This week, big SS turned six. I’ve now had six years of children’s birthday party planning under my belt and I have a summer baby and a winter baby so know all about the trials and tribulations of kids’ birthday party planning and etiquette. I’ve done elaborate garden parties, humble tea parties, superhero parties, gymnastics parties and soft play hell parties. But this year I think I nailed it with a climbing party (yes, such a thing actually exists). Here’s my guide to the best and worst of children’s party planning.
Party type A: The ‘do it yourself’ party.
When big SS was one, two and three we had parties at home. Year one was an elaborate garden party affair with a marquee, caterers (who the hell did I think I was?!), a bouncy castle, party games galore, age appropriate and gender specific party bags and about 80 guests. In our defence he wasn’t christened and we didn’t have a naming ceremony for him either so the first birthday party kind of compensated for that. The sun shone, it was a glorious afternoon and everyone had a lovely time. Year two and three were pretty much the same just with bog standard party bags, less guests and home-made sandwiches.
Pros of the ‘do it yourself’ party: It’s cheaper. There’s no venue hire prices, all of the food is from the supermarket, kids are entertained by garden games and traditional party fun and as long as you have enough food and sweets it doesn’t really matter who or how many you invite you’re not paying out per child.
Cons of the ‘do it yourself’ party: If you have a small house or garden it can be cramped and if the weather is bad then kids’ parties inside can get hectic. It’s exhausting preparing all of the food, games and party bags and don’t even get me started on the mess. Plus you have to invite your child’s friends and their parents (sometimes they’re practical strangers) into your home and that means cleaning your bathroom on top of all of the other pre-party prep.
Little SS is a winter baby so I’ve always been reluctant to have parties at home. She’s only two and so far we’ve done little tea parties at home for her with just a few close family members. But now that she’s more aware of what parties entail, having seen her brother’s party and all of the presents he recieved this year, I think I’ll have to up my game next year.
Party type B: The ‘do it yourself but somewhere else’ party
When big SS was four and five we decided that parties at home were over. The prep and aftermath were just too much, so we decided to hire a venue and have the party there. In our case it was the local gymnastics club. We themed the parties and had Spiderman (when he was four) and the following year a Star Wars theme complete with Stormtrooper appearance. There was lots of space for the children to run around plus soft play and trampolines. Everyone had a fantastic time, apart from the moment when one child fell into the sponge pit and broke his collar bone. Arrgh! (Nope, I don’t know how he managed that either).
Pros: No inviting people into your home, cutting out the bathroom cleaning and tidying up, lots of space, no limit on numbers, still fairly cheap in terms of hire especially if you get your brother-in-law to dress up as the super hero (thanks Uncle Luke).
Cons: We still had to prepare all of the food and take it to the venue and that quite frankly was a massive ball ache. Depending on the nature of the venue, you may still need to arrange entertainment and decorations. In our case, the venue hire was fairly cheap and entertainment was covered but adding on the cost of the food and decorations plus party bags for millions of kids, I figured out that it wasn’t such a cheap option after all. Plus, I was stressing that I didn’t have enough party bags because we weren’t too sure how many were coming. So it was actually just as exhausting and stressful as a party at home but with the added extra of having to make food and then transport it there and then bring all of the containers home again.
Party type C: The ‘get someone to do it for you’ party.
This year big SS wanted a climbing party. Basically a party at a climbing centre. The children got to climb supervised then they had food and the venue also arranged the party bags. All we had to do is turn up with the cake. There are plenty of options such as parties in soft play centres, go carting parties, football parties, play centre parties and my new favourite the Role Play Centre party which is what I plan to do for little SS’s next birthday.
Pros: What more can I say, you rock up and somebody does it all for you! The children are entertained, fed, watered and happy.
Cons: Cost. On this occasion the party cost was £15 per child plus extra for party bags. We told big SS he could invite 15 friends. That turned into 22, eeek that’s nearly £350 for a 1.5hr party! Thankfully some couldn’t come. There’s then the added stress of having to confirm numbers and pay in advance which makes it tricky if people drop out or don’t rsvp. Also, I forgot to book the party bags when I confirmed numbers so I ended up with 17 disappointed 6 year olds at the end of the party ooops!
However, apart from the party bag misdemeanour, there were no broken bones and the extra cost was 100% worth it so my vote definitely goes for the ‘get somebody to do it all for you’ parties. Happy children, chilled out parents, no cleaning up and a lucrative 90mins work for the party venue. Everyone is a winner.
Children’s party dos and don’ts
- RSVP if the invitation asks you to. If it’s a party at home or in a hall it probably doesn’t matter too much but if it’s at a venue charging per head then the parent really does need to know in advance.
- Let the parent organising in advance if your child has any dietary requirements so they can make arrangements
- Worry about inviting the whole class. Big SS doesn’t get invited to every single party and it’s no big deal. I asked him to choose who he wanted to invite to his party and he chose the children he plays with the most.
- Worry too much about presents. Most children are happy ripping paper off anything as long as it’s a fun present and personally I think a present costing between £5-£15 is more than sufficient. *Shameless plug* The Simply Small Co has a small selection of fun children’s birthday gifts
Hope you found this post useful. Please share your best and worst children’s birthday party hints and tips with us below.
The Simply Small Life Blog is a behind the scenes look at what goes into running an independent children's retailer. Written by Nat SS a North East Mam (#notamumpreneur) of two who founded and runs The Simply Small Co. All opinions are her own. Copyright of The Simply Small Co.