by: Michael Kabel

There are few better reasons for a family to celebrate than the joy that comes from the birthday of a child! As a parent, you've probably already had ideas about the party to come for months. Planning the event is a lot of fun just by itself, but you'll want to be careful to avoid some very common mistakes along the way.

Remember as always that the tips presented below are guidelines meant to ensure things go smoothly for both you and your guests - parents and children alike.

Send the invitations out well in advance.

You know yourself how busy modern life has become. Sending out invitations a month or so in advance will help parents and kids remember to plan time for your event.

The invitations should include both the date as well as the start and finish time. The party should be no more than two or three hours long.

Get the decorations a week or so in advance.

This will save you time running around at the last minute looking for supplies such as plates and cups, plastic cutlery, et cetera. It also gives you the time to replace or upgrade some decorations that don't work out as well as you'd originally hoped.

Plan for entertainment to keep the children occupied all the time.

This should include something more interactive than just watching a DVD. Bring the children outside to play a game, or have them participate in a simple arts and crafts project. The other parents will be impressed by your creativity and willingness to give their own children a little entertainment.

Serve a meal that kids will like but parents won't mind.

Plenty of meals are healthy as well as fun for birthday parties. Serve fruit punch or juice without caffeine, and keep the heavy sugar sweets to just the cake and ice cream. That will reassure parents their children won't be too rambunctious after the party concludes.

Save the biggest presents for last.

When it's time to open presents, make sure the big presents get held in reserve until the end, so that other gifts won't seem anticlimactic. The biggest gifts are probably from you and your spouse, so holding to the end won't offend anyone, anyway.

Serve snacks and coffee for the parents, too.

Parents should be allowed to enjoy themselves, too. Keep a fresh pot of coffee brewing for parent to enjoy, and reserve a special room like the kitchen or living room where they can relax if they want.

Offer small prizes and favors to all the guests.

Giving the children guests a small memento of the party, such as a keepsake gift or a useful accessory, makes them feel part of a special group, and also that their presence was appreciated.

End the party on time.

Keep an eye on the clock during the celebration, so that the party doesn't run over. The parents will appreciate and respect that you've kept them only so long, and the kids won't have time to get bored or restless.