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Birthday party tips and ideas

As my nephew is about to celebrate his first birthday, I?ve started to think about all of the parties we?ve held for our boys over the years.

While it can be fun to celebrate your kids? birthdays in a variety of places (trust me, I?ve been to ?em all), my favorite parties are always those spent at home. I value the time and effort that parents put into hosting their parties.

When it comes to party planning, I have learned that some things are worth splurging a bit on and others are usually a waste of money. Party hats are cute and may reflect your party?s theme, if you have one, but they are almost always worn for five minutes and then quickly forgotten. The same is true of theme- or character- oriented plates and napkins. I learned pretty quickly that basic colorful plates and napkins work just fine; kids are usually much more interested in the yummy cake on top of their plates than the design beneath it.

Party favors, on the other hand, usually get reluctant kids to say ?goodbye? when the party?s over. They are souvenirs from your child?s special occasion. I really like the theme-oriented party-favor boxes sold by

It takes more effort to make up your own goody bags but can actually be fun, especially if the birthday child is involved.

Sometimes the biggest party-favor hits are one larger prize to take home. We had a sports-themed party in our backyard for our son?s third birthday. We sent each child home with an inflated ball. They were similar to beach balls but were instead footballs, soccer balls and basketballs. They seemed like something the kids would enjoy playing with for a few days. They were definitely a hit.

Inflatable toys such as this can be purchased from Oriental Trading Company. The website and catalog are full of fun party and craft supplies at reasonable rates?which brings me to another activity at that third birthday: The kids made sports door hangers for their rooms (although I think I may have given the girls pink and purple hangers with flowers to decorate).

We lined up several long tables for the kids to eat and make crafts on, and covered them with paper (from a big roll). We put several small buckets of crayons on the tables and the kids had fun doodling.

At later parties (when our sons were at least five), I wrote something like ?Ben is 5!? on a large piece of poster-board, in colorful letters. Each guest was asked to sign the poster as a memento of our boys? special day.

I?d love to hear all of your ideas for babies? and preschoolers? birthday parties!

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