A mother's guide to hosting the perfect birthday party, with top tips on party games, party food, party costumes and more!
23 July 2013| Last updated on 17 December 2017
It's that time that every parent dreads - THE BIRTHDAY PARTY! What are you going to do? How do you make it special? How do you make yours "better" than the one last week- it's a minefield! Here we have some great advice on throwing the "perfect" birthday party for your child and how to survive it with grace and poise and no jelly on the ceiling!
They only happen once a year but our darlings’ birthday parties do strive to tip us towards the edge! As I reached towards child number three’s fourth birthday I was beset with fear.
Right this time, this time, this birthday party will be perfect. My little one will love it, his friends will love it and he’ll love me even more after all this thought and care.
Over the past few years it has surprised me how people have lost the sense of what a birthday party means. Surely it means fun, laughter, memories but most importantly bonding with their peers. The little darlings need to know whose party it actually is. My middle girl once left a party not even realising whose birthday it was! After all that crazy, random running around she had not one clue whose red letter day we were celebrating. Think she went to the loo during the cake singing.
Mind you, nobody cried at the party, both mum and dad remained strangely calm and everyone left without any chaos or cleaning to be done!!! Perhaps maximum number of classmates equals maximum number of presents (or so I’ve been told).
Hosting your own party is a brave move. In fact, I have been repeatedly told I am slightly crazy for wanting to host my own! Call me old fashioned. I savour tradition and most importantly, I love to be a bit quirky! Hosting your own party IS quirky! It’s out of the norm these days and really hard work!
So here’s the lowdown on the planning, resources and some useful hints and tips.
It’s all in the planning
I do believe that a home party needs careful planning (even though things do and will go wrong (laugh))! Decide on numbers. How many can you seat for the food? No less than ten and fewer than fifteen usually works quite well. Try and keep the age range similar and remember some children won’t turn up (how rude!) and some mums will bring siblings (family day out which you are also hosting).
You are invited to attend...
Invites- order good quality ones (thank you Mr. Amazon) it really sets the tone well. Let people know the theme. Add little personal notes like ‘you are welcome to dress up’ or ‘a face painter is booked to save you the job’.
You will have the obligatory parent stating that little Johnny doesn’t like having his face painted! (Kill joy!)
At the same time order matching thank you notelets. Make a list or mental note on who got what and then you can write the thank yous straightaway. Thank yous are a must. Always thank people and try and do it straightaway otherwise you will never do it. Thank you texts are so lazy and should be banned!
Off we go!
Timings-You will have got numb feet and a sore head after an hour and a half. That’s more than enough time to get your house wrecked! Have your party early! Mid- morning is brill, the children are fresh, always eat a lunch better and you have the rest of the day free to relax (tidy up) and help your child play with all their new toys (get cross with the mess!).
What to do, what to do?
The fun bit. Games.
Yes! We love a good game where the children don’t understand what they’ve to do, you don’t want to hurt any four year old’s feelings when you tell them they didn’t freeze well enough in musical statues and they are ‘out’!! And you can’t remember whether the pass the parcel pressie is for a boy or a girl! Oops faux pas!
The worst thing? When parents stay and witness all this child cruelty!
No party is complete without pass the parcel (two, just in case!), musical bumps, musical statues... depending on your theme you can have a whole array of activities. Beware ‘pin the something on something’ it is a tricky one for younger ones. Children don’t like to wait for longer than 59 seconds. Stickers for children who are ‘out’ are brilliant. The children can stay in the game still but you know they are officially out. They like things to be fair don’t they (children not mums). It’s like a ‘well done’ sticker you played so well! Children love praise.
"I don’t like hummous"
Food. Don’t fret too much about this part. They don’t really eat it well. The unhealthier the better! It’s a party! Butties, crisps, grapes, strawberries, bread sticks, tiny sausages and pizza all go down really well. I serve the hot foods as they tuck into the other things… definitely get mums who’ve stayed to help at this point.
It can be quite traumatic especially as some children find this bit slightly scary! As they are beginning to finish start getting that jelly out of the fridge (ONE kind of jelly-giving any choice is a big no no in these situations! The question is...’would you like some jelly?’ Not...’do you want strawberry or orange flavour?’) Jelly in little individual pots is brilliant and a scoop of ice cream on top! Done! Older kids love to self- top their ice cream, what fun! Mini chocolate cupcakes are good too, not everyone likes jelly.
Now it’s time for the ‘cake’. This is a big deal. Think about what your child likes! You can add props to any simple cake. My little one loves (and hates) King Kong so of course he requested a King Kong cake!! Not easy to find but the MIL made a wide chocolate cake (use peoples’ skills as much as poss, it saves you a job) I ordered an Empire State Building to place on top. My mum located a suspicious looking ape and voila a King Kong cake. We also stuck a really dangerous candle come firework rocket thing on. Debated whether or not to use it but it was amazing. Very dramatic. No one even noticed the cake! Hahahah!
Help or hindrance?
Helpers… a tricky one. You need calm, low maintenance helpers. Those type of helpers that wouldn’t dream of requesting a brew and totally understand that you will, as hostess, morph into a raging school teacher cum prison officer with a slight split personality disorder.
Tell (ask) your helpers what you would like them to do i.e. two helpers doing food, two doing the entertainment. Keep in contact throughout. Let the food helpers know ETE (estimated time of eating). A greeter is a good move. Latecomers spoil the flow. It’s hard to embark on the games if you keep needing to welcome guests.
Have a little starter activity to get the children busy and always be ready for the reticent participant. Not all children like parties! Reassure mum if she is feeling embarrassed her little three year old won’t go and find the buried treasure with a man dressed up like a crazed pirate, in strange surroundings, covered in skulls! Let mum join in too (she might actually enjoy it!). If you have an arty friend rope them in for a spot of face painting! Goes down a treat. Don’t forget a small thank you pressie for them.
I love a party with a happy atmosphere...
Atmosphere! This is the key. Decorate your house to the theme. Balloons, ribbons, banners, pictures, music, you dress up. Be really welcoming, friendly and most importantly make it really fun. Keep it flowing… have ready what you are going to do next. I hid a post- it note on the back of the door with a run through. A mum spotted it. I’d hidden it so well!
If the children have settled into doing something naturally and are happy, leave them a while. I had a pass the parcel left at the end. The children had discovered my little boy’s bedroom and toys. I decided to leave them to it. They were so enjoying exploring! The party ended on a calm note! I had a story up my sleeve just in case.
So, all in all, birthday parties can be an amazing thing to do for your child. Keep calm and don’t pick it to pieces when they’ve all gone. No-one will have noticed what you are worrying about. Still haven’t decided if this was the last party I’ll throw. It was unnerving to hear one dad as he was leaving, ‘Ah, that was amazing! Can we hire you out?’ Oh my! What a compliment. I just replied, ‘Do it yourself, your child will love you for it!’ . But only when they are 39 and fretting about what to do for a party for their OWN children! (Thanks Mum xxx)
About the Author
Mel is a UK based mother of three aged under 9 and is a "super fun mum" in all aspects! We do hope you've enjoyed her article and take some solace, advice and ideas from it when planning your next child's birthday party :)