Updated: Sep 17
At home planned birthday parties are the best, not only do they save you money, they build incredible memories for the children, which start way before the party, I think the build up to the party is properly more exciting for the children, then the actual party itself. I used to get so excited when I would see my mum icing the cake or working on little decoration details. I felt so so special!
So if this is your first time hosting a party or your 4th, hopefully you will find some tips and ideas worth noting, with over 50 birthdays under my belt, I have learnt a few things! I will share my knowledge through questions I am commonly asked, so grab a cuppa, get comfy, maybe have a pen & paper handy and lets get into this!
Should I plan a party every year?
In a short answer No! It takes time, organisation and a lot planning to create a party, and if you have more than 2 kids, then you may feel the pressure of it all, also the value of the party can get lost if it is every year. I personally choose special years for a party, the other years we have special milestones like getting ear's pierced at 7 years old. Not only does this teach children about patience it also makes them appreciate the party when it happens because they look forward to it. I actually do not throw the first party until they are 4, as before that age, your really just throwing a party for adults, a 3 year old may understand a little, but it's not until 4 that they really understand and begin to appreciate having friends to celebrate their birthday with. I then throw parties at 5, 10, 13, 16 and the final one is their 18th. I do not do a 21st, the 18th is a big one, kind of a welcome to adulthood.
When is the best time to host a party?
It really depends on the theme, I think toddlers and little kids parties are better in the morning and I personally would not run them longer than 2 hours, for preteens and teens I think evening parties are the best, with sleepovers, movie nights or a dance party, I would properly run it a little longer, like 3 hours or the night.
Do you prefer themed parties?
Oh yes! A themed party makes it easier to plan, from decorations, to food, to activities and presents. Whether it is dressed up or not, it really doesn't matter, a theme creates a atmosphere and ignites imagination. Ally's 4th birthday, which I just hosted was themed a rainbow cat party, I don't always use just one theme, I sometime merge a few to create a magical theme. I have done themes around super hero, princesses, artist, anime, minecraft, fairies and finally black tie. Currently I have 13 themed parties left to do, and have hosted 17 parties to date, sounds like a lot but I have 2 adult children so they are done and dusted, and I have 3 little ones left to continue doing, Ally will be the child where it is the last forever, so whenever I do her parties I always feel a sense of sadness as it will be the last time I do it.
How much do you spend on decorations?
It varies, I am frugal when it comes to money, so when I make an investment in decorations I tried to find things that I can reuse, as having five children it can get pretty costly to decorate our home. So building a party box that has little bits to create the atmosphere is very handy, and things like my YUM container where you can fill it with different food or lights to create a colour theme is a great idea plus it works as a table display. I am a huge fan of balloons, paper balls, bunting, table clothes cups with lids and wall curtains that are either tinsel or fairy lights. Having these means all I have to add is the activities that I plan. I always purchase bright bold colours, or rainbows as you can reuse again and again. I have had at least 10 parties where rainbows are apart of the theme, due to the fact I have 4 girls.
What Games and entertainment are good for a party?
Well it depends on the theme, child's personality, and age. The key is not to do it all at once, spread the activities out for different ages, like the pinata's and creating masks I do for a 4 year old party, that was it, as long as there is food and toys around that is all they really need, most of them have never been to a party before.
For 5, I bring in a treasure hunt and pass the parcel, at 10 I drop the treasure hunt, keep pass the parcel, however I bring in egg & spoon races, musical chairs and pin the tail on the donkey or pin the crown on the princess. As they get older in to teens, I bring in art if they are into painting or drawing, treasure hunts that require clue solving, one year for my daughters 13th birthday, everyone create a small canvas painting for her wall. My son from the age of 13 just wanting gaming parties, so we would set up a gaming cafe, and that is what his friends would do. Those were such easy parties!
What food do you serve?
