Families are spending more on parties for wee ones

Olamide Tolani's first birthday party was grand.

The catered fete for the little boy, held earlier this year at Monaco's Palace in Columbus, included nearly 100 guests, many of them children. Tolani's aunt, Shirley Davis of Reynoldsburg, hired Mickey and Minnie Mouse look-alikes and a balloon-twisting entertainer for the party.

"Most kids cry at their first birthday," said his mother, Feyi Tolani, of Lewis Center, who also has three older children. "Olamide enjoyed everything. He was dancing. He didn't cry at all."

Tolani said a child's first birthday is a big milestone for her family.

When it comes to celebrating birthdays for 1- and 2-year-olds, parties can be fancy or simple. Or something in between.

Parents typically either want a party that's big and fantastic for their child's first birthday, or they want to hold off on having a large party until the child is 3, 4 or 5, said Curtis Lovell II, owner of Awesome Family Entertainment, a Columbus-based party planning firm.

Lovell said parents spend more now on children's birthday parties than they did 10 or 15 years ago. They splurge on things like lavish cakes, and television character look-alikes are popular picks for young children's birthday parties, Lovell said.

"At this age, (the entertainment is) really not for the child," he said. "It's usually for the guests, for the older kids or for the adults."

Colorful characters and clowns make for exciting photos, which are very important to parents.

"Photos are big in this generation," Lovell said. "We like photos. We like to share photos."

The really young birthday boys and girls are either excited or standoffish when they see their favorite character in person, Lovell said. He added that the shy ones usually warm up with time or after seeing their mother or father hug the character.

Lovell said extended family members often help foot the bill for children's parties.

"Out-of-state grandparents who can't make it will enlist our service as a surprise to the party," Lovell said. "That happens a lot."

Davis said the money she spent on her nephew's party was more than worth it.

"Some people say the kids won't remember, but the brothers and sisters remember," said Davis, a mother herself. "Who knows? You may not be there tomorrow. You are building memories for the child."

Hiring entertainment

If your child talks about nothing but Elmo, Elmo, Elmo - that's your answer. Hire Elmo!

Ask other parents to recommend good family
entertainers. Get contact info for those you've seen at other parties.

Don't hire an entertainer for the entire length of the party. Have them arrive 30 to 60 minutes after the party starts, when arrival socializing is done and everyone can enjoy the entertainment.

Source: Curtis Lovell II, of Awesome Family Entertainment