Take a deep breath. I know. You don’t need to say anything. Throwing a party for your child is terrifying. It’s stressful, exhausting and, even when the whole thing has been planned, you’re left shaking in a corner, crossing your fingers and praying that everything goes as perfectly as your child wants it to go. The slightest error can become a mountain to overcome, which is why you’re most likely preparing and planning the most trivial of things for your child’s upcoming party as if your life depended on it. You could pay someone to do it all for you, but if budget doesn’t allow, I’ll try to make things a little easier for you and offer a light at the end of the tunnel. Here are some tips for throwing the best party you possibly can for your child, without losing your shit. OK, that may be stretching it a bit, but you can get close.
Keep numbers down
It can be tempting to try and keep up with the Jones’ and invite the whole class, but unless you’ve booked out the village hall and an entertainer, don’t do it in your own home. Give your child the responsibility, pick a number you’re comfortable with and stick to it. Get them to write the list and tick them off. You’re better off asking a select few or all the class, otherwise if it’s half the class or almost all then some will feel left out. Keep family and schoolfriends separate, otherwise your child might feel under pressure to play with both sets of friends, plus the numbers explode then. You can always have a separate family gathering.
Set firm time limits
Keep it short and sweet. Set an end point, two hours max. That’s plenty of time for food, dancing games. Throw in pass the parcel and job done. Make it over lunch time or tea time, lunch time is best because they won’t be as tired and less likely to get arguments or crying. If any parents want to stay around, get them to help, but sometimes it’s better if they’re not there, so you can get on with it without having to cater for them too, or worrying about what they think. Once the parents arrive, dish out the party bags and say Bye-Bye.
Keep up with the trends
The hardest thing about life as a child is fitting in. Even if they’re lovely and well-mannered, displaying no demanding or spoilt tendencies, children can’t bear the thought of embarrassment at the hands of friends or classmates. Failing to follow trends, unfortunately, is practically a death sentence at a young age, and a party is no exception to the rule. In fact, given that all your child’s friends will be throwing parties of their own, there’s a certain pressure put on kids to impress their friends with the same standard of party.
You should listen to your child, first of all. It’s easy for us to get carried away as parents and try to guess what our kids might want, but surprises are a bad idea at a younger age. Make organising easier for yourself, if anything, and simply ask your kid what kind of party they’d like. Superhero, pirate and princess birthday themes are hugely popular at the moment. Those type of themes are always popular, in all honesty, and they’re an easy party format to throw together, but you need to check and double check that this is what your child wants. Even if they’re not personally bothered about the style of their party, they’re most likely bothered about what their friends think. Of course, don’t feel pressured into spending a fortune just because so and so down the street did. Stick to your budget, there are plenty of ideas for themed parties without breaking the bank. Take a look at my Pinterest Kid’s Party Board for ideas.
Don’t run out of time
Planning the party is the fun part. By all means gather ideas, but think about how much time you’ll need to execute it all. I spent ages for my daughter’s third birthday making decorations, food and games that it was so stressful in the end and I could have simplified it and not been so stressed out. If I’d planned more about how long it would all take, it would have been better. By the time she was 5 I’d simplified my plans somewhat and there was no difference to the outcome.
Make sure the music is on point
Every last element of this party needs to be honed down to sheer perfection. There’s a little bit of give when you throw a party as an adult, but you’re kidding yourself if you think your kids can handle compromise. You’re in for a world of pain if you play with fire. Even something as seemingly simple as music has to be planned track by track. You need a playlist, and shuffle should be a foreign concept in the case of a children’s party.
You’ll want to ensure that the tracks you’re playing are to everyone’s taste, so that means none of mum or dad’s favourite tracks, please. Your kid won’t be impressed, unless you’re into the latest and greatest in pop, perhaps. Of course, we all know children, and we all know parties. Combine the two together, and you get a combination of unimaginable noise and unimaginable destruction. You might want to look into floor standing speakers, so that any tunes you want to play can be heard above the mayhem. Think about lighting too, some disco lights and a glitter ball go down a treat. If you have a foam gun and a bubble machine, you’ll be a hero – with any luck they’ll spend most of the time dancing and kicking balloons about. DON’T FORGET THE BALLOONS.
When all else fails, food will save any party. Ensuring you have any food at all is a recipe for success in itself, so don’t concern yourself too much with putting out a spread of a million different things. Let’s be honest, the kids aren’t going to eat everything… depending on how many you invite. The thing which will vanish, however, is the cake. And the crisps. Sandwiches will be curling up before the end of the party, and anything healthy will be left over. Ensure there’s enough for everyone, because otherwise there will be hell on earth.
These can vary, from intricate home made affairs to plastic tat. A piece of cake wrapped in a napkin seems to be de rigeur. Sweet cones and cups are becoming more popular, and you can easily make these up yourself. Grab a tube of party cups (plain or with your kid’s favourite character on), fill with marshmallows and sweets (marshmallows bulk it out) and then use clear cellophane and ribbon to make it look special. The party bag gets judged in secret, but as long as you give something out, the kids are happy.
I have fond memories of parties I had as a child, and I enjoy creating the memories for my children. One of the best ones I remember was a simple garden party, with apple bobbing and musical statues. There was no theme, shaped sandwiches or fruit kebabs. I loved it.
Disclosure: this is a collaborative post, all opinions are my own.