We've all been there, right? You're at a birthday party for your kid's friend and you have to stick around, but you're bored out of your mind. Or maybe your friend's baby is turning one and they're throwing a huge party for kids and adults, and there's really nothing for you to do.
Everyone always puts so much effort for the kids attending the party, and that does make sense, but too often the adults are left hanging. If someone invited you somewhere and said "Hey! Do you want to come and stand awkwardly in my home with four or five other strangers while kids yell and scream? And there's no alcohol? And the only food is grape soda and pixie sticks? Oh, by the way, the theme is 'poop emoji,'" your answer would probably be no.
And yet, we constantly feel obligated to attend these events. So here are some tips for anyone out there throwing a party for their kid and inviting the adults to stick around. Use them.
1. Pick the right food
No one is saying you need to cater a five-course meal for the adults, but having things other than freezer food can work wonders for the morale. Order some pizza, grill up some burgers, or just offer something that isn't dyed artificially orange. Trust me, when the adults are fed, the adults are happy.
2. Bingo cards
HEAR ME OUT ON THIS. For my niece's fifth birthday, my cousins and I got together and created a Birthday Bingo game for the adults. Example squares include "a kid spills orange soda on their new dress," "someone loses a shoe and can't find it anywhere," "someone eats too many hots dogs and barfs them all up," and "kid cries because they don't like their present."
You can collect a pot of cash if you know the people well enough, and winner takes all, or you can just hand out a bottle of wine to whoever gets bingo. It's simple, it's funny, and it makes the adults feel like they're involved in the day other than just as chaperones.
3. Don't force involvement
When you invite people to your party, the assumption is that you've got it under control. Don't force the other parents or adults to be involved in activities. Honestly, most parents see birthday parties as a two hour window where they can sit and relax while someone else deals with their child. Forcing them to help make crafts, play games, or anything else that isn't sitting and doing nothing will only make them cranky.
If they want to help, sure. But planning a party that forces adults to participate is not in your best interest.
4. Create an "adult only" space
No one's idea of fun is standing and watching another parent run a birthday party. If parents are going to be staying for the duration, make sure you have a separate space set up for adults where they can relax and not be in the way. It will help you, because you won't have eight pairs of eyes judging as you control the kids, and it will help them, because they won't have to watch everyone's kids make finger puppets of of felt.
5. Introduce people
Instead of shuffling people into a room together and making it awkward, take the time to introduce everyone so they have a starting point. It's a small gesture, but it always makes people more comfortable, and it will feel less like an awkward speed-dating party.
6. Be transparent
I'm not a parent myself, but my sister has far too often been sucked into staying at a birthday party she wasn't planning on being at. She'll show up to drop her daughter off at a party, and then it's revealed that parents are expected to stick around. Giving adults a decent heads up that they're encouraged to hang around will give them time to prepare and plan accordingly.
7. Provide adult beverages
This doesn't necessarily mean alcohol. In fact, only providing alcoholic beverages for parents can be uncomfortable, as they have to drive home and it can put you in an awkward position if someone has too many. Water, cold soda, COFFEE, anything that isn't fruit punch or Kool-Aid will be a huge hit.
If you are going to offer alcoholic beverages, keep it simple. You're not running a bar. Also be ready to house people in your home overnight or call a cab if you feel uncomfortable letting them drive home.
8. Hire some help
When there are so many kids in one area, things can get hectic. Odds are, the parents and adults attending the party are going to feel obligated to help out, which shouldn't have to be the case. If you're going to have more than five kids at the party, or the activities are very involved, see if you can hire a couple of babysitters to help out. The sitter you use on date night would probably be more than happy to help for a couple hours on the weekend, and it'll be the best $20 you spend.
9. Offer to Uber
If you live in a place with limited parking, or someone that is relatively hard to get to, consider offering to Uber guests to and from the party. Depending on the number of guests, it may not be an option, but you can also offer to organize carpools between parents and guests. Anything that makes it easier on the guests is going to allow your party to run smoothly.
10. Goodie bags
Loot bags have always been (and will always be) the best part of a birthday party. It's a reward for being social, or at least that's how I've always seen it. It's not just kids who love goodie bags, either. If you're expecting parents to stick around, make it worth their while! A small gift bag with adult-friendly gifts like lotion, coffee coupons, or even fancier chocolate than you're giving the kids, can go a long way when it comes to adults having a good time.