Mommy Maven: Birthday Party Survival Guide
It is natural as parents to want our children to enjoy themselves as much as possible. And when more than at their birthday party?! All this stress and pressure to have a good time can often lead to tears and frustration, and I don’t just mean for your toddler (I think I’ve cried for one reason or another at just about every party I’ve had)!
Add to the general pressure any parent feels the fact that I do what I do for a career and I find people expect me to throw the most outrageous of toddler parties (or at least I think they do) with gilded M+Ms, bedazzled Lego and Yo Gabba Gabba themselves playing a catchy tuneLIVE! “Don’t bite your friends” is a personal favorite of mine!
It is perhaps this insecurity of mine that has meant the birthday parties I throw for my children are completely the opposite of that. Although I think I do love a gilded M+M I have to ask myself the question who would they be for, me or my kids? It is so easy to get caught up in impressing everyone, including our own toddlers that sometimes we forget that what these parties should be about is the very person it is for, your wee one.
So I decided to push my anxiety a side and plan a birthday party for my 3 year old that I thought he’d truly enjoy. If you too are embarking on the planning of one of these much anticipated events I have compiled a few lists of things I think will help so that your little one has the time of his or her life, so that your nerves stay intact and you might actually enjoy the experience!
But let me preface this by saying, even if you do everything right there still might be tears. The important thing is to stay positive and remember this is a celebration however bizarre it might turn out!
Guide to Planning the Party:
- Theme of the moment. Think about a theme or themes that makes your child happy right now. I say right now because we all know that our children’s interests seem to change on almost a weekly basis. So try not to plan the party too far in advance, a month is a good amount of time. Whether it is Thomas the tank engine or Barbie go with whatever makes them happy and try not to get caught up in how much you like the theme. The theme can be incorporated into games, decorations, costumes, party bags, food, cake, invitations and activities. For example if you have a super hero theme one of the activities can be decorating a cape with stickers and glitter. This will not only help on the decision making for all these areas but also help you stick to a consistent color theme (example: red and blue for Spiderman). I may be all for making the kids happy but nothing wrong with a party that’s aesthetically pleasing too!
- Planning the food. No matter what time of day you have your party, children always need to eat! The first rule of planning food for a party though is getting rid of any guilt you may have if you decided not to bake all your own food! I promise you its okay! If you do decide to cook, try not to kill yourself because it is unlikely you’ll be able to keep the party goers attention long enough for them to really eat a meal and what is most important is that you have energy to play with your toddler throughout his or her special day. Whether making at home our buying in go for two types of dishes: Intensely nutritious foods combined with intensely naughty!Even better if you can combine the nutritious with the delicious (see the cupcake recipe below). Some other ideas are chocolate covered fruit, chocolate covered pretzels, pineapple chunks w/ cheddar cubes on a toothpick, mini anything from sliders to mini-pizzas to catch the toddler’s attention. If you can make the display enticing by placing the pretzels in a happy face shape for example, all the better to grab the children’s interest. Anything to get a bit of food in before their blood sugar dips too low and crankiness sets in. Also, be sure to have enough sensible beverages around from milk (you can try chocolate milk as a special party treat) to water and definitely stay away from the sodas. But while it is important to try and pack those vitamins in I do also think there are a few days a year (at least) when we should literally let our wee ones eat cake and don’t fall victim to people giving you a hard time about this….as my Nana would say cake is an essential food group! It is not absolutely necessary but I always think it nice to have a little something for the parents too. A little something to nibble on and some refreshing beverages go a long way.
- Timing. Make sure the party isn’t too long so that the kids don’t get over tired. After my son’s birthday this past weekend he proceeded to take a four hour nap! I would say anymore than 2 hours is too long. I also advise having the parties earlier in the day so that the anticipation of the day doesn’t get the best of your toddler (or you). Early parties also leave time for a necessary nap in the afternoon even if your wee one has dropped their usual nap.
