Let's party. Those words take on a whole new meaning once you become a parent. They carry a financial, emotional and social weight you never imagined. We turned to a parent's best resource for party planning: Other parents. This month, we asked readers to send us their party ideas and here's what they told us.
• My children are 15 and 11 and the key is to keep the kids busy. A cute idea was a scavenger hunt. The lists were made ahead of time and the groups were dispatched on a block with a mother assigned to each group. The kids got a kick out of it. Renee of Des Plaines, mother of Michael, 15, and Brian, 11.
• I banned the goody bag tradition. It's a waste of money and a bunch of junk. My daughter turned 9 this year and we had a roller skating party. I replaced the goody bag with tokens for the kids to play games. They had fun. I also took pictures of the kids at the party to include in the thank--you cards my daughter sent out. When I told my daughter about the ban on the goody bags, she seemed a bit upset. But when I told her about the tokens she said, “Mom, you rock.” Ina of Orland Park, mother of Alexa, 9, and Jake, 4.
• My husband is in the Navy and we move a lot. Sometimes getting enough kids to come to a birthday party can be a challenge. We say “forget the party” and let the boys do what they'd like for their special day. Usually we let them dress themselves (imagine spiderman pajamas ... ALL DAY ... with the MASK!) No chores, skip brushing their teeth, brushing their hair ... whatever! Breakfast in the bathtub ... no problem! They get to pick their own presents with a stop at Toys R US! We literally make it their day. When relatives or friends ask what to get ... I give them their 529 Education Plan account number. Sakenya of Great Lakes, mother of Jourden, 8 and Seth Ian, soon--to--be 6.
• The best party so far was my son's 3rd birthday. We set up a play area in our backyard with all the things toddlers and young kids like to do but are “too messy” for inside----a Playdough station, a finger paint station, a wading pool station, a sidewalk chalk station, a trampoline ... you get the idea. We finished with a piñata and treat bags. We used stuff we already had, we didn't have to cut the guest list and they all had a great time. Trish of Joliet, mother of Justin, 9, and Quentin, 5. • Two weeks before my son's 6--year--old party, the restaurant we had reserved closed. No one called to inform me. Our last--minute party for 24 boys was at a nearby park. We had potato sack races, three--legged races, water balloon fights, piñata and other games. It was like the way parties used to be. My son wants to do it next year. Who knew a cheap day in a park could be so much fun? Cathy of Glenview, mother of Cameron, 8, and Jackson, 7.
• We had a Harry Potter Party and sent personalized invitations to Hogwarts School of Magic and Wizardy. As guests arrived, each got a thunderbolt scar on the forehead using black face paint and Harry Potter glasses from pipe cleaners and a wizard hat of cardboard and black felt, decorated with pre--cut glow--in--the--dark stars. I also bought some doll rods and painted them black, dipping one end when dried into glue and then into gold glitter and voila .. all the kids had a magic wand. We had dry ice all around and the kids played a broomstick relay race. For food, I served wizard hats (using fudge stripped cookies and Hersheys kisses) and Hagrids eyeballs (using rice krispies, marshmallows and black icing ink). Sarah of Glenview, mother of Yousuf, 7, and Sana, 4.
• We asked guests to bring a favorite stuffed dog. When they arrived, we gave the dogs leashes------black elastic with Velcro. We made a cardboard doghouse and did a version of musical chairs with the kids crawling through the doghouse. The craft was to decorate the leashes with ribbons and beads. I told some dog stories. And I made a doggy cake, served in inexpensive dog bowls with each guests name on it. Sue of Mundelein, mother of Dana, 7, and Amanda, 4. Next month For August's Reader Poll, tell us your best kids--and--pets story. We'll print your first name, the town in which you live and the names and ages of your kids; please provide us with your full address and phone number for notification purposes only. Send all submissions to: Sandi Pedersen, Chicago Parent, 141 S. Oak Park Ave., Oak Park, IL 60302. E--mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; fax: (708) 524--8360. Deadline: July 7. In September, we want to hear about your kid's fundraising. Is it too much? What do they have to do? Does it teach responsibility? Deadline: Aug. 11.