This guide to planning parties is by Southern California’s family entertainer Thom Bliss. The party planning guide is based on his years of experience performing at children’s birthday parties, kids birthday parties, adult birthday parties, Christmas, Halloween and other holiday parties. He has also drawn on the experiences of other magicians, clowns, comedians, and other performers. In it he gives you the 411 on party invitations, party decorations, party food, hiring the party entertainment, and other details. We hope that it will prove helpful, no matter what type of event you are organizing.

Party Planning Guide
How to Make Your Next Party a Magical,
 Memorable Occasion

by

Southern California's Family Entertainer

Thom Bliss

     The day of your child’s birthday party can be one of joy to you and your child if you organize it well, keep it short and simple, make it easy on yourself, and hire a professional children’s entertainer.

     Much of what happens at children’s birthday parties is not really done with the children in mind, but to impress the other parents, the neighbors, or whoever else is around. If you are trying to have a fun party for the kids at a low cost, don’t get caught in that trap.

Secret #1:
Keep it Organized

     Keeping your party well-organized does not mean scheduling every second of the party and them making sure that the schedule is followed exactly. Instead, you should allow for some flexibility and be prepared for any contingency.


NOTE

I hope you find this guide helpful. Although it was written primarily for people planning children's birthday parties, I believe it might be helpful to anyone planning any kind of party.


      Your planning should begin well before the day of the party. I believe that the best theme for a birthday party is simply a birthday party; but if you wish to have another theme, it should be selected well in advance. Give yourself plenty of time to coordinate the invitations, decorations, food, and entertainment to fit the theme.
     Visit a near-by party supply store or one of the on-line party stores advertised elsewhere on this page. You could spend a fortune there, but that’s not your aim. Check it for supplies and ideas, then do it yourself. 

Tip #1
      It is also a good idea, before sending out invitations, to check for conflicting events. Soccer games, dance lessons, and the like; school, church and community events; even other kids’ birthday parties, can all cut down on the attendance at your child’s party. Although it is not always possible to avoid all such conflicts, a little research can help you avoid many of them.

Tip #2
     If you find that another child’s birthday is planned for the same day as your own and that many of the same kids will be invited to both parties, it is better to coordinate than to compete. Perhaps the time of one party or the other -- or both -- can be adjusted so that the kids an attend both. Another idea is to have a joint party, with two honorees. You have twice the adult supervision but only half the expense and both you and your child have the opportunity to make new friends. Just be sure that each child has a chance to be in the spotlight.

Tip #3
      You should make arrangements with the entertainer before the invitations are sent. You may find that an entertainer will already be booked for another party in a nearby community, and can easily help with your party too, if you can start your event a little earlier or a little later than planned. It’s much easier to make this kind of adjustment before the invitations are sent than afterwards. Also, you can include the name of the entertainer in your invitations.

Tip #4
     It is a good idea to plan more games or quiet activities, such as drawing or crafts, than you think you will need. Kids have notoriously short attention spans and may tire of one game or activity much more quickly than you anticipated. Also, if the food is delayed or children get through eating faster than you anticipated, you may need another game or other activity to keep them busy until it’s time to open the gifts. 

Secret #2:
Keep it Short

     It is important that you keep the length of the party within reasonable limits. This usually means no more than two to two and one-half hours. 
Here is a suggested schedule:


Arrival

15 minutes

Games

15-30 minutes

Professional entertainment

45-60 minutes

Opening presents

15 minutes

Cake and ice cream 

15 minutes

Departure

15 minutes


      Let’s go over this schedule in detail. 

     You should allow about fifteen minutes for the children to gather. During this period there should be some activity for the earlier arrivals to do while they are waiting for the others to come. Coloring pages from coloring books is one good activity for the earliest arrivals. The younger kids love to color. Buy several boxes of crayons -- just the most basic colors -- and put them all in a basket, to prevent fighting over a favorite color. After enough children have arrived to start the game, a game that the others can join in as they arrive, such as tag, British bulldog (or Pom-Pom Pull-Away), or a circle game works well.

