From the June 2016 issue

How to Plan the Perfect Backyard Birthday

Five tips for making that party tons of outdoor fun for your kid and her guests.

The sun is shining, your birthday boy is running wild and the sprinkler is keeping the kids cool. It’s a party – in Mother Nature’s original venue! Backyard celebrations let parents go back to basics without sacrificing fun. While you get a clean home and huge cost savings, little guests get to play in wide open spaces and burn off energy. Here’s how to make your soirée a hit.

1. Make a plan

Kids love playing outside, but avoid a total free-for-all. Consider a primary activity like an art project or water play and fill in the gaps with old-fashioned games like “Simon Says.”

“I’ve been a teacher for 15 years, and when there’s downtime and the kids aren’t active, that’s when things can get out of control,” says Wendy Sauve, owner of Perfect Palate Parties in White Lake, which offers on-location painting parties for kids. “Make sure you have activities planned, even if it’s something as simple as a game of Duck Duck Goose or a coloring sheet.”

Eudora Yorke, a mom of two boys in Novi, couldn’t agree more. She recently hosted a backyard party for her 6-year-old son, Chandler.

“A lot of times people get discouraged about having a party at home because they don’t know what to do,” Yorke says. “At home it’s just having a little bit of a game plan. Kids are simple and they just like to be entertained.”

2. Pick a theme, any theme

“Planning a party can be overwhelming,” Sauve said. “If you choose a theme to plan around, it makes it a lot easier.” Luckily, with a backyard bash you can incorporate almost any theme without going overboard.

Sara Gladwell, a mom of three in Livonia who hosts an outdoor party for 4-year-old Lyric’s birthday each September, says that’s a perk.

“You don’t have to go crazy,” she says. “We hang a banner that says ‘happy birthday’ and a couple themed tablecloths and the plates.”

3. Have a back-up plan

Michigan weather isn’t exactly predictable. Yorke was pleasantly surprised when it was “beautiful” for her son’s April party. “I figured we were all going to be inside the house!” If you’re not as lucky and don’t want to move it into your home, consider venues that accept last-minute bookings. Gladwell keeps Chuck E. Cheese’s in mind.

4. Don’t forget the details

Make sure a bathroom is accessible for guests, Gladwell says, and provide hand sanitizer, sunscreen and bug spray if needed. Keep extra tablecloths and garbage bags on hand, Suave adds. Also be sure to have lots of water available and consider storing food in a screened tent.

5. Capture the fun

“Designate someone else to take photos and make sure to have a back-up camera, battery or phone charger,” Sauve says. “Then you can be present with your child for their special day.”

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