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Mar 9, 2011 2:01 AM by By Elizabeth Hurchalla

6 Ideas for Simple Birthdays

Clowns, moon bounces and overflowing goody bags—big birthday bashes involve a lot of work and expense. Is it really worth it? Throwing a child’s birthday celebration shouldn’t feel like hosting a celebrity wedding--or a three-ring circus. These simple ideas will put the party back in party planning!

Keep it small "There is a huge relationship between your stress level and the number of kids at the party," says Susan Baltrus, author of The Ultimate Birthday Party Book: 50 Complete and Creative Themes to Make Your Kid's Special Day Fantastic! (Cook Communications). "When your child says, 'I want to invite the whole class,' it's OK to tell her to pick the eight people she really wants to celebrate with."

Keep it short For young kids, limit the festivities to less than two hours. “Don't invite 2- or 3-year-olds to a three-hour party," warns Baltrus. "One and a half hours is plenty. A longer party may begin to drag, and kids tend to melt down -- so it's better to end on a high note."

Get help If your child is under 4, ask parents to stay for the party. However, if the kids are a little older, you may want to have Mom or Dad just drop them off. As Dina Maiorana of Columbus, Ohio, points out, "Having other parents there can be more stress than help, especially since you then have to feed and entertain them too. Hire a babysitter to help out instead."

Plan for fun Skip the one-turn-at-a-time or elimination games, like “Pin the Tail on the Donkey” or “Musical Chairs,” says Baltrus. Having too many kids on the sidelines invites chaos. Instead, plan lots of quick, easy group activities, such as treasure hunts, sing-alongs, rock painting or cupcake decorating.

Keep it safe If you take precautions beforehand, you reduce your stress once the party starts. “Put family pets in another room," suggests Baltrus. "Even the calmest dog can get excited with a house full of kids and bite." For very young kids, also avoid choking risks like hot dogs, whole grapes and even balloons -- in case one pops and a child swallows it. Finally, just in case, keep a first-aid kit nearby.

Think simple Serve pizza or plan a midafternoon party so you don't have to offer a meal at all. And take a tip from Torry Greene of Cary, N.C.: "Try cupcakes instead of cake and ice cream -- they're much easier to serve. Just keep a container of baby wipes close at hand for quick kid cleanup." Finally, don't sweat the small stuff. "Don't bother agonizing over hanging streamers in all the right places or shopping for hours for just the right shade of food coloring for the frosting," says Baltrus. "Instead, focus on keeping things fun and festive, and the kids will be sure to have a blast."

Photo: @iStockphoto.com/aldomurillo

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