     After the kids have arrived, there should be about an hour of entertainment. I recommend that you hire an experienced, professional children’s entertainer, who can keep the children entertained for forty-five minutes to an hour, with a variety of activities. A professional children’s entertainer has almost become a requirement in some neighborhoods. But even if that’s not the case in your area, its still something you should consider.

     Once the entertainment is over you should allow about fifteen minutes or so for the opening of the presents, followed by the cake and ice cream.

     If you are planning to serve lunch or a light snack (and this certainly isn’t required, at least in most areas), you should allow no more than about thirty-minutes for this. Children eat more quickly than adults, especially under party conditions, and even though you allow thirty minutes for food, you may find that they have all finished in fifteen minutes. Depending on the time of your party, any meal or snack should be served shortly after the guest arrive, but before the entertainment begins, or immediately after the entertainment, with the traditional cake and ice cream as dessert.

     Allow another fifteen minutes or so for the kids to find their coats and hats (in the winter), to say their “thank yous” and “good byes” and to be picked up by their parents. If you do not plan to take the kids home yourself, it is useful to have an activity to keep the kids busy while waiting for their rides.


Tip #5
      Make your invitations very specific as to when the party is to begin and when it is to end. You don’t want children showing up too early -- before you are ready for them. And you don’t want them staying long after the festivities are over. Unfortunately, some parents take advantage of a kiddie party to leave their child or children with the hostess for a while before and after the party -- so that they have time for shopping, a beauty parlor appointment, or whatever else they want to do.

Tip #6
     A written invitation is usually better than a phone call. By having the day, the beginning and ending times, and the place written down, the guests and their parents are less likely to become confused. The invitation can specify, “The party will be over, and your child will be ready to be picked up, at 3 PM.” Then, if the parent does not come for the child by 3:15, you can call to find out why. Most people will get the idea and be there.

Tip #7
     Even with written invitations, however, it is good to remind the parents of the information when they confirm the invitation by phone and to remind them of the pick-up time when they drop off the kids. 

Tip #8
      Get the phone numbers -- including cell phone and pager numbers -- of all the parents and make sure that they have yours. There are many reasons why you may have to contact a child’s parents during the party -- for example if the child becomes sick or is unruly -- and having their numbers may also help if the parents “forget” about the pick up time. And there may be reasons for the parents to contact you.

Secret #3:
Keep it Simple

     Don’t plan an elaborate meal. Hotdogs, chips and punch or soda have always been big hits with the kids. Today, pizza has probably surpassed hot dogs and hamburgers in popularity. The kids like it and you can have it delivered, making the preparation almost null. But again, keep it simple -- cheese, sausage or hamburger, and pepperoni are probably better choices than a five-topping combo. 
          Remember, too, that, especially with the youngest kids, you are dealing with small appetites. Cut each slice of pizza in half before you serve it, or ask your neighborhood pizza parlor if they can cut the pizza into smaller pieces for you. You might also want to have some fresh fruit or carrot and celery sticks available. 
         One of the great things about southern California is its great diversity. Over the years, we have enjoyed foods from many parts of the world. However, we believe that, whatever your ethnic or cultural background, the best party food for kids are still hotdogs or pizza.
          If a number of adults will also be at the party, you might want to have two cuisines. Kid food for the kids, adult food for the adults. But don’t make the adult food too elaborate, either. I suggest you order a deli platter (with a variety or meats and cheeses, several kinds of bread, and the usual condiments), so the adults can make their own sandwiches. The deli sections of most major supermarkets can supply you with this sort of platter, but you should give a day or two’s advance notice. Of course, pizza and soda work well with many adults as well as the kids; and the adults might actually appreciate that five-topping combo or ethnic food. 

          Themed paper plates, napkins, table covers, and decorations add to the fun. Many themes are available at your local party supply store or from our on-line party store.


Tip #9
     A simple sheet cake, with the appropriate number of candles, some ice cream, and something for the kids to drink, is really all you need in the way of refreshments. 
     If you want something fancier, a large cake, made from a mix or purchased from the grocery store or bakery, can be decorated with gum drops, small suckers, or objects cut from construction paper. 
      If money is no object, beautiful cakes can be ordered from specialty bake shops and even some grocery stores. They mean nothing to the children. 

