Before the Party

Count carefully and have more than enough. "Expect the unexpected" is a basic rule of party experts. Prepare extra food and supplies in case something spills or a guest is extra hungry. Give every guest the same party favor to minimize disappointments. Gather enough art supplies so children can make more than one creation or can start over if they want.

Limit the number of guests and plan extra helpers. A good rule of thumb for kids' parties is to have as many guests as the host's age. For a 6-year-old's party, invite six other children. You'll be more relaxed, the kids will get the right amount of attention, and you'll be able to control the pace of the party better. If you really must invite the whole class, enlist more adult help. Often teenagers who have babysitting experience are great party helpers. Sometimes you can volunteer for another family's party and in exchange they will help you. Pick helpers who know the children or at least enjoy working with them.

During the Party

Encourage creativity

Your guests (whether school friends or young family members) may have a different vision about what to do with the art supplies that you provide. Even if you're celebrating your son's first home run, it's okay if he makes a football. Encourage children to express their own ideas and to create projects in their own ways.

Be flexible and take suggestions

Your child is often the best source of good ideas for his or her party. Unless you are planning a surprise celebration (which works much better for adults than kids), talk about the entire party ahead of time so everyone can contribute ideas and knows what to expect. Your guests and helpers may have ideas for activities, games or crafts, too

Join in

Go ahead--play balloon volleyball, color a pinwheel, dance like a boneless puppet, put on the blindfold and reach into the mystery box. Have fun. Young kids love it when Mom and Dad join in the festivities. Check with your older child, though, before doing anything at the party that he or she could consider an embarrassment.

Save the memories

Long after the cake is eaten, wrapping paper tossed away, and gifts scattered, the memories of special parties last. Photos and scrapbooks are great ways to preserve party memories. Photographs of guests enjoying the party make nice thank you note enclosures. Save a sample of the artwork from the party as a special reminder, too. Keep a list of guests, the party schedule, some handmade decorations, and have your child write a "party journal" or "favorite memory" page to save and enjoy looking at years later.