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Learn to party!

Most parents look forward to their children's birthday parties with a certain amount of trepidation, mostly because of their concern about how to keep 10 small people happily occupied for two or more hours. Forward planning is always key, but aside from the more obvious areas such as time, place, food and theme, the type of games that are played is often paramount to the success of a birthday party.

Basic party planning tips

1. Theme and venue
Sit down with your child and let him or her choose a few themes for the party, after which your child can make a list of who will be invited. You can then call the parents of the invited children to ask about interests, talents etc. When you have an idea of the dominant interests of the other children, you and your child can then choose a theme from the original list. From a practical point of view, you need to decide well in advance whether you will be booking a venue for the party or hosting it yourself.

2. Entertainment
If you decide to use an entertainer for the event, it is wise to spend some time checking out the credentials of any entertainers whom you think may be suitable. An entertainer may look good on paper, but you need to be sure that they live up to their advertisement.

3. Invitations
Decide whether you want the invitations to reflect the theme of the party. There are many ready-made, themed invitations on the market, but you may prefer to design your own. Alternatively, there are free designs you can print yourself from the Internet.

As well as an RSVP note at the bottom of the invitation, it is wise to include directions to your party location for those parents who may not be familiar with the area in which you live. You may wish to include a pre-paid reply card inside the invitation to encourage parents to reply and to avoid the embarrassment of catering for an incorrect number of children.

4. Games
Whether you decide to follow the theme of the party through to the games or simply choose more traditional games, you need to plan these well ahead.

Take time to call the parents of the invitees to find out who has an aptitude for what and then plan the games accordingly, allowing each child the chance to show-off their particular talent and perhaps win a prize.

Organize a couple of games where everyone wins a prize, to avoid exclusion and tears!

5. Food and seating arrangements
Whether you are hosting the party yourself or using a venue where food is provided, find out in advance whether any of the children who have been invited have any specific allergies. The worst thing that could happen would be to have peanut butter sandwiches if one of the children had a severe nut allergy.

Find out in advance if any of the children have preferences as to who they would like to sit next to, or more particularly, if there is anyone whom they would not wish to be seated by. This is a difficult one, since there will inevitably be conflict between a couple of the children. However, if you can avoid this, it will make the party the happy occasion that it should be. Most importantly, find out which friends your child would prefer to sit next to.

6. Helping hands
Enlist the help of other family members, friends, neighbors, other parents or anyone else who could rally round on the day. Not only will you need help decorating and organizing, but trying to keep a dozen young children under control by yourself, would be impossible!

7. Top tip
Take a Polaroid photo of each child as they arrive. You can then place the photos at each place setting and when it is time to eat, each child can sit at the place in front of their photo. They may then take their photo home as a memento of the party.

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