Secret #4:
Make it Easy on Yourself

     Invite at least one other mother, a relative, or a local teenage girl (perhaps the kids’ regular baby-sitter) to help with the party. The professional children’s entertainer will take care of the entertainment, but usually will not supervise the gift opening or serving the cake and ice cream.
          If the party has to be in the living room, remove all breakables , ornaments, and items that can be easily tipped over. The few minutes it takes to do this will pay off big in peace-of-mind the day of the party.
          If you are planning a light lunch or snack for the kids, this, if at all possible, should be in a separate room. The children are escorted from the main party area to the dinning area, then directly from there to their wraps to be ready to be picked up.

Tip #10
     Of course you’re going to use paper plates and cups, and plastic forks, for the party. The clean-up is much easier and plates fitting the theme of your party add to the festive atmosphere. But be sure you get more than enough of everything, especially cups and napkins. That way you’ll have enough to cover unexpected guests and spillage. And I don’t have to tell you that kids can go through paper cups and napkins like they grew on trees!


Secret #5:
Hire a Professional Children’s Entertainer

You knew I was going to say this, right? After all, entertaining children is what I do. But I sincerely believe that having a professional children’s entertainer at your child’s party could be the best present you can give your child -- and yourself.
     As I mentioned before, in some neighborhoods, a professional entertainer has become almost a requirement. But even if this isn’t the case in your area, you should still consider inviting a professional children’s entertainer to your child’s party.

Things to look for when hiring a children’s entertainer

      First, the entertainer should involve all the kids but should remember that it is your child’s birthday.
     In all my birthday party magic shows, for example, all the kids get to help make the magic happen. But the birthday child gets to be my special helper. In fact, the birthday child gets to be a co-star, doing some of the magic himself or herself.
     Second, the entertainer should be a genuine, experienced, professional. You can dress up the child’s uncle in a clown suit, but that won’t make him a clown. You can go to the local magic shop to buy a few simple tricks, but that won’t make you a magician.
     Unfortunately, some people who advertise themselves as magicians or clowns are not professional children’s entertainers. They may be able to dress-up in a clown costume or perform a few simple tricks that they purchased at a magic or novelty shop They are quite willing to pick-up a few extra bucks by coming to your party exhausted after working forty -- or more -- hours that week at their day job. But they lack the know-how that can only be gained from years of experience entertaining children.
     I’ve been doing magic for over thirty years. For the last nine years, I’ve been performing almost exclusively for children and family audiences, at schools, churches, and parties.
    Third, the material should be age-appropriate. Many magicians will tell you that children are much harder to entertain than adults. This may or may not be the case, but it is certain that entertaining children is different than entertaining adults. And entertaining teenagers is different still. Only experience working with each age group can really give the entertainer the insight to know works with what group.
     Many entertainers have found that they can get laughs from off-color remarks, sexually-oriented jokes, and ethnic slander. I question the wisdom of using this kind of material even with adult audiences -- nervous laughter is not a sign of genuine amusement. But it certainly has no place at a child’s birthday party.
     Yet I have heard stories of “entertainers” who have presented their “hip, cutting edge” -- read dirty -- material at a kids’ parties. My material is so clean, it squeaks. And I’ve found that adults like good, clean laughter, too. 

Tip #11
     A professional children’s entertainer can make your party extra-special and make your child feel extra-special, too. The entertainer is a special guest, a “celebrity,” who has come to honor your child, because your child is also special. And magician can produce oohs and aahs of delight and a room full of laughter. And many professional entertainers will have a special item or two that make your child a star of the show.


Tip #12
     If you try to handle all the entertainment yourself, you will likely find yourself exhausted well before the party is over. A professional children’s entertainer will take much of the work of the party out of your hands and off your shoulders. This will allow you time relax and rest up for the rest of the party. You might even be able to sit back, relax and enjoy the show yourself.

Tip #13
     If you try to handle the entertainment yourself, you will need to buy game supplies and prizes. You will also need to have a some small gift for each child to take home. Then of course you will want balloons of some kind or other. Many children’s entertainers will include all of this in their fee.
     As an example, in addition to putting on a magic show, I make balloon animals and other balloon sculptures (flowers, hats, and so on) for the kids. The balloon animals add to the festivities, and the kids can take them home with them. The children also get a magic wand, with some magic tricks they can learn.


