I love birthday parties, but I hadn’t realised the difficulty of having children with birthdays almost exactly a month apart! Before the children came home, I hadn’t realised how very stressful organising one birthday party was. Double it and talk about wanting to tear my hair out! After several months of going back and forth with different ideas (each costing so much more than the previous one!) I realised that I need to find a way to organise a stress free birthday party. Surely it couldn’t be that hard!
Last year was definitely the toughest as it was the first time we were celebrating the children’s birthdays with them. We knew we wanted to make them as memorable as possible, but we were keen not to just throw money at the parties. 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) stress free birthday party.
How many party guests?
Depending on the age of the child, for a stress free birthday party 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.
Stress free food?
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, when organising a stress free birthday party, remember that really it’s about them seeing their friends and having fun. So if a trip to the park and a picnic will suffice – go ahead and do it! Good luck!
I’d love to know what your top tips are on organising a stress free birthday party. Let me know in the comments!