It never fails: The school year's in full swing and soon every weekend is booked with a kid birthday party. Heck, it's only October and between my two kids, we've already been invited to six parties. Super fun for them, but not-so-super fun for me. While birthday parties are a great way to meet other parents, the weekends often end up revolving around them—at the expense of quality family time and me time.
I usually RSVP 'yes' to the invitations, only to find myself working though mundane tasks, like writing thank you notes or going through my spam folder on Gmail, while in attendance. Look up from your smartphone at the next kid party you're at and you'll notice that you're not alone; it's a sea of parents staring into their phones, counting down the minutes, making forced, intermittent chitchat with each other while our children run and scream around us. Still, we diligently show up because watching our kids have fun with their best buds makes it all worth it (sorta).
Am I crazy to believe that there can be a better way? Can't birthday parties be fun for both kids and grownups? I believe they can be, if you just gear a few things for the grownups. Here are a few tips to make sure Mom and Dad have a blast at your child's next bday bash:
Create a parent space: "Be sure to have an adult-sized seating area set up that is convenient to where the kids will primarily be," says Kenna O'Brien, owner of LA-based Miss Party Mom Event Planning. Match the number of chairs to the number of kids attending, assuming at least one parent will stay for each kid. "Providing adult-friendly food on a table in the center of the seating area will draw a crowd to the area and create a space for parents to mingle," says O'Brien.
Offer food for the adults. "People often forget that parents get hungry too and it is very easy to get sick of party pizza," says Ellie Hirsch mom to three boys in Tampa, Florida and founder of the blog Mommy Masters. Offer some healthy parent-friendly snacks, like a veggie, fruit, or cheese platter. "Even if you are just sticking with pizza, order a few pies that are less kid-friendly (like a white pizza with broccoli) just for the adults," suggests Hirsch.
Offer adult-friendly drinks. Have coffee on hand. Lots of coffee. No matter what time of day the party is. That said, booze is often also appreciated by stressed out, tired parents, whether it's a glass of wine for an evening party or mimosas for a morning event. Just keep the offerings under control (it's a kiddie party, not a kegger, after all) and remind driving adults that anyone can leave their car and take a taxi or an Uber home. And if alcohol isn't your thing (or not allowed at your venue), you can still make offerings adult-friendly by providing sodas, bottled water, and seltzer—the point is to avoid having thirsty adults reach for their kid's juice box.
Give 'em the heads up. Be sure to include a special message on the invitation to help set the tone for your adult friendly party—and to make sure that the parents don't just drop their kid and go, suggests Hirsch. An example might be, "A child-friendly early dinner will be served along with dinner and drinks for the adults" or "Come hungry; bagels will be served for everyone along with Bloody Mary's for the adults."
Avoid over-crafting. "I've noticed that if there's a party craft that gets too 'parent involvement heavy,' you can lose certain non-crafty parents or even worse, stress them out," says O'Brien. If you're dead-set on having party guests create DIY beaded kitty necklaces, O'Brien suggests considering hiring your babysitter to run this station so that the parents can just sit back and enjoy. Wait, just hire a sitter anyway; an extra pair of hands always comes in handy!
Help 'em make a memory. An open-air photo booth is fun for everyone. "Be sure to place it in good lighting and provide a few props, like boas and hats," says O'Brian. Or, DIY-it by setting up a boz of fun props and offering to take pics of parents with their kid on their smartphones, or set up a tripod, camera, and photo printer so that you can send guests home with a photo in hand.
Let them drop off. If you really want to make your party a hit with parents, let them drop their kids off (recommended most for kids ages 7 and over) so they can clock their own grown-up time. Even better: Host a sleepover. Yeah, a half a dozen kids sleeping at your place is a bit of a stress fest. But we're sure that at least one of those parents will repay your generosity in the coming year. And that's when you'll really get to party.