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“When a client asks me for my opinion on what they should rent, I try to give them something that kids will not get tired of after a few tries, especially if they're only renting one piece,” says Margaret Fescina, senior event coordinator for NY Party Works in West Babylon, N.Y. She names products such as Evolution, a prehistoric-themed inflatable with a 10-foot-tall, volcano-shaped climbing wall, as current favorites. Fescina notes that not only are these products visually appealing, but they also provide an ongoing source of amusement. “The pieces that are the most entertaining are ones that are faster-moving, like a slide, or provide competition at some level, like an obstacle course or bungee run,” she explains. “The competition doesn't have to be serious, but it means that the kids will want to use the piece over and over again.”

The competitive aspect of the high-tech Dance/Dance Revolution game from Primetime Amusements in North Miami Beach, Fla., is one of its best features, notes Lainie Solomon, director of marketing. The game, which requires users to follow dance moves on a screen by stepping on corresponding arrows underfoot, “brings out the competition from teenagers to adults,” she says. “It doesn't matter if you're a beginner with no rhythm or an expert dancer. [It] really adds life to the party.”


Since children's attention spans vary widely based on age, it's important to pick age-appropriate games.

“{C}lients should keep in mind that kids have sub-categories within their broader demographic,” cautions Brian Lillquist, director of sales at Pacheco, Calif.-based Plan-It Interactive. He says that lately, his company has been holding a lot of video game competitions using car racing, skiing and surfing games, which are popular with most age groups. Lillquist adds that often, “Kids' activities are part of a larger event that includes all ages, so we include kids and parents together.” Products such as Water Wars, a water balloon catapult game, allow guests of all ages to get in on the action.

At Anderson, Ala.-based FoamMasters/Snowmasters, the company addresses the age issue by offering two similar products aimed at different age groups. While the Foam Cannon X-Stream shoots out foam in a strong stream, the Foam Streamer produces a less powerful flow of foam, making it “a great machine for a toddler or small-children's party,” explains company president Francisco Guerra. As with all products for children, safety is a top issue: FoamMasters' foam is biodegradable, nontoxic and fire retardant, which means that “children can play in it for hours without worry of irritation,” he notes.

While age-specific products are important, Fescina cautions that they can create potential problems: “I have found that children will always want to go on all the rides, so the fewer age restrictions you have, the fewer arguments and disappointed children you will have,” she says.


Popular themes may change over time, but for kid's events, classic elements never go out of style. At Seattle-based Party Partners, “We deliberately stay away from trends, though there is more and more interest in circus as a party theme,” notes company president Timothy Siciliano. “If anything, there is an overall popula-rity in vintage and retro styles.” The company's party hats, which are made from brightly colored crepe paper or felt designs, feature colorful names such as “Carnival Crowns.” Also popular: the line of 12-inch-tall, hand-painted papier-mache maracas, available in designs ranging from monkeys to clowns to Santa Claus, which make a cheerful gift for kids to take home.

Siciliano suggests that when looking for fun favors, planners should be inventive. “The best products for parties are not always at a party store,” he explains. “Using your imagination and looking for alternative sources is the best way to be creative and unique.”

Fescina notes that photographs are coveted event souvenirs, especially for the teen set. “We do a lot of bar/bat mitzvahs, and [planners] are always looking for new ideas in the photographic area,” she says. New twists on standard party pictures include Flip Photos — holographic images that change position with a flick of the wrist, making the subjects of the photo appear to move — and the Hairstyle Photo Booth, which lets guests see what they would look like with creative new hairdos.


FoamMasters/SnowMasters, 800/745-8599; NY Party Works, 800/469-3866; Party Partners, 206/323-8703; Plan-It Interactive, 888/90-GAMES (904-2637); Primetime Amusements, 800/550-0090

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