Planning a Birthday Party, July 8

Planning a child’s birthday party is fun…and stressful. So many questions: What’s the theme? Who to invite? What to serve?

My little boy turned eight on July 2nd. And like every birthday, I enjoy having a party at our house. Call it my creative outlet. This is a chance for me to plan and decorate for a fun day.

This year’s party theme was decided just a month ago. All year, Jacob wanted a sports party with the typical decorations…footballs, basketballs and baseballs. This seemed like a fairly easy theme, huh? That was until he changed his mind. Enter the platypus.

For his second grade project, Jacob had to pick an animal to research. He chose the unique platypus. This is an animal that is best described as a hodgepodge of more familiar species: the duck (bill and webbed feet), beaver (tail), and otter (body and fur). The males are venomous with sharp stingers on the heels of their rear feet.

And according to John Chapo, President of the Lincoln Children’s Zoo, these mammals (that lay eggs!) are a national treasure in Australia. The government won’t let them leave the country so you can only see them in Australia. There isn’t a zoo in America that has a platypus!

And you guessed it…the unlikely platypus became our birthday party theme. Now the struggle became where to get platypus decorations.

I had to get a bit creative and expand the theme to the Outback and Australia. And thanks to the internet, I found party favors and invitations. The postcard invites featured a platypus with “Platypuses Rock.” And I found a matching t-shirt for Jacob that said, “P is for Platypus.” For thank yous, I had Jacob draw a platypus and I made copies. Using your child’s own artwork is an affordable and personal option, if you can’t find cards you like.

I was happy to have the theme and decorations under control. But the next question was when to have the party. Summer parties are great because the weather allows you to do many activities outside. The downside…you have to work around vacation schedules, ball games and for us…the Fourth of July holiday. We had never had Jacob’s party on the 4th and thought it would be fun to shoot fireworks during the party (and this sufficed in place of games). I also have always combined family and friends into one party. I like the idea of having one special party and one cake.

With the party on the 4th, a few school friends couldn’t attend. At first, I was stressed about this. I should have picked another day! But in the end, it worked out. Jacob had tons of family members and a few friends in attendance.

Many experts say to follow this simple equation when planning the guest list: child’s age + 1 = happy kids. So for children less than eight years old, invite as many kids as the child’s age plus one. You could add one or two to this formula. You just have to know your limits.

Recently, my friend in California threw a party for her four-year-old son. She said it was a bit chaotic with 35 people and bouncy houses! When asked what her son liked best about the party, he said, “When everybody went home.”

I think as moms we want to have a perfect party and make it that perfect memory for our child. This is fine to do, but I think we need to keep in mind our limits and the limits of the children.

Why do moms do it? Why do we put ourselves through all the stress and expense? Well, we do it for our little somebody. We do it to see that smile and excitement from a special day.

At the end of the day, you can share some quiet time with your birthday boy or girl. Grab those baby books and look through the baby pictures. They are amazed at how little they once were. (It’s OK to wipe a few tears, too.)

I’d love to hear about your party ups and downs. Here’s to birthdays!


P.S. And, just for fun, try making these platypus crafts with your child. I’ve attached the picture. You need an empty plastic water bottle, cardboard, masking tape, black forks and googly eyes.

About the Author...
Taryn Vanderford
Taryn Vanderford is an Emmy-winning journalist who currently works on "First at Four", "Pure Nebraska" and "Moms Everyday" for 10/11 and Gray Television.

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