As a child your imagination is at its best, your mind is open to creativity, new ideas and wants to have fun. An old cardboard box isn’t simply for recycling, it can be pirate ship, a fairy cottage or a superhero’s disguise station. Birthday parties should be a wonderful opportunity for children to have fun and embark on an imaginative adventure. It should be a brilliant occasion for your child and their friends to celebrate their imagination through fun games, silly dancing and story-telling. This is why the memory of a good birthday party stays in our minds forever.
Over the past ten years I have attended thousands of children parties and have seen closehand what works brilliantly, and where people often falter. I’ve learnt from my own mistakes – spy training with 9 year old boys and using a laminator to make spy passes, it was very fiddly, took ages and everyone got restless; to what works really well – 4 year olds laughing their heads off at the silly fairy who just can’t tell the difference between a cow’s moo and a duck’s quack. I do think there are a few things to bear in mind to make it as stress free as possible for you.
Planning your child’s party shouldn’t be a chore, I always think it’s best to keep it simple, 2 hours is a suitable length for most parties and includes a food break. For numbers, parents tend to organise a larger party for their child’s 4th or 5th birthday party. You’ll find this is an age when your child has a larger social circle with friends from school, nursery, classes, neighbours and relatives. As they get slightly older, children will be more vocal about who they want to invite to the party as they develop their own friendship group. Parties can easily be held at venues or at home. Just clear any valuables or large pieces of furniture out of the way. If you’re having a joint party divvy up responsibilities and jobs beforehand.
To have a stress-free time at the party (and you really can!) plan a clear structure, be clear on the invitations with your timings and structure the party around that. Know when the guests are arriving and departing and when the entertainment starts and finishes. For 2 – 5 year old parties, I usually suggest an hour’s worth of entertainment and then a food break and then the entertainment to continue. Ask for a 5 minute signal so you know when to serve the food. I find that when children start to get upset at a party, they mostly need a juice or snack break. If you’re not having entertainment after tea, account for time before pick up. Some children will happily play and run around, whilst others may want more attention. Have a few back-up games and music to keep the atmosphere going. Assign another adult (aunt/grandparent) to take pictures and have another adult to help with loo trips. I wouldn’t recommend opening presents at the party, this is when chaos ensues. Make sure you have phone numbers of parents and know who’s collecting who at the end of the party.
If you’re inviting adults, have an idea beforehand of where you want them to hang out. For younger children they will want their parents within eyesight, some will feel confident to join in the games whilst others may want to sit on a grown up’s knee and watch. It’s a good idea to set up a clear seating area for parents, if you’ve chosen to have an entertainer encourage the adults to keep noise to minimum so as not to distract. At an older party – 4years plus – most children feel more confident to be by themselves away from the grown ups. If at home, organise entertainment in the lounge and encourage parents to hang out in the kitchen. A few nibbles is a good idea, offer some more grown up food – humous and dips, cold meats, tortilla chips, and even serve some wine or cold beers. If you’re at a venue, I would always check to see if there is an ante-room for the adults.
It needn’t cost the earth, if you want to spend money on entertainment – have the party at home or in the garden. Keep costs down by avoiding extravagant party bags, a slice of cake, some sweets in a bag and a balloon is plenty and a great take home present.
Most importantly, ask your little one what they want and include them in the planning process. Talk them through the party so they know what to expect and have a party countdown so they can build up the excitement!
Happy party planning!
by Maddy Carrick of Dreamcatcher Parties
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