Jun 30 2014

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10 Lessons from a Kid-planned Birthday

10 Lessons from a Kid-planned Birthday

My son, Bear, celebrated his 10th birthday yesterday. (Wow. The time has flown by. I keep saying this and writing this, but it really does feel like a flash of time has sped right by me.) Before his birthday, we asked him the basic questions about a party. Who is invited? What is on the menu? What activities do you want to do? Based on that information, he planned his party. Here's what I learned:

  1. Kid-planned activies are less complicated. His plan was a Lego building contest, a Nerf war, and water play. There was no need to do a lot of prep and planning. We had all of the essential components here. The boy wanted to build Legos with his friends. Simple and easy. And now I know what the huge arsenal of Nerf guns are for and why they rarely have a Nerf battle–eight people is so much more fun than two.
  2. Parents are essential in moving the party along. While it would have been fine to Lego all afternoon or Nerf war forever, not everyone in the group will maintain interest. There will always be some who are ready to move on and some not. An adult is helpful to make clear transitions.
  3. Asking good questions to help the kid-planned birthday boy plan is essential. He is planning, but he needs direction. Where will we set up Legos? How will we collect the Nerf bullets in the yard?
  4. Decorating is a job and a fun play activity. I have had my kids champion the decorations for years. While it's not the method to use for a Pinterest DIY birthday post, that's not interesting to me. The kids enjoy this part of setting up and get bragging rights. It's about ownership. They do a great job too.
  5. The plan will change. Even a well-planned party will come with twists and turns. The plan for Nerf bullet collection was impractical. We had to adjust our expectations accordingly. It wasn't that the idea was bad, it was the way everyone played (in reality over what we imagined would happen) that changed the Nerf bullet collection. We may or may not have collected all the bullets.
  6. Be prepared for injury. Nerf bullets don't hurt. Getting hit in the face with a Nerf gun does. An ice pack goes a long way.
  7. Be prepared for bugs. It's summer. The bugs are out and ready for their tasty treat–kids having fun outside. It was after Babycakes came to me in need of itch relief that I remembered the bug spray. Campho-Phenique is my go-to for itchy-from-bug-bite relief.
  8. Use older siblings as helpers. I gave the camera to older siblings to take pictures. They helped set up games. Extra hands are always needed. The trick is balancing their fun with the need for help. It is easier to get help when the activity is disinteresting to the older sibling.
  9. Mentos and diet coke is a fun activity, but don't plan on it taking long. After the first mento, the show is pretty much over. (Small bottles are underwhelming.) A second mento after the first one will get no reaction at all–even with putting on the lid and shaking it. They tried. As an aside, it is nearly impossible to explain to a four year old to put the bottle down and drop in the mento. She will want to hold it in her hand because she has no concept of what will come next. At that point, a decision has to be made: take pictures or save girl from a sticky mess. It's a tough call.
  10. A kid-planned birthday doesn't mean a stress-free birthday. There is still a lot to do to prepare for guests. Shopping and preparing food still have to happen. The chaos created by the party (for us, much less because we did a lot of it outside) still needs to be cleaned up. Depending on your toleration for people–especially little people–the stress will vary. For me, it's a good chaos. The stress is greatest for me before everything starts. Once people are here, I switch to “have fun” mode.

I am happy we celebrated Bear well. He planned it. We executed it together. It was a win. Now, we can relax until August when the next round of birthdays begin.

Pictures counterclockwise: 1-2 Lego building, 3-4 Nerf wars, 5 Meno+diet coke, 6 Yummy food, 7 Happy Birthday s'mores dessert, 8 Happy Birthday boy, 9-10 S'mores, 11 Water fun, 12 New birthday shirt


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