Welcome to Parent Hub

Hassle free children’s birthday parties

Posted on 25 April 2018

When it comes to a big celebration, some parents thrive on planning, decorating and hosting. Others - myself included - want to make birthdays as fuss-free as possible. Whatever your preference, it's clear from talking with other parents that many of us feel pressured to match parties hosted by others while trying to contain the cost and organisation involved.  With this in mind here are five ideas from the experts to manage a successful celebration:   

1. Avoid peer pressure

Of course we want to throw a party our child will love.  While we may snigger at the eye-watering cost some celebrities lavish on their children’s party, it is worth repeating the mantra “the party isn’t about us it’s about our child”.  Children do not need such lavishness to have fun.
Set a budget and stick to it.  An entertainer makes sense for many time-poor working parents but can be expensive. If budget is tight, consider paying teenagers pocket money to face paint or run party games. 
Pay particular attention to party bags. Children may love them, but I know few parents who are gladdened to welcome more plastic tat into their home.  I’ll freely admit to disliking them and I know many parents feel queasy at the emerging trend for extreme party bags laden with expensive gifts. Don’t be afraid to step off the competitive party bag carousel and revert to party bags that contain a balloon, slice of cake and an inexpensive, age appropriate gift for younger children only.

2. Delegate

Think tasks, venue and cake.  Recruit as many willing volunteers as possible, grandparents, aunts, uncles, older siblings and cousins and delegate ruthlessly.  Not only can they help out with running the event but recording it too.
Weekends are precious for working parents and if you can’t face clearing up the inevitable mess a party will generate in your house, hire a venue.  Many churches and schools hire out their halls at a reasonable price.  If the weather is good, consider holding the party in your garden or local park. 
This isn’t the Great British Bake Off.  By all means, channel your inner Mary Berry if you have the skill and time to make historically accurate replicas of medieval castles or replicate Disney characters in sponge and icing.  In my book there’s nothing wrong with a shop bought sponge decorated with smarties.  

3. Who to invite?

A potentially thorny issue if the norm is to invite the entire class.  On the one hand we don’t want any of their classmates to feel excluded on the other there comes a point where the numbers feel too big.  It often takes a couple of brave parents in the class to break the mould with smaller parties for other parents follow suit. 
Perhaps because it is such a milestone parents often say they feel the greatest pressure to invite a wide range of family and friends to mark their child’s first birthday party. The numbers can be overwhelming for both you and your child.  
Instead why not host an open house from say 1 to 3pm.  This removes the pressure to arrive at a certain time for those travelling or for your child to be “on show” at a specified hour. 

4. Tantrums and tiaras

Come the birthday party it’s quite normal for the previously excited younger birthday girl or boy to have a meltdown.  Accept that this will happen and plan to mitigate the fallout by having another adult on hand to take the child to a quiet room to calm down or keep the party going while you do so.
Be firm with other people’s children.  Giddy with the atmosphere of party games and sugar consumption some children’s behaviour can quickly spiral out of control.  It’s your home, your rules, don’t be afraid to step in and reprimand a child if their behaviour is spoiling the party for others.   

5. Have a plan

Even with careful planning you may experience, especially with younger children, gaps that need to be filled. It’s amazing how quickly children inhale food and how far some parents stretch pick up time.  Have some games up your sleeve to fill the gap.  

6. Thank you

Every family has their own rules about saying thank you for presents and doing so teaches our children good manners.  Thank you notes don’t have to be lengthy, why not take a photo of each child at the party, print and depending on your child’s age have them write a short note to that child on the back. 
A final thought.  Much of the stress around children’s parties is self-generated as we try to keep up with parties hosted by other parents.  And yet many parents are fed up with this situation. It only takes a couple of brave parents in a class to host a pared down party for others to feel they can do the same.