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Pool parties make birthdays easier and fun

In an era of over-the-top, ultra-expensive birthday parties whose extravagance rivals lavish weddings, some might find it invigorating to scale things down and host a pool party.

A pool party is an ideal way to host a birthday or other special event without having to do a lot of planning. All that is typically needed is an available pool and party participants ready to have a good time.

Many people mistakenly think that a pool party is something that can only be done during the warm weather. Actually, you can plan a pool party any time of the year. Many fitness gyms, schools and scuba certification locations open their pools up to public parties. Therefore, whether the event is held in June or January, chances are there is a pool available that can accommodate the crowd.

One main advantage to a pool party is that the pool is the entertainment factor for the guests. There's no need to spend hours thinking up games or other forms of entertainment. Swimming, splashing and jumping into the water will keep many guests occupied for hours. If you prefer more structure, consider relay races, diving games and water volleyball.

Party preparation

Start with the invitations when preparing the party. Select a colored paper or pattern that is reminiscent of pool water. A vibrant aquamarine would fit the bill. Print out a catchy phrase that describes the upcoming event (i.e., Jimmy's Party is Bound to be a Splash), and be sure to remind guests to bring towels and bathing suits. If you will not have enough chairs for all guests, ask them on the invite to bring a beach chair as well.

Put together a selection of music that evokes summer fun or tropical locations. There are bound to be compilation playlists available for purchase. An instrumental steel drum album also would be effective. Remember, whether it is warm or cold outside, this pool party should look and feel hot. Music will help set that mood.

Tie decorations into the theme. Purchase or rent inflatable palm trees and string lantern lights around the party area, if possible. Keep plenty of beach balls on hand to toss around in or out of the water. Table linens can be purchased in bright hues to match the blue, red and yellow strips of a beach ball. Be sure to have plenty of fun pool toys available, such as floats and water guns. Have a few extra pairs of eye goggles on hand as well as sunblock (if the party is outdoors) in case swimmers forgot their own.

Pool party food

Think about which foods to serve at a pool party. Light, finger foods are ideal because they won't sit heavily in guests' stomachs. Think about tea sandwiches, fruit and vegetable skewers, salads, and shish kabobs, served along with chips and dips. If the party will be in the backyard, barbecue fare also may be quick and easy, especially if there are a good number of guests.

Create a number of tropical-inspired beverages. Anything with the taste of melon, mango and pineapple would fit in with the theme. Serve the same types of frozen drinks in both alcoholic and nonalcoholic varieties so everyone can enjoy a taste. Finger foods reduce the amount of cutlery and dishes needed and that amounts to a faster clean-up.

One of the final factors of pool-party food is the dessert. Look to individually served desserts that can be eaten by hand. Opt for cupcakes with blue frosting and a gummy fish on top. Ice cream cone sundaes are ideal on warm days. Other guests might like bite-sized fruit and custard tarts.

Pool party safety

When hosting a pool party, emphasize safety. Remember, a person can drown in just a few inches of water in a matter of minutes. According to Kids Health, drowning is the second most common form of death from injuries among kids under the age of 14.

Here are some precautions to take when hosting a pool party.

* Designate a life guard. If your party is at a public pool, ensure a lifeguard will be on duty. This person should not leave his or her post unless someone else relieves them. Designate a lifeguard at a private party as well, even hiring an off-duty lifeguard if no guests can perform the necessary duties.

* Make sure fences around the pool are tall enough to prevent accidental falls into the pool and that they are secured with self-latching gates.

* Insist that children who cannot swim use a Coast Guard-approved life vest or another approved flotation device. Inflatable water wings are not effective against drowning.

* Be sure no one pushes or jumps on others in and around the pool.

* Limit the number of pool floats in the water so that visibility of the lifeguard will not be impaired.

* Don't let anyone chew gum or eat in the pool. It can lead to choking.

* Don't allow running around the perimeter of the pool.

* Jumping and diving should be prohibited if the water is too shallow.

* Make sure guests know to follow the pool rules or they won't be allowed to swim.

A pool party is a surefire way to have a fun event any time of the year. It is easy to plan and host, and guests will walk away with many fond memories.