In N’s 4 years, we’ve been to quite a few birthday parties. Not as many as some people (a friend’s daughter had 17 to go to in January alone!), but plenty enough, and a variety of types of party. So far for N, we’ve tended to opt for just a birthday tea at home, the first couple of years just including a birthday cake and balloon at a normal tea at home. Then the last couple of years, inviting his cousin to tea and for a play, with this year extending it to one of his best friends as well.
I do have quibbles with birthday parties for young children:
1. Space and number of children
I can’t (and don’t want to) cater for huge numbers of children, plus parents in our house. For starters I’m too lazy (and don’t have the time) to clean for days beforehand, limiting toys that are left out to play with, and then having to clear it all up afterwards. The mess would be around the house, because there’s no way that children of this age don’t want to wander round. Once they’re a bit older, and the children are left and parents don’t stay, then I’ll have a bit more room, but also only me to keep an eye on quite a few children, some of whom I might not know.
Playdates are fine, and we’ve quite often had the NCT lot round all at once, but that’s a limited number and we know the parents and children which makes it feel less stressful and more fun. Oh, and everyone’s relaxed enough just to dig in and help themselves to drinks etc.
But ultimately there’s only so many children you can contain in one room.
Ok, maybe I’m tight. I don’t want to be spending ridiculous amounts of money for a birthday party that I’d have to hope N and his friends would enjoy. The price of some of the parties – even just a simple leisure centre one, is insane. Oh, and organised parties so far haven’t gone down too well with N in terms of me struggling to get him to join in with the activities. He’d rather just ride around on the toys or the like. Although a magician at one party did go down brilliantly – N’s still trying his own magic tricks, shouting Bingo Bongo Bango!
Catering nowadays for so many intolerances can be a nightmare and if you’ve got the chaos of organising a party on your own as well as sorting out food that everyone can eat it can drive you insane.
Even taking your own food to leisure centre parties seems to be a palaver due to new food rules coming in. Now any food you provide has to be either shop bought with packaging or if homemade, all ingredients specified. Just another faff and ridiculous as far as I’m concerned. If you’re going to a party at someone’s home and they’ve made the food, you ask if there’s anything allergy wise in it if you have an allergy. Why should it be any different if the parent’s provided the food at a different venue. Surely the same applies as it’s not the same as the leisure centre kitchen doing it and having to cover themselves.
4. Time of year
January birthdays aren’t great. The ideal party in my opinion is somewhere you can let them hoon around outside and let off steam. But that requires reasonable weather, and is unlikely in January. Last year we were lucky enough to win our nursery easter raffle for a party in their tree house/forest school so held a ‘non-birthday’ party in May. It was brilliant – the weather was great, the kids just played outside, and they put on food for us because we’d won. Really simple idea, but the children loved it.
Now we’ve been to some great parties – assuming the children want to join in.
- The magician one went down well. I was astounded at all the children sitting down nicely watching the show, but it worked really well.
- A pirate one was well organised with some great activities and games.
- We’ve also been to some amazingly professional mum-organised themed parties, almost like circuit training but with games, activities or craft stations. But they’ve taken a serious amount of time, planning and money to put on. I’m sure they were quite stressful, although proud moment seeing the day and the kids’ faces when they walk in and see everything.
- Soft play for around preschool age always goes down a treat.
But once the entertainment’s over, what do most children of up to pre-school age want to do?…run around, play on scooters, ride bikes.. That’s enough entertainment for them as proven by a couple of parties we’ve been to – outdoor garden parties where the kids can run riot, maybe do a treasure hunt, jump on the trampoline, then sit down for food.
I wonder if my mum ever had these concerns? She always did our parties alone (with me helping with the party games for my younger brother’s parties) and at home. One of the nicest parties we’ve been to recently was an at home one. The kids were able to get stuck in and play with the toys, they had a picnic of party food on the floor and all the adults could chat.
My current plan is that while he had a birthday tea and playdate near his birthday, once the weather’s more optimistic, we’ll do an outdoor party, holding it in the garden. We’ve got a trampoline, 3 bikes, 2 scooters, a climbing frame (assuming it’s built by May!) and I’m sure we can borrow a football goal off the cousins. They can have a picnic outside and I’ll probably do food boxes for them to avoid too much waste. If the weather’s not too optimistic, there’s a marquee on the farm somewhere, so I’m sure we can use that for a party. The hardest bit will be containing them all and ensuring no one escapes for a run down to the farmyard.
I think N would quite like a proper party because he did (fleetingly) ask when his party was (there weren’t any January dates free with all the other parties around), and it’d be nice to meet some of his nursery friends and their parents that I’ve never met..
I’m quite looking forward to N having ‘birthday treats’ when he’s older, taking a few friends out somewhere special – to the cinema, or swimming, or to an event somewhere. Although N’s still going on about going to the pub for a meal, so he could be quite easy to please when he’s older.
Do your children have small or larger scale parties, or are you now onto the ‘taking a few friends out’ stage?