When you're throwing a party, your biggest fear is that the guests will all sit there awkwardly, not talking to each other. In reality, this rarely happens, but you can certainly prevent this by planning some activities or games. Whether you're throwing a party for your child and her friends or your own grown-up friends, you can plan things to do at a party at home.
Playing games gets everyone to interact with each other. You could play classic party games like Charades or Fictionary. If you're throwing an outdoor party, you could set up a volleyball or badminton net. Trivia games can also get competitive--you can make easier questions for kids and more difficult questions for adults.
Crafts work especially well at parties for children and teens. Jewelry making is a good craft because it isn't messy--young children can string plastic beads while older ones may be able to do macrame or use glass beads. Your adult friends may also like to get together for a craft party, such as a knitting or scapbooking party.
All you need is a big open space and a stereo to play music and you've got yourself a dance party. Choose music that fits the crowd and the atmosphere that you want to create. If you want to make the party all about dancing, you could hire a dance instructor to teach swing or salsa at the beginning of the party and then guests can practice their moves as they dance the night away.
Sometimes it's best to allow guests to make things exactly the way they want it. You can do this by serving food like pizzas, tacos and ice cream sundaes. Simply put out all of the ingredients and let guests build their own meal.
You may not want to force all of the guests to do the same activity at the same time. Instead, set up activity stations that give guests something to do, but only if they want to. Possible stations could include board games, crafts, yard games or toys.
Many guests come to a party to enjoy the conversation that they can have with the other guests. Set up your home so that it's easy for people to have conversations--by turning the TV off and placing chairs and other seating in intimate groups. If people seem shy, you could offer an ice breaker game, such as handing out cards with conversation starters like, "What's the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you?" or "What country would you like to live in and why?"
Maggie McCormick is a freelance writer. She lived in Japan for three years teaching preschool to young children and currently lives in Honolulu with her family. She received a B.A. in women's studies from Wellesley College.