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Birthday Party 101

Martha Stewart Kids, Holiday 2001

A birthday party is magical. If you doubt this for a second, you need only look into the eyes of a child as the celebration unfolds. Oddly, the key to creating that magic lies in something quintessentially practical: planning.That's not to say that pulling together a party is necessarily difficult. You don't have to host an extravaganza, pay a fortune for entertainment and decorations, or rent the most opulent venue to thrill your child. What children want is simply to feel special and to know the day will be filled with friends and surprises. In the end, it is your child's delight that is the true measure of a fabulous party.

Planning isn't something you have to do alone. Kids love to help (but you should keep some details a surprise). Very young children can vote on your short list of themes or party sites. Kids of all ages can help design invitations and pick the colors for napkins, plates, and tablecloths. And parents and children can shop together for favors.

The perfect time for a party is the one that works for your child's age and personality and for your schedule. Weekend parties are most common, but you might also consider weekdays, which are ideal for preschoolers in part-time programs. For older kids, after school is an option as well. Before committing to a date, make certain your child's best friend is able to come.

Also think carefully about the time of day to have the party. When kids are well-fed and well-rested, they're more likely to get along and enjoy activities, so avoid scheduling the party for an hour when kids are typically hungry or tired. Start right after lunch, for example, if you're not planning on serving a meal. Whatever the timing, take a cue from Cinderella's fairy godmother, who understood that a celebration -- however magical -- cannot last forever. Keep parties to no more than 90 minutes for preschoolers and two or three hours for school-age kids and teens.

Where to Have It
Whom to Invite
The Invitations
What to Serve
Party Favors
Opening Presents
Games & Activities

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