Ideas for the Party Human

Posts Tagged ‘flexibility

A Veritable Feast of Festivities

            I  have lumped teens and adults together because I feel most parties can be adapted successfully for either group.  You can also adapt them in other ways:  A young woman’s birthday party can be expanded into a church youth social; an adult church social can be tailored into a community youth activity, or a social for a large organization can be scaled down to a personal party.  For this reason, I will describe all kinds of events in coming posts,  many taken from the originals that were actually given.  You may read one description of a teenager’s party, followed by a description of a large social for families.  I will include comments about adaptability on occasion, but you can probably figure out how you want to use the ideas for your own event.  And so, let the festivities begin. . . .

 

THEME:  Dog-sleds, Eskimos, Snow

INVITATIONS:  Draw, print or glue a picture of an Eskimo and his dog-sled on the outside of a regular card-type invitation.  Write message inside and ask guests to dress warmly and bring their sleds, saucers, etc.  This party is good for children aged 4-9.

MATERIALS FOR ACTIVITIES:  Lots of clear space with plenty of snow, whistle, prizes.

FOOD:  Serve hot cocoa with white-frosted birthday cake.  Decorate cake with an Eskimo scene, if possible.

DECORATIONS:  None needed outside, just set up the snow areas for the various games.  Inside, decorate with toy sleds and posters showing Arctic landscapes, Eskimos, dog-sled races, etc.  You could make it look like an igloo, with sheets of white paper covering the walls and blankets and a fake campfire set up inside.

BLOW-BY-BLOW:             As guests arrive, you (the parent) make sure they all have plenty of warm winter clothing, especially gloves or mittens.  (Have extras on hand.)  When all have arrived, the children choose partners.  Each pair will need a sled, toboggan or saucer, and they will take turns pulling each other, switching at each stop.  The sleds then line up like a train, and you act as leader, blowing a whistle to start them moving.

            You will have arranged the route ahead of time, and it forms a circle (more or less) that will end up back at the house for refreshments.  The first stop will have a large circular path prepared in a clear area of snow.  There are paths crisscrossing it so it looks like a huge wheel with spokes.  (Preparing these stops for the games is an excellent activity for the excited birthday child to do with his parents earlier in the day.)  When the “Eskimos” arrive at the first stop, the leader blows the whistle to signal them to stop. 

            Here the children will play Eskimo Bear Hunt.  Divide the guests into two groups, Bears and Eskimos.  The Bears get a head start, then the Eskimos try to catch them, but everyone must stay strictly in the paths.  Allow no short cuts.  When a Bear is tagged, he is caught.  He then helps his captor catch the other Bears.  When the children begin to tire of this game, you blow your whistle, and lead the group to the next stop.

            At the second place, the guests will play Snowball Tag.  (Omit this game if there is a community ordinance against throwing snowballs in your area.)  Play this in a place where there are several trees or things to hide behind, for the tagging will be done with snowballs.  (A small neighborhood playground might work well.)  Only the player named “It” may try to tag the others with snowballs.  When a player is hit with a snowball, then he becomes “It” and repeats the process.  When everyone has had a chance to be “It,” conduct the “Eskimos” to the next stop.

            The third game is a Sliding Contest.  It will need to be prepared in advance with a long slide of hard-packed snow.  If done the night before, the slide could be sprayed with a fine mist of water.  For this game, the guests must take the dog-sleds apart and take turns sliding down the slide with their sleds.  Mark a starting line a few feet from the beginning of the slide.  Each player may start however he wishes, whether running and jumping on his sled, or having someone push him, but he must be sliding alone when he crosses the starting line.  The object is to see who can slide the farthest or the fastest.  You may give prizes for this contest.

            After the Sliding Contest, lead the Eskimos to an open area where they will have a Dog-sled Race.  Each pair will choose who will pull the sled and who will sit on it.  The sled teams line up at the starting line and, on a signal, race to the finish line, yelling “mush!” as they go.  The first team across the finish line may win a prize.

            When the race is over, the group returns to the “igloo” and parks their sleds there.  The children go inside for some much-needed warmth and sustenance.  After the refreshments, the guests can play games like “Musical Chairs,” or “Simon Says” while waiting for their parents to pick them up. 

Variations and Comments:        A fifth outdoor game can be added, if snowballs are legal in your area and the supervision is adequate to prevent injury.  This would ideally be the last stop and would need to be prepared in advance.  It should be relatively close to home, so the group won’t have far to travel in their wet and snowy condition after it’s over. 

