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Target audience: 5- to 7-year-olds A mess is a theme? To you, it’s just another Saturday. But, really, this idea—devoted to splatters and spills (or, if you’re brave, dirt and goo)—will make you the coolest mom on the planet. And you can throw out the party-prep perfectionism (iced rosettes just so). Stock up on Silly String, set out paint (washable—you haven’t totally lost your mind), and serve food with graffiti-style toppings. Then let the kids go wild. As if they wouldn’t, anyway. Food Start with melba toast rounds with guacamole and sour cream squiggles (place each topping in a resealable plastic bag, snip a hole in the corner of the bag, and squeeze). Follow them up with Sloppy Joes and gross-out candy: licorice laces that look like alien intestines, gummy worms and snakes, and chocolate eyeballs. Splatter jawbreaker pops are a fun treat or favor (try Paintball Pops, 24 for $40, groovycandies.com). Napkins—at all times—optional. Splatter Cupcakes Make 24 cupcakes out of 1 box of yellow cake mix according to the package directions. For the icing: Thin store-bought vanilla icing with milk until it’s smooth and runny. Tint it with a few drops of food coloring and put it in a resealable plastic bag. Snip a hole in the corner of the bag and let the kids squeeze to decorate their own cupcakes.
Melanie Acevedo 

In a word, no. In fact, imagine a slow-motion action sequence in which someone is hurling herself through the air to grab the phone from your hand, screaming, “Nooooooo!”

“Micromanaging other parents is never a good idea,” says Boston Globe etiquette columnist Robin Abrahams, the author of Miss Conduct’s Mind Over Manners ($15, amazon.com). “Besides, you can’t shield your kids from temptation forever. Eventually they’re going to meet a Pop-Tart in the wild.” As long as the forbidden thing is benign—that is, he’s playing Angry Birds and not War Zombies II: Blood-o-Rama—let it go. “It’s OK for your kid to feel that he’s getting away with something small,” says Post.

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