- Don’t over or under schedule the party. Let free play first while all the children arrive and then the activities. I suggest planning a certain amount of time doing each thing – 15 to 30 minutes; an activity is usually long enough with singing and cake/cupcakes as the grand finale.
- Presents. if you can manage it I suggest waiting till after all the children have left to open the presents. It is hard for the other toddlers to not want to play with the new toys and this can be doubly hard on the birthday girl or boy. Sharing is always tough but with new presents even tougher. I’ve learned from experience that it’s a bit much to ask and no one wants to spend a birthday disciplining. Why not have a table out of the way at the party where guests can leave presents and only bring them to your wee one’s attention after everyone has left. It will be a nice activity for the second half of the day.
- Gift Bags. gift bags are a nice touch at the end of a party but you don’t have to go crazy with spending a lot of money. Stickers, crayons, coloring books go along way and can be themes just like the party. Be sure not to fill the bag with anything that could be a choking hazard as toddlers often have younger siblings. Do make sure you make a few extra gift bags though in case people bring brothers and sisters.
- Keeping track of the gifts. Do try and keep track of who gave your toddler what. However, don’t let perfection get in the way of good intention and if you don’t manage to do so just make sure to send a thank you note to everyone even if you aren’t exactly sure what they gave as a gift. When you are writing the thank you cards it is my policy that if you are writing to the parents then it should be from you (with perhaps a nice wee scribble or masterpiece depending on how you are looking at it, from your toddler), and if it is to the children then it should be from the child even if you are writing it.
Rules to Surviving the Party:
- Make sure to give your wee one a large healthy breakfast. I’m a big fan of oatmeal because it is likely their next meal will be icing based!
- Don’t force your toddler to take part in party activities. It will make them anxious and they will join in when they feel ready and with the right amount of positive encouragement. Sometimes it can all be overwhelming so give them time to adjust to all the people and all the hype.
- Be sensitive to your guest’s allergies and ask people to notify you if there is one you should be aware of.
- If you are inviting children from your toddler’s pre-school either invite all in their class or less than half to avoid any feelings of being left out by other children.
- Plan a relaxing afternoon post party activity and even if your toddler no longer takes a nap go for a stroller ride or car ride to get them to take a snooze and get their energy back.
- Keep some of the snacks your toddler likes in your bag just in case they need an emergency dose of veggie booty or cheerios. You never know when the all that icing might even be too much for them.
- Most of all don’t’ worry if it doesn’t go according to plan, it almost certainly won’t. Just say positive and remember no matter what this is your toddler’s special day and quiet simply you are just happy to be able to spend it together.
Here’s a great recipe for delicious red velvet cupcakes that are also packed with goodness, but remember from one crazy busy mother to another, don’t feel guilty if you just decide to buy them instead. Enjoy!
RED VELVET BEET CUPCAKE RECIPE BY DL
3/4 cup roasted beet purée
1/4 cup milk 1Tablespoon whole plain yogurt
1 Tablespoon good balsamic vinegar
2 large eggs 1/2 cup melted butter or canola oil
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract (or you can use vanilla bean infused milk)
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup alkali free dark cocoa (60%+)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup crushed walnuts
1/4 cup crushed flax seeds
To Make Cupcakes
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Combine dry ingredients and set aside
- Combine wet ingredients and mix in mixer until smooth
- Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients slowly and mix until incorporated
- Place batter in ungreased cupcake pans with cupcake liners
- Cook at 350 degrees 15-18 minutes until toothpick comes out clean
- Top with cream cheese frosting
- Makes 18 cupcakes
To Make Beet Purée
- Take 2 large fresh beets and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, wrap in foil
- Place on a cookie sheet in a 450 degree oven for 1 hour
- Remove from oven (should be fork tender) and place in an ice bath, then trim ends, scrub the peel off the beet, dice and puree
To Make Cream Cheese Frosting:
- Take 2 packages of cream cheese place in bowl and mix with a mixer until whipped
- Add 2 tablespoons of vanilla and beat until smooth