Friday, March 15, 2013

I Regret to Inform You...

In 2007 my idea to create a quality children's entertainment company offering age appropriate programming became a reality. Along with the talent of my husband and several staff along the way, Party at Your Place, developed a reputation for having the best costumes, the best activities and the best entertainers. In fact, we won an award for it in 2008.

However, companies like mine struggle to promote because we are always at risk of a lawsuit from the very companies that own the characters you want for your children. These companies hire lawyers specifically to hunt us down and tear apart what little business we have. Well, they have won.

I have made the difficult decision to close down Party at Your Place and it hurts. It hurts to see something I have put my heart into fall apart. It hurts to know that the joy we have brought to countless children will be no more. Party at Your Place will be closing down at the end of June 2013.

I want to thank everyone who has ever used our services and/or referred us to friends and family. Thank you for allowing us to share in your child's special day. I have watched many of your children grow up over the past 5 years and really felt like a part of many of your families. I want to thank everyone who has ever sent me or my staff an email filled with kind words about your experience with us. These are the things I will remember and cherish most.

Because of all of you I have experienced so many amazing events. You have dazzled me with your amazing decorating ideas, cakes too beautiful to eat, unique activities or performers, cultural traditions and so much more. I have learned so much from all of you and I thank you.

If you used our services for your child's party my only wish is that we left you and your guests enough memories to last a lifetime. Maybe you will share some of those memories in the comments.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Halloween Costume Tips

Fall is in the air and that can only mean one thing; Halloween is just around the corner. The early birds have probably already picked out their costumes, but many of us are still deciding what to dress our children up as (or waiting for them to decide what they want to be).

Whatever the choice is, there are a few things to consider before making your purchase:

1. Size matters.

You need to know what the weather is where you live. I am in Canada where Halloween usually requires a jacket and sometimes even a winter coat. When selecting a costume we always buy a side that will fit over the warm clothing. Otherwise, the costume is going to get covered up and that is no fun on Halloween night.

2. One piece suits and infants and toddlers

If you have a child in diapers or a toilet trainee on your hands you might want to look for 2 piece costumes to make diaper changes and potty breaks more manageable. (trust me)

3. Costumes and School

Many schools do not allow scary costumes at school because some children are afraid. Most schools do not allow weapon replicas either. When choosing a costume that will be warn at school it is important to know what the guidelines are for your school.

Remember to also keep your children safe on Halloween by ensuring they have something reflective on their costume and that they do not go trick-or-treating alone.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Why I Like Loot Bags

There is much controversy lately as to whether children should receive loot bags or not. Some feel they promote greed, while others feel they show gratitude to your party guests. For me I like them because I feel they are a developmentally appropriate party staple, especially for younger children, and especially when gifts are opened at the party.

We have all been to parties where young children want to touch all the gifts and perhaps even cry that they want something they see. It's hard for young children to understand why one special kid gets everything while they sit and watch. While I will not argue the fact that this is a part of life and children need to learn they won't always get what they want, I find that when kids learn that they do get a loot bag at the end of the party they feel less left out.

Some parents don't like them because they are often filled with junk that breaks at first touch. Loot bags don't have to be this way though. There are many other cost effective alternatives that have a more useful lifespan and still keep children excited.

Some loot bags that we have done over the years include:

1. For an Elmo themed party the children each received a gold fish. The total cost for this 'loot bag' was less than $4 per child. I printed themed labels to put over the fish food container and added a thank you note.

2. For a Ninja Turtle theme I made these bags using green craft bags and construction paper. Inside was a TMNT comic book, crayons, colouring sheets and some TMNT candy. Total cost per child was less than $3.

3. For a Blues Clues theme I made Pail and Shovel by drawing faces with permanent marker. Inside I put a small beach ball, Blues Clues notebook, and crayons. I also wrote the children's names on the back of the bucket. I wrapped them in cellophane for presentation, and added Blues Clues stickers for extra detail. The total cost for this loot bag was about $5 a child.

