Traditionally Indian birthdays were celebrated with a ‘tikka’ and a small pooja. Gradually however, this practice has evolved, into a trend towards elaborate celebrations with theme parties and entertainers. As a result, more and more parents are getting stressed out trying to create the perfect birthday event. Often they end up creating tension and setting up unrealistic expectations for the future at exorbitant expense. A whole industry has sprung up around managing, hosting, and sending birthday party invitations. But do you really need them?

Hosting a successful party –

  • Big guest lists are more for the satisfaction of the parents than the child. Upto the age of 3-4 years children prefer to spend time with people they are familiar with. The thumb rule remains “the child’s age plus one”.
  • Plan the party around the interests and attention-span of the birthday child and the guests. What games, food, celebrations will they enjoy?
  • Keep individual personalities in mind while preparing for a party – are there shy kids who will need coaxing and hyperactive kids who will need extra supervision? Plan for them in advance
  • For the toddler years, instead of calling entertainers, try one special activity or craft of interest to children of that age or put in a few simple enjoyable games.

Toddlers prefer participation to spectator events.

  • For older children you can organize a treasure hunt or any such participative activity. The children will not only have fun but they will also learn a lot by interacting with each other.
  • If there is a mix of age groups, make sure the younger ones get their share of party games and goodies.
  • Keep the party for the children. Accompanying adults can eat the same food. At best keep one wholesome item in the menu for the parents or the maids.
  • While planning the menu keep in mind what the children would like rather than going in for something fancy.
  • Prepare the child for what to expect. The child will be more comfortable knowing the order in which the party is going to be held -first the play, then the cake and lastly the presents.
  • As far as possible, include the child in the party plans by letting her choose the balloons, the colour of the icing, etc.
  • If you keep celebrations small in the early years, she will not have super expectations in the later years. That way a special theme party or elaborate celebrations once in a while will have more meaning to the child.
  • It’s not necessary to have a party every year. Make the day special in other ways. Take her for a special treat, fuss over her and spoil her rotten for that one day.

Tips for holding a relaxed birthday party-

  • Send out invitations well in time.
  • Follow up with a phone call.
  • Set a time and keep it short. For toddlers 1 ½ – 2 hours is enough otherwise they may end up getting tired and cranky.
  • Plan for more activities than you think you will need.
  • If you’re planned an outdoor party, have an alternative location ready in case it rains.
  • Ensure you’ve got enough adult help for supervision purposes.
  • Expect that a child or two will cry and don’t panic or believe that your party is a failure.
  • Make sure the birthday child is having fun. This is one day where you can spend a little more time looking out for your own child as compared to the guests.

Believe the tried and tested adage – if you’re having fun, the guests will have fun.

  • Child proof your home in case the party is at home, keeping in mind that your home hazards may not be familiar to guests.
  • Put away your child’s coloring books – you don’t want her to burst in to tears because someone else is playing with them.
  • Be careful with balloons.
    – Never put tiny Styrofoam coloured balls in the balloons when the guests are under 5 years of age.
    – Pieces of broken or collapsed balloons represent a serious choking hazard. Try and ensure that you use polyester film balloons rather than rubber or latex balloons.
    – If you have rubber or latex balloons keep an extra careful watch on the children and pick up all pieces of deflated or broken balloons.
  • Supervise children around a cake with lit candles.
  • Check for food and pet allergies amongst the guests before the party.

The First Birthday
Many parents caught up in the excitement of planning a party for baby’s first birthday, seem to lose track of the fact that a baby is still a baby and the gala event they are so painstakingly planning is rarely suitable for the guest of honour.
1. Keep the invites light-few and familiar faces
2. Keep the décor light- too many balloons , steamers, masks, etc may scare the baby
3. Plan food that small children will like not what would look nice. Include universal favourites like chips, popcorns, jelly not canapés, etc
4. Magicians, clowns, or any other such entertainment might frighten your baby or a playmate. One year olds are very sensitive and unpredictable- what one likes the other may not like
5. If you keep out some toys for the children to play with ensure that there enough of the same items to avoid competition
6. Time it right – baby should be well rested and recently fed.
7. Don’t take on the entire burden of supervising the party onto yourself. Get help from friends and family. You need to pay more attention on the birthday boy. One year olds especially as this is one of there first big interaction with a lot of children.
8. Keep the party brief – an hour and a half at the most.

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