Tip No. 2: Arrival Activity

      Here’s a funny thing about the start time for your party. Very few of your guests will actually show up promptly at that time. Each guest who sees the start time on your invitation will view it differently — and act accordingly.

       Some folks view the start time as the exact moment when festivities will begin. They may arrive as much as 10 to 15 minutes early, just as if they were attending a concert or a play and needed to be seated beforehand.  Early arrivals can be quite frustrating to any hostess attempting to attend to last-minute details. This is especially true when arriving guests are children, because they will need complete supervision and lively, engaging direction from the moment they cross the threshold. Once the first guest arrives, no matter how early, your party has officially begun.

    Others guests view the start time as a general target. These guests are just as likely to arrive 5 to 10 minutes AFTER the start time as PRIOR to it.  And then there are the folks who seem to have absolutely no sense of time at all — and may arrive up to half an hour late.

     There’s really no way to predict exactly when your guests will arrive for your party, but you can bet that they will all arrive at different times. This sets in motion a potentially disastrous chain of events for a mom hosting a group of young children at a party in her home.  The first few moments of a party are absolutely crucial to gaining control of the crowd — but with the doorbell chiming every few minutes, and the birthday child running to greet a new arrival each time, things can get chaotic pretty quickly.      

       It’s a good idea to plan an engaging arrival activity to hold the interest of your first guests while you wait for others to arrive. This sets a structured tone for the party from the very beginning, gives little guests something to do other than explore your home, and keeps everyone together in the areas of your home designated for the party.

Don’t Make This Manners Mistake

          A few  words of caution here… It’s best to recruit a helper to run the arrival activity for you so that you are free to serve as the hostess, answering the doorbell and greeting guests. Many moms make the mistake of expecting the birthday child to fill this role. Seems like good manners, doesn’t it? But the problem with this scenario is that the child answering the door and greeting new arrivals is not really serving as a host or hostess for the other children.  They will be left on their own each time the child’s attention is directed to a new arrival. If you allow this to happen, an entire group of childen will rush the door each time the doorbell rings and the group will be more likely to get out of control.  It’s likely that a few children will wander into areas of your home not designated for the party. Some children love to head upstairs to check out toys and play areas — even closets —  at other people’s homes! You will have a much calmer and controlled environment if you escort each arrival to the birthday child where hugs and greetings can be exchanged without disrupting the activity in progress.  

        Be sure to explain to the birthday child in advance that he or she is expected to remain with the group engaged in the arrival activity and not run to the door to greet each arriving guest. This is true even if it’s Great Aunt Susie at the door — and she hasn’t been seen or heard from since boarding a spaceship a few years ago. No running to the door to greet anyone, no matter who it is.   

       The choice of activity is very important. Make sure it is not something that is necessary for participation in the rest of the party or late arrivals will feel left out. If you are making costumes or accessories (such as crowns or hats) to be worn during the party, it is best to wait until most of the guests have arrived before beginning that activity.

Some Suggestions for Arrival Activities

          A good arrival activity needs to be something that can be stretched to fill time if necessary — but easily stopped when the last guest arrives.  One of my favorite arrival activities is to have the children create decorations which can be displayed during the party. 

      Decorations should be keyed to the theme of the party. For a space theme, for example, have guests cut stars and add glitter.  Their handiwork can be strung across the room or taped to windows. Little artists will feel great about seeing their creations become part of the decor, and there’s really no limit to the number of stars which can be displayed. When one area is full, start a new one.  

      For an undersea-themed party, have children cut, color and decorate fish.  Use crowns for a princess party, sheriff’s badges for a Wild West party, tropical flowers for a luau, etc. And, for a fairy party, here’s a fun variation. Pick up a coloring book with pictures of fairies and use a copier to create many little fairies. Have the children color the fairies and add a little glitter to their wings, then string them up so that your home will become a glittery fairyland with dozens of little fairies flying overhead.

           Putting some thought into an arrival activity for your little guests will get your home party off to a great start, and go a long way toward controlling the chaos!

  

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