I love DIY projects. The excitement of creating something yourself and making it just the way you want it. I don’t know why I hadn’t considered how much my boys would enjoy that as well.
When my older son wanted a Harry Potter birthday party, I was all over that. I’m a Potterphile myself, so it was fun to come up with activities that corresponded with the book and surprise my boy and all his friends with what I had pulled together. But when my second son asked for a Tron birthday party…..well, I was stumped.
Tron’s not exactly my area of expertise.
So there I was with little to no idea about what I was supposed to do. Add to that the fact that my son can be rather particular and a stickler for details.
And very imaginative.
That’s when it hit me. I needed to play to his strengths instead of worrying about them. I needed to stop trying to be in charge of this party, and start playing more of a supporting role.
Rather than getting overwhelmed or scrolling through Pinterest for more ideas, I started asking my son for his ideas and asking how I could help.
“So what would that look like?”
“How does that work?”
“Should that be blue or red?”
I quit stressing and just let go. This wasn’t my party after all, it was his. And Martha Stewart wasn’t even on the guest list. It was a group of six and seven year-old boys. Who would know what they would love to do more than another seven year-old boy?
He started out with an idea for discs that apparently are very important for a Tron party. I did the cutting and spray-painting, but he and his brother were my supervisors, telling me just how big to make the circle and how well to coat the paint. They added the details and handed them out to the guests.
Then he described the different exciting activities that take place in the storyline of the movie. I listened, and asked if having an obstacle course would be a good way to do that. He agreed and we set it up!
We decided that helium balloons could serve as the bad guys they had to get away from as they zig-zagged through the course (something like this), but I ran out of time to draw faces on them. Then I remembered, this was a DIY party! So I had the guests decorate the balloons with faces themselves, just before we headed out to the course. The boys loved it! (And those faces were fierce!)
And this may have been the hardest laser beam obstacle ever, since the boys did all the weaving in and out of the tomato cages themselves. (OK, I helped a little, but they thought I was making it WAY too easy, so they took over!) (Inspired first by my son and then by this -ahem – pin on Pinterest.)
The menu came straight from the birthday boy — pizza and layered drinks like these, but with only electric blue and white since that’s so Tron-ish… in a way little boys understand more than their moms do.
The cake, well, that one was me (ice cream cakes are our family’s favorite — and they’re SO easy), but the recipe was uniquely his!
I don’t think I’ve turned my party-planner badge in forever, but I have come to realize that sometimes, it’s more fun for kids to own their party than to be surprised by it.
And it’s certainly a whole lot easier!
It reminded me of something one of my mentors at the university’s child development lab would often say, “If it’s something the child can do himself, why are you doing it for him?”
There were so many things along the course of planning and executing a birthday party that my son was totally capable of doing. And perhaps more importantly, I discovered, that he wanted to do some of it himself. He wanted to be in the driver’s seat. And I knew that with his creative vision, only he could get the party details that were important to him.
I worried at first that the other little boys might not appreciate a DIY party planned by a kindergartener, but I could see right away that he was able to plan something that fit their interests much better than I could have. Those discs that looked like painted cardboard to me? Those boys thought they were awesome!
If you want to involve your child more in their next birthday party, here are some tips:
- Ask him to visualize what his favorite birthday party would look like.
- If the answers are way out of your realm of possibilities, validate that and redirect with proper boundaries. (“That would be so much fun to ….. but we have to remember…..)
- Help them organize by outlining the events and asking them to help fill in the details. (Planning and organizing are outstanding skills for kids to learn!)
- Remind your child to consider how the guests might respond to these plans. (You don’t want to put too much emphasis on the opinions of others, but it is good to get kids to do some perspective-taking as a part of the planning.)
- Don’t hesitate to make suggestions when you see something that’s been overlooked, or see a potential problem brewing, but remember your child is the supervisor, so run it past him first and include him in your problem-solving process. Even if you’ve already come to the conclusion you think is necessary, talking through it out loud and making your child a part of it is great modeling and will help him feel ownership.
When was the last time you gave kids a bigger role in planning or executing an event or idea?