The Joys of the Birthday Party
A post written when my boys were younger, when parties were in full swing! A very popular post packed full of kids party ideas on what to do for the best children’s birthday party!
Love them or hate them, if you have small children you WILL get invited to them and your children WILL want to have them. I have been through the younger years of parties for three boys and have seen all sorts from the bargain parties through to parties costing hundred and hundreds. Just my view but I REALLY do not think you should spend hundreds on a birthday party.
At the time of writing this article DJ was six year old, J was four and little J was one. Yes I have three boys with birthdays all within six weeks of each other!
I offered DJ and J the choice, party or extra money on a gift or even put the money into a savings account. He chose the cash option. I cheered ‘yes’ inside when he picked that option, as I really have so little time to organise a birthday party.
J who just turned four wanted a party, a nice money saving party at home with some party food and pass the parcel.
For J the one year old, I have learnt now that I have three children that really there is no need. He will never remember it. That’s my view, but you may feel different if you only have one child – my eldest did have a first birthday party! And it cost a fortune and he has no memory of it, and got a lot of plastic birthday presents which felt wasteful.
Over the years I have experienced many parties and here are my top five kids party ideas with some cost information. I will rate these kids party ideas on cost, hassle factor and children’s enjoyment.
The party at home
This is a great idea for younger children and smaller parties. It maybe depends how much open space you have and what the weather is like. I have done many of these home parties, we are lucky to have an open plan living room and dining room, so plenty of open space. With the birthdays being in October and November we can’t benefit from being outside, so entertainment like a bouncy castle is not really an option.
J had a party last week. The budget included party food for the kiddies; stick to simple things like jam/ham sandwiches, crisps, cucumber sticks, grapes and party rings. You can get all of these for bargain prices at Aldi. Then there is the cake, to make or not to make is the question, and depends on how much time you have! I never have time and I am not a great cake maker. I relied on the supermarket and a ready decorated football cake for £6.
Entertainment, you could spend a fortune here but you really don’t need to. Do you have a parent friend/are you good at face painting? Make up some pass the parcels yourself with a little gift inside, non plastic tat please! I ordered some cheap pirate tattoos too. Sorted. And the bouncy castle? It’s a great idea for kids probably up to six or seven, but older than that and it can get boisterous and the little ones can get trampled.
If you really want a bouncy castle, it should cost around £50-60 to hire. Party bags, don’t go mad, and try to get something that won’t just be chucked in the bin. Sweets are always a good shout, but more about party bags later. And decorations, I got some great pirate themed table cloth, cups and plates all for about £12. And I bought a few balloons, which I forgot to blow up;-)
I estimate total outlay for an at home children’s party is around £50/60. Hassle factor, it was a lot of hassle cleaning the house before everyone arrived (I hate cleaning!). But the two-hour party was fine and my friends and mums and dads helped out. And children’s enjoyment wise they had a great time! The house survived, although we were worried about the bunk bed at one point (7 kids on top bunk). In terms of kids party ideas, this could be a great option if you have younger kids.
Hire a local village hall
This is a pretty popular one. I have hosted two and have been to hundreds, I am kidding, but I have been to a lot. It initially seems inexpensive as the hall hire fee is quite low, maybe £40-£50. Versus tons of people in your house, it feels good. But then you get into the logistics… who to invite; it’s a hall so you can invite loads, kids and adults. That means a lot of food and drinks, be it tea, coffee or wine (yes wine at a children’s party!) – that could easily come to £100. The obligatory cake, and if there are many people, it needs to be pretty big, which makes it more expensive, say £50, unless you made it yourself.
Then there is entertainment. When you get into the realms of four and up, entertainment is good to keep them happy. But it comes at a price, I have seen DJ’s costing £200 for two hours of kids’ entertainment – crazy magicians, again the going rate was £100 per hour. The local zoo will bring animals along. Or you could hire a big hall and put up a bouncy castle. A hall children’s party is looking to cost you around £400 including entertainment, so quite a lot. And it is a lot of hassle too, especially if you are making the food yourself.
The party at Soft play.
I have done this several times. It worked brilliantly for DJ’s fifth birthday, when I was 36 weeks’ pregnant, as the hassle factor was zero. You get a party planner who entertains the kids for two hours. They play, they are fed and then everyone goes home. The kids love it, so the entertainment factor is big, but alas the downside is cost.
Expect to pay around £15 to £20 per child, maybe cheaper if it’s after school rather than at weekend, but if you have 15 children coming, suddenly it’s costing £225 to £300. And that’s a lot for a party of 15 children. You’ll also need to add on the cost of a cake and party bags too. But hey, if you are after hassle free, and at 36 week pregnant I definitely wanted this, go for this option.
The cake decorating/making stuff party
So this is a new one to me and it’s becoming more and more popular. I have two businesses just in my village that offer it. So the sessions last around 60-90 minutes, and numbers might be quite limited depending on age – six four-year-olds decorating cakes is bearable, but ten might not be. But then a group of 12 eight-year-olds is probably okay. It costs around £10-£15 per child and includes the cakes that have been lovingly decorated to take away.
We also have a pottery studio in my village, again you can have a children’s party there and it’s a similar setup to the cake decorating party. Because of the limited numbers, there is an advantage of lower costs.
Theme park/Farm party
This is similar to the soft play party in terms of cost, but a different kind of entertainment. You’ll pay around £15/£20 per child but that includes entry to the park and usually a few adults – it will normally also have food included too. Good for animal-loving children and parents and great in the summer! Our local wildlife parks offer it too, like Shepreth and Paradise Park. It’s pretty good value as the children normally get lots of time to stay at the park to explore, so you’re not limited to two hours as you normally are at soft play.
All of the above parties also involve party bags. I have mixed feelings on these and am cautious about the competitive nature of some mums. Try not to fill them with too much plastic, maybe pin badges for something small. One idea which I though really worked was at a house party; there were maybe 20 kids and the parents got five big tubs of sweeties and gave each child a bag to pick what they wanted. The contents are only going to get eaten or thrown into the draw of crap so focus on sweeties, some cake and maybe something cheap and fun, like Ridley Writes shares in this article, party bags for £1 each!!
And don’t get into the competitive keeping up with the Jones’s party thing. I have seen it so often, a small fortune spent on the children’s party to impress the other mums or family or children or whoever. Remember your child will be happy with anything, they don’t care if the party cost £50 or £300.
Other good ideas I have seen and have done myself is the shared party. Hire a hall with three children with birthdays at about the same time. Although the invite list becomes massive, at least the costs are split three ways. Dressing-up parties are great… you can’t beat pirates – and such an easy costume to make. I am great with the old eyeliner on the face… oh and red lip liner to make cuts on arms and legs! Make your own invites and thank you notes.
I hope you enjoyed this post on kids party ideas. Do let me know of other great parties you have hosted or been too, especially money saving parties.
If you are overloaded with parties and need some help and inspiration with buying gifts and ideas to save money here is a new post to help out.
For lots more ideas on family money saving, food money saving and so much more you need to read my book The Money Guide to Transform my life. Get a signed copy for just £9.99.