I thought planning and organising a kids party is a piece of cake. I am managing a multi-million project, so what’s the complication, I thought to myself. Big mistake.
I got to discover that a kids party puts to test all the best a project manager has to offer. Now, when I am sitting on selection panels for project managers positions, my question to the candidate is “tell me about a kids party you planned and organised”? I do get that look, but I also get some terrific answers.
After some years of trial-and-error and some failures, these days kids parties are a source of joy our family is looking forward to months ahead. I’ll skip the general tips found on any parties sites (make the list, invitations, finding the place etc. ) and share a few insights for a joyful outcome. With one remark perhaps. Make it about the kid: invite her friends not yours. Her school, week-end activities and usual playground ‘suspects’ will help prepare the invitees list.
I approach each party as a unique, one of a kind event. Kids grow, so it’s natural that their tastes and preferences evolve. The birthday girl or birthday boy has a unique position: he/she is a beneficiary, stakeholder, steering committee member and your harshest auditor. To keep him/her happy, for a starter, make him/her a member of the team. Listen to her preferences. Consult her all the way. Kids can be a great source of ideas for the party’s scenario. Let your kid wear his/her preferred character costume and send the invitations in her name: “the Butterfly Fairy has the pleasure of inviting …”. The positive response rate is always 100%.
Preparations matter and it’s an occasion to show off all your project management skills. Prepare in advance 4-5 games to play and accompanying music tracks. Mix kids with parents . Start with less soliciting games and add more fun as you go. Pass the Parcel is a good starter, an all time favourite party game. They say it works best for ages 3 +. We had 24 month olds who enjoyed it as much. For a quick solution, you can buy a “Pass the parcel” game pack. Alternatively, you can make one. I bought a puzzle and packed it in Christmas wrapping paper left after our season’s gift wrapping (it’s also more environment friendly).
In many cultures, a party is also an occasion to share a special meal. Find trustful food catering options and opt for a healthy menu: fruits, finger treats, fresh bakeries. It’s a good idea, on the risk management side, to ask other parents for any food sensitivities their kids might have.
Get engaged: be actors for one day. For example play the animators role, to everyone’s surprise when you disappear for 5 minutes after guests arrival and return dressed in colourful costumes, disguised in a green wig for the Spring fairy role in the middle of Winter. It makes your kid proud to have parents who will change their business suits for a clown costume and a butterflies hair band on a green wig. And you’ll get a mood boost shot to keep you enthusiastic for weeks.
During the party, watch your group dynamics. If you see that a break is in order, go for “Tell me a story” game. Prepare key words you’d like the story to be about printed on rolled pieces of paper and have the birthday kid offer the basket they are placed in to guests she would like to hear stories from. Key words can be from your kid’s favourite stories or can be invented. The birthday kid gets to choose the story-teller she liked best and give a prize to the winner. It can be a stories’ book. Parents of the winner will usually revert with a note, which reads “Thank you for the book, it’ s now a favourite”. No doubts, it was earned and well deserved.
Because it’s a kids party, have a game your kid would be leading on by setting the rules and organising others. He/she will be a jr.project manager on training :). And you can have some fun.