The Joys of the 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. My boys are just about to turn six in November, four in October and one in November. Not very well timed, I hear you say, for birthday pressies and the Christmas spending.
Dylan my six year old has got the value of money, so I have offered him a choice. Have £100 cash as a present or have a birthday party. He has chosen the cash – I cheered ‘yes’ inside when he picked that option, as I really have so little time to organise a birthday party. Josh who just turned 4 wanted a party, but he is young enough for me to get away with a party at home with some party food and pass the parcel. And for Jack the one year old, I have learnt now I have three kids that really there is no need, he’ll never remember it. That’s my view, but you may feel different if you only have one – my eldest did have a first birthday party!
Over the years I have experienced quite a few parties and here are my top five children’s party choices with some costings. I will rate them 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.
Josh had a party last week. The budget included party food for the kiddies; stick to simple things like jam sandwiches, crisps, cucumber sticks, grapes and party rings. You can usually pick up bargains at the supermarket. 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. A friend is coming over to do some face painting, and I am knocking up a few pass the parcels. I have got some 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. But 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. But the 2-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;-)).
Hire a local village hall
This is a pretty popular one. I have hosted two and have been to hundreds, okay, 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 – 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 Dylan’s 5th 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 entertainment factor is big, but alas the downside is cost. Expect to pay around £15 per child, maybe cheaper if it’s after school rather than at weekend, but if you have 15 children coming, suddenly its costing £225. And that’s a lot. You’ll also need to add on the cost of a cake and party bags too. But hey, if you are after hassle free, 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 dependant on age – six four year olds decorating cakes is bearable, but ten isn’t. But then a group of 12 eight year old girls 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 set up to the cake decorating really. Maybe another children’s party more suited to girls, there’s no way my boys with a group of boys would sit there for an hour focused on painting a frog. 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 per child but that includes entry to the park and normally a few adults – it will normally also include food too. Good for animal loving children 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 softplay.
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 crap. 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. Anyway the contents are only going to get eaten or chucked so focus on sweeties, some cake and maybe something cheap and fun, like a power ball maybe that costs £1 for eight!
And don’t get into the competitive 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 £100 or £500.
Other good ideas I have seen are shared parties. 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 eye liner on the face… oh and red lip liner to make cuts on arms and legs! Make your own invites and thank you notes.
Do let me know of other great parties you have hosted or been too, especially money saving parties. And please do share:-)
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