dip) and others I made up myself. It helps that I have been forced had the pleasure of watching both Cars movies more times than I can count, so I am very well versed in all that is Cars.

4. When using Pinterest or other sites, how did you go about actually finding the ideas, what did you type in, etc.?

I did searches on Pinterest and Google by typing in Cars, Lightning McQueen, or race car birthday party. The great thing about Pinterest is once you find one idea pinned by someone else they often have a whole board dedicated to that idea. It also worked in my favor that Cars is a very popular party for young boys so there were lots of ideas out there!

(Cars photos from Sarah Tibbetts)

5. Moms are busy, so how did you go about carrying out your ideas for the party? How long in advance before the party did you start looking for ideas and making things? What help did you need?
I started planning several months before the party. I started a document on my computer and a board on Pinterest to keep track of ideas. I made my best friend a collaborator on the pinterest board so she could pin ideas she came across as well. I purchased all non-perishable items and and started making things about three months before the party. This was because I was a month away from having my daughter and I knew once she arrived I would not have the time or energy to prepare for the party. I had everything that I could planned, purchased and prepared before she was born. I had a shopping list and all recipes ready, so all that remained was to buy perishables and prepared the food. I also made sure to keep the food really simple so it wasn’t very difficult on the day of the party.

6. What is your advice for somebody wanting to plan a super fun creative themed kids' party?

To go with what your child loves, but keep things simple. My son was most overjoyed by his personalized Lightning McQueen t-shirt and the cake. I did a few other things that I thought were really great and he couldn’t have cared less about. I realized as I was planning the party that my son wouldn’t understand or notice some of the details, but the ideas were fun and I had the time and energy to do it all. Now with two parties to plan each year I’m sure they won’t all be as detailed as this one was, but I plan to really focus on what is most important to my child and let the rest go! One more piece of advice is to ask for help. Two of my best friends came over several hours before the party and worked diligently on projects I assigned them.

7. Share a few of your super cool ideas that you've used at a party.
My son had a great Thomas the Train cake last year that my husband and I made and an amazing Cars cake that my friend made this year. I had Cars related names for all of the food, even simple things like “Piston Cup Potato Chips.” We made some really cute candy and fruit cars and graham cracker treats that looked like stoplights. I had a simple bean bag tire toss game and some temporary tattoos themed as “Ramone’s House of Body Art.” These are both examples of simple things I was able to tie them into the theme.

8. What are some cardinal rules you follow when implementing a kids' party (for example, the time of the party, when to serve cake or open presents, whether to make your kid sit and open presents or run and play, who to invite, etc. )?
I always have parties at 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon (scheduled around nap time!) so that I don’t feel like I have to serve a full meal. At this time of day some basic snacks are just fine. We usually let people arrive and mingle for 30 minutes, then have cake, then open presents. I like to have my son sit and open presents, but he’s always been interested in it. If he wasn’t I wouldn’t force him to. I also talked with him several times about saying thank you as he opened presents and moving on to the next one even if he really wants to keep playing with one. I aim to have all of the “formal” party stuff done within 2 hours of the start time. After that I want people to feel free to stay and hang out or head home if they need to. I invite immediate family (grandparents, aunts, uncles) and close friends. We have small families so for us this is about 30 people.

9. What stores do you get cool deals at for party supplies?
I bought basic supplies (tablecloths, plastic silverwear, plates, etc) at the Dollar Tree. I ordered other decorations online from Party City and Birthday Express online. For his last two birthdays I have ordered a personalized shirt for my son from sellers on Etsy. He’s loved wearing them both well after the party!

11. Any other things about the parties that you're proud of or excited about to share with other moms?
Don’t expect too much from yourself or feel like you have to live up to others. Like I mentioned above, remember who the party is for and what they enjoy and focus your energy there. In this situation I happened to have the time and energy to focus on tiny details, there were so many ideas out there and I had a lot of fun planning the party, but honestly my son didn’t notice a lot of the things I did. It was great to have other party-goers enjoy the details, but the party was for my son and if I had done half as much he still would have had just as much fun! I will be keeping this in mind if I start to feel guilty as I plan simpler parties in the future for him and my daughter!

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