table set for lunch outdoors in beautiful sunny autumn park. charcoal grill and picnic basket with baguette bread, sandwich, fruit and vegetables. cooking for bbq and grill party in fall.

Outdoor Parties: a Joy for Any Season

Spring and summer are the obvious times for outdoor parties, since the days are long and warm. However, you don’t have to pack up and head indoors just because the trees are changing color. Outdoor parties continue to have a lot of benefits over indoor ones, no matter what the season.

More People

There are only so many people you can comfortably fit inside your house, especially since people are going to be moving regularly to get food and drink or to start new conversations. Backyards, even modest ones, generally hold many more people.

Of course, it can get nippy in autumn, and the closer you get to winter, the more likely you’re going to encounter bad weather. But autumn parties can be held well into October, at least. Everyone just needs to remember to dress appropriately, which they need to do no matter what season it is. Sure, October is chilly, but remember when July was scorching!

Minimal Clean Up

Indoor parties require your house to be spotless with every object in its place. That level of meticulousness is unneeded when your guests are going to be outside.

Moreover, it’s much easier to clean up an outdoor party. Everything is likely disposable, so it can all be swept into trash bags. And if there have been spills, they are unlikely to cause damage, having simply hit the ground, a plastic table cloth or a picnic table which is used to such abuses.

Happy child having fun with autumn leaves

Separation of Kids and Adults

Kids are adorable, but you don’t need them hanging on you every second. Likewise, kids get bored if they have to hang out with grownups all day. Outdoor parties have the space to segregate kids from adults. Toys and games can be provided in one area to entertain children, leaving the adults to their own conversations.

Benefit of an Autumn Party: A Fire Pit

Fire pits are a wonderful addition to an autumn party that runs into the evening. They provide warmth and light, and food can be cooked over it. Kids, with supervision, often enjoy them, especially if they can cook hot dogs or make s’mores over them.

Remember Lighting in the Autumn!

The sun is setting earlier and earlier every fall day. In the summer, the northern American states see the sun until about 9pm. In October, it’s closer to 6pm.

Many homes have backyard floodlights for safety reasons, and these can certainly contribute to the lighting issue. However, the light is glaringly bright to anyone having to face it.

Consider stringing lights across the area. These can be attached to the house, trees, and poles erected for this purpose. This lighting is much more soft and even, setting the right tone while keeping things safe.

Just because we’re going into fall doesn’t mean we have to move indoors. Every season has its challenges. Consider what you have to work with to make sure your parties can extend well past the summer season.

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smiling friends outdoors by fire

How to Throw a Great Bonfire Party

Outdoor parties are popular in summer, but people pull up their stakes and head indoors as the temperature starts to drop in autumn. In fact, outdoor parties can potentially push well into winter. It just needs to be a different type of party. Bonfire parties are easy to organize and a great way for friends to spend a casual evening together.

Building the Bonfire

Of course, the most important aspect of a bonfire party is the bonfire itself. Many backyards can accommodate them, so long as they’re handled right. Portable fire pits are for sale in hardware stores with a wide variety of prices. You can also make your own by digging a hole and lining it with stones. There’s plenty of DIY lessons online. However you do it, be sure the area is clear of anything flammable.

You’ll also want plenty of wood, because the moment you run out, the party is dead. The bonfire is what is keeping everyone warm and may or may not be the primary lighting source of the party, so make sure it lasts all night.

cooking food at a campfire in the open air

Providing Food and Drink

Bonfire parties are casual, so no need to work yourself ragged providing food. A variety of snacks and drinks set on tables off to the side are quite adequate. You don’t want them too close to the fire, because people will constantly be shuffling around close to flames.

There’s also a variety of foods which can prepared at the bonfire itself. Hotdogs can be skewered and cooked over the flames. Marshmallows can be cooked for s’mores. Corn on the cob can be left in their husks or wrapped in tin foil and placed among hot coals. Popcorn can be popped in a pan.

