Last minute party planning

I have planned a fair number of children’s birthday parties over the years. However, after 18 months of Covid, I’m a bit out of practice. This weekend’s last-minute party reflected that (if we managed to have a very good time nonetheless).

My 12-year-old wanted to do something with a few friends. That sounded fairly low key. He really wanted to go to an arcade, but we knew a few folks would be uncomfortable with that, so then my thought was to get some kids together for a backyard nerf gun war. But then the weather looked a little iffy for Friday (the storm wound up hitting Thursday, but this was unclear ahead of time…) We had casually discussed the idea of a video game truck, and he told me Tuesday that’s what he really wanted to do, so I got online and searched for reservations.

Of course, booking something on Tuesday for Friday inevitably means that less is available. I finally found a company that called me back Wednesday morning and said they could come to our house on Friday. Great! I texted all the friends’ parents and was planning on that.

Then, while I was at back-to-school night on Wednesday, the company called me back and said they just could not get anyone to work on Friday. So, what did I want to do? They turned out to have a later Saturday night slot available (which they could tack on after a previous party so they knew they had staff), so I quickly grabbed that. And then texted everyone again to see if they could please come to the new time.

Fortunately, it wound up working out. One kid had to come a little later but we also got a new person who hadn’t been available for Friday. My other older kids each invited a friend too (it was billed as a big truck…) and we set out snacks in the garage. The kids loved it. As a pre-teen birthday idea, I have to say this is one of the better ones. The truck (45 feet long!) parked on the street in front of our house, and had four big screens for multi-player games. People could go in and out as they wished (to retrieve snacks and drinks since they were masked in the truck) but most stayed in much of the time. So I’d call that a win.

Of course, my stress level on Wednesday when I realized I needed to move my already last-minute planned party was pretty high. So…I’m working on getting my daughter’s party planned a wee bit earlier.

What’s been your favorite kid birthday party concept? We have done several Chuck E. Cheese iterations over the years, and Bounce U and the like, which all get the job done. For my eldest’s fourth birthday we had a party at the American Museum of Natural History, which was pretty cool as these things go. We also once brought four kids to a Phillies game. I have only done the backyard thing once, mostly because it involves a lot more activity planning than I really have in me….

In other news: I’d classify having a 45-foot game truck parked in front of our house as the week’s “little adventure.” This weekend’s “big adventure” was going to the PA Renaissance Faire on Sunday. Just like the game truck, this was a hit for big and little kids alike. We saw jousting and the four older kids all got to practice shooting arrows. I did not dress up in a medieval saucy wench costume, however…maybe someday ha ha. I think the people-watching alone could have kept me entertained for hours.

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12 thoughts on “Last minute party planning

  1. There are so many birthday party options for kids these days. I grew up in a rural area of ND so my options were very limited but I think even those who lived in big cities did not have a ton of options? I’ve been to a couple of my nephews birthday parties but have year to have one for our kids. Our oldest is 3, though, so we are still in the stage where we can avoid parties. I might be more apt to have some of his daycare friends over if they could be outside, but that isn’t really possible in early March in MN (unless you want them outside playing in the snow, which is fine for one kid but a big mess when you have several kids tracking snow in your house!!). So I’m thinking we can avoid parties until he’s in school? We’ll see. He hasn’t expressed interest in having a party, though. He can be kind of shy and doesn’t love attention, though. Glad everything came together for your son’s. Gosh I wish the hiring situation was like this when I was in HS/college. It was pretty hard to find a job when I was in college – there was definitely a lot of competition! I still found jobs but right now there are tons of options and kids have so much negotiation power. My co-worker’s son renegotiated his pay at a restaurant – they matched what Target would pay so they wouldn’t lose him!

    1. @Lisa – I know, the hiring market is nuts right now. Most stores seem to have a “we’re hiring” sign… If your kid isn’t pushing for birthday parties yet then no reason to jump on it!

  2. Haha Josh LOVES the Renaissance Faire. I . . . do not. However, I definitely think you should work the Saucy Wench vibe next time. Probably would make it more exciting . . .

    1. Our kids’ favorite parties through middle school was the sleepover. 5 or 6 boys. Plan was, they make their own pizza, each boy has a section to do as they wish. That allowed for a lot of dietary variation. Then, they made their own pie. Again, they each had a section of pie and a choice of apple or peach. Woven into all of this was movie-making. It always involved my husband manning the camera and a stuffed bunny interacting with the boys. The movies were just a lot of boy-noise, know what I mean? Next morning was top-your-own pancakes.

