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Throwing a kids’ party? Tips for a stress-free party

A successful party doesn't have to be stressful. Planning a kids' party can be stressful, and there's so much to consider. Where should you have it? What kind of food should you serve? How on earth are you going to entertain all those kids?  A little planning in advance goes a long way. Here are some tips:
  1. Set a Budget Set a budget before you start planning -- and stick to it.
  2. Pick a Date Make sure it works for the key players, too, such as your child's best friend and Grandma.
  3. Make To-Do Lists Make lists for items you need to do the month, week and day before the party. Lists help to organize your thoughts and keep you from feeling overwhelmed
  4. Decide Whether You Want to Use Your Home This depends on how much space you have and how much effort you want to put in. Home parties are more work for you, but great if you're the creative type. A home party is also a great way to save money because you can control how much you spend on food and decorations.
  5. Book a Venue If you decide to use a venue, look for one that suits your child's interests. Indoor play gyms, bounce houses and children's museums are great options. They can book up months in advance, so plan early!
  6. Select a Theme It's important to choose a theme your child loves. Look to their favorite activities, characters or sports for inspiration.
  7. Create a Guest List For preschoolers, invite your child's entire class to avoid hurt feelings if you can accommodate everyone. It's okay to stick with close friends for older kids. You can also keep the guest list down by having an all-boys or all-girls party.
  8. Choose a Time Toddlers do better earlier in the day, before their afternoon naps, while older children do well in the afternoon. Choose your party time with this in mind.
  9. Keep It Short Not sure how long the party should go? For younger kids, an hour and a half is plenty. Older kids (and parents!) will wipe out after two to three hours.
  10. Prepare Invitations Include the date, start and end times, the location and an RSVP phone number or email address. If necessary, include parking information and special requests like "Bring a swimsuit" or "No gifts, please."
  11. Decide If You Want Parents to Stay Most parties become drop-off parties around age 6. Still, indicate on the invitation whether parents should stick around to avoid any miscommunication.
  12. Send Invitations a Few Weeks in Advance If you send them too early, parents could forget about the party. If you send them too late, many guests won't be able to come.
  13. Serve Classic Foods Stick to the basics for kids' parties. You can't go wrong with pizza, cake and ice cream. For an at-home party, go with finger foods you can set up ahead of time and serve at room temperature, like mini sandwiches.
  14. Get Creative With Favors You don't have to spend a lot of money. Be creative and have a few extra on hand just in case a guest's sibling stays unexpectedly.
  15. Consider Entertainers Wisely Musicians or puppeteers are great choices. Sometimes, young kids can be frightened by clowns or costumed characters.
  16. Have Plenty of Activities Craft stations that fit your theme and classic games like musical chairs or the "freeze dance" work great. Keep kids busy
  17. Let the Kids Help Activities that allow kids to make their own food, such as building personal pizzas or decorating cupcakes, are popular. These mean less food prep for you, and one less activity to plan!
  18. Gather a Team Have friends or relatives help guide activities, take photos and clean up. You might also consider hiring a helper to watch younger siblings.
  19. Prepare for the Unexpected Always have a backup plan for outdoor parties. Side step minor emergencies by having a first-aid kit on hand, too.
  20. Open Gifts Later Opening gifts at the party is not a good idea. Feelings can get hurt, gifts can get lost and children can argue over toys. Wait until the guests have gone and let your tot have at it!