I keep it really simple, some parents create some amazing themed food, I am way to lazy for that, so I just create a table jammed packed of yummy food, from fruit, to rainbow popcorn, to mini pies & sausage rolls. I have the food on the table from the moment they walk in and let the kids graze the whole time. I don't worry about serving an actual lunch or dinner, as they will just continuously eat! It not only looks amazing, but parents who stay with their kids always get embarrassed because it's like suddenly the child is starving and appears like they haven't been feed for days. So this way I just let the parents know, they can eat as much as they like as often as they like, and if they take a bite out of something and don't finish it, it doesn't matter, because ALL kids do that. The key is to get food that you can later store away, or use in lunchboxes as there will always have left overs. For drinks I have water and fizzy lemonade with blueberries in it, each child receives a cup with a lid as you know there is always that one kids that spills their drink! FYI Use a marker pen to write their name on it.
For those parents who stay!
I always have tea, coffee, hot chocolate, fizzy and water available, I set up the kitchen with cups so they can just help themselves, I really encourage this, so they feel welcomed and at ease, I also always have a parent platter of crackers, cheeses, and cakes, I choose things I would like to eat later as most parents are too polite to eat loads. (Hehehe I really love my mini cakes and cheese)
Do you make or buy themed cakes? I do both, however I won't buy cakes until the children are teenagers, as honestly kids just don't appreciate a good cake until then. You can spend between $40 to $80 on a cake, but honestly little kids just eat the icing and leave the cake, it is such a waste of money, and like I said I am cheap err...
I mean frugal! Cakes do not have to be complicated and if your like me and have poor skills in the decorating side of cakes, using butter cream icing and piping little stars, it hides everything. I also buy cake mix when its on special, which cuts out time looking for recipes and all you had to add is butter, eggs and milk. This cake cost less than $20, and only took 30 min to put together, less cooking & setting time.
What are your thoughts on loot bags?
Loot bags are defiantly something I have always done, I love being able to give slices of the cake away, otherwise I am just going to eat it all, and giving a little thank you treat to friends for taking the time out to come and celebrate this special day with my child. But I have seen loot bags done really well, poorly and over the top.
What makes a good loot bag is basically something that is themed in with the party. A few lollies and chocolates, a toy, and a thank you note written to the guest. It doesn't need anything else, however I don't always do a loot bag as such, this year for Ally's 4th Birthday we had a pinata where the guest got a lot of treats, (Lollies & chocolates), which they stashed in a bowl to take home. Because it was a cat themed party, they got to take home a mask activity they created and a drinking milk bottle styled cup they used at the party if they wanted to. Then finally they all got the opportunity to adopt a toy cat that actually made noise. I saw these on special for $3 each which worked out slightly cheaper than buying the loot bags, a bulk lot of cheap toys, and treats for the bag. So make sure you think outside the box :)
What is the right about of guest to invite?
This comes down to space, your child's needs, friendships and reliability of attendance. I find that 5 friends, making 6 with your child is a nice even number, I always try to make sure there are pairs, however if one person isn't able to make it then inviting an extra person might be a good option. I would talk to the parents before doing the invitations, and seeing if they are free, if there are then you can rely on those 6, if you can't then I would always opt to invite a few more. However my son he didn't want people who he wasn't close friends with at his parties so we often only invited 2. I find the older they get the more reliable they are in attending as parents can just drop off, its the toddler ones that you find that people are often unreliable, I made the mistake of only inviting 2 friends one year from Kindy and no one turned up. Because the parents didn't want to hang out at the party and their kids were to young to drop off, or they didn't see the invitation in the tray until it was too late. (I didn't know the parents) and cell phones weren't popular back then. Very hard lesson that one and it shows my age!
And finally my last piece of wisdom is whatever day you decide to throw the party, always allow yourself one day to recover, not only for you but your kiddies, because all the planning, socializing, organizing, cleaning, cooking is exhausting and that's without kids staying awake all night. Otherwise you will feel hungover for the rest of the week!
I so hope that this blog piece has given you some great ideas, and some great guidance tips on how to host a kid party, honestly there is no right or wrong way, but there is defiantly an easy stress free way and a mind blowing exhausting way!