Keeping Warm

While the fire is going to provide warmth, guests should also be dressed for the cold.  Even with the fire blazing, it’s not going to feel like a living room. Jeans and sweaters at the very least are likely a necessity, and the weather may well require coats, hats and long johns. Make sure guests know beforehand so they can come properly dressed.

Seating Everyone

Bonfire parties are intimate gatherings if for no other reason than there’s only so many people you can fit around the fire. Consider the size of your fire pit and how many people it can reasonably accommodate. People do not need to sit on the very edge of the pit. In fact, they shouldn’t, due to fire hazards.  But people do need to sit close enough to keep warm.

If you don’t have enough outdoor chairs, ask people to bring their own.  Alternatively, people can throw down blankets to sit on but, again, make sure everything is a safe distance from the fire.

Many people have never attended a bonfire party. That means it’ll be a completely new experience for them as they hang out with old friends. And these parties are easy to prepare for once you have a fire pit, which can be used again and again. Throw in some quick food and seating – both of which can be contributed by guests – and you can have a great outdoor party even as we head into winter.

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girl floating on beach mattress and eating watermelon in the blue pool and pool party.

Throwing a Successful Private Pool Party

It’s the height of summer, which means lots of friends will appreciate an invitation to an afternoon in your pool. Even a low key party, however, needs a bit of planning. Consider the following to make sure your party doesn’t come up short.

Prepare the Pool

You already know there’s maintenance involved in keep a pool inviting. Start working on it a week in advance with a chlorine shock to make sure it’s crystal clean come party day.

Extra Towels

It should go without saying that guests need to bring their own towels. And, yet, they commonly don’t. Make sure you have extra towels on hand. Not only will it make your guests more comfortable, but it will also keep them from tracking chlorinated water all over your house.

Also, designate where used towels should go, so they don’t all end up piled on the bathroom floor.

Sunscreen

Ideally, everyone would also bring their own sunscreen, but inevitably someone will forget or just not think it’s necessary. Let everyone know it’s available, and if you see someone turning red, point it out and offer the sunscreen again.

Waterproof Speakers

Electricity and water are gnerally a terrible mix. However, every party needs background music. Thankfully, there are wide variety of waterproof speakers, so you can safely crank up the tunes. Many of these speakers even float, so they can bob along with listeners inside the pool. They are connected by bluetooth to a device such as a PC or cell phone which provides the playlist. Waterproof cell phones are the ideal connection, since they can be safely handled near the pool by people with wet hands.

group of cheerful couples friends playing water volleyball at a pool party

Games

Sitting in a pool can only remain entertaining for so long. Provide a couple entertaining amusements.. The options are nearly endless: floating ping pong tables, inflatable beer pong, noodle jousting, water volleyball and so on.

Drinks, Drinks and More Drinks

The presence of sweat is one of the cues which tell us we’re too hot. People can still sweat in a refreshing pool, but they never feel it. As such, it’s easy for people to get dehydrated after an afternoon of fun in the sun.

Make sure there are plenty of drinks available throughout the day, and give people a nudge if you think they haven’t drank anything in a while.

Non-Glass Drinking Vessels

Glass bottles and other drinking vessels are a terrible idea at a pool. With everyone barefoot, a single broken glass becomes a real safety hazard, and it’s even worse if the glass ends up in the pool.

Provide alternatives. Plastic cups are certainly acceptable, but there’s also options like silicone wine glasses which are both flexible and classy.

Light Refreshments

Food options should be on the light side, allowing people to eat a little or a lot as they choose. Heavy meals cause people to be sluggish and become more interested in a comfy poolside chair than the pool itself.

Pool parties can be pretty laid back affairs, but some basic preparation is still necessary. Also, to throw a really memorable party, a few extras like pool games go a very long way.

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Friends at a nighttime party taking a selfie

Hosting a Nighttime Party

Summer is the perfect time for outdoor parties. However, the heat can put a damper on festivities, and the sun is a real threat, especially to children and fair skinned friends. But if you start your festivities at night, after the heat has died down and the sun has set, you open yourself up for a whole new kind of fun and relaxing event.

