Ask your party entertainer these questions

Birthday party entertainment in DelawareDo you know who you are hiring to perform at your party? Here are some questions to ask before you book an entertainer for your child’s birthday party.

What age group is most appropriate for your presentation?

Entertainment designed for the preschool set is likely to make a 4th grader gag. Conversely, interactive activities designed with the motor skills and capabilities of a 4th grader in mind will frustrate both young children and the performer (and likely the other supervising adults).  If you are dealing with a mixed age group, ask how the entertainer will accommodate all of them. Ask what takes place during the show.

How long is the show/presentation?

Most performances will be between 30 minutes and 1 hour.  Several factors will help you determine the right amount of time for the performance. At a birthday party, there may be games, food, or other activities to engage children during a set amount of time. The other critical factor is age.  While some 2-year olds will sit for an hour and some 10-year olds will only sit for 10 minutes, the younger the age, the shorter the presentation.

How many children can you accommodate?

Some kinds of entertainment are sensitive to the number of children in attendance. Things like face painting and balloon twisting require a certain amount of time to create a work of art for each child. Entertainment like a “stage” performance from a magician or storyteller will less likely be sensitive to group size.

What are your equipment and space requirements?

You want to determine if the entertainer will require a sound system, tables and chairs, access to electric, or special equipment of any kind from you.  Find out if the performance can be in a living room, outside, or with a low ceiling if your space is limited. Ask about flexibility in changing location in the event of rain or other unforeseen circumstances.

How long do you need to set up for the show?

If the “stage” space is shared, either by other activities or another performance, you will need to determine how much time is required to both set up and break down the space and schedule the entertainment/activities accordingly.

What is the cost for the performance?

Ask if the cost is per performance or per person and if it includes travel time. If you are booking through an agent, you will likely pay the agent and the performer.  Book the show directly with a performer whenever possible.  As with lots of other things, you get what you pay for. The bargain basement face painter or costumed character may sound good when you book, but…

Do you have references?

You are entrusting this person or group with both your entertainment and the children.  Ask for references, especially from venues and people that have hired them back. Check out their website and Facebook pages or videos of the performance.

Is it safe?

You can’t go wrong with a safety first mentality. Ask if the activity is safe and especially if it is safe for the age group at the party. Are there any precautions that you can take to make sure everyone is injury-free?

Whenever possible, speak directly with the performer. It will give you the best idea if the person is friendly and competent. Email is easier, but your interaction on the phone will reveal a lot about who you are inviting to your party.

Do you have anything else you ask or should have asked the party entertainment?

This is an excerpt from The Almost Perfect Birthday Party: A sanity-preserving guide to planning a party your child will love. Do you want more? Click this link to learn all you need to know about how to plan a great birthday party!

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Even with all of the planning, birthday parties can go wrong. Kids are unpredictable. While not all problems are preventable, knowing that they may arise can help you prepare in case they do.

Crying Birthday Child

Your child

  • Overwhelmed
  • Bossy
  • Intolerant of others playing with his/her stuff
  • Won’t participate
  • Ignores some of her guests

Other children, including siblings

  • Wild
  • Scared
  • Mean
  • Uncooperative
  • Sad

Prepare to take a child (yours or another guest) quietly aside and talk with them about their behavior. If the behavior does not change, prepare a quiet space for this child and an adult to read a book or play with something like Legos or a coloring book. After a few minutes or when the child seems to have calmed, explain your expectations and escort them back to join the other children.

Other parents

  • Too chatty
  • Enabling bad behavior in their child
  • Too demanding of time or attention for themselves or their child
  • Too helpful or taking over

If a parent or other adult is trying your patience, enlist their help with a specific activity. The more specific the instructions, the less likely they will be to ask follow up questions or do it the way they want it instead. It will keep them occupied and out of trouble.

The best laid plans…

  • Rain
  • Entertainment no-show
  • No one wants to participate

Like any good magician will tell you, have something up your sleeve. Plan a few more simple activities than you need in case things don’t go as planned. If you’ve got a potato in your pantry, you have got yourself a hot potato game. If you’ve got music, you can have a dance party, play musical chairs, or a freeze dance game.

Lack of RSVP’s

If you haven’t heard from a large number of children by the RSVP date, send a follow up card (or email) to encourage response.

