So this year we have had so many new experiences, but the one which has played on my mind the most has definitely been organising two birthday parties a month apart from each other. We knew we wanted to make them as memorable as possible, but we were keen not to just throw money at the parties (both because of not setting bigger and better expectations each year, but also because two expensive days within a month wouldn’t have been financially viable). So in both cases, I decided to think back to my childhood and try and recreate those type of parties. I knew they would be different from their friends parties which were mostly soft play or entertainer ones, but at about £200 an hour for an entertainer, I figured I could use the money to do something ourselves. Both parties were different and both worked really well, so here are my tips for a (mostly) stressfree birthday party.
- How many children should I invite? Depending on the age of the child, try to keep the numbers down. For Little Miss’s 6th birthday, we just invited the girls in her class, which ended up as 8 girls. For Little Sir, as he is in Nursery we invited the whole nursery class plus a few other friends, which ended up as 20 children. This may sound like a lot but as they came with their parents we didn’t have to take responsibility for them which made a huge difference.
- What about a venue? I spent a long time researching different venues, and couldn’t believe how much it was going to cost us. In some cases it was £15 upwards per child which did include entertainment and food but I still think it was hugely expensive. So for Little Miss we held the party at home which obviously cost us nothing, and for Little Sir we hired Hatfield Park Farm which is basically a DIY party venue – a large open space with a bit of an undercover area if we needed it. We had also considered holding it in a local forest or common ground which would have worked as well.
- Doesn’t providing food become stressful? This was another area I spent quite a lot of time thinking about. Little Miss had a Princess Party so I spent some time thinking about what themed food I could make. Eventually though I decided that the girls probably wouldn’t eat all that much and wouldn’t remember the food, so I kept it simple with sandwiches shaped with cookie cutters, fruit kebabs, crisps and drinks. For Little Sir, I knew that we didn’t want food out in the open, so we invested in 20 animal themed cardboard food boxes and filled each one with a sandwich, fruit bag, vegetable bag, crisps and a chocolate biscuit along with a carton of drink. This was so easy to prepare and on the day we just had to hand the boxes out without any fuss.
- Surely organising and running games is like herding cats? I was a bit concerned about how to get all the children to join in with all of the games – even though I was used to teaching a class of children, this felt very different. So I decided to split the party into 15 minute increments. I wrote out a schedule for each party and put in when we would eat, when we would do the cake etc, and made sure the first 15 minutes was free play time to get the children settled. We then concentrated on games from my childhood. Pass the Parcel, Musical Bumps, Musical Statues, Sleeping Lions (a great one for the end of the party) and a dance competition. The kids loved all the games and mostly joined in. For Little Sir’s party I knew that, being 3 and 4 some of the kids wouldn’t want to join in, so we made sure that there were lots of ball, space hoppers and craft ideas to keep them all entertained.
- What about the presents? The current thinking amongst parents is to not open the gifts at the party but to open them later. For Little Sir’s party this was a great plan as he had lots of great gifts, and the children were far too young to sit for long to watch him open them. However, for Little Miss I went against convention and she opened her presents at the party. This was a great move! The girls loved giving their presents to her and watching her open them, and they all then got the chance to play with them together. No matter which way you go, don’t forget to write down who bought what, so that you can help the children write thankyou cards afterwards. I’ve found both the children and the parents really appreciate a thank you card and it’s teaching both children a great life skill.
No matter what you decide, or how you run the party, the main thing I’ve realised is that afterwards the children just remember the fun they have had, and the friends who came, not the food they ate or what the games were. So ultimately, just have fun!
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