      Presents were usually “bring something for the local animal shelter” so newspapers, blankets, towels, leashes, toys, food. The boys loved it, and so did their moms! Clean out the linen cupboard!

      We had one friend who never stayed over. One morning we got up, the boys were running around while we made the pancakes, and I did a quick count and asked “Where’s D?” One of the boys said oh, he went home. Yeah, about 1 am D had called his mom, she came and picked him up. I gave her a quick call and though we laughed I did suggest that she could have called or at least left a note! He turned into “half-a-sleepover” for a few years, where he’d stay till 11, Dad would pick him up, and bring him back in the morning. Everyone, all the boys, were cool with it.

      Mind you, we had only our two boys! And both winter babies so not a lot of outdoor options. So, our older son always asked for a “summer party” around August, which involved all the boys from his class, all in he backyard, obstacle courses, water balloons, and tossing games, delivery pizza, brownies, kool-aid, and no gifts. It was always a great success.

  3. My kid’s favorite parties involved our neighborhood park. For one son, he was into Pokemon (age 6), so we bought a huge bag of old pokemon cards at a garage sale. We had my older son dress up as a pokemon. The kids decorated white painter hats then followed the costumed pokemon into the woods to “catch them all.” Cake, hot dogs, and done. The older son (5th grade) wanted something “army” so we had the kids have bandanas, played water balloon hand grenades over a volleyball net, and then they played four rounds of capture the flag. (I had other games planned, but they were having so much fun, I just let them keep going).

  4. Fun question! My favorite parties growing up as a nineties kid were laser tag and plaster Funtime (where you picked a little statue thing and painted it).

  5. A few years ago we rented out a hotel pool; for a birthday in the middle of March in Eastern Canada, it was pretty fun. Everyone came in puffy coats and then hopped into bathing suits. There was a room beside the pool we got with the rental so my husband (who didn’t swim in the end), just set up all the food while I supervised kids on the waterslide. I love when all the mess is outside my house.

    We’ve done a pottery painting class, an outdoor picnic, and rented a party room at a skating rink.

    This year, because of COVID, both kids had PJ/Movie parties at our house. I realize there is a narrow window where this sort of thing works, but it was amazing. I tend to NOT enjoy managing that many kids in our living space. But, this year, with everyone in comfortable clothes and with the snack options pretty obvious (popcorn, individual packages of gummies) – the screen provided a launch point for entertainment. Both kids still appreciate candy or treasure hunts, too, and I try to incorporate that when possible. Sometimes we do clues for a smaller party, but if more kids are involved, we just hide individually wrapped candy all over the house. I found a Hershey’s kiss last week from back in March…

  6. My best party was my daughter’s 8th birthday, which happened right before Covid. We had 6 friends over at our house (it was January), and had cake and pizza, and the girls made things out of glow sticks, did jewelry making, ran around and made their own games, and then watched a movie. It was basically perfect. 1000x easier than other parties we’ve done. Oh wait, except gravity vault. Gravity vault even provided the pizza. That was also super easy.

  7. My youngest is always upset with her summer birthday so one year we had a half birthday party. It was a pj party with no sleepover. We invited her friends over in their pajamas to eat pizza and then go in the basement for a movie. I warmed up blankets in the dryer and covered them all up and delivered popcorn. They loved it and it was all over by 9 pm.

  8. 14yr old did an escape room with a few friends this spring and 11yr old did paintball with buddies. Both were excellent, easy parties.

  9. Funny how we always want something different from what we get. My husband’s birthday is late January and he always hated as a child it being tagged together with Christmas for presents and being a bad time of year for doing anything. So for years now he has copied the Queen and had an Official Birthday on his half birthday in late July, when there is much more scope for activities and no question of getting mixed up with Christmas or its aftermath. My birthday is in February and my mum’s birthday in August is my half birthday – I’d always have preferred to swap with her! We were almost always on holiday for her birthday as she was a teacher and so we did such fun things, just not possible in boring February when you are at school.

  10. This is interesting! Both my kids have winter birthdays so we have not done a party with friends during the pandemic. But I think we are going to try start. My daughter has been wanting a gymnastics part and you can rent out a huge gym for 15 kid or so and I think we will do that. We still have a mask mandate and will probably just give out cake to go so hopefully it will be reasonably low risk. I can imagine a couple friends won’t come anyway because it’s inside but I’m just not up for doing an elementary school party outside where we live in the winter.

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