Make It a Movie Night

It’s already dark. Why not transform the backyard into a movie theater? There’s plenty of online tutorials on how to make an easy and affordable movie screen. You will also need a projector. However, the prices of basic models have drop considerably over the years. You can pick up one at Wal-Mart for $50. Finally, don’t forget speakers.

Simplify Snacks

It doesn’t get dark until after 8pm in the summer, meaning it’s easy for guests to have already had dinner by the time they arrive. Make snacks simple. After all, lighting will be dim, and you don’t want them wondering what they’re about the eat. Also, unless you have a lot of artificial lighting, grilling will be difficult to say the least.

For a movie night, the obvious answer is popcorn. Bring it out in large bowls and let guests fill paper bowls or plastic cups to take back to their seats.

outdoor string lights hanging on a line in backyard

Light it Up

A nighttime party requires lighting. It doesn’t, however, have to be boring. Glow sticks are a fun way of lighting the night, and you can do way more than just wear them around your neck. Bury a large glow stick in ice to light up the drink bucket. Place them in balloons and leave them around the area. You can even buy drinking glasses which light up either with disposable glow sticks or reusable LED lights.

Light bulb strings are another method of illumination. Their biggest drawback, however, is they need objects from which they can be draped or to be wrapped around. They also need to be plugged into an outlet.

Drive Away Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes are a real problem for nighttime parties, and you absolutely have to be prepared for them. First, have a bug repellent station where people can apply bug spray. You’ll want to keep the station away from both food and areas where people are congregating.

Second, invest in citronella candles or similar products which drive bugs from the area. These products also do double duty as light sources. They come in everything from metal buckets to ceramic pots to tiki torches, so you have plenty of options to best fit the feel of your party.

Double-check Noise Ordinances

Most cities have laws limiting the noise a household can make after a certain time, usually between 10 and 11pm. Nighttime parties are not going to be raucous events. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. But curb music, shouting, shrieking kids and the like. And if you’re doing a movie night, don’t crank the speakers cranked.

Nighttime parties are a cool option to hot summer days. They also offer a variety of decorative options not available for afternoon get-togethers. Make the most of the night, and your event will be a party to remember.

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Hand with sparkler

9 Tips to Let Your Independence Day Party Go Off with a Bang

You can hear fireworks going off all summer. However, the days before and after July 4 in the United States are when they are by far the most prevalent. (Canada has a similar holiday, Canada Day, on July 1). Fireworks can be a ton of fun, but you should never forget they’re explosives, and a bit of care is necessary to keep the holiday safe.

Know Local Laws

Every state has its own laws regarding fireworks. Buying them legally in one state does not make it legal to use them in another. Local municipalities may place additional limits. Learn them. The arrival of police will put a serious damper on any party.

Read all the Instructions

Even if the firework seems straightforward, read the warnings and instructions so you know exactly what to do and what to expect.

Supervise Children

Most states require a person to be 18 years old to buy fireworks, although a few allow children as young as 12. Regardless, children should not be allowed to light them. Let the adults set off the fireworks while the kids watch.

group of fireworks

Beware of Duds

When a firework fails to go off, it creates a very dangerous situation. Hot embers may eventually (and unpredictably) ignite the explosives. No not approach it, keeping everyone clear for 20 minutes, after which time you can throw water on it and then drop into a water bucket.

Never try to relight the dud. Its integrity has been compromised and might go off in your hand.

Dispose of Correctly

Even fireworks which have gone off may retain some of their gunpowder which can later ignite. Soak all spent fireworks with water and place in an outdoor metal container overnight before throwing them in the trash.

Be Prepared

Have a bucket of water and hose on hand in case of accidents.

Light One At a Time

It’s important to keep control of the situation. Light only one firework at a time. If something goes wrong, all attention can be focused on that single firework, rather than divided among many.

