People feel conflicted about baby showers.

Guests are excited for the mom-to-be and want to celebrate a new life coming. But they know that a shower usually means giving up hours of their Saturday afternoon to drink punch, sit in a circle and play goofy games that insult their intelligence.

It’s time to make baby showers more enjoyable and less of a chore for hosts and guests – especially the honored one.

“Think “interactive’ when it comes to planning, and everyone in attendance is sure to have more fun,” says party planner Becky Long, author of “Themed Baby Showers” (Meadowbrook Press, $10).

Usually the gift-opening part of the party – the main reason for the shower – is the biggest yawner for guests who sit and wait.

To make it more interesting, assign gift categories by rooms in the home. For example, “kitchen” might yield a month’s supply of baby food. Everyone at the party will appreciate the creative aspect and anticipate what gifts people chose.

To mix it up even more, ask guests to wrap gifts according to the expectant mom’s sense of style rather than the typical animal and pastel papers. The baby-related gifts themselves will be adorable enough.

Also center the concept of the shower on the expectant mother’s interests. It’s great to focus on her since her world will soon turn into baby, baby, baby.

For example, if she loves to read, ask guests to each bring a copy of their favorite childhood book to build the baby’s library. The books will naturally bring up conversation because everyone will talk about what they enjoyed reading once upon a time.

In her book, Long emphasizes the importance of sending an enticing, attention-getting invitation.

For a woman who enjoys gardening, send invitations attached to seed packets or stick party details in pairs of garden gloves.

When it comes to food, take a cue from the Miranda Hobbes character on “Sex and the City.” She wanted to skip the traditional dainty shower food – homemade mints and cucumber sandwiches – and have fried chicken. Ask the mother-to-be what her favorite foods are and make that your menu.

Edit the amount of cuteness in the decorations. Opting for a bouquet of the mom’s favorite flowers instead of endless streamers and cardboard cutouts is a solid choice.

The biggest challenge at a shower is to keep time rolling. Long says to plan one activity that will get guests moving and mingling with one another. Set up tables to make personalized scrapbook pages with copies of the guests’ baby photos (easy to do in this computer age). Or put stacks of magazines in the middle to have people seek good baby-related ideas and coupons.

Forget about boring pencil games that stifle conversation. And do without the undignified ones: “Guess the Flavor of the Baby Food” and “How Much Does this Diaper Weigh?” are infamous for obvious reasons.

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