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Kids' birthday party trends in New Orleans 

Party games, hot chocolate stations and more ideas for every kind of kids' party

click to enlarge A hot chocolate station is a sweet addition to a winter-themed birthday party. - PHOTO BY CAROLYN FRENKEL  OF MARLEY + SATCHMO PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Photo by Carolyn Frenkel of Marley + Satchmo Photography
  • A hot chocolate station is a sweet addition to a winter-themed birthday party.

Some kids' party ideas are classics. Balloons, pinatas, a sugary punch that turns every kid's mouth the same shade of red — these are rites of passage for every child.

 Some party concepts are new classics, says Natasha Mattappally, who founded Luxe + Lace Weddings and Events with business partner Danielle Kuruda.

 "The smash cake is a relatively new idea," Mattappally says. In this new tradition, parents throwing a first birthday party purchase one cake for baby and one for guests. "It's a way to bring baby more into the party than in the past."

 Customization is all the rage — drinking cups, gift bags and even baked goods can be stamped with a monogram or an image unique to the birthday girl or boy.

 Mattappally sees a shift from casual backyard barbecues with sugar-fueled kids to more elaborate affairs.

 "Kids' parties are becoming more formal and more elegant," she says. "Parents are thinking creatively with tea parties and sophisticated setups. The bohemian theme is big — tents, low tables and [floor cushions] are popular."

 Seasonal themes also are de rigueur: animal decorations with petting zoos for spring, snowflake decorations and hot chocolate stations for winter.

 "It's getting more interactive for the kids, especially the older kids," she says. She attended a soiree for a preteen girl who loves photography. The parents set up a group project for her and her guests: to film a short movie during the party, which the birthday girl produced and screened for her guests at the end of the night.

 "I love the trend shifting toward unique themes that reflect the child's personality or interests — thinking outside the typical 'kid' box," Kuruda says. "And [I also love] the incorporation of elements that the parents and their friends also can enjoy."

click to enlarge Interactive party games are a great way to keep kids and parents engaged. - PHOTO BY RENEE BILLIOT
  • Photo by Renee Billiot
  • Interactive party games are a great way to keep kids and parents engaged.

 Renee Billiot, store manager of Little Pnuts Toy Shoppe, considers interactive party games her specialty. The store began offering party and event planning services in January. Some of her favorites are Strike It! and Dancing Eggs, which require players to get up and move around, keeping kids (and parents) engaged.

 "People are coming in more and more for goody bags for the kids," Billiot says. "They're moving away from just trinkets [and candy] for the bags to activities and crafts. ... There definitely is a trend in party items toward quality over quantity."

 That trend is sweeping through party favors and parties themselves. Intimate gatherings are common, not just to keep budgets smaller, but to allow hosts to spend more money and time on individual guests. Mattappally's clients are investing in party entertainment such as horseback riding excursions and art project stations — activities that would be difficult with dozens of guests present.

 "It's a better, more personal experience without all the chaos," Billiot says.

 Billiot also sees an uptick in requests for gender-neutral party items. Pink and blue aren't the standards anymore, and party themes aren't limited by princess and transportation motifs.

 She says parents are upending traditional gift giving by buying Lego building block sets for the grab bags for girls' parties, and Little Pnuts carries boy dolls for the customarily rough-and-tumble crowd. Billiot adds her own son uses the boy dolls for superhero play — they are the civilians that Batman and Superman swoop in to rescue.

 "We're moving toward openness of letting [children] explore their interests" without being constrained by traditional gender roles, she says.

 At the end of the party, what's important is that the guests and the guest of honor enjoy themselves. If the kids are happy, party on.

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