            You will need two barriers, such as ditches or fences.  If these are not available, you can build two walls of snow about two feet tall and a few feet apart.  When the group stops, have the children choose sides for a Snowball Fight.  Each team takes a stand behind one of the barriers and begins the assault on the other team.  Whenever anyone is hit, a point is scored for the other side.  Set a score limit of 10 or 25 points, depending on how long you want the game to last.  When one side gains the score limit, they win the game.  Back at the house, the winning team should receive a prize they all can share, like a box of candy.

            Part of the Flexibility Principle for this party would be to take the children back to the house as soon as they complain of the cold, whether they have finished all the games or not.

             What is it that gives parents the irresistible desire to throw birthday parties for their young children?  I think maybe there is a little bit of a wish to show off our youngster, to help him or her to be “king (or queen) of the hill,” to have his or her day in the sun.  Maybe we want to relive our childhood fun days through our child.  Whatever it is, we keep doing it, even if the little tads ruin our carpet or trample our petunias and invariably make us forget our resolve to treat our diminutive guests like adults.

          In this post, I will give some tips for making tot parties less nerve-wracking and even a little enjoyable.  In later posts, I will give some descriptions of both indoor and outdoor parties you might want to give for your child. 

                                               Parties for Your Progeny–How to Survive

             The key word in planning parties for children is anticipate.  Dream up the absolute worst that could happen and prepare for it.  (Kids were probably the inspiration for Murphy’s Law.)  If you remember to do this, the battle is half won.  Following are a few more tips that might help:

 1.        Keep it simple.  Pick a theme and plan activities that you know the children can handle.  Make sure you involve your child with these decisions as much as possible.  Don’t force him to choose something he doesn’t want.  Don’t wear yourself out on too much fanciness; the kids probably won’t notice.  (But, if your child really wants something extravagant in the way of food or decorations, maybe you can do it for her.)

2.         Be clear and specific on the invitations.  Write them to the parents as well as the children.  If you hand them out, give them to the child when the parent is present.  Request an R.S.V.P.  Be sure to state when the party begins and when it will be over.  An hour-and-a-half is good for young children, longer for older kids.  Also, if you don’t want them to bring gifts, say that clearly on the invitation.

3.         Try to invite kids that are pretty close to the same age or maturity level.  When some older kids get bored with younger children’s games, you may have warring factions on your hands, or at least some detached deserters.

4.         A guideline for young children’s parties is that the number of guests equals the child’s age plus one.

5.         Plan twice as many games as you think you’ll need.  If kids seem bored as you explain one game, switch to another.  Never play one game too long.  Use your child as a consultant.

6.         Try to have a partner.  If a spouse is not available, ask one of the parents of the guests to stay and help referee.  (This way, you can run two games at once, when some of the children say “London Bridges is dumb” and it’s your child’s favorite game!)

7.         Sometimes it’s handy to have a whistle to get the children’s attention.

8.         When teaching a new game:  Know the rules; don’t try to teach a game that you are not sure of yourself.  Have all necessary equipment ready before beginning.  Ask the children to get into position for playing the game before you explain it, and demonstrate everything as you talk.  Make sure everyone observes established rules.  And, last but not least, enjoy playing with the youngsters.  Children are quick to sense a leader’s boredom or bad attitude.

9.         Plan simple but fun food.  Don’t wear yourself out cooking.  Kids rarely distinguish between store-bought, mix and homemade.  Be aware of allergies, medications or health problems among your guests.

10.       Have the children eat outside, if possible.  At the very least, put down a tarp or sheet of plastic to catch spills.  Have plenty of napkins, simple-to-use-for-little-hands utensils and cups, and make sure it’s all disposable.  If you have ice cream, give small portions.  Fill cups of punch only half full for young children.  Save the eating part for the last, if possible.

11.       If you’re having the party outdoors, try to do so in a fenced-in area.

12.       Remember to be flexible!  This is nearly as important as anticipating!

13.       Try to have some party favor for the children to take home.  This is especially important when the guests are bringing birthday presents for your child.  Young children have a hard time understanding the concept of birthday gifts.

14.       Have large trash bags, broom and mop on hand for clean up.

15.       After the party’s over, you may want to share your fun by taking decorations down carefully and donating them to the children’s ward or playroom of a local hospital or orphanage.  Call the information office of the institution and ask for the procedure in making your donation.

