Why we don’t host kids’ birthday parties anymore

Ian writes about the benefits of having your child’s birthday party outside of the house.

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Elissa blowing out the candles at her birthday party last year.

Outsourcing has a fairly negative connotation when you mention it in North American society.

You envision a frustrated phone call with a person from tech support who claims they’re in Montreal, when they’re likely sitting in Malaysia. And after 30 minutes of conversation in broken English, your wireless router still isn’t working.

But this week, I would like to explain how outsourcing a kid’s birthday party can be the greatest gift a parent can give to themselves.

Our daughter Elissa will celebrate her eighth birthday this weekend and, for the fourth year in a row, we’re taking her party elsewhere. For the first couple of years of her life, we hosted her birthday parties inside our house.

A child’s first birthday party is always a big deal because you want everything to go perfectly. You want the video of them trying to blow out a candle. You need to capture that perfect photo of them taking their first bite of cake. You want it to be special, so it’s completely understandable if you’re a control freak.

And for most of that first birthday party, the baby is confined to a high chair and it’s easy to control the chaos inside your home.

In subsequent years, however, not only is your child moving around — but they’ve got five or six other little friends as well. And this is where it’s impossible to control the chaos. With each passing birthday, the kids get more rambunctious and the parties become more riotous. My breaking point came during Elissa’s fourth birthday, when we decided to have a local reptile zoo come to our house for a demonstration.

I distinctly remember looking around at one point and thinking to myself, “There is a Komodo dragon on my carpet.”

And it wasn’t that the Komodo dragon urinated on my carpet. It’s that there was a possibility that it could urinate on my carpet. At that point, we decided it was time to take the party elsewhere. While outsourcing the party costs more money, I really think the positives outweigh the negatives in this situation.

So here are the five benefits to having your child’s birthday party outside of the house:

1. You don’t have to stress over a theme
When you host a party at your own house, you’re always worried about the theme. Should we do Dora or Diego? Dolphins or whales? Balloons or streamers? Can we do a cat-themed party that doesn’t involve Hello Kitty? The beauty of having your party at a different location is that you don’t have to stress about the theme. Most places have two or three options for themes, so it takes all of the planning out of the equation.

2. Somebody else looks after the kids
I wouldn’t trust most teenagers with driving my car around the block, but give them my kids for two hours? Sign me up. Most of these party places and play zones are overstaffed with enthusiastic young teenagers who will take care of all of the kids in your party. And they usually give themselves cool made-up names like Dakota and Coyote, so the kids automatically respect them more than boring old Mr. Mendes. So if a child comes running up with a problem, you can just say, “Don’t ask me. I think Bambi can help you.”

3. You don’t have to label any kids’ cups
Maybe I’m just extremely lazy, but I hate the idea of labeling individual cups for different kids coming over for a party. And the worst part is, there are usually five boys named Noah and three girls named Emma at every party, which makes it a recipe for disaster when labeling cups.

4. There’s actually stuff for the kids to do
Even with a few balloons and streamers to dress it up, my house is still a pretty boring place for a bunch of six-year-olds. The most popular sayings at a home-based children’s party include, “That’s not for climbing” and “Did you wash your hands?” But at a play zone or gym, there are tons of things for kids to do. Bouncy castles, slides and tunnels are infinitely more exciting than your spiral staircase.

5. You don’t have to clean up
This is the best reason of all to take the kid’s party outside of your house. There is no better feeling than leaving the play zone and watching Dakota and Coyote on their hands and knees cleaning up the paper plates with half-eaten cake.    

How does your family celebrate birthdays?                                  

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