Party Planning Time Savers

For a busy parent, planning a birthday party can seem like an overwhelming task. There's the cake, invitations, decorations, food, goodie bags--so many things to consider. Fortunately, planning the perfect party doesn't have to take a lot of time. Read on for some fabulous party planning time savers.

1. Use what you already have.
If you can center your party theme around items that you already have in the house, you'll eliminate a lot of unnecessary shopping trips. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Dress-up party: Pull out the dresses, hats and costume jewelry for the ultimate girl extravaganza. Then grab some nail polish from the medicine cabinet to add a little salon treatment to the celebration.

Art party: Gather up the construction paper, markers, crayons and paint for a full-blown art fest. Then rummage through your closet for a few paint smocks to keep all your budding artists clean.

Slumber party: Dig out the tent, sleeping bags and flashlights. It's time for a high-adventure campout in the living room.

2. Ask for help.
No one said you had to plan the party on your own, so don't forget to ask for help when you need it. Kids love to be given grownup tasks to complete. Consider designating the following tasks to your child:

Invitations: If your child is old enough to write, let him fill out the invitations and address the envelopes. It'll be a time-saver for you and a fun task for your child.

A younger child is even up to the task of helping with invitations. Just type up the party details on the computer, and then turn them over to your child for some decorating. They'll love the chance to give the invitations a personal touch.

Decorations: Don't waste valuable time shopping for party decorations when you have a child who is eager to put artistic talents to use. Set your child up with some paper and art supplies, and watch the creativity take over. Even the youngest of artists can create a birthday banner and some party hats.

3. Eliminate unnecessary prep.
Planning a birthday party doesn't have to mean lots of kitchen time for you. Forget about making the food and cake in advance; there's a better solution.

Food: Say goodbye to fruit-and-vegetable trays. Pizza is the party food of choice for busy parents. Simply pick up some pizza-making supplies before the party, including pre-made crust, cheese, sauce and a variety of toppings. Then let the party-goers create their own meal. As an added bonus, you're sure to please even the pickiest of eaters with this made-to-order meal.

Cake: If you want the homemade cake but don't have the time to fashion some elaborate creation, the perfect compromise is in sight: Simply make a sheet cake before the party and make decorating the cake a part of the festivities.

For an easy time-saver, just stick a thank-you inside each goodie bag. It will eliminate the need for addressing envelopes and save you a trip to the post office. Looking to save even more time? No one said the birthday boy couldn't help.

Planning a birthday party is only as time-consuming as you make it. Incorporate a little creativity, and you're sure to find ways to save time.

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