Control Freaks

So I have become  obsessed with this developing my own birthday party company. Today, while cruising the web I discovered that some zoos, museums, aquariums etc…actually outsource their birthday parties to private companies. Now there is an idea worth tapping into!

Today I encountered one of the most dreaded creatures of the child entertainment industry…..the control freak mom. This mom brought her own treat bags and table settings and she insisted on the children doing an activity that really was not age appropriate.  Remember,  a birthday party is about celebrating a special day with the people you care about. A child will only turn 5 once, please don’t insist on them doing activities more suited for 10 yr olds, let them enjoy being 5!

I think the worst control freak mom I ever encountered was at the first year of day camp at the museum.  This mom would hang around camp the whole day and basically just bug me and the rest of the staff while we were clearly busy. Worse still, she would not leave her children alone. I could over look most of the issues we faced with this parent except for one: She would “help” her children with their crafts!

I let craft time at this particular day camp be very open. I give the campers directions and materials but I let them put their own unique spin on each project. On this particular day, the campers were making construction paper “W” puppets of dinosaurs. I helped the campers fold the paper into a puppet but after that they could decorate it however they wanted. Some puppets had scales, some had feathers,  some had like 15 googley eyes, some resembled actual dinos, some were Princess-O-Saurouses, whatever…let your imaginations soar! This mom would actually come over and say things like “No son, a dinosaur shouldn’t have 3 eyes!” or “Oh, you can make it look nicer than that!” I just wanted to be like “Lady, it’s his puppet, let him do what he wants!” at one point the kids had all left to go to play on the playground and the mom actually stayed in the craft tent and “fixed” her kids’ projects.

After that I added a new rule:
Unless parents are official volunteers who fill out an application, get selected, and attend training…they will not stay at camp. There are shopping centers and restaurants down the street…go there.  Camp is about the kids…not you!

Here is another thing along those lines: When selling craft projects, what looks good to the parents and what the kids actually enjoy and learn from are two very different things. Parents seem to like to see what I call “craft kits” where every kids comes home with a lovely looking craft and every kid’s craft looks the same. After nearly 5 years in this business and more years than I care to admit to at Heroes Camp I can tell you this: It means a heck of a lot more to the kids if they design the craft themselves.

Case in Point: On the last day of every camp I have the kids make picture frames and I put a group picture in each one. I’ve tried using those “foamie” craft kit picture frames in the past. The make them with a “camp” theme and each one looks basically the same.  Personally, I think they are really nice and I don’t know how much the parents liked them but the kids were unimpressed. You know what the kids do love? My new tradition is to put all the left over craft supplies like stickers, Popsicle sticks, glitter, paint, etc…on the craft tables and let them go nuts. Then I give them each a sticker with the camp name and year on it. They love it!

Well I best be off, I am doing a birthday party tomorrow!

F.Y.I In my previous post I mentioned a party planning book I am reading by a well known company. I also mentioned how I highly reccommend Oriental Trading Co. Can you guess what company that book recommended in chapter one? Oriental Trading! See, the experts agree with me!

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