BIRTHDAY PARTIES FOR CHILDREN
Extension Specialist, Family Life Education
Cape Cod Cooperative Extension
University of Massachusetts
Storks work overtime in September. Birth rates peak, with September leading all other months. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, about 12,100 babies are born every day in September, while only 11,400 children are born daily the rest of the year. So naturally, more birthday parties are held in September than any other month! Birthday parties are an important part of a child's growing years. Plan parties that are fun and "age-appropriate."
Babies through age 3: Wee ones, toddlers, and those just out of diapers don't remember much, and their attention spans are short. Lots of excitement can put these children into overload or even frighten them. Small parties with small groups of friends and family are best. Parties for small children should be short, one to two hours at most.
Children ages 4 to 6: "Home" parties work best for this age group. Day care and school friends are now more important to children, and they have learned to get along through sharing and playing games. Children this age need lots of individual attention, so enlist plenty of help for parties.
Playing simple games can be more fun than hiring a clown or magician. Tape the Tail on the Donkey, Spoons, Hide the Thimble, Hide and Seek, Scavenger Hunt, Limbo, and "Nerf" sports may seem old hat to you, but many youngsters have never played them before. Make sure every child has a chance to triumph. Award prizes for "ingenuity," "cooperation," and other appropriate skills and behavior. Craft projects, such as mask making and puppet making, are good alternatives to competitive games.
Give party favors at the end of the festivities; otherwise children might lose them and end up crying. Simple favors and prizes are good for this age child. Try balloons, wrapped candy, trading cards, small plastic bugs, pencils, or stickers.
At this age, you may experience behavioral problems with the birthday boy or girl. Don't overload the children by inviting too many people. Helping children cope with the excitement of a birthday party is just one more aspect of growing up.
Here are a few hints for parties big, small, and in-between.
BIRTHDAY OLYMPICS - Organize an obstacle course in the backyard - ride tricycles, play ring toss, paint at an easel, shoot baskets, play hopscotch, imitate animals. Every child receives a "medal." Have twice as many activities planned as time allotted.
CLOTHES DECORATION - This is a craft activity. Decorate plain T-shirts using glitter, buttons, lace, feathers, and other craft materials. Have the activity at the beginning of the party, and then have refreshments after.
DINOSAURS - Construct dinosaur costumes using string, paper plates, tape, glue, markers and construction paper. Favors are dinosaur-related and the cake is shaped like a volcano.
Fun finger foods requiring few utensils, such as hot dogs, chips, pizza, popcorn, cookies, and fruit, are good party fare. Children may also find fast foods from their favorite chain to be a "special" birthday treat. Cupcakes are often easier for young children to handle than cake slices.
It may never happen to you, but who wants a birthday party to end in the emergency room? Keep these safety tips in mind and a good time will be had by all.
1. Keep a first aid kit handy.
2. Make sure fire extinguishers and smoke detectors are available and in working order.
3. Make sure your home is extra child-proof. Check the yard for hazardous materials, such as barbecue lighter fluid or insecticide and for tools and other sharp objects. Limit access to ponds and pools, stairs, garages, basements, and other unsupervised areas. Let kids know where the party will be and keep them there.
4. Keep sharp objects away from party-goers. No toothpicks or knives at the table, and don't play games with projectiles.
5. To prevent accidents, children should sit down when they eat. Avoid games that involve eating food rapidly.
6. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold to prevent food poisoning.
National Network for Child Care - NNCC. Part of CYFERNET, the National Extension Service Children Youth and Family Educational Research Network. Permission is granted to reproduce these materials in whole or in part for educational purposes only(not for profit beyond the cost of reproduction) provided that the author and Network receive acknowledgment and this notice is included:
Reprinted with permission from the National Network for Child Care - NNCC.
(1994). Birthday parties for children. In M. Lopes (Ed.) CareGiver News
(September, p.3). Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Cooperative
Any additions or changes to these materials must be preapproved by the author.
FORMAT AVAILABLE:: Available only on the Internet
DOCUMENT REVIEW:: Level 2 - University of Massachusetts Cooperative Extension System
DOCUMENT SIZE:: 9K or 2 pages
ENTRY DATE:: September 1995