All ideas great! Here’s my 2 cents!
All children sit with parents for dinner. That space is left open for them all evening. It’s their seat.
Have a designated area in the same hall w/the reception with tables set w/arts and crafts. Have a ‘menu’ of activities. 6:00 Dinner; 7:00 balloon anikmals; 7:30 popsicle stick sun catchers; 8:00 musical chairs, 8:30 paper plate masks; 9:00 children’s dance contest; etc.
Oriental Trading sells canvas shopping bags at a good price, or try a dollar store. Each child will have a bag and as they make their ‘stuff’ it goes in the bag to go home. Or more cost effective every child gets a paper shopping bag w/their name on it, and when they make something, inside the bag it goes so pass to the parents to take home.
DO NOT HIRE KIDS you coach as tempting as that may be. You will set those kids you hire apart from the rest and that’s not appropriate. That crosses the line professionally. Hire two people. What about the Arts and Crafts teacher at the school? or the town elementary school? What about a student teacher? College kids always need money.
IMO, you should not have a designated room where kids leave the reception where their parents are. In case of a fire, or accident, that is a responsibility you don’t want on someone else to clear out frantic kids. IMO, sugar, late night, excitement can create tears, but it may also generate small fights…”that was mine and you took it!” Someone may push someone. Someone may fall off the bed…youdon’t think they won’t jump, do you?! Kids won’t like leaving their parents anyway and will keep asking “can I go see my mom now?” and will create more havoc for the care providers if they are in different spaces. These kids are young. A happy kid means a happy parent.
Plus, you run the risk of being accountable for whomever you hire so it’s best the adult in charge never leaves the room w/ a kid. If a kid has to go potty, let mama or dad take him/her
Candy and soda will make them crazy; so try to serve pretzels, popcorn and juice –although juice has sugar too.
You can have a kids dance contest where everyone wins….There is that Oriental Trading Company which has so many great things very inexpensive…they also have crafts…but can begin to get pricey.
Save the candy for their trip home….they can line up with the care provider and as the party is ending they can start filling their little bags or boxes. Try getting things which are wrapped and tell the kids they can have 10 pieces of anything they want! Trust me, it will take an hour to decide. They will end up trading and changing their minds. Trust me! If you give them limitless candy it won’t be as much fun. You can always have the care provider say, “OK, OK, you can take 15!!!” And then they’ll take even more time to find and select the extra candy.
Go to a candy warehouse, or stock up when you see sales. Candy is made one year in advance so don’t worry about stock piling 6 months ahead. For example, after Easter sales are great if you can find candy that isn’t wrapped in spring colors [unless they match your wedding colors] or in the shape of rabbits…