Party Art By Robin
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This is a great little article from the author of the FANTASTIC blog She made these costumes and swords for "Talk Like A Pirate Day", but of course they would also be fabulous for a pirate birthday party too! And the swords are simple and easy (they're actually made from newspaper!) and would be popular with both boys and girls. And personally, I think those little bandana skirts would be SUPER cute using striped bandanas, if you could find those! For some reason, stripes just look oh-so-piratey.
I just read a great article on that I wanted to share with you, on kids with allergies at birthday parties. Don't kill the birthday guest
Believe me, I have been there... I was a kid with food allergies. Now I am an adult with food allergies. In case any of you thoughtful, hospitable parents wonder why I generally turn down (politely!) any offers of cake or ice cream or food from the buffet at your party, that is why. I don't make a big deal about it... I have never been comfortable with drawing attention away from the fun birthday celebration to myself and my health issues, especially since I am there to entertain, not to eat cake. :-) But the article points out a lot of good ideas and considerations to keep in mind when planning a party, ways for you as a host(ess) to be considerate of your child's young friends who may have allergies.

Contrary to some people's mistaken ideas, kids with allergies are NOT just fussy, and we are not "faking it," or "trying to get attention" and it is not something that can be simply ignored. I have heard so many horror stories of clueless people serving someone a food they are allergic to on purpose, to "help them get over themselves and stop the drama" and the allergic person needing to be rushed to the hospital or jabbed with an epi-pen! I know none of my gentle readers would consider doing anything like that, and thankfully with all the news stories about allergies lately, more and more people are coming to recognize allergies for the serious problem that they are. I myself am highly allergic to peanuts, among other things, to the point that even someone who has been eating peanuts shaking my hand and getting peanut oil on me will make me break out in a rash! Just being in the same room with an open jar of peanut butter, or where people are eating peanuts, can give me mild asthma symptoms and make my eyes start to water. Thankfully my allergy is not life-threatening, that is why I don't stipulate "please no peanuts" in my party contract, :-) however being around peanuts does make me seriously uncomfortable for quite a while afterward.

And no, those with allergies are not expecting the whole menu or party to revolve around them and their dietary needs... it's embarrassing enough as it is not to be able to eat what everyone else is eating, they certainly are not trying to get more attention. Just having a few options that are allergy-friendly, such as sliced fresh fruit, dairy-free sorbet, and pretzels (for those who are not allergic to gluten) will be better than nothing. If you find out in advance (and usually parents will tell you) that one of your guests has a specific allergy, just making a little extra effort to provide them some options (picking up a gluten-free cupcake and a little tub of dairy-free ice cream for them, for example) can make all the difference!
I was just reading a FABULOUS book called "That Was The Best Party Ever" by Sharron Werlin Krull, and she has an excellent way of handling the present opening portion of any child's party! Often, this is where the party dissolves into chaos... all the kids are shoving their gift into the birthday child's face, others are begging to play with some of the toys that have been opened... and it's easy to see why some parents try to avoid it all by opening the gifts after the guests have left. However, opening gifts later doesn't allow the guests to enjoy seeing the birthday child's reaction and how their gift was appreciated! And it doesn't allow the birthday child to look them in the face and say "thank you!"

Sharron recommends solving all these problems by turning the gift opening into an organized game, in fact the last game of the party. The basic game is that all the kids sit in a circle, with their gift to the birthday child behind their back. The birthday child sits in the middle of the circle. An adult or older child has charge of a large trash can or trash bag for wrappings, and another adult controls the music and takes notes on who gave what (to help with writing thank-you notes later!). A large stuffed animal or other item (in keeping with whatever the party theme was! So for example, perhaps a wand at a fairy party, a bear dressed as a pirate for a pirate party, and so on) is passed around the circle as music is played. When the music is paused, whoever is holding the item gets to give their gift to the birthday child! The birthday child opens the gift, and stands up and turns around so everyone can see the gift and "ooh and ahh" over it, then the birthday child turns to the child who gave the gift (it's easy to remember who, because they are still holding the pirate bear or whatever!) and says "Thank you _________!" Then the gift is given to an adult who puts it away for now. No opening packages or taking toys out, because they are in the middle of the gift opening game! Then, the music starts again, the bear or other item is passed, and the game continues until everyone has had a chance to give their gift to the birthday child!
This is a perfect activity for while the parents are arriving to pick up their kids, as they will doubtless be impressed by how calm and well-organized all the kids are! Plus, the adult in charge of the music can subtly control who gets to give their gift next, so if someone needs to leave before the game is finished, that can be easily arranged. :-)
There are a lot of other variations to this game too, such as:
  • Numbering the gifts (if there are less than 12 kids present) and then letting the birthday child roll dice to find out which number gift is next,
  • Writing all the guest's names on the underside of individual floating rubber duckies in a little wading pool, then letting the birthday child fish for duckies with a net! Whoever's name they drew gets to give their gift, and the birthday child gives them their ducky to put in their loot bag to take home!
  • Drawing names out of a hat to find out whose gift is next
  • Tossing a soft foam ball or stuffed animal from person to person across the circle, rather than simply passing it to the person next to them, while the music is playing.
Another great idea: How about arranging for the birthday child's one very best friend to stay for a few hours after the party? Likely the birthday child will still be all hyped up on adrenaline, and having a friend to play and talk about the party with, especially with all those new toys to play with, will help calm them down! It will also give you a chance to relax and clean up after the party without an excited hyper kid bouncing off the walls in your way! :-)