Tip No. 3: Helping Hands

        You can’t have too many helping hands at a child’s birthday party. Recruit extra hands to help you keep things running in a smooth and timely fashion — but bear in mind that good help really is hard to find!

       Most of the friends, neighbors and relatives who volunteer to help you will not want to spend the entire party working hard. Instead, they will expect to spend a large portion of time chatting with other guests and enjoying the festivities. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, as long as you realize in advance that this is going to happen and plan accordingly. 

It works best to recruit a larger number of helpers, and assign each helper one or two very specific tasks. Communication is vital. Make sure that Aunt Grace knows that she has three very specific jobs to do at the party: put away the coats of guests as they arrive at the front door, help tie string during the craft portion of the party, and serve lemonade at the table. Be sure to tell her you want her to simply watch and enjoy the rest of the party as a guest. This way she will not feel put upon, and will be more willing to remember and perform her specific tasks. The more people you can assign small and specific tasks to, the better. Clearly defining the tasks will avoid confusion and keep the party moving along smoothly. 

     Here’s one of those little details that can make a huge difference. Be sure Aunt Grace knows that she is to continue helping to tie string during the crafts portion of the party even if someone else steps in to help, too.  Here’s why this is so important. A little guest’s mom, who has not been assigned this task, may help for a few minutes and then wander off to socialize with another mom she hasn’t seen in awhile. If Aunt Grace thinks the other mom is doing her job, she may head off to the powder room or to make a phone call. When this happens, and all 10 little guests suddenly need string tied at the same moment, guess who will be left alone in the middle of all the chaos? You!

        Here is a checklist of some “tasks” you may want to consider farming out during a party. These seem like such small tasks, but you will be amazed at how much difference it will make when someone else is doing these things for you so that you can focus on the children, and running the party.

         – Put away coats and take presents from guests. You will be free to greet and welcome your arriving guests if you are not balancing an armload of jackets, sweaters and gift bags.

         – Serve as a surrogate hostess for any adults who may stay at the party. Often, moms who remain for the party do not really know where to sit or stand, and may not even realize that the beautiful fruit and cheese tray  on the kitchen counter is for their enjoyment!  To keep your party calm and controlled, your attention needs to be directed toward the little partygoers, not the adults.  Assign a helper to graciously invite moms to gather in the kitchen, pointing out the refreshments that are provided for their enjoyment.  Tell the helper to be sure to reconnect with moms at each stage of the party, as one game or craft ends and a new one begins, as the children move to the table for cake, and as gift opening begins.  Have the helpers simply make comments such as, “Please enjoy the fruit and crackers; they’re for the moms!” so that mothers will know they are welcome to partake of the refreshments.    

          – Help children during crafts. The best formula, if possible,  is one pair of helping hands for every four children under the age of 6.  For children older than 6, you will need only one pair of helping hands per 8 children.  If you can’t recruit this many helpers, it’s fine.  This is a goal and not a requirement!

         – Clean up the crafts area. Leaving craft supplies out after use is an invitation for problems to occur. Someone will bump into the beads, glitter or glue and spill it on your carpet, or decide to create a snowstorm out of all those leftover feathers! Children in groups are creative and quick, so act defensively to remove the possibilities for mess. The trick is to have someone else do this for you while you move the group on to the next activity. You’ll maintain control of the party, and there will be no time for things to begin to get chaotic as children wait for you. 

      – Pour drinks at the table.  Food service is so much easier when a helper goes around and fills cups for you while you concentrate on the cake or the cupcakes.  It’s a pretty safe bet that at least one young child will ask for more lemonade before you have finished serving everyone the first cup. How nice to have someone else taking care of this so that you can focus on the next task!     

Middle schoolers make great party helpers!

           If you do not have friends or family members who can help at your party, consider asking a few middle schoolers in your neighborhood to pitch in. Many middle schoolers love working with young children and would very much enjoy spending a couple of hours helping out at a birthday party. Give them specific assignments (and, unlike recruited family or friends, volunteer helpers can have assignments at every stage of the party, because this makes them feel very grown up and responsible!) Do make sure they get the same refreshments as the younger children, offer them the same party favor bags if they show an interest and reward them for their efforts with a “tip” or a special present after the party.

Remember:  Use more helpers and give them fewer tasks eachUse your helpers for limited amounts of time at specific times throughout the party.  Make sure to communicate your expectations.    

 

 

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