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Planning a Party

Planning the perfect kid's party doesn't have to be an overwhelming task. In fact, it can be as easy as a piece of cake, according to party planning expert and author, Penny Warner. Piñata

Warner admits today's lifestyles pose some challenges, but none that can't be overcome to create fun memories for kids on their special day. "The reality for most families is that time is at a premium, especially when both parents work or the child is living with only one parent. There also is the reality of the family budget," she said.

No problem. Parties can be created to be stress-free without breaking the bank, she points out. You don't need ponies and jugglers or a trip to the amusement park. Instead, pick a fun party theme and plan activities at home. She offers three important tips to the success of any child's party:

Start with a theme. Let the true party expert - the birthday boy or girl - pick the theme. Create a party agenda. Include all tasks from the time the invitations go out until the last young guest goes home. Think like a child. Have activities that will excite them and hold their interest.

"With kids, you don't want any 'down time'," explains Warner. "Plan a mix of activities that may include physically active games as well as quiet things to do. For the quiet activities, kids love to create things that they can take home with them. If you can make the item edible or useful, you'll hit a homerun."

Candy makes the perfect craft medium for kids of all ages, she explains, because it has built-in kid-appeal. It also comes in so many sizes, colors and shapes that kids can create just about anything with it.

In fact, candy might be considered the quintessential party guest. "Candy is a wonderful celebration food," she said. "You can use it for decorating the cake, for creating party favors, as a festive addition to wrapped packages and for a variety of craft activities."

Crafts kids create from candy can be edible or purely decorative. Little ones enjoy making edible candy necklaces or creating candy masks made from sturdy paper plates decorated with candies. Even just decorating their own cupcakes or cookies is great fun.

Ice Scream with CandyOlder children, ages about nine and up, can create decorations for their room and gifts for others. Depending upon the time of year, kids activities can include creating a Mother's Day or Valentine's Day gift box for mom or a friend. They can decorate a small paper-mache box found in any craft store and fill it with the recipient's favorite goodies. Inexpensive picture frames can be decorated for personal use or as fun gifts given with a favorite photo inside. Kids of all ages can even help make their own party favors.

When kids start getting restless with one activity, you know it's time to move on to another, Warner said. Attention spans vary with age, so how long should the party last?

"Kids' parties don't have to be long to be great," Warner advised. "Younger children will enjoy parties about one and one-half hour long, kids nine and up can go for two-three hours if you keep them busy."

Other stress-free party tips include setting definite times for the party in your invitations. When a parent calls in response to the invite, be sure to note the party times again so someone will be on time to pick up each guest when the party is over. Always have one adult for every five kids (more for kids under six) to coordinate activities and handle problems like spills and skinned knees when they arise.

For more party planning tips for children, turn to Warner's party planning book such as The Kids Pick a Party Book, where she shares 50 creative party themes for kids.