Children’s Birthday Parties – A Survival Guide

“Mummy can I have a party for my birthday?” There it was. The question that opened up the whole world of children’s birthday party hell for me. My daughter now 5 was excitedly planning her 6th birthday party. Being the youngest in the year I had a whole first school year of back to back weekends of parties to compete with use as a guide as what is expected. Many years ago I had actually worked as a party decor planner and so had some experience in planning parties especially for children. Consequently I knew how elaborate these parties could become and all that may be expected from a children’s birthday party. However this was my daughter’s party so the pressure was on and so lay ahead of me a foreboding path of parental politics, dietary requirements and entertainment nightmares.

Throughout this post I will talk you through what I have found to be revelations in as far as birthdays are concerned, once you have become a parent. A whole new world of social media pressures and decisions await as you plan for your child’s birthdays.

The Venue

I remember one of my favourite birthday parties as a child being held at McDonald’s, you even got to choose one friend and go into the kitchen at the back and have a look around. Apparently McDonald’s birthday parties are not the done thing these days. My ears would definitely be burning poker hot under the scrutiny of the School Gate Mafia dare it be known that I occasionally feed my children fast food. Therefore as I am truly blessed to now own a house with a huge garden I decided to plan a garden party. However there were a few problematical errors with my decision to host the party at home which I didn’t think through, or to be honest just never occurred to me to be a problem to start:

  • Parents – when hosting a children’s party for infant aged children you need to bare in mind the parents will want to stay to ensure their child is OK and happy. I understand this completely and stay at parties myself with my children. However what I never predicted was the awkward social situation this would create. The majority of parents see each other briefly for 5 minutes at the start and end of the school day. Therefore for them all to spend two hours at a birthday party with the diverse range of characters which make up the School Gate Mafia, it alludes as a wonderful social experiment to observe but when this experiment is occurring in your home it can be slightly unnerving.
  • Weather – of course I had thought about the weather, I am British therefore the ever-changing British climate is never far from us Brits minds! However with my daughter being an August baby I was pretty sure we would be OK. Little did I know that sunshine would also be a reason for complaints from some parents. Therefore in the midst of the 2018 heat wave my mother and I were desperately trying to assemble some kind of den like shade to placate some of the distraught parents fears of sunstroke due to the selfish lack of trees and gazebos shade in my garden for almost 60 people!

Decor and Theme

Weddings have colour themes. I have decorated many weddings in my previous job although what I never expected to have to do was design and decorate halls for children’s birthday parties. Red and blue chair covers for spiderman theme, rainbow unicorn themes, candy carts adorned in football team colours (one of which asked for all sweets to be as close to the colour scheme as possible) Surely this was going to far? These were more like mini weddings than children’s birthday parties. What happened to a few balloons and a banner blue tacked to the front door? And yet here my daughter was aged 5 asking me what “type” of party she was going to have as one of her friends said she should have troll themed! Thankfully my daughter didn’t realise that her party was not troll themed and surely many children don’t actually take note of what colour balloons and paper plates they have? I do feel this is another area of immense social media pressures. Excess expenditure simply for the benefit of a few photos for Instagram.

Food and Drink

Watching children at a buffet has got to be one of my favourite things. Cheesy wotsits laying on top of jam tarts, cakes on top of cocktail sausages and just a complete jumble of mismatched food on a little paper plate.

However when planning the food for my child’s own party I began to feel slightly stressed. How much food do I need to buy? What sort of food should I make? Do I do shop bought or make my own? So many questions and decisions for an unorganised person like myself that in the end I opted for packed lunches. I bought a pack of paper bags and filled each with a sandwich, crisps, treats and a drink and prepared 3 different choices or sandwich. The children then sat (under “makeshift – den – shared” area) having a picnic. What I never expected was complaints on the level of sugar in the jam in the sandwiches or if the crisps could be swapped for another item. Surely sugar is allowed at a children’s birthday party! Let’s give them a day off from the veggie sticks! Despite the odd whinge the children seemed to really enjoy their picnic which also left me with minimal cleaning up also.

If you search children’s party food you will be met with a multitude of daunting images (Don’t do it!) sandwiches cut, shaped and organised into the style of a Disney castle, fruit platters cascading as sculptures of waterfalls. I can barely cut a sandwich into triangles without them being slightly offset, hats off to the parents creating these works of art to be destroyed in two minutes when the buffet is opened.

The Cake

Coming up to my daughters 1st birthday I had this wonderfully romanticised vision of me baking her first ever birthday cake. Lots of other mums had demonstrated their skills via the copious photos on posts on social media, how hard could it be? I googled a cake and thought it would be simple enough. I chose a 3 tier rainbow cake. Although, having zero baking experience, I was a good cook and was still confident that I would be capable of achieving the cake I had chosen to recreate. 78 eggs and 5 attempts later my husband came home to find me weeping, covered in cake mixture on the kitchen floor, exhausted and defeated with a lop sided tower of sunken sponge cake and icing in front of me.

“I bet it tastes amazing darling” he said trying to console me as he attempted not to heave on a mouthful of sugary, raw egg/flour mixture. Needless to say off I went to Costco for a personalised shop bought one and have never looked back since. My baking days are well and truly over.

Entertainment

The main event at my child’s party was a bouncy castle which is great if you have the weather and the space to have one. Aside from the bouncy castle there are other forms of entertainment for children’s parties which can be a lot more hard work and stressful for the parent in charge.

Party games, I have witnessed, can be very problematic for those holding parties for under 7s. The reason being many children will have not really been to a friends party before, therefore yours could be their initiation into the world of party games. What’s worse than organising party games is having to physically teach them to 30, 5 year olds who have no idea how to play pass the parcel. My advice is to avoid party games until that are at least 8 and have been taught the basics by some poor other unknowing parent at their child’s party.

Photography

Of course what birthday would go a miss in this day and age without a catalogue of 700 photos for all to see on social media. If you didn’t get a picture of your child’s birthday presents, after you’ve finished wrapping the night before and post it on Instagram, did you even buy them anything? Such are the obligatory photos that need to befall our social media timelines. Photo of the presents, the cake and any other evidence that your child had a birthday are crucial for the social media scene.

And so there we have it your ultimate guide to planning a child’s birthday party. I would love to hear your experiences of birthday parties with children. Do you prefer a special day out rather than a party? All tips and advice welcome in the comments!

With love

The Cockney in the Countryside x

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1 Comment

  1. I used to find it so stressful and I felt like a sheepdog rounding children up in case they escaped. My friend said, “why do they want to escape from a party?” but. I wasn’t convinced !!

    Liked by 1 person

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