Tip #14
     If you plan to serve a light meal (or the cake and ice cream) after the entertainment, the entertainer will keep the kids busy while you prepare the meal.

     Inviting a professional children’s entertainer to your child’s birthday party can be the best present you can give your child. The entertainer can make the party extra special and make your child feel extra special, too. Inviting a professional children’s entertainer can also be the best present you can give to yourself. An experienced children’s entertainer can take much of the burden of amusing the kids off your hands, relieve you of the necessity of buying give-aways for the guests, and give you time to relax and recharge yourself or get the cake and ice cream ready.
     Well, there you have it: Keep if short, keep it simple, make it easy on yourself and well-organized. And hire a professional children’s entertainer to make your child’s birthday party a truly magical, memorable event.

Thom Bliss MagiComedy. Thom Bliss is a children's and family entertainer, magician, clean comedian, comic, balloon twister, and gospel magician, serving all of southern California, including Anaheim, Long Beach, Newport Beach, Los Angeles, Santa Monica.

Don't miss the MAGIC!   Don't miss the FUN!
To schedule a show, or for more information, call us at
(714) 539-4259
or click here to send an e-mail.

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      Service area: MagiComedians Thom Bliss & Pam entertain children, adults and families throughout Riverside & San bernardino counties, including the following: Aguanga, Anza, Apple Valley, Arrowhead, Bermuda Dunes, Big Bear Lake, Cabazon, Canyon Lake, Cathedral City, Cherry Valley, Chino, Chino Hills, Chiriaco Summit, Coachella, Colton, Corona, Crestline, Cucamonga, Desert Center, Fontana, Gilman Hot Springs, Grand Terrace, Hemet, Hesperia, Highland, Homeland, Idyllwild, Indian Wells, Indio, Joshua Tree, La Quinta, Lake Arrowhead, Lake Elsinore, Lakeview, Loma Linda, Lucerne Valley, Mecca, Menifee, Mira Loma, Montclair, Moreno Valley, Mountain Center, Murrieta, Norco, North Palm Springs, Nuevo, Ontario, Palm Desert, Palm Springs, Parris, Pine Cove, Quail Valley, Rialto, Rancho Cucamonga, Rancho Mirage, Redlands, Riverside, Romoland, Rubidoux, San Bernardino, San Jacinto, Sky Valley, Sun City, Temecula, Thermal, Thousand Palms, Twentynine Palms, Upland, Victorville, Wildomar, Winchester, Wrightwood, Yermo, Yucaipa, and Yucca Valley, California.
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     This page created or revised 1-05-06.
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   Southern California Family Entertainer Thom Bliss might have trouble finding his mischievous rabbit, Trixie, but he’ll have no trouble holding the attention of your guests or clients.
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 •  Church programs
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Don't miss the MAGIC!   Don't miss the FUN!
To schedule a show, or for more information, call us at
(714) 539-4259
or click here to send an e-mail.

 

Whether it's a birthday, or some other happy occasion, add more than a touch of magic with Thom Bliss! His service area includes Aguanga, Anza, Apple Valley Arrowhead, Bermuda Dunes, Big Bear Lake, Cabazon
Canyon Lake, Cathedral City, Cherry Valley, Chino, 
Coachella, Colton, Corona, Crestline, Cucamonga, Desert Center, Fontana, Gilman Hot
Springs, Grand Terrace, Hemet, Hesperia, Highland, Homeland Idyllwild, Indian Wells,
Indio, Joshua Tree, La Quinta, Lake Arrowhead,  Loma Linda,
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 Temecula, Thermal, Thousand Palms, Upland, Victorville,
Wildomar, Winchester, and Yucca Valley, California.

Birthdays & other parties for kids

 

Thom Bliss answers your questions about his magicomedy shows

Answers to frequently asked questions
(No, we won't tell you how the tricks are done)

 

It's not just animals any more! Click below to learn more about Thom’s balloon figures

Balloon animals, hats, flowers

 
Thom Bliss uses his talents to proclaim the Good News! Click here to find out more about The Good News MagiComedy Program
The Good News MagiComedy Program
 
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