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Teaching children to be polite and considerate is part of a parents daily duties. However, a party is not part of a daily routine and so a child may not know what is expected of them. Prep your child ahead of time for their special day. Discuss with them the importance of good manners and what is acceptable behavior. Role playing is one of the best teaching tools! Act out and rehearse with them, showing them how to greet a guest and how to be a good host. This is their birthday where they are in the limelight and experiencing the joy of spreading sunshine will make it much happier for them.
For a mentally challenged or special needs children which covers a wide spectrum of disabilities or injuries they also can be prepped for their momentous occasion even if they may or may not totally understand what is expected of them. All children look to their peers and adults for social cues, so keep it simple, full of enthusiasm (or take it down a notch, whatever is comfortable for him/her) and don’t be married to your plans. You may not need any advice having learned more in a short span of time than most learn in a lifetime about life but having special needs children in my family may I offer this: Remind yourself to do what feels right to you, make adjustments on the spot when needed, and enjoy the moments in celebration of their birthday (and might I add, in celebration of you as well).
Tying a bouquet of balloons to a sign, your front door or mailbox will make it easier for other parents who may have never been to your house before. It also makes a festive welcoming appearance.
If you plan on a outdoor party, have a backup plan for implement weather.
If you have pets like a dog or cat, keep them separated and protected from the party area. Many people consider their dog or cat a part of their family and do not want to banish them from a party. This may be tough but do not feel hurt or take it personally when other people are not so smitten with your pet. As much as we love our pets some guests may not voice it but really do not like animals. They may tolerate it but they will not enjoy themselves much. Many people and little children can be uncomfortable around animals, especially if it is a bouncing, big, friendly dog and they are a very small child or elderly adult. As an added side note, even if your pet has never bit someone if an animal feels threatened and one child were bitten it could ruin a birthday party and you could be liable for a lawsuit.
This is an extremely valuable tip from many years of party planning. With games if you have rewards and prizes for the winner give all the children a prize saying, “You did great! You are all winners!”. The parents will be glad you did and the party will be more memorable to every child.
Whether a mentally challenged or a special needs child is the guest of honor or a a guest attending the party, games and activities are best kept simple without too many rules. If a game you thought simple proves to be too challenging mix it up and be very aware of your body language and facial expressions. They love big smiles. Simplicity and living in the moment is the key. Everyone who attends can have a lot of good laughs together if you relax and see the activity as for their benefit and not yours.
Food that is familiar and easy to handle like hot dogs, sandwiches, pizza, and sundaes are well liked. Apple juice is among the top parents favorites. If parents drop children off at a party make sure you know in advance if they have any food allergies. To save time, avoid nuts or peanut butter if you do not know as many children are allergic to them.
It is considered party etiquette to send a “thank you for coming” note after a birthday party. A thank you note does express appreciation. To previous generations a handwritten thank-you note was simply common courtesy. For the twenty some generation it has become a well accepted practice to give party favors with a thank you note attached, or even a simple thank you for coming hug or handshake as they leave. Expressing appreciation to all those who honored your child with their time and effort to attend is good party etiquette. The ultimate party success is when a little guest of honor follows suit in expressing their thanks as well.
If you do not want your child to receiving gifts from their party guests you can specify on the invite, “No gifts please.” This saves on friends pocketbooks and too many toys. If someone still wants to bring a gift you can organize the party so it can be given without all the other guests present to eliminate any awkwardness a guest might feel having not brought a gift themselves. Celebrating the life of your child with friends is what a birthday party is all about.
Some parents have found opening presents after the guests have all gone home to be less stressful and a nice way to end a party. If a presents from guest are given then opening them with them there is more polite. If a child is young preparing them with some role playing in advance on how to politely receive and thank people for gifts would be advisable.
With children, singing “Happy Birthday” and serving cake and ice cream is usually best when served at the end of the party. This way the mess is more contained and when they get an inevitable sugar high it will be when they are all headed home. If you are serving only cake without a meal make sure to serve it a couple of hours before meal time or after so the guests won’t come or go hungry.
Here are some tips if you are not a professional photographer and plan on taking the pictures yourself:
Although you may have an exact guest list, preparing an extra setting or two will eliminate any regrets if someone extra happened to show up. Sometimes the unexpected happens and it is best to be prepared especially if you have RSVP invites.
An RSVP should be at least a week or two in advance before the party. If you have a party is with an RSVP invitation ask only for the those planning on attending to respond. Printing “Only those who cannot attend need reply” is not considered well mannered or friendly. Do not request a response from someone who is does not plan or able to attend. Always think in favor of an invited guest’s convenience over your own. Also keep in mind a guest who does RSVP may have a last minute emergency and some parents may completely forget to respond and show up after all. Having a great time depends primarily on the attitude of an awesome hostess.
If you are planning a birthday party with other children from your child’s school or daycare never hand out invitations in front of other children unless you plan on inviting the whole class. The safest option is to mail the invitations. Some schools have rules about delivering invites on school premises so be sure to check with a teacher or the school first.
A theme will make a party easier for decorating and planning. You can be all out creative with something totally new or refer to some more traditional party ideas:
Birthday parties are meant for celebrating life. A time with family and friends to look back over the years and be happy. If the party is earlier and you aren’t eating a meal there plan on an easy ready made meal for yourself and family after the party is over. Don’t just plan a party, plan a break for yourself as well afterwards.