            I hope these tips help you avoid disasters and enjoy your child’s party.  But most of all, I hope your child enjoys her party, and with some thoughtful planning, I’m sure she will.

             Probably the most discouraging thing for a host is for guests to leave early out of boredom.  Not quite as bad, but still aggravating, is when you can’t get them to leave at all.

            My mother always told us that the party should end while everyone’s still having fun, so they will leave with good memories.  At first, we hated to see people have to leave when the fun seemed at its peak, but we soon came to realize that she was right.  When people leave wishing for more, they will think of your party as a lot of fun, and they will more likely be back next time!

            So how do you conclude a party before it begins to drag?  The best way is to be specific on the invitations.  Give a starting and an ending time (unless you really don’t care when or if they leave).  That way, parents know when to pick up their children.  If the guests have driven themselves, the party might run a little over, but someone will have a watch, and once one person leaves they’ll all start doing it.

            After you’ve made everyone aware of closing time, be sure you plan more than enough activities to take you through that time.  But don’t think you have to do them all!  (Flexibility, remember?)  You just want to keep the guests busy and happy, so they don’t have time to get bored and decide to “blow this joint” of their own accord.  You want them to leave with a twinge of regret, hoping they won’t be missing too much more.

            If all this fails, and the guests are hanging around with no sign of leaving, the last resort is to begin dropping hints.  You can ask if your clock is correct; you may begin clearing away garbage and maybe even some food; you might ask if anybody has an idea for another game.  Sometimes, the guests just feel so comfortable and pleasant that they would rather sleep at your house than get up and go home, but most will be able to take a little hint.  Nevertheless, I sincerely hope that your clarity on the invitation will suffice and that you will not need to resort to such crass and less-than-gracious touches as glancing at your watch repeatedly, yawning or mentioning an early appointment in the morning.  One friend tells the story of her grandfather, who, when guests had stayed too long, would come out, snap his suspenders and say loudly, “It wouldn’t hurt my feelings if you’d all go home now.”  I do not recommend this kind of bluntness!

           I discovered this principle at the first party I ever hosted.  My friend was co-hosting it with me, and she took the initiative and planned everything out.  She was well acquainted with the principle of planning, and the party’s agenda was very structured.  There is nothing wrong with this, but my friend was not aware of the Flexibility Principle, and so she intended to adhere rigidly to her schedule, which went something like this:  7:00-7:15, play Blindman’s Bluff; 7:15-7:30, play Charades; 7:30-7:45, play Musical Chairs; 7:45-8:15, exchange and open gifts; 8:15-8:30, eat; 8:30-9:00, dance.  It’s okay to have a general outline like this in mind, but there are too many variables–arrival time of guests, preferences and moods of guests, forgotten assignments, to name a few–for the host to expect to be able to enforce his schedule.  If he tries to do so, he will only alienate his guests and spoil the party anyway.

            My mother explained these things to us, and we relaxed our expectations a little bit.  The party then went smoothly, and everyone had fun.  

            Simply stated, the Flexibility Principle is thus:

THE MORE FLEXIBLE THE HOSTESS/HOST IS, THE SMOOTHER THINGS WILL GO AND THE HAPPIER SHE/HE WILL BE WITH THE END RESULT OF HER/HIS PARTY.

Or in other words, you have to follow the flow of the party rather than try to force it into your own channels, if you want to avoid disappointment and make the event a success.   Let me demonstrate.

            Suppose you had your heart set on playing a certain game, which you would have to teach to your guests.  Now, several things could happen:  a)  The guests pick it up quickly and enjoy it immensely; b)  The guests don’t understand it and lose interest; c)  You run out of time; or d)  Another guest suggests a familiar game instead, and majority support is behind him.  What would you do if options b, c or d occurred?  Would you push for your game anyway, making your guests unhappy, bored and slightly resentful?  Would you sulk and moan and consider the party a total loss?  Just who is this party for, anyway?

            If you started the party intending to be flexible in whatever areas that were necessary to insure the success of the event, then you would take the slight tempo lapse in stride, change plans accordingly and go with the desires of your guests.  You would still have fun, and so would your guests!  It’s natural to feel a little disappointment, but if you expect to have to make changes it won’t be so bad.  After all, you should remember that the party is really for your friends, not for you.  (Consider it a fun service project!)  If you keep this in mind, then the enjoyment they have will be your reward.


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