If there’s one thing I’ve learned from all the parties I’ve hosted over the years, it’s this:

Party parents get bored faster than party kids!

Come on, you know it’s true! Think back to a time when your child came home from school all giddy about her best friend’s birthday party the following weekend. She showed you the cute invitation with the RSVP phone number at the bottom. Inwardly, you sighed, right? Yes, of course you did.

We’ve all had that feeling, but our kids really enjoy sharing those special moments with their friends. It’s something we all do as we grow up…a rite of passage of sorts. So even though you dread the thought of sitting and staring at the wall while a bunch of 6 year-old’s run laps around each other, you RSVP to the party.

And then you tell your husband (or wife) that they should go…it’ll be good for them, you say. Unfortunately, they don’t buy it. Let’s face it, nobody buys that one.

Now, when the party rolls around, you’ve got a couple of options. Your choice will depend on how well you know the parents of the birthday child (and your comfort level at the time). If you don’t know them, you might stick around and make polite conversation periodically with the other party parents who felt guilty leaving their kids with someone they didn’t know either. However, if you’re lucky enough to know the birthday child’s parents pretty well, you could throw this one out there:

“I’ve got some errands to do…is it OK if I pick her up when the party’s over? Thanks so much!”

And scram….

You’ve probably been in both situations. Given that fact, you can totally imagine how it feels to be bored at a party designed to keep kids engaged…and not you. So, what happens?

Here’s what happens: the birthday girl’s mom glances into the living room and finds a row of disengaged parents…all holding cell phones. No one’s talking. Everybody’s staring glass-eyed at a whole lot of nothing.

Unless they’re looking at Pinterest – you can find some great party ideas on Pinterest!

I know that seems like a lot of intro to get to the point, but I wanted you to fully understand the situation here. Parents don’t have to be bored at a kids birthday party. Really. You can involve them in ways that engage their minds and bodies, just like you’re trying to do with their children. It’s not even that hard.

Here are three ways I’ve discovered to include other parents in a little party fun so they don’t have to be quite so uncomfortable:

Involve them in a game or activity

Super Hero Party Game

“Bad Dads” at a Super Hero Party

I’m currently working on a Plants vs. Zombies Halloween party, and one of the first things I decided was that I absolutely had…to…have…a life-size game with “real” plants and zombies battling it out in my cul-de-sac. I mean, really…how could I possibly put together a party with a Plants vs. Zombies theme without the game? You’re right, I couldn’t. Just wouldn’t be possible.

Scooby Doo Party Game

Scooby Doo Villain

My only problem (initially) was figuring out who would play the various parts. I quickly ascertained the game would have to be simplified a bit to alleviate confusion, and I would need some pretty mature zombies in order to have a somewhat “orderly” game. With kids playing the zombie parts, it would just be random chaos as they ran around the cul-de-sac screaming and dodging projectiles.

What I need are adults who will stand their ground and follow the game rules…

So, I decided to enlist the help of the party parents. Luckily for me, I happen to know these parents fairly well. We’ve been having these themed Halloween parties for the past three years now (check out our Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings parties), so persuading them to participate won’t be hard. In fact, many of them are zombie fans, and the thought of terrorizing their children while dressed in zombie costumes is quite appealing.

It’s that simple, really. Most parents enjoy playing with their kids, especially in a setting that won’t require them to clean up afterwards. And if everyone is acting silly, embarrassment won’t be a factor. Not that ambling slowly (as you drag one leg behind you) towards small, giggling plant-like objects shooting you with ping pong balls would be embarrassing…

Have them be the keepers of scavenger hunt clues

Minecraft Party Game

Minecraft Adventure

This works for adults as well as toddlers who aren’t quite ready to join in on the scavenger hunt fun. I’ve created scavenger hunts for several of my parties. Some have been quite elaborate, while others were simpler. It really depends on your audience and theme.

Batman Party Ideas

When Batman Attacks!

One thing I’ve noticed is parents love keeping a secret as much as kids love telling secrets.

All you have to do is find out which parents will be joining you for the length of the party and write them into your scavenger hunt “script.” For instance, if your scavenger hunt is actually an elaborate pirate treasure hunt spread out over a few acres of wooded property complete with a lovely stream, you might include a few clues that involve actual pirates (from history – or movies, whichever you prefer).

Maybe you provide a clue that leads the children to the dreaded Dread Pirate Roberts…or what about the always humorous Captain Jack Sparrow? Just find two or three parents willing to dress the part, and you’ll be surprised how involving adults in the fun brings everyone together and lightens the mood.

Require the kids to seek out party parents for answers to questions in a game or quiz

This one is always fun as well, but you’ll need to do a bit of homework in advance (not like you have enough to do, right?) Again, find out which parents intend to stick around and ask them some simple questions in advance of the party. Here are a few examples for an art-themed party:

  • What is your favorite color?
  • Who is your favorite artist?
  • What is your favorite painting?
  • What is your favorite sculpture?
  • Name one art museum you would like to visit.

Once you’ve compiled all the answers, create a quiz for the party guests that looks something like this:

  • Find a parent whose favorite color is blue. Write the parent’s name here: _______________
  • Find a parent whose favorite artist is Picasso. Write the parent’s name here: _______________
  • Find a parent whose favorite painting is Starry Night. Write the parent’s name here: _______________
  • Find a parent whose favorite sculpture is David. Write the parent’s name here: _______________
  • Find a parent who wants to visit the Louvre in Paris. Write the parent’s name here: _______________
Comic Book Villain - Super Hero Party

Super Villain Dad

Vary the quizzes so the kids don’t have the same questions or answers. You might have parents who name matching colors, artists, or paintings. If so, roll with it. The kids will figure it out.

Be sure to instruct the parents to make the kids work for the answers. Provide a little info on each artist, painting, sculpture and art museum so the parents can educate (and entertain) the guests as they search for answers. After all, there’s nothing wrong with a little education at a birthday party!

Other ideas?

Do you have other ways of keeping party parents occupied during your kid’s birthday party? If so, leave a comment. I’d love to hear your ideas too!