Let's Party! Tips for throwing a great children’s bash
Planning a kid's party requires a little bit of work but with some careful consideration, you can create a fun-filled gathering that you and your little one will both enjoy, writes Aoife Reilly
From magic shows and personalised goody bags to guest lists and games, it's no wonder planning a birthday party for your little one can feel overwhelming. But while parties may seem more extravagant than ever, this doesn't mean that they have to be expensive affairs. Depending on your child's age, they will likely have ideas about the type of party they'd like so involve them in the planning - let them help bake the cake or choose the decorations. It'll help build anticipation and get them excited for the big day. Remember, your child's party doesn't need to be an extravagant event - they'll be happy once they are made feel special on their big day.
Before booking a venue, picking a theme or even organising the guest list, decide on how much you are willing to spend on the party and stick to it. It can be easy to spend more than you had anticipated so this way you'll be able to keep track on your spending and know how much you can and can't afford.
Karina Cotter, from Childrens Parties, (childrensparties.ie), recommends sharing a birthday party with a friend or family member to help keep costs down. "There is a trend nowadays to share a party. Two or more friends with a similar birthday can have a joint party and the cost is split two ways or more. The children are usually advised to bring one present only and the presents are split between the birthday boys or girls. It's a great idea and it means parents can throw a party for their child at a fraction of the cost,'' says Cotter.
Children's social calendars can be incredibly busy. From sporting events to family outings, weekends can fill up pretty quickly so once you have a date set for the party, send out the invites. Juliette Rahill from kids' entertainment company Genie Mackers, (geniemackers.ie), recommends sending out the invites at least 10 days in advance to avoid disappointment. "Another child might have a party on the same day and if they get their invites out before you, you may need to rearrange,'' she says. Make sure to indicate whether parents are invited to stay and don't forget to mention a RSVP date and the start and finish times. "Not all of the children will arrive on time so if the invites go out for 2pm don't expect everyone to arrive until about 2.15pm,'' advises Rahill.
If your child is very young, mum-of-two Edel Murray believes it's important to keep it small and intimate. "Your child's first birthday party is a chance to relax and enjoy with family and friends. By the time the first birthday party comes around, you are hopefully getting a routine in place as a new mum and you can look back at how far you have come since giving birth the year before.'' For toddlers and younger children, schedule parties after nap time when they will be at their best. As kids grow older, timing becomes less important.
When it comes to party favours and goody bags, it's entirely up to you whether you want to include them or not. Instead of sending the little ones on their way with novelty toys and sugary sweets, choose a few quality items that will remind them of the party. (If you have a Polaroid camera include some photos of the day as souvenirs.) Regardless of what you want to give as party favours, have them ready a half hour before the party is scheduled to end because there'll always be a child or two who will need to leave early.
A theme can make party planning so much easier and it can help create a one-of-a-kind occasion. If your child has a favourite TV or film character you can build the party around this - many children's entertainers will tailor activities such as puppets, face painting and magic shows around the child's favourite character. To avoid disappointment, ask your child for a number of options just in case some ideas work out to be too expensive.
If the thought of entertaining 30 excited children strikes fear into your heart, then it might be worth hiring an entertainer. Most kids' entertainers have experience in a range of activities such as face painting, magic shows, balloon animals and karaoke. When it comes to booking an entertainer, Genie Mackers Juliette Rahill recommends booking more than two weeks in advance. "Often you could get a booking a week before the party if it is a quiet time of the year, however, if you are hoping to book in the particularly busy season (May and December), you would need more notice,'' she says. If hiring an entertainer isn't an option, play to your strengths. If you love to paint, why not set aside a half hour of the party for some arts and crafts, or if you're a dab hand in the kitchen, why not show the kids how to make their own pizzas. One of the most important things to remember is to be organised. Children tend to have a short attention span so plan for a number of activities - it's better to have too many activities organised than too little. Most importantly, have fun. If you're feeling stressed or overwhelmed, children will pick up on this.
Keep food simple and fuss-free. Children don't want a sit-down meal so choose light easy-to-manage nibbles. Try and include healthy options such as fruit kebabs and smoothies as well as the typical party treats. Serve food near the end of the party, so the kids won't be distracted during the entertainment and you won't have to deal with a sugar crash.
Whether you decide to bake your own cake or call in the professionals, your child's birthday cake can really bring a party's theme together. If you're baking it yourself, stick to a simple design that you are familiar with. "Lots of parents like to get fancy birthday cakes that cost a lot of money and look amazing but children don't really eat much cake at parties,'' says Laura McNamara, from Firefly Parties and Events, (fireflyparties.com). "Spend money on something that lasts longer and that they will enjoy more. Individual cupcakes are a great alternative, a block of ice cream decorated with sweets and jellies will get devoured instantly or flat bottomed ice cream cones filled with ice-cream are also great.'' If you are ordering a cake from your local bakery make sure to order it a week or two in advance, and when sending out invites, check with parents if there are any dietary requirements that you need to know about.