It’s Small’s birthday next week so I’m having party planning madness! We have always had the parties at home and I kind of work on autopilot now, though I always decorate the cake myself, leave it to the night before and end up in an icing sugar clouded mess. I will never learn..but I will post pictures!
First job when planning a party has to be set a budget. From this you can work out your whole party plan.
Make sure that you keep the party management as simple as you can – stress-fest mummy is no fun, so ask at least one mum to help. It’s useful to note that when children start school it is quite normal for them to be dropped off and picked up from parties so you need at least one adult helper!
Think about what your child would enjoy rather than throwing the biggest or best or most unique party.
Where to have the party?
The most cost effective locations are at home or in the garden. Village halls or local independent cafes are also good places to hold parties. You can also hire a party venue such as a soft play centre with entertainment and food provided. Whatever you decide, try and get the venue booked a few weeks in advance. Remember when hiring a venue that you need enough time to decorate and set up, and clean up at the end!
When will the party be?
Have a look at the school diary and your child’s schedule to see if there are any clashes. Try not to schedule a party in the middle of the school holidays if possible. Make sure that their best friend is definitely available on the chosen day
What Time of Day?
Your choice of morning, afternoon or early evening will affect the food choices at the party, I like late afternoon as it gives me all day to prep!
Invite either the whole class or all the girls/all the boys. Ask the school or nursery if they can give you a class list so that you don’t miss anyone. Saying that, if you are having a party at home, think about how many you can fit in!
If your child has siblings, will they be at the party? Can they invite a friend?
Themes and decorations
Best kept simple for small children. Paper tablecovers, matching plates and lots of balloons and coloured streamers.
Lots of children ask for a theme or character party. This does not have to blow the whole budget if you pick the decoration colours accordingly, and add in a themed cake or buns. Rename party games to work with the theme (musical statues becomes Pirate/ fairy/ monster statues with appropriate music)
Store bought invitations are very useful and not too expensive. Homemade invitations can just be simple printouts or beautifully handcrafted and time-consuming. Only send the latter if you really love making things!
Remember to include the name of your child, the name of the invited child, the date, time and place of the party, an email and telephone number for RSVPs and any fancy dress code! A hint at the theme can also be useful.
Also remember to put the time the party ends – this is for other parents information as well as your sanity! It can also be useful to ask if there are any food allergys
We’ve done a variety over the years, homemade pizza, scooby snack mini burgers, traditional party tea, sausage and mash. Make up juice in jugs and make sure you have lots of fruit. I always have one child who refuses to eat anything but strawberries and crisps. …write your shopping list a week before the party and buy the food with 2 days to go.
Cake – yes this is where I go overboard, but if you are horrified at the thought of icing a cake, just buy one from the supermarket. If you are making buns though, always make your own frosting, it tastes tonnes nicer. And remember the candles!
You can hire an entertainer, disco or bouncy castle to take the pressure off, but if you are on a budget, you can do the entertainment yourself.
Borrow or buy a party CD, or make your own from music on your computer. I use a music service called Spotify on my laptop which is fantastic for creating party play lists and has the added advantage of pausing using the space bar for games/food breaks/ generally making yourself heard!). If your games end early, a disco is a handy filler!
Classic games still work really well – organise about 4 – musical statues, pass the parcel, musical chairs/cushions, relay races, treasure hunts, apple bobbing, dressing up games, balloon bursting (with sweets in the balloons)… there are hundreds of ideas online. My favourite is the mummy game – split the group into groups of 3 where one is the mummy. Give the other 2 kids a toilet roll each and let them wrap their mummy – the only rule is no head wrapping for safety reasons!
For slightly older children, why not set team tasks and games and fill a chart with stars to win prizes for the whole team at the end of the party (earning goody bag contents).
Speaking of Goody bags…
One year I did not do goody bags, just cake to take home. and I let children take the balloons from the party home if they wanted to. The world did not end. Giving the goody bag items as small prizes instead works really well. Stay within your budget! If you are having goody bags remember to have them ready to hand out as children leave
If the kids want 12 rounds of musical statues and don’t eat the sandwiches, it’s ok. If someone is upset, try to fix it immediately, it’s a party after all.
Have cups of tea and biscuits on hand for other parents (and a takeout and a bottle of wine for when the kids have gone to bed!)