4 Reasons I Hate Pinatas

First,Pinata for Birthday Parties let me apologize to pinata makers and everyone who has ever had a pinata at their party. Why, you ask, do you reserve such ire for the festive pinata? Let me explain.

It’s not like I have something against the traditional donkey or modern iterations of Sponge Bob, Angry Birds, or Princesses. It not that children get prizes or candy. Let it be known, I’m a big fan of candy. It’s about chaos. For the neurotic, hyper-vigilante worriers like me, this article is for you.

1. The Weapon

Can I start with the premise that you give an 8 year old a bat, then blindfold him, then tell him to swing as hard as possible? Sure. What could possibly go wrong? There’s a reason there is a whole pinata segment on America’s Funniest Videos.

2. The Impenetrable Object

Many of the new pinatas are made from cardboard instead of paper mache. Not just any old cardboard; the type of cardboard that could withstand re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. Give that 5 year old a chainsaw and we might get some action.

3. The Waiting Candivores

Don’t forget to add in a line of anxious children waiting to pounce on the candy should the blindfolded person actually crack the pinata code. No danger there of a misguided toddler (or six) wandering into the path of an oncoming bat train.

4. The Crying

Finally, the big kid down the street steps in and breaks the pinata open. Candy for everyone, right? Next is like a scene from the Hunger Games. Only the strongest will survive. Kids get pushed, fingers get stepped on, and that big kid, with his Lebron James-sized hands fills his basket and claims victory, leaving the masses in tears.

So, maybe I worry a little. It’s not so bad, you say? If you must, here are a few things that will make the pinata experience more fun for all.

The pinata

If you have the time and ambition, make your own pinata. Check out these sites for tips on making a few different types. By making your own, you can control how easy or hard it is to crack the pinata and can control the type of object need to break it open. This will deal with problem 1 and 2.

The rules

Kids don’t listen to rules when there is candy involved. The boundaries need to be clear with rope, cones, or police barrier tape. Try having one boundary for the swinger with a buffer zone then a boundary for the watchers.

The helpers

Try to have at least 3 helpers for the smack-down. One person can be positioned with the bat holder and highlighted in an AFV video, one for the on-deck batter, and one (or two) for the rest of the kids.

The prizes

Tom Hanks said in the movie A League of Their Own, “There’s no crying in baseball!” Because I’ve spent my life making kids laugh at parties, I’m not a fan of having them cry there, either. There are a few ways around it.

  • You can station a few “even-uppers” with bags of candy to help out the slower or more timid to fill their bags. It works, but some kids might still feel pushed around.
  • You can fill the pinata with toy coins or other objects. Instruct the kids to collect the coins and fill a nearby collective jar. Once the jar is filled, they each get a bag of candy or other prizes.
  • You can label an object in the pinata with each child’s name on it. When they find their object, they can get their bag of goodies.
  • You can prefill bags of candy inside the pinata labeled with each child’s name.

That’s my two cents on pinatas. What’s yours? Share your pinata story with our readers here, good or bad. We would love to hear from you!

5 Tips for Planning a Birthday Party on a Budget

Celebrate birthdays with confettiWe are all looking for ways to do more with less. Planning a birthday party is no exception. Here are 5 ways to get the most birthday party for your money.

1. Have a mid-afternoon, 2 hour party. Because you have less time to fill, you will spend less money on food and activities. It gives you more leeway to spend a few extra dollars on things that matter most to your child or make it easier for you.

2. Instead of going to an expensive party place, hire a teenager to help with your party at home. They can help corral the kids, help with serving, or the best part is to help you clean up.

3. Let the activity double as the goodie bag (e.g., have a squirt bottle fight and give them each the squirt bottle, have a treasure hunt with a prize at the end, hula hoop contest or a craft).

4. Decorate with kid-powered art. Stack boxes to resemble a cake, line up boxes with shoulder straps for cars, or a banner paper with “Happy Birthday” written on it and give kids markers or paint to create their own party atmosphere.

5. Let the food take center stage with a gummy bear festival, animal cracker circus, or a individual “CupCake Boss” decorating contest. Your money stretches farther when your food and activities do double duty.

Most importantly, no budget is right, only right for you. You can spend $20 or $2000 and it’s likely your child will not love you any more or less because of it. If you plan with your child in mind, whatever you have to spend will be the right amount.

Find more party planning tips in The Almost Perfect Birthday Party available now on