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10 Tips for avoiding birthday meltdowns

Abbi Perets lives in Houston, TX, with her husband and five children.






Stress-free party how-to

It's easy to get so caught up in the excitement of planning your little one's birthday party that you overlook the fact that your angel is turning one (or two or three) and is, in fact, a small child.

Baby girl crying on her birthday

Some small children have been known to be, shall we say, overstimulated at large celebratory events, and can even go into meltdown mode. This, of course, would never happen to your children. But just to be on the safe side, you might want to review our tips for avoiding such a situation. You know, for a friend.
One

Know your child.

If your child naps daily at noon, don't plan your birthday party for 12:30. Don't plan it for 11:30, either, unless you want Cranky McWhinypants to be the guest of honor.
Two

Know yourself.

If you are easily stressed at the thought of many small children traipsing through your home, do yourself a favor and hold the party at the park or an indoor playspace. If you join the festivities in a bad mood, you'll quickly infect your kid — and maybe the rest of the group as well.
Three

Practice makes perfect.

Let your child know what to expect on her birthday and be as specific as possible. "Your friends Jenny and Sara will come here and we'll play games. We'll have pizza, we'll sing Happy Birthday and have cake, and your friends will go home. We'll open your presents after they leave."
Four

Plan for gift disasters.

Yes, it would be great if kids understood that it's the thought that counts, but that's a lot to expect from a toddler. Role play ahead of time so that your child has a way to respond appropriately. Save your own gift for last, to make up for any disappointment.
Six

Eat well.

If the birthday child downs a doughnut, washes it down with a Coke and then stuffs herself on candy and cake, you're not going to like what happens next. Give your kid a fighting chance — feed her a good breakfast with plenty of protein. Make an effort to keep her blood sugar steady and she'll be better able to control her behavior.
Six

Cater to your child's interests.

A common mistake parents make is to plan a party that's more on their level than on their child's. You can't expect a three-year-old to sit around patiently while you gab with the girls. This is his day and you need to make it about his needs.
Seven

Limit the excitement.

Classroom party in the morning, get together with friends in the afternoon, birthday dinner with family — it's all too much. If you must do a second family celebration, do it on a different day so that your child can recover.
Eight

Choose your battles.

Is it so important that your child wear the outfit you've selected and pose for pictures and kiss each relative and — you get the picture. Decide what matters most and focus on that. Let the rest go.
Nine

Don't skip the nap.

It's so tempting to give in to the excitement of the day and skip the nap completely. Don't do it, unless you really enjoy watching tired children scream like wild animals.
Ten

Pay attention to your child

Don't get so caught up in what needs to happen that you forget to actually sit down with your child and give her your undivided attention for at least a few minutes.

More for a brilliant kids' birthday party:

Is it my birthday yet? Helping kids count down the days

Kids' birthday party budgets

Creating a birthday scrapbook

5 Summer birthday party pitfalls to avoid

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