Keep Clear

Fireworks contain gunpowder and burn hot enough to cause severe burns and set other things on fire. Everyone should be clear of one before it’s lit, and the lighter should move back immediately after ignition.

Never hold a firework in your hands. Even sparklers, which are meant to be held, should be kept at arms’ length. And never aim a firework at someone else.

Avoid Buildings and Trees

Fireworks are to only be used outdoors, away from buildings and trees. Burning remnants of fireworks can rain down on an area and ignite man-made structures, trees and brush. Also, don’t use fireworks if the grass is particularly dry, for the same reason.

Fireworks are a ton of fun and a great way of celebrating national holidays. However, they do pose dangers and should be handled with appropriate care. With just a few preparations and the application of common sense, you can have a great Independence Day celebration, complete with fireworks.

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group of happy kids on children playground

How to Throw a Playground Birthday Party

Outdoor birthday parties are great for kids born in the summer months, but the size of a backyard can seriously limit the number of guests which can be invited. One alternative is to move to a local park with a playground, which offers both space and entertainment for your birthday party.

Find the Right Location

Not every park will suit your specific needs. Consider:

  • Is the play equipment age appropriate?
  • Are there picnic tables? If not, you’ll need to bring blankets, and things are likely to get more messy.
  • Is a permit necessary? Some parks require permits for large groups of people. They generally do not cost much, but you may need to file the application several weeks in advance.
  • Are there potential dangers? For example, a park on a lake may not be the best place for a party of toddlers.
  • Does it offer grills? If it doesn’t, are you allowed to bring your own?
  • Does it offer restrooms? Many parks do not have restrooms, and those which do generally only have them open for part of the year.
  • Is there a pavilion? Certainly, you do not need a pavilion, but they offer plenty of benefits. They contain numerous benches, which might be difficult to get a hold of if you’re organizing your event outside the shelter. They also generally have drinking fountains and restrooms. Finally, they provide relief from the sun, which may be welcomed more by the adults than the kids.

Bring Enough Supervision

Since the kids are not confined to a backyard, you’ll need even more adults helping keep the children corralled. Again, this is most applicable with very small children who can easily become lost or injured.

photo of a beautiful mother and her daughter blowing soap bubbles on the playground at the park

Bring Entertainment

Kids like variety. Some may play on the play equipment the entire time, but others may want multiple distractions. Balls, sidewalk chalk and bubbles are all good distractors.

Plan Transportation

Remember that everything you want at the park has to be brought there. The cake will need to be boxed up, and nothing can be put on top of it. Helium balloons take up a ton of space. If space considerations are an issue, do a test run the day before to make sure you can fit everything (including children) into the car. If there’s too much, ask one of the other parents to swing by and transport some of it for you.

Plan for Rain

The biggest downside to planning a party at a park is the danger of rain. You can’t simply bring the party indoors. Watch the weather forecasts. You should cancel at least a day in advance to make sure you notify everyone.

Playground parties are an affordable way to entertain sizable numbers of kids. Planning is pretty minimal, but it is important. Make sure you know your location: the amenities it offers, possible dangers, and rules and regulations. This can make for a great summer birthday for the kids without overly taxing the adults.

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detox water in mason jar glasses with lemon cucumber and pomegranate against a rustic wood background

5 Ways to Dress Up Your Summer Party

Summer parties are often casual affairs which don’t demand a lot of decoration. However, a few quick and inexpensive additions can bring a real visual spark to an event, making it even more memorable.

Choose Summer Colors

When we think of paper plates and Solo cups, we think of them coming in primary colors like red and blue. However, the colors that designers generally associate with summer are more complex, like teal (a mix of blue and green), pink (white and red), and mango (yellow and orange).

And before you start worrying about having to memorize appropriate colors, realize party supply stores have done the work for you. PartyCity.com, for example, sells decorations, tableware and more in these colors, all of which are explicitly labeled as summer products.

tables and chairs set up for a garden party, wedding, or other outdoor event.

