Is Your Kid-Friendly Party Adult-Friendly, Too?

Expert advice to ensure fun is had by all, no matter the age

“The primary ingredient for a successful party is to relax,” says Charlie Downs, a professional chef and co-founder of, a food blog for parents who hope their passion for good food will be passed along to the next generation. According to Downs, creating an environment where you, the host, can ensure kids and parents have a fun and pleasant afternoon together, without getting too frazzled, is entirely do-able. “Prepare things in advance,” Downs suggests, emphasizing how vital it is to take your time with setup and arrangements. Remember, when entertaining a group of kids and their parents, the audience is forgiving — the kids can have fun and social-starved parents can catch up while watching over the young ones. Perfection is neither realistic nor is it necessary.

When — and Where — to Have the Party?

When thinking about the perfect time and setting for a party for all ages, try and be flexible. You may want to consider an open house, or broad time frame so that guests can come and go in between kids’ nap times or sporting activities.

If possible, hosting a party at home is best. With a playroom of toys and a stocked fridge, it’s less likely you will run out of resources — from food and drink, to games and entertainment — unlike at a playground or a park, where the “lure of slides and monkey bars tend to wear off rapidly,” Downs says. It’s easier to improvise in your own home than elsewhere, should the kids become antsy or bored. Should the adults outnumber the kids (as is often what happens when the children are young), it is pretty simple to ensure there is enough space for everyone. Plus, there is apt to be more than one kid-friendly bathroom.

In warm weather, the front porch is a great place for a party. Set up a game or activities on the front lawn, and then a kiddie table for activities and a meal. Parents can watch the kids play from a close distance, without worrying that they will collide with corners or slip on floors. Plus, when it comes time to eat, parents can sit in nearby chairs or on the steps while children dine at the table.


Plan Kid- and Adult-Friendly Activities

Planning a structured activity for a party can be a challenge, says Downs, especially when the last thing a child wants to do is sit down and focus after the school week. Downs combats this by leaving some bubbles out on a table, or throwing a soccer ball into the yard and letting the kids play at their leisure, without hanging around their parents' ankles. Unlike finger painting or a craft with scissors, activities like these leave the parents free to relax while observing from a close distance. And unlike a plastic or mechanical toy that might break, a simple game of kickball offers hours of endless entertainment. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/Stevedepolo)

Alternatively, a host can consider something that the adults will enjoy, too, like a magician or performer of sorts. One Chicago-based mom, Judith Shear, arranged for a belly dancer to perform at her son’s first birthday party. The kids adored the costumes, music, and hand cymbals, while the intricacies of the dance, and the dancer’s talent, captivated the adults, too. Or consider planning a neighborhood-wide scavenger hunt where a couple of parents can lead teams of children through a series of clues to find the hidden treasure.

Put Away Whatever is Breakable

When it comes to entertaining kids and adults, Syracuse, N.Y., mom and news anchor Megan Sykes keeps things stress-free by putting away anything breakable. “Kids will reach for everything!” she says. Yet, that doesn’t mean you need to scrimp on style if you’re going to feed the big kids, too. Consider using reusable melamine plates instead of disposable paper plates, so kids can use the same stuff the parents are using, and offer a glass of wine (if appropriate) with a something shatterproof, rather than glass, that is elegant, too. (Photo courtesy of LA Plates)

Serve Food Kids and Adults Will Love

Forget about offering something for kids, and another dish for the adults, recommends Shear. “Kids always want what the adults have. If possible, do kid-sized versions of typical adult fare.” Serve fruit kebabs, with a couple of small pieces of fruit on toothpicks for kids, and full-sized skewers for adults. Burgers, hot dogs, and even sandwiches, are all good options that can be made into smaller portions, if necessary. And the same is true for beverages. Serve miniature virgin mocktails, perhaps garnished with a cherry on a sword, for the kids, and big-kid versions for the adults. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/Janineom)

Create a Space Where Kids Can Unwind

Young children can easily become overstimulated, turning into cranky, whining handfuls. While one could leave the party, sometimes all the child needs is some downtime alone. Designate a space just for that, be it on the host’s bed for movie time, or a table set up for individual work, like coloring.

Plan, Plan, Plan

Keep in mind, the best way to ensure an enjoyable time for everyone, including the host, is through proper planning and by maintaining a sense of humor through it all. Just as with any get-together, the more you do in advance, the better. As Downs puts it, “Doing things on the fly should be reserved for keg and toga parties only!”

Click here to see more tips for planning the perfect kids' party


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