Timeout New York Kids

Make the most of your city

Venues

Your site selection will influence your choice of food and decor. Read on for sanity-saving ideas...wherever the party takes you.


THE HOME FRONT

Space in NYC is, naturally, at a premium. The full-service party palaces that have been all the rage for the past couple of years are still around, but their rates are no longer so easy to swallow. So where can you host your fiesta more feasibly? If you're blessed with a sweet piece of real estate, the obvious answer is: at home. After all, it's free! If your building (or a friend's) has a community space or party room, give yourself a high-five and book it ASAP; some charge a reasonable usage fee.

PREP
Take extra time to get a diminutive domicile party-ready. "To be worry-free and enjoy your child's special day, establish party boundaries," cautions children's event planner Linda Kaye of Partymakers. "Use streamers or balloons to separate the space, close doors to unused rooms, and protect or remove anything of value." Kaye also suggests getting all hands on deck—relatives, friends or babysitters who can help in any way: "You'll miss out on all the great moments if you try to do everything yourself." If you're planning on bringing in an entertainer or conducting a group activity, planner Marla Mase of Party Poopers recommends putting away extraneous toys and other distractions.

FOOD
Beyond the ever-popular pizza, finger foods are your best bet—quesadilla slices, mini meatballs, quartered sandwiches of cream cheese and cucumber, banana and honey, and grilled cheese. Sararose Anderson of Citibabes suggests kebabs of chicken or fruit: "Eating things off a stick is fun for kids." Grocery stores can provide platters of feast-ready fare: Whole Foods (fruit, $50; crudites, $50); Fresh Direct (mini brioche sandwiches, $45; chicken tenders, $40; franks-in-a-blanket, $14/40 pieces). "Pick a time that's not mealtime, such as 2 to 4pm, so cake and snacks are enough," says Mase.

DECOR
Get started with a color theme. "Buy all your paper goods in two different colors, then alternate napkin and plate colors on the table to pull the room together," advises Danielle Bobish, owner of Curtain Up Events planning service. "If you can afford only one thing," notes Anderson, "go for balloons. Kids love them, and they do double duty as decor and something to take home. Get at least two dozen and let the strings hang down from the ceiling. You can also blow up a couple dozen non-helium ones and let them float about the floor." A piata makes a cute table centerpiece. Most average $9--$15 and come in a wide range of shapes. For budget decor sources click here.

EXTRAS
Unsuspecting party guests can help create the decor. Roll out white butcher paper or brown kraft paper on the tables and set out cups of crayons so kids can color in their own place mats or place cards. If there is a theme—fireman, mermaid, etc.—guests can become the decor by arriving in costume. And don't forget music. "Familiar songs liven things up," says Anderson. To make the birthday boy or girl feel really special, create badges with his or her photo for kids to wear (badge maker set, $13 at hearthsong.com), or hang a banner (more kraft paper) near the entrance on which guests can draw or write messages.


Next: The great outdoors


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