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A festive start gets parties rolling

Kids of all ages love birthdays and parties. If you are throwing a party at home this year, don't panic. Here are three easy ideas to get a birthday bash off to a positive and festive start:

Say it with lights

Hollywood stars arriving at the Oscars aren't the only ones greeted with a marquee. Surprise each of your guests at your front door with a "Welcome" in flashing lights. First, paint a message in big letters on a sheet of poster board, such as "IT'S A PARTY STARRING TYLER!" Add a photo of the birthday kid, plus balloons or streamers, then clip the poster to a child's painting easel. Place the easel outside by your front door, and for pizazz, hang blinking holiday lights around it to draw attention to the event.

Mixer activity

If your guest list includes cousins, classmates and kids from your child's sports team, church and neighborhood, chances are they might not know one another. So that no one feels out of place, prepare an easy mixer activity to do together right away.

A winning idea is to make decorative party straws based on your party theme.

Before the party, draw and cut a simple 2-by-3-inch shape for each guest on a colorful piece of craft foam. Cut two 1/2-inch slits, one above the other, in the middle of each shape. Set out white household glue, markers and odds and ends of large craft items, such as feathers, pipe cleaners and felt scraps. Kids can sit around the table and decorate their own foam shapes using the colorful supplies. When the glue is dry, thread a drinking straw through the slits. Now each guest has a personal straw to use at the party!

NOTE: Avoid all small craft supplies, such as glitter, beads and sequins, which could fall into the beverage.

Photo stories

For conversation starters, attach humorous and eye-catching photographs of the birthday child on long ribbons and hang on walls or from doorways. Set out family photo albums and a baby book on coffee tables to thumb through, too. Kids love to look at photos from past birthday parties where they recognize one another and recall the fun times they had together.

Write Donna with your questions and ideas at Donna's newly released book, "Donna Erickson's Fabulous Funstuff for Families," is now available in bookstores nationwide. © Donna Erickson