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Hosting a party at home can be more convenient than somewhere else, but planning is key.

You might think that hosting a party at home is the easy option, but there are some logistical challenges. The secret to success is good planning.

so, what’s first?

Give yourself about one-and-a-half months to plan, advises a Cape Town-based party planner. “Look at dates first: you want to make sure the majority of your guests can attend the party, especially around holidays.” Choose a time that works for your child, like when they’ll be the least tired, and keep your party to two or three hours, she advises. Then decide on a theme with your child. If you’re lucky, they’ve been planning this party since the last one, and are full of ideas. Of course, this can change at the drop of a new movie, so talk about all the options and choose one that appeals and is easy enough to pull off. Decor for commercial themes can be a bit pricier, but maybe get a few themed centrepieces and follow through in the colour scheme.

When you start planning, take your child’s personality into account, says another party organiser.  Consider what your child enjoys when deciding on entertainment. Art and crafts could suit your daughter, but your son may prefer a jumping castle. Also think about how much space you have, and what can fit in comfortably. Finally, have a plan B in case of rainy weather.

Read our posts on party protocol and  age-appropriate party themes.

who’s coming?

Often parents feel they should invite the entire class, but  this can mean lots of guests. Some moms say this is too much, and prefer inviting only a few friends. The ideal number for a party at home is 20 to 25 children.  The entertainer can handle this, there is enough support for activities, and party shops often stock supplies in packs of 20.

Send out invitations about a month in advance. This gives you, and your guests, enough time to plan. Remember to include important details, such as “bring a costume and towel”. An RSVP date, giving you at least a week’s notice, is also important. A big concern for parents is not getting RSVPs, so they don’t know how many children to expect. Send a reminder a week before, and plan a few extra party packs, just in case. For children under six years old, the invitation is usually extended to parents and siblings, so request this information up front.

what am I missing?

Rent what you can and visit a party shop, plan what food you’ll need and book your entertainment. Children love free play, and will want to show off their homes, but you’ll also need entertainment for at least one hour. Activities could include lawn games, putting out a dress-up box or make-up station, or having water games in summer. If you’re booking entertainment, try a jumping castle, face painter, magician or clown, but not necessarily all of them. Time the entertainment. Party planners suggest  the face painter be there as guests arrive, while a magician can arrive an hour into the party. One novel idea is to get a piñata and fill it with the party packs as the final entertainment.

Children need something more substantial to eat than chips and sweets, so go for hot dogs, sandwiches or finger foods. Biltong, dry wors, dried mango and fresh fruit are also good options, but remember to cater for those with allergies and the vegetarian/vegans. One party planner suggests catering for two-thirds of your party, so if you have 20 children, supply 15 cupcake. Homemade food goes down well, but be realistic about what you can actually do. Remember, you don’t need a big cake and cupcakes – something will go to waste. Replace cupcakes with brownies, crunchies or decorated biscuits. Parents don’t need a lot of food, but if there are any leftovers, supply a few takeaway containers for guests. If it’s a cold day, make sure there is plenty of tea and coffee, and no matter the weather, have a ready supply of juice and water.

There may also be a child with special needs attending your party. Speak to the child’s parents about what you can do to accommodate her.

is everything ready?

Make party packs and get nonperishable foods early on. Check with your suppliers that everything will be delivered on time. The day before, get as much ready as possible, from decor to baked items. Think about safety, advise our party planners, if you’re having a pool party, make sure there is constant supervision, and always keep the dogs away from the action. Put together a party plan with times. Entertainment and games can start half an hour into the party and cut the cake after an hour.

When the big day dawns, get an early start. Anticipate early arrivals and give yourself and your child enough time to get ready. Give jobs to family and friends, or enlist the help of a party planner, to help make the day go smoother.

When it’s all over and the exhausted birthday child has gone to bed, sit back and give yourself a pat on the back for organising a very successful birthday party at home.

Tamlyn Vincent