Give your children the kind of party you can live with

January 15, 1995|By SUSAN REIMER

I have hardly had time to store the Christmas presents, and already my children want to talk birthday parties. You know -- theme, location, number of guests and the dollar value of the one big gift they expect to get from Mom and Dad.

Having planned 18 birthday parties between the two of them, I am fresh out of concepts. All I know is, I don't want to do any more sleep-overs -- the kind of party where you lie awake all night listening to 10 kids trash your family room. The kind where you are ready to send everyone home at 6 a.m., but the parents don't show up until 11.

No, thank you.

I am a big fan of the Neutral Site Birthday Party -- gym, pool, bowling alley, skating rink, pizza parlor. The kind where you pay professionals to feed or entertain your children, clean up after them and send them home tired enough for a nap.

But the truth is, few of my Neutral Site parties have been a success. Two guests at a pool party had to be rescued by the lifeguard from the bottom of the deep end. I thought everybody gave their kids swim lessons.

And my daughter's big toe was nearly severed during an ice skating party. It never occurred to me that just because the rink could accommodate 20 children, I would have to lace that many pairs of skates. With all these children clomping around looking for an adult to tie their skates, somebody was bound to step on somebody else's bare foot. (There was blood all over the place.)

The craft party did not go well (6-year-old girls and glue guns? I would have been better off with boys and BB guns). And I refused to do a "Little Mermaid" swim party after my daughter told me I would play the part of Ursula, the Sea Witch.

So I have canvassed my friends for their most successful birthday parties, and I will share the best ideas here. Look for your invitation in the mail.

* The G.I. Joe Party: Decorate with recruiting posters. Bake a cake shaped like a Claymore land mine and ice it in olive drab. Parents and children dress in camouflage, and parents, barking like drill sergeants, order the children around for two hours. Greet guests by bellowing: "Drop and give me 10."

* The Mall Doll Party: Your daughter and her friends are live mannequins in the window of their mall fashion shrine. They model outfits while posing and greeting customers. They eat at the food court and then slice up a giant "Happy Birthday" cookie. The goody bags are tricky. More like shopping bags. Each guest's mother has to hand her credit card to a salesclerk before the child can leave the party.

* The Mr. and Mrs. John Smith Party: Rent a hotel room for a sleep-over and let the kids play in the indoor pool. Order soda, snacks and cake from room service.

* The Barbie Party: Everyone, including the adults, dresses as Barbie and Ken. My sister unpacked her wedding gown and was "Wedding Barbie." I borrowed a friend's uniform and was "Flight Attendant Barbie." It was a hoot. However, my sister said if it were a real Barbie party, we'd all lie naked on the floor for three days while the children ignored us.

* The Colonial Tea Party: Taking a page from the "American Girl" books, my friend Nancy created a party "Felicity" would have loved. Upon arrival, each guest was given a dust cap and a JTC corn-husk basket. After a lively discussion of what Colonial life was like, the girls rotated through three Colonial crafts: baking Queen cakes, making fans and putting together a tussie-mussie of potpourri. This was followed by hot chocolate and cake by candlelight.

* Pooh's Wedding: Winnie in top hat and his intended, "Pooh Fille," dressed up with pearls take their vows. The guests, who received hand-written, formal invitations, take the parts of A.A. Milne's characters. Candles joined by white satin ribbons form a tabletop aisle for a wedding procession of stuffed animals. The birthday cake is a wedding cake, complete with tiny bridal bears on top.

* It's a Family Affair Party: For the busy mom. The child gets to choose the menu for dinner and the flavor of the cake. "And if there are any neighborhood kids hanging around the door, they get invited in," said the hostess mother. Just a note: I personally have never been able to sell this concept.

* The Blockbuster Party: A handful of videos, the phone number for pizza delivery and all the chips you can grind into the carpet. Perfect for teens.

And the ideal birthday party gift? Pick up your child on time.

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