4. I forgot to take a picture of the loot bags, but for a bowling party I bought the plastic bowling sets from Walmart. They came with 10 pins and 2 balls. I divided them to give each child 5 pins and 1 ball. I wrapped them in cellophane for presentation. It was $5 a child.

5. Now that my kids are older we have been giving a sport ball as a loot bag. My 6 year old gave each child a playground ball in a mesh bag and my 9 year old will give a soccer ball in the same mesh bags at his party. The total cost for this is about $6 a child. While slightly pricey, it promotes active play and is useful.

There are countless ideas on the market for loot bags so you are sure to find something that works with your theme and age group. Try to think outside the 'bag' and find something cost effective and useful.

Giving loot bags can also teach the birthday child a life lesson in thankfulness so it's win win all around. Happy Looting!

Use the comment section to share your favourite or least favourite loot bags. Do you like the idea of loot bags or wish they would just go away?

Saturday, September 1, 2012

You're Not Invited to my Party and That's OK!

I am not sure when our society turned into such a coddled environment for children. The children of today seem to have to be protected from every possible 'bad' feeling. Soccer teams can no longer keep score for fear of upsetting a losing team, Some schools have banned 'best friends' because it can make other children feel less special, and parents of today are pressured to invite every child in the class or no child at all to their children's birthday parties.

While I can't do much about the first two items I want to provide some relief to the whole party inviting thing. It's ok to not invite every child to a party. It's ok to invite 5 of your child's closest friends at that's it.

I find the all or nothing concept very unfair because many families simply cannot afford to throw a party for 25 children leaving their child party-less which is still exclusion in my books. Why should only the 'rich' kids get to have parties?

As a parent I don't want my child invited to every party because I don't want to buy gifts for children my kid doesn't even play with on a daily basis. It's ok with me if they sometimes are left out.

I am not for the mentality that all children need to be friends with all children. As adults we don't invite the whole work place to our parties. We invite our friends and that's ok.

What is not ok about selective inviting is being mean about it. It's important that we as parents instill this value into our children. Here are some tips on how to teach your child to be a nice non-party-host:

1. Set the limit to the number of children your child can invite. Review the list together and make sure no one was accidentally left out.

2. Don't invite all the kids in the class except for a couple of kids. The child that picks their nose and the one who is allergic to everything shouldn't be the only exceptions. This starts to be mean and more of a 'bully-like' issue.

3. Tell your child you don't want to hear of any birthday taunting. Meaning she is not to rub it in other children's faces that they are not coming.

What do you think about all the hoopla of inviting the whole class or no one at all? Do you invite everyone? Do you send your child to everyone's party?

Monday, March 5, 2012

It's Her Party!

A phrase I often hear is "I know it's her birthday but she is too young". Parents often believe that their child cannot enjoy the entertainment because she is turning one or two years old. This is not the case. Your toddler can (and should) enjoy her own party. After all, it's her party.

I think the reason parents have these beliefs is because they are used to typical party entertainment options such as; clowns, face painting, magic shows and other non-interactive experiences. All these options can make a great party but when dealing with toddlers and preschoolers it's important to remember their stage of development.

Toddlers and preschoolers will enjoy a party where they are free to move and explore, be introduced to new materials and participate in flexible games and activities. This is why I thoughtfully created programs that your youngest party goer can enjoy.

Our Typical Toddler Party
(based on a home party with under 15 children. Otherwise a customized plan is created to meet your party's individual needs)

Character + Party Leader: We send out a team because we want the children to maximize their time spent with the character. The party leader is able to operate the music, set up the next activity and make transitions run smoothly.

Music and Bubbles: We bring fun music and a bubble machine as an opening activity. This gives children a chance to dance with the character, get their excitement out, and for children who need it; time to warm up to the character.

Parachute and Bean Bag Games: These materials are perfect for toddlers because they are easy to manipulate, fun to explore and do not have any 'rules'. This makes these activities the perfect developmental choice for young children.

