I love throwing parties, and I love having parties where everyone is able to enjoy themselves. Creating a party that is fun for adults AND kids is not the easiest thing, but over the years I have compiled a whole bunch of tips that could help make your party a success!
1. Don't plan kid activities that require a lot of adult help.
There are a lot of awesome ideas on Pinterest; however, you need to think about the reality of it. If you want to do face painting, an adult will need to be in charge, there will be a line of whiny kids impatiently waiting, and there will be requests for things that you probably won't be able to draw. If you want to have a craft station for young kids, their parents will need to help them through it. If you plan some elaborate game, the adults will need to explain and referee.
2. Put out toys or activities where multiple children can play at the same time.
Children are not great at sharing so why not eliminate a lot of the frustration and just put out toys and activities where a whole group of kids can have fun together. Set up a bubble station (DIY bubble solution and fly swatters works awesome). Have a whole bucket of balls (soccer balls, basketballs, footballs, and whatever is laying around your house). Create a ball pit (you can buy ball pit balls at the toy store to dump into a kiddie pool). Put out all of the ride on toys and bikes that you have so that there is plenty for everyone to use.
3. Take inside toys outside
For a lot of our outdoor parties, I end up taking toys that typically belong inside, outside! It is fun for the kids to mix it up, & keeps them occupied. I have taken the pretend food toys out to the playhouse. I have taken all of the tents and tunnels that we have collected out to the backyard. I have taken cars, trucks, and even trains out to race on the deck. Inside toys take on a new life when they go outside, and it will keep everyone happy for hours. *Note: Put away your child's favorite toys during the party. If they have a special toy that you know they are not going to want to share, just hide it out of sight during the party and avoid the meltdowns.
4. Avoid messy activities
Having a painting party sounds awesome, and I have thrown a party where I had water tables and kiddie pools. But in reality... they are more effort than they are worth. Messy parties are the kind of parties that sound fun in theory but end up being stressful. The parents have to keep a closer eye on their kids, they have to pack changes of clothes, they have to worry about getting messy themselves. It is easier to prevent mess where you can -- although I am not guaranteeing that your child won't go home without a few grass and mud stains.
5. Kid friendly food
When planning the menu, make sure that there is kid friendly food included. My boys are picky eaters, and a lot of times they end up only eating chips and maybe some fruit when we go to a party. Hot dogs, mac n cheese, peanut butter and jelly... kids live on these kinds of foods; and parents will be thrilled if they get anything in their child's stomach at a party regardless of the nutritional value. You can even set up a kid food & drink station where they can help themselves throughout the party -- fun for the kids, easy for the parents.
*Bonus tip: Stay away from little details
The reason that parties can be such a headache for hosts is all of the little details. You don't realize how much work all of those little details are until you are regretting all of it a week before the party. Cupcakes sound easy in theory, until you realize you have to ice them all. Small, elaborate decorations sound beautiful, until they get lost and go unnoticed in the chaos of the party. Having a candy bar where people help themselves is easier than you having to stuff 30 goody bags yourself. If you are going to do a DIY project, make sure that it has a big impact -- like the balloon wall that I created for Julian's first birthday party!
The common thread throughout these tips is to keep it simple so that the kids can have a good time without needing their parents. The kids want to play & explore. The parents want to sit & chat. So make it as easy as possible for everyone to do just that. Keep things kid safe, kid friendly, and simple; and the parents will enjoy themselves more too.