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.
How to Make Your Next
Party a Magical,
California's Family Entertainer
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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:
Cake and ice cream
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
Hire a Professional
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
miss the MAGIC! Don't miss the
To schedule a show, or for more information, call us at
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Service area: MagiComedians Thom Bliss & Pam entertain
children, adults and families throughout Riverside & San bernardino counties, including the
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City, Cherry Valley, Chino, Chino Hills, Chiriaco Summit, Coachella, Colton,
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FREE Party Planning Guide
miss the MAGIC! Don't miss the
To schedule a show, or for more information, call us at
click here to send an e-mail.