The secrets to hosting a big-fun kid's party in a small apartment

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Your party mantra may be go big or go home, but your small-sized New York City apartment demands a fête that’s scaled down to fit the space. The good news, according to party planning expert Michelle Cassera Bachman co-owner of Little Miss Party, a NYC-based event planning company specializing in small space entertaining, is you don’t to sacrifice fun just because you lack square footage. Here, her tips for throwing a great birthday party in a small apartment (for those days when the weather's so extreme, the park just won't do):

Limit the guest list. The key to throwing a party in a small space is keeping the guest list under control, which can be extra tricky in small NYC apartment. Some parents limit the number of guests by inviting just boys or just girls; others base the number on the age of the celebrant (say, 5 years old=5 guests, etc.). Suffice it to say, the fewer the guests the less stressful and chaotic the party will be, so it’s a good idea to keep the guests—including chaperones—lean. Don’t feel obligated to invite every “friend” your child has, especially during the early years, says Cassera Bachman, when children are too young to notice who is and isn’t there. If you have large families, think about throwing two simple parties; this will help keep the numbers more manageable and the party more intimate.

Decorate around a simple theme. We often tell clients to create one focal point that encompasses the theme of the party and then just color coordinate everything else, says Cassera Bachman. If your child loves Mickey, for example, you can order a Mickey-themed cake and cookies from your local bakery, and then simply use red, yellow and white decorations around the apartment (think balloons, flowers, streamers, etc.). For the less creatively inspired, Little Miss Party Planners offers a Little Miss Party in a Box with everything a stressed out parent needs to pull together a colorful party.

Organize your space. You many not have a lot of square footage to work with , but you can still make room for a party. Start by pushing living room furniture up against the walls and, if possible, removing small coffee tables, end tables or valuables that may be easily damaged. This will create an open space for the kids to play in, says Cassera Bachman. Dining or kitchen tables can also be pushed up against the wall and used to serve food, desserts and drinks. If possible, set up drinks on one side of the apartment and food on the other. It helps prevent bottleneck around the food and drinks and encourages your guest to mingle and not stay in one spot, she says.

Pick an appropriate activity. Soccer is out. Less physical activities, like an art project or cupcake decorating, are more suited to small spaces. Choose something your child loves. If he’s into music, hire a children’s musician to play her favorite songs. If she loves to pretend, look into an interactive puppet show. A balloon animal artist and a face painter are always safe bets. 

Choose foods that are easy to serve, enjoy and clean up Avoid foods that needs to be served piping hot and, instead, lean towards anything that can be enjoyed at room temperature, like mini sandwiches, individual fruit cups, mac ’n cheese bites and veggies with dip.  “We also encourage clients to serve a mix of homemade and store-bought items to help reduce the anxiety of cooking for a crowd,” says Bachman. She recommends prepping and plating all food in advance, then setting it out about 10-15 minutes before guests are due to arrive.

Have an an end time—and stick to it. Putting an end time on your invitation will help manage the day and keep everyone happy. Use your child’s schedule as a guide, taking into consideration if and when he naps or how long she can go before a meltdown. An hour-and-a-half to two hours is plenty of time (think shorter for younger kids, longer for older ones). Instead of a goodie bag full of party-store trinkets, consider sending off your guests with something more useful or edible: a personalized snack container, water bottle or towel. Homemade cookies or snacks can double as a favor. If your party activity was a craft project, the resulting masterpiece serves as a fabulous favor—and wonderful memory of a great party.


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