Moms share wisdom on planning birthday parties
BY NOUR HABIB World Scene Writer
Monday, October 15, 2012
10/15/12 at 4:01 AM
Misty Taylor has her daughter's birthday parties planned for the next 12 years or so. Next year, she's doing a farm theme, complete with a petting zoo. The year after, it'll be a tea party. And this year, for Claire's second birthday, Taylor chose a carnival theme.
On Saturday, a Jupiter Jump, ball pit and dress-up station will be set up at Taylor's house, and about six toddlers from Claire's playgroup will come over for the fun.
Taylor has everything planned, down to the type of food that the kiddos will eat (bite-size snacks and sweets that they can eat on their own so the parents can be free to mingle). She has spent hours preparing - building Claire's presents, making invitations and communicating with vendors.
But, although her husband may think otherwise, Taylor said she's not going overboard with the party planning. All her inspiration has come from Pinterest, a website that allows users to "pin" pictures of their favorite things - including do-it-yourself art and craft ideas - onto digital pinboards. Taylor said she's been able to stick to a budget and the only thing she's gone overboard with is her time.
"But fortunately, I have the time and I enjoy it," she said.
Aside from the actual preparations for the party, a lot of effort went into figuring out an appropriate theme for 2-year-olds - who are more interested in playing than they are in structured activities - as well as coordinating a time that worked around the guests' scheduled naps.
Birthday parties are an important tradition, Taylor said, even if her daughter is too young to remember the early ones.
"It was a great thing when she came into our lives," Taylor said of her only child. In a way, the party is a celebration for families, too.
Other local mothers say whether a parent chooses to plan all the details of their child's party or is happier with a smaller role, there are several things to consider, including how to keep costs down and where to hold the party.
Kelley Chilcoat has two children - a 6-year-old daughter and an 8-year-old son - whom she has been holding birthday parties for since they each turned 3.
Although she has thrown parties for her kids at home before - of the cake and ice cream-in-the-backyard variety - she said she prefers moving the party to an outside venue.
"It's easier to go to a one-stop shop," said Chilcoat, who enjoys having someone take care of the prep work and clean-up, as well as provide the treats.
This year, Chilcoat took her daughter and eight of her friends to My Little Dollhouse, a facility that, among other services, offers princess-themed parties. During the party, the girls spent time with Belle from "Beauty and the Beast," had their hair styled and worked on a dance routine.
Chilcoat said having a birthday party at a venue instead of your own home is usually not more expensive.
"I believe it evens out," said Chilcoat, adding that she did not have to bring anything to her daughter's party last week. My Little Dollhouse provided the cupcakes, drinks, balloons and party favors, on top of the activities.
Lisa Wakefield, who has three children - ages 5, 8 and 11 - agrees that outside-venue birthdays are easier and could even be cheaper because to host parties at home, you have to spend money on things like food, drinks and decorations.
But despite this, she likes to have her kids' parties at home because she enjoys the process of planning them. Last week, Wakefield threw her 5-year-old son his first big party with an inflatable "bounce house," home-made decorations and party favors.
Wakefield said home parties also mean she can invite more adults, which makes the party more fun for her.
Mother-of-three Molly Frasier, whose oldest child is 5, said at this age, most parents stay with their children at the party, anyway.
So, often, the decorations and all the effort put into the party are really for the adults, she said.
Frasier remembers ordering M&Ms with her daughter's face on them for her third birthday party.
"It was a bit much," she admitted, joking that she had "first-kid syndrome."
But Wakefield said most of the parties she's been to have been pretty reasonable.
"Just do what you can fit in. (The kids) always have fun because they are with their friends," she said.
Moms offer several tips on making children's parties as economical as possible.
Avoid hosting the party at a meal time, so that you can get by with just serving cake and snacks.
If you start planning early, you will have time to shop around for the best deals, whether in venues, entertainment acts or decorations.
Lisa Wakefield said starting early also means you'll have time to make decorations yourself, which can save money.
"Keep the numbers down to the child's closest friends," Wakefield suggested. "Parties are overwhelming for kids anyway. It's hard for them to entertain a bunch of people."
- Keep the guest list small
Kelley Chilcoat limits the guest list to about eight kids, usually neighborhood friends.
Some schools encourage inviting your child's entire class if you send the invitations to school. For Molly Frasier, that meant inviting 24 kids to her daughter's last party.
Although it's a large number, Frasier said she'd rather not exclude anyone. But she explains to her children that if they choose to have a big party, then some of the money that would have gone to their presents would go toward the party instead.
"It's a trade-off," she said. "I'm not made of money."
- Keep the parties short. One-and-a-half to two hours is more than enough time.
- Make sure to have plenty of scheduled activities so that the children stay occupied.
- As your children get older, the things they may want to do become more expensive. At this point, you could make the guest list even smaller, to perhaps 3-4 friends.
- Don't feel that you have to have a big, blow-out party every year. Some years a birthday can be a family affair.
Great options for hosting out-of-home birthday parties are found all over the city. But here are some options a few local mothers mentioned:
8922 S. Memorial Drive
Broken Arrow Roller Sports
551 W. Oakland Place, Broken Arrow
My Little Dollhouse
3017 E. 91st St.
Incredible Pizza Co.
8314 E. 71st St.
Chuck E. Cheese's
7108 S. Memorial Drive
Diva Girlz Studio
2908 E. 15th St.
1700 N. Redbud Place, Broken Arrow
Original Print Headline: Planning birthdays
Nour Habib 918-581-8369
Eden Chilcoat (foreground), 6, works on a dance routine during her birthday party at My Little Dollhouse in Tulsa. MATT BARNARD / Tulsa World
Eden Chilcoat (right), 6, has her hair styled by "Princess Belle" Kellie Kittinger during a birthday party at My Little Dollhouse in Tulsa. MATT BARNARD / Tulsa World
Gracie Jones, 8, walks through an undersized doorway during a birthday party at My Little Dollhouse in Tulsa. MATT BARNARD / Tulsa World