Substitute Fabric Tablecloths

Do away with the plastic tablecloth. Get a length of cotton fabric from a fabric store and drape it over tables for a classy touch. While it will cost a little more than plastic, at the end of the day you can shake off the crumbs and throw it in the washing machine for future use.

Use Mason Jars

There’s something about mason jars that makes people think of summer. You can use them as drinking glasses, cutlery holders, candle lanterns and more.

Don’t Forget Flowers

Flowers can add class to just about any event. Don’t spend too much time arranging them, however. A casual summer party doesn’t need fussy decorations. Just throw some brightly colored blooms into simple containers (such as mason jars) and leave them out on tables.

Find a Theme

Rather than fill your party space with random decorations, choose a specific style and work it throughout your event. This might be flowers, the beach, palm trees, pinwheels, nautical designs, pineapples, etc.

Dressing up a summer party doesn’t take a lot of money. In many cases, it’s less about buying more things and more about buying specific things. A little goes a long way at these casual gatherings, so help put everyone in a more festive mood with just a bit of extra decoration.

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multi generation family enjoying summer outdoor party

5 Tips for a Summer Party

As the weather turns warm for the summer, people are itching to find reasons to go out and enjoy the sun. A casual outdoor get together can be just the thing, getting people out of their homes while socializing with friends and family. But, like all things, the outdoors offers its own unique challenges, so keep them in mind when planning your event.

Protect Your Food

One of the drawbacks of the outdoors is bugs. Not only are they everywhere, but they congregate exactly where you want them least: on your food. No one wants a fruit salad which has been home to flies for the last half hour. Keep food covered as much as possible when left outdoors. Any sort of large, semi-transparent container will do. Stay away from anything opaque, as those force guests to search through items to find what they’re really after.

Another answer is to leave food indoors. This might be slightly inconvenient for guests, but food will remain much more appetizing, not to mention sanitary.

Question Cutlery

While you might want to throw steaks on the grill, consider where guests can eat it. Unless there will be enough outdoor tables for everyone to eat at, steer clear of dishes which require a fork and knife. Things that can be eaten by hand such as burgers, brats, hot dogs and chicken sandwiches will be far easier for everyone to manage.

group of friends having summer outdoor party in backyard at home

Keep Hydrated

Warm weather encourages dehydration, so make sure plenty of drinks are available. The easiest method is to fill a cooler with ice and an assortment of drinks, then let guests serve themselves throughout the day.

Provide Sunscreen and Insect Repellent

Don’t presume guests will bring their own sunscreen and insect repellent. Many times, people don’t even think about them until they start to burn or the bugs start to bite, so make sure you have some on hand. Having some aloe vera for those who really gets burned is not a bad idea either.

If your party is going to continue into the night, invest in insect-repelling products such as citronella candles to help clear the area of pests.

Consider a Fire Pit

Fire pits have become a popular centerpiece for evening outdoor events, allowing people to sit around them like campfires. Despite their name, fire pits don’t have to actually be pits. They can also be raised, portable items which allow you to safely start a fire pretty much anywhere. They’re also easy to get a hold of. Home improvement stores like Home Depot carry them, as does Amazon. Several models can be acquired for less than $100.

Casual outdoor summer parties are easy to throw. Still, a bit of planning can turn an average event into a great one which friends and family will remember for a long time to come.

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Little girl jumping inside a bounce house

Are Bounce Houses Safe for Children’s Parties?

Bounce houses are becoming increasingly popular for private parties, in part because of their growing affordability. Not only are rental rates reasonable, but small units can be bought for just a few hundred dollars.

But there are drawbacks. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, injury rates have been steadily climbing, from about 5000 in 2003 to over 18,000 in 2012. This increase significantly has to do with the growing number of children using the amusement. To put those numbers in perspective, 270,000 children were injured on playgrounds and 114,000 on skateboards in 2012.

Most injuries sustained in bounce houses are sprains and broken bones in the arms and legs. Rarely do they require hospitalization, and only a handful of deaths have been associated with the use of bounce houses. Still, there are ways of making them safer.

