As we meander into Winter, normal human beings are enjoying the last bursts of sunshine. They walk to work and subtly note the start of the cooler months as the leaves gracefully retire from the trees, and the days become darker and cosier. They may even be pondering on which new gloves they will be buying for the season to keep their hands nice and toasty.
Not this mama – oh no!
You see we are just four precious weeks away from the period that houses my son’s birthday AND Christmas; both events marked with gifts and parties. *Cue dramatic music*.
In my previous life I have successfully organised huge presentations, events and workshops – but nothing is more scary than putting together a child’s birthday party! There are a number of different variables; the venue, the entertainment, the return presents, the food, the decorations, the invitations, the cake etc that all needs to be sorted. Yes, it is safe to safe that similar to Christmas, arranging a children’s birthday can be a tad chaotic.
More over, party planners are only waiting in the wings sniffing for panic-stricken parents. As soon as they sense blood, they swoop in ready to ‘Save the day’ often with extortionate bills to follow. I have had the pleasure of speaking to a party planner that mistook me for a millionaire and quoted £7500 for a ‘small get together’. £7500?! Who on earth spends this kind of money on 3 hours of themed entertainment for a two-year-old? I’d rather spend a week on a beach in the Seychelles!
Over the years we have had a few birthday celebrations for my little one and I’ve come to the conclusion that party planning is a skill. Whilst we aren’t experts yet – I have definitely learnt some lessons that hopefully will ensure that we are ‘pros’ by the time my baby turns 18 (at which point of course, he will want nothing to do with us, let alone be present at any party he is attending!).
In order to save yourself from a cardiac arrest, the key word to any children’s birthday party is ‘preparation’.
Whilst six months may sound excessive, it allows you to identify the venue and secure a date and time that suits you. I personally learnt this lesson when I waited 8 weeks before the event to try to find a location. I was offered a very reasonably priced barn with no toilets and no heating. Perfect for newly potty-trained toddlers in the depth of winter!
Planning months in advance allows you to spread the cost of the expenses, avoid any impulse purchases and potentially make any decorations / food items yourself (if you so wish).
It can sometimes feel like there is a birthday party every weekend and with approximately 30 kids per class, that probably isn’t too far from the truth. Sometimes a nice option is to partner up with another parent and split the cost. Not only will it be cheaper but you will also halve the work that you will have to do.
Before taking this step, just make sure this is a parent who you get on well with and will pull their weight. The last thing you want is to have friction over the birthday cake; everyone needs to play nice!
Entertain less entertainment
Little children have fairly short attention spans and your party does not need to replicate a carnival. Try and choose one type of entertainment; a clown, soft play, a disco, bouncy castle etc and make this the main element of the party. Surround this time with the cake cutting, some party games and lunch and before you know it, you will have firmly filled 2-3 hours.
Home Sweet Home
Despite the upheaval of moving furniture and the cleaning up afterwards, the cheapest place to host your child’s birthday party is at home. It is often the most cosy option too. We chose to have my son’s first birthday in our house as we wanted to keep the celebrations ‘low-key’.
Although we ended up with 80 people joining us, we have really fond memories of the day. Everyone celebrated over pizza and presents and it was a very informal way of marking the occasion.
If the birthday is in summer, consider using a garden or venture to your local park to avoid some of the aftermath. Village halls can also be reasonably priced however they do tend to get booked up well in advance so try to be an ‘efficient parent’ and book this element as early as possible.
It’s always important to remember that the little ones won’t eat very much. In fact they often only sit down for 15-20 minutes and are most concerned about the cake than the expensive feast you have laid out. Over the years, we have learnt to keep the food simple and go for the favourites.
Small children will not know the difference between a gourmet, Spanish sourced sausage role and a more modest home brand. Often if it is overly complicated, the chances of rejection are higher too. Focus on the staples and save your money for some more indulgent snacks for the guest Mums and Dads.
There are less than 30 days to go until it all comes round again for my family and my precious little boy has already started to ask ‘How many more sleeps Mama?’
It’s easy to panic but each time, I take a deep breath and calmly say ‘A little longer darling’ as a I gratefully count the weeks I still have to organise it all. Fingers crossed the preparations will pay off and just in case something goes wrong, I’ll simply adopt the mantra of ‘It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to!’
NeeNoo is the UK’s first price comparison site for baby products. Its mission is to simplify the shopping journey for new and existing parents. Created and founded by former Babycare Buyer for Ocado, Amisha Mody, NeeNoo compares the prices of baby products and showcases parent reviews.
Photo Credit @ASHMARMAC via Instagram