Planning a children's party can be a stressful task, but it needn't be.
Too many modern books and television programmes are filled with ideas that you can't serve party food to your child and his/her friends unless the sandwiches are cut into the shape of a teddy bear; fruit is arranged on special kebab sticks and everything is one hundred per cent organic, sugar free, salt free, fat free and free from artificial colours (and that is without taking into account any nut, wheat and dairy allergies).
No sooner have you considered all of the above you then need to think about party games, party bags and making a home-made (but amazing) birthday cake. It is no wonder that many parents are less than excited about the prospect of organising a child's party.
I'm a real believer in preparation. Planning a party for your child can be stress-free and fun, and although presentation is important, it's easy to get carried away.
Here are some little tips to help make party planning a more pleasant experience:
Everyone is feeling the pinch of rising food bills so I would suggest that the first thing to do is to decide on a budget (with a contingency plan) and stick to it. Make a note of everything you spend to ensure that you keep a running total. This will stop you from getting carried away.
Write a list of who you will invite and keep a check on replies. Use the same list to make a note of what presents your child receives - then this can double up as a thank you card list.
Don't let your child open their presents whilst guests are still there. That way they can focus on their friends and having fun and you will be able to track who gave what much more easily. This is also a great way to ensure that the fun carries on once their guests have left. Parties can sometimes feel a bit of an anticlimax at the end and it gives your child something more to look forward to.
Avoid spending hours in the kitchen (unless you really want to) and go for themed party food such as American diner-style (home-made burgers with oven baked potato wedges are cheap and easy to make - and they are healthy too). Serve with fresh burger buns, ketchup and salad and the children will love it. Home-made pizza is another great alternative and lets your child get involved in the preparation too. A few cup cakes or jelly and ice-cream will usually suffice for dessert. You can also make some really cool but healthy smoothies by simply blitzing some fruit (bananas, strawberries and milk work well together and with some funky straws/umbrellas, will look and taste great). Plan your shopping trip and food list well in advance of the party to allow plenty of time to prepare.
If you are having a large scale party and are hiring a venue and entertainer, it pays to shop around. Check out your local area online to see what options there are for venues. Many venues will let you supply your own food which is far cheaper than hiring.
The key to success in planning any kind of party is preparation. Keep a little diary or log book of everything you need to organise from food and prizes to music, entertainment and thank you cards. Start planning early and break down your task list into small manageable chunks. Where it is a help rather than a hindrance, get your children involved in the planning process too!
My final tip would be to just take a few minutes after it's all over to enjoy present opening time and to have a cup of tea and a sit down - you'll be exhausted!