Properly Set Up the Bounce House

If you’re renting a bounce house, the company will set it up and take it down. If you’re doing it yourself, be sure you know what you’re doing. The bounce house should always be well anchored in an open area away from power lines and other structures.

Supervise the Bounce House

A bounce house is not a babysitter. An adult should watch from outside it to make sure children are behaving appropriately and to respond to any incidents. If the house starts to deflate, all the children should be promptly removed.

Boy playing on inflatable slide in bounce house

Separate Children by Age

Children should be sorted by age before going into a bounce house. If an older child runs into a smaller one, even accidentally, the smaller one can easily be injured. The mass of older children jumping on the bounce surface also makes it harder for smaller children to keep their balance.

Children under 6 shouldn’t be allowed access to a bounce house at all.

Limit Roughhousing and Flipping

Many injuries happen not because children are simply bouncing but because they are roughhousing, wrestling and flipping inside the bounce house. Many injuries can be prevented by making these activities off limits.

Beware of Weather

While weather-related injuries are rare, they can be dramatic when they happen. There have been several cases of severe winds blowing bounce houses away or throwing them into the air with children still inside. Don’t wait for a powerful gust to come through your party: if the wind picks up, promptly evacuate the children.

Rain should also be avoided, even if wind isn’t involved. Getting water inside the bounce house will create an overly slick environment which will encourage accidents.

Sharp Objects

No matter how careful children are, there will be collisions. To minimize the chance of injury, jewelry, shoes and pocket contents should be removed before entrance.

No activity is completely safe, and a significant number of injuries are sustained in bounce houses every year. However, diligence on the part of parents can vastly decrease the chance of injury at their event. Help make bounce houses an enjoyable yet safe amusement at your next kid-friendly party.

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happy friends in winterwear looking at camera while having fun outside

Celebrating a Child’s Winter Birthday

Summer birthdays practically plan themselves. Set the kids loose in the backyard and maybe hire some entertainment. For larger groups, there’s always the local park or swimming pool.

However, millions of children in the US have birthdays when snow is commonly on the ground. How do you let them celebrate the same way as their summer-born friends? It’s not as simple as bringing the party indoors: most households just can’t handle that many kids under one roof. There are, however, options.

Kid-friendly Restaurants

If the kids are small, any McDonald’s with a sizable PlayPlace can be a great birthday destination. It’s good for the chaperons too, as the kids are confined to a room with a self-explanatory jungle gym. McDonald’s offers party options which include a party host, cake and food. Prices are reasonable, and everyone gets a toy with their happy meal.

For the slightly older, there’s Chuck E. Cheese’s and similarly themed restaurants. Children have access to dozens of arcade games, so everyone can find exactly what they like best. The games do take tokens, but party packages provide a certain number of tokens per child. Packages also include soda and pizza.

happy child kids group have fun with art

Arts and Crafts Party

A growing number of artistic business allow customers to create their own pieces of art. Supplies are all included: clay, paint, kiln firing and so on. Kids can learn about the processes involved in the craft as well as take something home at the end of the day.

Some of these businesses even allow you to bring in food, so kids can eat some pizza and cake while they’re waiting for  projects to dry.

Winter Activities

You may not be able to go swimming, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun outdoors in January! Sledding, ice skating and more are locally available at many parks.

joyful little girl playing on a trampoline.

Bouncing Locales

Check to see if you have some sort of bouncing establishment near you. These businesses provide fun activity through a variety of springy surfaces. Bouncy houses, trampolines and more can be available to let kids burn off energy without going outside.

Bowling and Roller Skating

Both bowling alleys and roller rinks provide an afternoon of entertainment as well as affordable food to feed your gaggle of partying children.

Museums

Some museums have special birthday party programs. Kids learn while being entertained, usually through interactive displays. Crafts, games and more are also provided.

There’s no reason a winter birthday needs to be glum. Look around your town for alternatives and you’ll probably find more exciting options than you were expecting.

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