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Tips for Planning Your Child's Next Birthday Party

Enjoy this big milestone in your child's life. Time goes by fast -- before you know it, they'll be planning their own birthday parties!
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Children's birthday parties have become much more elaborate than we were kids. Parents often become overwhelmed with the details now required to throw the "perfect party." Here are some easy tips to make the party planning process easier and stress-free:

Determine the place: Decide whether you will be hosting the party at home or outside of the home. Many children's facilities, like Kidville, provide themed parties and take care of all the details for you. I would recommend hosting at home only if you are a fan of event planning, you are creative and you have time to organize food, activities, favors and decor. If not, save yourself the stress and outsource! Many do not realize all the details and costs that go into planning a "simple" kid's party in their home. Often, the cost of throwing a party at a children's facility is the same as doing it yourself. Plus, you are spared the headache of planning and cleaning up, and you can actually enjoy the party!

•Plan ahead: Begin planning your party approximately eight weeks before the big day, especially if the party is outside the home. Make sure to select a theme for your party -- this will help to determine the activities, decor, cake and favors. If your child is old enough, get them involved in selecting the theme. However, keep in mind that you will be planning eight weeks ahead of time and children's interests change frequently. Make sure that the theme you select will still be popular with your child!

•Timing is everything : Plan the birthday party time around your birthday child, not the guests attending. Your child needs be in the best mood that day. Pick the time of day when they are most rested and able to enjoy the entire length of the party. Keep the party to 90 minutes, two hours max. This provides ample time for children to become accumulated, partake in organized activities and eat. Any longer and you risk meltdowns from both kids and their parents!

•Allow sufficient RSVP lead time: Send out invites at least four weeks prior to your party and include an RSVP date of ten days prior to your party. Make sure you keep a list of RSVP's -- online invitation sites like Evite and Paperless Post allow easy tracking of guests' responses. Send a reminder invite/email two weeks prior to those you have not heard from. Parents are busy and it becomes a handful keeping track of schedules -- we often need reminders! You will need to know the final number of guests at least ten days prior to ensure that you have adequate food and favors.

•Keep the food simple: Pizza and cake are the easiest and most popular food options to serve to kids. Many children have nut allergies so it is safest to provide food that is nut-free.

•Mix it up: If your little one has plenty of toys and you want to try something new this year, host a book exchange! On your invitation ask that everyone bring a book in lieu of a gift. Everyone will put in one book and be able to leave the party with a new one.

•Keep track of the gifts: Make a list when opening gifts so that you know what every guest gave your child. You can use this list to create written thank you notes -- a practice that is not done enough these days! Sites like Tiny Prints and Minted offer cute stationary that can be personalized with your child's name. Or, create a collage of birthday party pictures on a photo card to send out as a thank you and keepsake from your party.

Enjoy this big milestone in your child's life. Time goes by fast -- before you know it, they'll be planning their own birthday parties!