I love entertaining. I always have. From the time I got my first one bedroom apartment in Waterbury and threw an apartment warming party, to pizza parties in Guam while all of our husbands were out at sea, I always make it a point to share a good meal with friends.
Now, with my children, it has become far more difficult then it was those early days in Waterbury, but the equation is always the same: food + friends = fun! And hopefully, fun memories that you and the kids can later recall.
I usually start planning about a month in advance, with one simple question: is there a theme? There is always a theme when it comes to planning one of my children’s birthday parties, but that’s for another article. The theme for a non-birthday party that includes kids as attendees should be something easily made relevant for the children attending. For example, consider a Mardi Gras theme: beads, masks and candy for your guests … young and old alike will appreciate that.
For any type of theme, I recommend checking out the Oriental Trading Company (www.orientaltradingcomany.com) as a terrific online resource for party favors and decorations. I have used them frequently and if you check their clearance section you can do very well.
Themes that are easily adaptable to families are abundant, but here are a few more that come to my mind. A tea party theme is a wonderful one for when it’s a Moms and kids only party, but Dads are more than welcome to attend! Another great idea is to have the kids bring along a stuffed animal with them, with food “scaled” to match the tiny animals. Children love tiny foods and the overall theme, and adults will also enjoy fond memories of childhood parties with their stuffed friends. Of course, try to avoid foods that will easily stain, or at least have cleaning supplies on hand.
Summer cook out; fire up those grills! Most husbands (AKA The Grilling Kings) enjoy this type of party in the summer, and both Moms and Dads like the convenience of how casual the menu can be. Deli salads, hot dogs, hamburgers and brats are pretty standard fair. Roasting marshmallows for smores by a campfire (when burned responsibly, of course) is a fantastic memory. I can remember my neighbors inviting us over for a campfire with smores. It’s a wonderful memory for sure!
Karaoke party! I know, I know, you don’t sing… not in public anyway. I didn’t think I would either; but a good friend of mine while we lived overseas had the “ACE Karaoke” system. It hooks up to your TV, and automatically rates how well you do on pitch and tune. It was quite fun, and none of us were as bad as we thought we were (or so the system said). Add to this a Pot Luck dinner, and you are all set for an easy evening of entertaining.
A good ole’ fashion pizza party can really be bumped up a notch with “Make your own” opportunities! Have a list of pizza and dessert components, and ask each person who’s coming to choose two of them, which they will be responsible for buying in amounts suitable for the group. Then everyone helps assemble the pizzas and desserts in the room where everyone naturally gathers, the kitchen.
I have really wanted to do an international-themed dinner party. Older children can help by looking up the recipes for the applicable cultures online, and then help prepare the dishes. Of course, this also lends itself well to a “themed potluck”, where each family brings a main dish and/or a dessert from their own family background. This is also providing an opportunity to get to know your family history, as well as the geography of the world. If possible, dress the part, too: the South Korean Hanbok or the Indian Sari that I bought will be able to come out of their box in our attic and get some fresh air.
As you see, just because you have “grown up” doesn’t mean you can’t have fun entertaining, just as you did before the kids came along … and it certainly doesn’t mean waiting until the kids are grown up. If you do that, you will miss out on so many memories. You just need to adapt and incorporate the kids, and then go with the flow.
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