Birthdays should be happy occasions and when it comes to children’s parties sometimes the joy fizzles out a bit because they are not an easy thing to organise – invite lists, food, party bags, what will the kids do??? It is a lot.
Yesterday I was on Good Morning Britain (Watch Here) discussing one mother’s situation where her child was the only child not invited to a birthday party! – and after the show I received so many messages from parents who related to the story.
It got me thinking about kids parties and how best to do them. I have been through the early party years with both of my girls – now aged 13 and 10 – and hands up I made some mistakes. I curated them a bit too much at times, got involved with who to invite and also am ashamed to admit I might have once or twice used hem as a bit of a threat. “If you don’t do so-and-so, I’ll cancel the party!”. What was I thinking?! I have learned from those parenting errors and whilst I am in no way a perfect parent (is that even a thing?) I understand the effect of language and actions around kids.
Back to birthday parties.
I am about to do it all again with my little boy who starts “BIG SCHOOL” in September. He’s only had one party so far for his 4th birthday. He (WE) had a little party with some of his nursery friends. We chose the party room at a local farm (which was reasonably priced) filled the room with music and balloons and let the kids play and they ate some cake. Included in the party room cost was a bit of party food and as much time at the farm seeing the animals as people wanted. It was sweet.
That party was a bit of a contrast to the others I have ‘hosted’ (I use that word loosely!) in that I haven’t hired a place before. Most years the girls have had a party at home. I’ve never booked a children’s entertainer, the cake has always been friend-made or shop-bought and the emphasis has always been on making people feel welcome. My 13-year old had a slime party for her 8th birthday party – it was bloody messy – but everyone was howling with laughter and I can still picture them all sitting around the kitchen table smiling, saying “pass the activator” and comparing their homemade slime.
Children’s parties should be stress-free, simple and here are a few thoughts and some things I have learned along the way.
- Parties should be about music and dancing
- Kids love expressing themselves and if you don’t want to do a competition dance (musical statues etc) then just bang out some tunes and the children can dance if they want to. Some of the best kids parties I have taken my children to have been a simple D.I.S.C.O.
- Parties don’t have to cost a lot of money
- Meeting at the beach or the park for a run around, a piece of cake and a boogie is enough. Truly. Kids don’t remember the fancy napkins, the 4-tier cake, the extravagant balloon arch – they remember other insignificant things*, feeling excited, a simple fun activity and having people with them who care. *My daughter only remembers a child pretending to be a dog at one party she had.
- Parties should not be about fancy gifts
- If you don’t want to take a gift to a party that is your choice. As parents we feel obliged to take a present, but this is just an expectation that society has made the norm. A nice homemade card goes a long way.
- Or, do what my son did – wrap up (with help from his teen sister) an inflated blue balloon for his friend Jack. Jack’s mum told me a few days later that the balloon was the little boys fave gift, which melted my heart,
- I have been to many kids parties over the last 13-years and honestly, the amount of presents at some of them shocked me.
- Do parties need party bags?
- It is funny isn’t it because as adults we will get thanked for attending a party, but we don’t get party bags do we? So why this fascination and panic over party bags. If you don’t like doing them, don’t. Or if you would like to do them include some coloured pencils tied with ribbon (my daughter did this for R’s 4th birthday and it looked lovely), a few wrapped sweets and a nice hand-written note.
- No needs for MASSES of sweets
- Call me old fashioned (many people do and that’s ok) but cramming kids full of sweets at a party and then loading party bags with sweets is most parents idea of hell. I have had many car journeys hoe from parties with a kid having a meltdown because they are high on party vibes, shattered and full of sugar – and still wanting more. Save your money 😉
- Kids get fed up with photos
- At so many parties parents are snap snap snapping away. Whilst I love having a group shot of the kids, I wonder why we have become so obsessed with taking photos of the whole thing, constantly, on repeat, for HOURS!
- Children love face painting
- This doesn’t mean hire a face-painter – although they are usually brilliant – it means a few simple colours, one design and asking the party-goers if they would like to have it done. A simple sunshine or a smiley face can look really cute!
- Just serve cake!
- If you want to keep the cost down, do the party after lunch and serve cake and juice. Not forgetting the adults! I have been to the odd party where the kids are busy eating and drinking away but nothing for the adults. I am not suggesting a full-spread, but perhaps cake and tea/juice – the same as the kids. An activity idea could be to buy those readymade sponge fairy cakes and get the kids to decorate them on the day. Ta-daaaaa. Busy kids + personalised cakes 🙂
- Fill the room with balloons
- Buy a big bag of balloons, get a balloon pump (magic things!) and fill your house or party room up with them. If you are having a party on the beach or in a park – take some gift ribbon and tie them to each child’s wrist. I promise you they will have fun.
- Create some seating for the parents that is sociable
- I have sat around the edge of many a party in my time, looking towards the bouncy-castle of doom, and find myself awkwardly staring at the kids. Put seating in little groups so that people can look at each other and have a nice chat. I know most parties are hard because kids are crying and charging around, but having the chance to talk to other parents is nice. Perhaps activities for us too?!!
- Simple activities
- I have touched on a few already – slime making – cake decorating – dancing. Another idea I had was a painting table where kids (and adults) paint rocks or make a giant hand-print picture for the party boy/girl.
- FINALLY try to include the whole class aka don’t exclude people
- If your kids are 8 or under it is such a nice thing to be as inclusive as possible with the invite list. Since the GMB TV piece yesterday I have received messages from many parents highlighting how upset their child has been knowing they weren’t invited to a party. Consider the whole class invite (remembering it doesn’t have to be a big bash and lots of kids tend to drop out on the day) – or maybe just all the girls or all the boys is that works better. I personally think the whole class, which I will be doing for my boy’s 5th birthday in January 2024. (I’ll report back!)
Top Advice: Keep it simple. Try not to stress. Be inclusive. Make sure you enjoy it, too!
I’d love to hear from you about how you do parties? Do you go all-out? Keep it simple? Ignore they are a thing? I’d love to hear from you.
Lucy aka Geriatric Mum