Ways to make a child's dream party come true

Do your children dream about having parties with their friends? What makes the difference between an ordinary party where guests and gifts are soon forgotten and one that's a dream come true? A ten-year-old wrote, "The difference between my dream and my goal is my plan." Good planning is the essential ingredient in a successful children's party.

Here are three tips to make it an easy, not a monumental, task.

1. Plan to include your child in the decisionmaking. Half the fun is the discussion, preparation, and anticipation of a party. Parents, as resident advisers, can offer options and leave the final choices up to the young host or hostess.

That first decision, who to invite, is sometimes the toughest. Although it's tempting to ask the whole class, experience proves the best plan to be, the younger the child, the smaller the party. A general guideline is: The same number of guests as age of child, i.e., a seven-year-old invites seven guests.

The day and hour are guided by the child's normal schedule as well as by when two adults can supervise.

2. Plan a theme. Since the theme is an especially creative aspect of the party, don't be tied to tradition. If your child wants a cookie party, you might suggest it become a mother-daughter cookie and recipe exchange. Or a pet party could include each child's favorite stuffed animal. Take clues from the guest list, holidays, seasons, and children's current interests. The variety is endless, ranging from a Butterfly Ball to a Hawaiian Luau. Keep in mind that invitations, decorations, and refreshments will center around your theme, so plan one that gives you many options.

Once the theme is established, you can choose some background music to set the mood, such as John Philip Sousa marches to make a circus party more festive.

3. Plan some entertainment. Consult your checkbook before deciding the source of entertainment. Professional magicians, clowns, and puppeteers can be great attractions, but can be very costly. A less expensive alternative is teenagers who may provide excellent shows for $15 to $25 an hour. You can locate them through the newspaper, high school, bulletin boards, library, or friends.

One children's librarian, a specialist in creative parties, thinks parents can be creative, too, with a little initiative. She divides the entertainment into three segments: first, a movie, filmstrip, or puppet show, followed by games, and ending with a quiet story. You can have your librarian help coordinate these with your theme.

Besides visual equipment and books, some libraries also lend puppets and scripts. A favorite book for a children's party is Don Freeman's "Dandelion," the adventure of a lovable lion who's invited to a tea and taffy party.

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