Birthday Parties, some great tips ……

Posted on March 30th, 2011

With 6 children I feel I have more than my share of birthday parties to organise. It is wonderful to watch children having a lovely time and enjoying all you have organised for them, however, after many years of different parties and different ages I find one thing in common at the end of them all……I am shattered!

Is this just me or does anyone else feel the same? We have a birthday a month through the summer, all the anticipation, build up and then ensuring everyone is safe and happy on the day really tires me out, I find a 10 mile run much less exhausting! 
There are however a few lessons I have learnt over the years which I can happily pass on to anyone facing the party worries.
Toddler Parties age 1 – 3
Parties in the early years are partly for the children and partly for friends and family! Keep the stress down with these simple pointers:

1. Ensure the parents stay too . At this age the children need heavy supervision and you will find you need the help and support of all the Mums and Dad’s to ensure everyone is watched and playing safely.

2. Opt for a maximum of 2 hours, you will find this is long enough of having your Witt’s about you and offering teas and wine for adults as well as the children’s party food and entertainment. The other adults will help you but you will still feel you are responsible and they will look to you for what to do, which in itself is tiring.
2. Keep it simple, a simple garden party with trikes, picnic rugs and toys is plenty, or if it is winter just toys in the front room and a picnic table for the food.
3. If the thought of home is too scary book a village hall or soft play center, takes away some of the stress of home but does raise the price. If money is not a factor then you can take away more pressure with an entertainer, a good one really will keep a group happily entertained and take so much pressure away from you.
We have been lucky enough to have Coombe Mill for our party venue and fill in at least an hour with tractor rides to see the animals, wellies or sun hats depending on the weather!

All aboard and Mums too!
Parties age 4 – 6

 This can be a tricky age group, generally it is expected that the parents will drop and run and use the time a little like free child care! Children at this age need a bit more structure to a party and have expectations and ideas themselves.
1. I would recommend persuading a couple of Mums to stay and help you
2. Don’t be put off the party at home cheap option, the children will have a wonderful time so long as you do a little planning.
3. Organise some games to play, musical statues, parse the parcel, musical bumps, keeping the balloon in the air, hide and seek etc are all old classics which still work well, but my advise (from experience) is don’t make the children ‘out’. Have a winner but avoid losers, everyone can be winners. Tears and tantrums are to be avoided and the birthday person is usually the worst!
4. Again hire a hall if you feel the house is too small or stressful, go for a garden party last minute if the weather is dry, children don’t feel the cold like us adults and run around space is important. A bouncy castle can be fun or a water slide – simple piece of plastic on the end of a slide with water running down – simple, structured and 2 to 3 hours I found to be prefect at this age.
Felix on the water slide on his party in our garden
Again our tractor rides have still been a huge success for this age group, only our own children find it less exciting as it is so home from home for them, but showing off their farm knowledge to friends usually compensates along with a game of ‘it’ in the indoor play barn!
Parties age 7 – 10
Children age 7 to 10 are becoming more independent and like a party that reflects this. However I find a loose structure or activity keeps everyone focused, allows you to know what they are doing and where, which makes life less stressful. I have had “the mad hour” with this age range, charging round the house not realising they are as big and strong as they are, then discovering afterwards the broken bed slats etc.
1.Keep a rough structure and plan activities, but allow a bit of ‘go with the flow’ too.
2. Be careful with sleepovers. We have had some wild all in sleeping bags in the living room style parties. This is fine so long as you don’t mind loosing a nights sleep, if you mind then keep it to a max of two for the sleepover, more and I guarantee they will be awake all night. Arrange collection from a sleepover by 10am the following morning, they will be tired and grouchy and this is hard enough to manage with your own children without managing others too!
3. For a day time party try an organised activity like swimming, zoo visit etc, less stress but can be pricey.
4. After school is an easy one, just a few hours and all the fun of a party on the actual day.

Painted gnomes and decorated
 biscuits ready to take home

5. Home activities which have worked well for me include, ceramic painting, anything from plates and mugs to fridge magnets, just buy the kits from craft shops or on line, and it is so much cheaper than the same thing at an organised venue. Baking simple large cookies (or buy them) and providing bowls of coloured icing and decorating toppings is another winner. These can then double up inplace of party bags for the children to take home, a great 2in1! If the weather is good then water guns and a sort of home grown lazer game with water guns is great fun, make sure it is in the last half an hour of the party so they don’t hang around wet for too long, or pre-warn your guests to bring a water gun and change of clothes with them.

2.5.11 Just had our triplets 7th birthday party – I think this was the best yet with lots of the above activities and more all at Coombe Mill. Pictures and commentry just up on facebook, you can see the fun in the children’s faces!!//

Age 10 – 12

At this age we have tended to move from traditional parties to an activity and BBQ. A BBQ can make a good alternative to traditional party food at this age, simple sausages and burgers in buns, some fruit and birthday cake is actually less hastle than all the party food. Activites which have worked include go-carting (pricey) cinema, lazer tag, sport centre activities such as tramplining, football or swimming and beach parties. What ever they do at this age, my children have always ended back at Coombe Mill daring each other to swim in the river! Perhaps this is just a boy thing though, can’t imagine my daughter opting for this one.

Age 13 upwards
I am just about to enter my first teenage party and happy to receive feedback and suggestions on this one! Popular parties my eldest has been to are iceskatting, disco, roller disco. Not at all sure what we are going to opt for, but its only a month away! As it is May it might be a beach BBQ and beach games but still to be decided, suggestions please…..!

8.5.11 update……..

Thanks for your suggestions Jo, Ally went for paint balling at Big Dunks . All 8 teenagers had a great few hours followed by a BBQ at Coombe Mill, awesome cream cake as requested by Ally and much play (or is it ‘hanging out at 13?) finishing with a water fight and soggy happy lads collected by not so impressed parents!
hungry lads!
Bespoke cake as requested!

I would love to have your thoughts and experiences of birthday parties. If you are on holiday with us for your child’s birthday then do remember I make bespoke birthday cakes(they don’t all ooze with cream – promise!), so just let me know when you book, or when you are here with age, name and flavour and I will make and deliver for your special day. Make sure Farmer Ted and Nick know in the morning too so the birthday king/queen can take advantage of  extra egg collection at the chickens and be our birthday tractor driver for the feed run!

Happy parties