Cooking up a storm
Kids love to eat the cake and cookies at the party, but making them is even more delicious. Gather your child’s 10 closest compadres (you need to set a limit on this one) for a cooking party where they get to don chefs’ outfits and get their hands sweet and sticky. There are local companies that offer this type of party so you don’t have to sacrifice your own beloved kitchen, but doing it at home is easy enough, too. Have them make their own pizzas, decorate cookies, mix up pitchers of lemonade -- just keep plenty of paper towels on-hand.
Let your little ones be the stars of the show as they make their own movie with their closest buds. This can work for small or large gatherings -- just break the latter up into groups. Give them a flipcam, designate a theme for each film and let them go wild on the neighborhood. While they’re noshing on pizza and cake, have your resident computer whiz upload the finished product and screen it after dark on a big sheet mounted in the backyard. Sure to get rave reviews.
Your little artist’s palette is about to go far beyond primary colors. Invite his pals over for a “Pollock party,” inspired by legendary artist Jackson Pollock. Spread out old bedsheets in the backyard, grab a couple of gallons of paint (some hardware stores sell poorly blended cans or returned colors on the cheap), fashion some smocks out of old T-shirts and let the kids get creative. When the masterpiece is finished, cut it up and send framed portions to each of your guests.
Choose your own adventure
This one works best for slightly older kids with an attention span longer than the average fly. Let them write their own book by having each child tell the next portion of a story that they make up as they go along. You'll be busy transcribing all this literary brilliance as it happens so have a glass of wine on hand. Next up, everyone has to draw an illustration to accompany his or her chapter. Once it’s done, it gets copied and bound together as a memorable keepsake for each child. With these tips, I promise you can lose the trinket-filled loot bags altogether.