We did a Little Chef's Party recently for my daughter's fifth birthday, the kids and parents all had a wonderful time. We met parents that we really liked and had never really met in passing at school. If I was following a five year old around putting tokens in games I never would have been able to meet and talk to these people.
The home furnishings business has been booming over the last decade and I've often wondered why people spend all this time shopping, looking at the internet & decor magazines, doing the weekend warrior thing at the local Home Depot, then they don't entertain in their homes? I'm perplexed. I just want to let everyone know, it does not have to perfect. And it doesn't have to be just for fancy holiday dinner parties either. Kids parties are just as (sometimes more) fun as adult parties. Use smaller gatherings in your home as a goal towards redoing certain areas, finishing up projects, or just cleaning the house and getting organized.
The other trend lately is saving money, doing a home party is really inexpensive. You may have to tap into your creative resources (or a friends), which is better than your wallet. This is where you will need to think outside the box, ask your child what type of party they would like then go from there. We came up with the Little Chef's because my daughter had received a Fairy Cookbook from Grandma for Christmas. We spent weeks going over which recipes we would be making and what color her My Little Pony cake would be, the final choice was vanilla cake with pink icing and purple writing.
My younger daughter Gianna's birthday is December 15th, so for her we started the annual "Trim the Tree and Celebrate Little G" party. We've only had two so far, but its a hit. We invite over our friends and their kids (our family does not live near us) for a tree trimming party and casual dinner. Dinner consists of a variety of casseroles and lots of yummy baked goods since we are in the holiday season. You can bake the casseroles the day before, there are also tons of take and bake options these days (another trend). Neither of these parties cost more than a party at the previously mentioned places. Cookie Magazine's website has a great list of party ideas, as well as the recipes.
And I'll save you even a little more, don't do goodie bags! Please! Tiny little toys are being scattered around parents cars every Saturday and Sunday afternoon throughout the country. The Playdooh and stickers are the worst offenders. If you must do a parting gift, a friend of mine did a mix CD of all her child's favorite songs (which were also a lot of my daughter's favorites too) or coloring pages that you can print off the internet (Nick Jr. & Noggin) tie up with some ribbon and a new box of crayons which are always appreciated. Or just give them a great time to remember.
A home is a much better place to talk and meet the children and their parents that your child will most likely be spending a lot of time with over the years. Invite them in & get to know them! You can't get to know someone in a loud, smelly, visually unappealing place, remember the bars in college?