Sing-a-long: We selected a few common childhood songs that are fun to sing. This flexible circle time experience is one that even a child as young as 6 months old will enjoy being apart of.

Colouring and Tattoos: This portion of our program was designed to allow for a fun tattoo drawn on each child's hand. This is more appropriate than face paint because the child can actually see the tattoo which is more enjoyable for them. Because the tattoos are drawn quickly the waiting time that occurs for face painting is reduced which better meets their stage of development. However, to avoid any conflicts or restlessness we offer them colouring as a side activity while they wait.

Picture Time: Because parties are about memories we save some time with every party for picture taking time. This allows the children to enjoy uninterrupted activity time for most of the party.

Cake Time: Before we leave the party we can sing happy birthday with you. This makes for a fun experience and more great pictures. It also acts as a distraction for when we leave. Children may be sad to see us go but with cake nearby they tend to have a better transition.

Remember, your child's party can be enjoyed by her, even if she is turning one. Keep her stage of development in mind when selecting entertainment and watch her have fun on her special day.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Disney Countdown Calendar

In December 2011 I finished the two year Early Childhood Education program at Sheridan College. It had been a long road for my family as I often found myself saying "I'm too busy" to my kids and mom guilt had taken up residence inside me.

I knew all I wanted once I was finished was more time with my husband and children, but with dreams of expanding my entrepreneurship in 2012, time was bound to remain a luxury.

So, my husband and I decided it was time to plan the best family vacation ever and that meant Disney World!

We told the children about the trip on Christmas day as part of their gift even though we weren't planning to go until the end of January. I didn't want to hear "is it time to go yet" every day for the next month, so I made them a countdown calendar (also part of their gift).

It has been the highlight of each morning in our house as the kids race over to it each day to read the fun fact inside and move the counter another day closer to our dream vacation. And I haven't been asked even once "is it time to go yet". (Yay)

A similar calendar can be made to countdown to anything. You can make one for Christmas, Birthdays or your own family vacation.

Disney Countdown Calendar

What you'll need

- Large Foam Board (Foam is more durable than bristol board)
- Library card pockets
- Numbers (either: stickers, printed from online, or hand written)
- Fun Facts
- Popsicle Stick
- Tape
- Glue stick

How to Make it

1. Collect/create enough fun facts to fill your calendar (one fact per day). I typed them up on the computer and cut them out and glued them to card stock folded like a card. I used a coloured circle sticker to seal the fact shut (so little eyes wouldn't be tempted to peek).

2. Put your numbers on the library card pockets

3. Lay all the library card pockets on the foam board, from highest number to lowest number, until you have them how you want it. Peel and stick your library card pockets on the foam board.

4. Stick your fun facts in each pocket.

5. Make a counter. I used a mickey face that says "Days 'til Disney" on it. I used packing tape to cover the whole thing to make it durable and appear laminated. Then, I taped black hockey tape around the popsicle stick and taped the mickey face to the top on the popsicle stick.

Extra: I bought Mickey die cuts on eBay to add some colour to the pockets and to help decorate the board. I also printed some text to give the calendar a title; "Days Till Disney". You could use stickers, die cuts or your own artistic skills to help add some colour to your board.

Some example fun facts I used:

"In Florida lizards walk around the same way squirrels run around here"

"At some restaurants characters come out to greet you while you eat"

"The plane ride to Florida will be almost 3 hours long"

And this is what my finished calendar looks like.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Fun For Your Kids (From My Kids)

My boys have been enjoying the Christmas season from: shopping, to baking, to reading stories, and crafting (and a whole bunch more in between).

This evening Dorian, my 5 year old, said that he was going to show me how to make a snowflake. I was so impressed with his presentation that I offered to make a video of it (for all of you of course). This is Dorian's "How To Make a Snowflake" step-by-step video:

Once his 8 year old brother DeAndre saw it, he too wanted to make a video. Since DeAndre enjoys telling jokes, he wanted to dazzle you with a few festive one-liners. Enjoy!

From our house to yours we'd like to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.