10 tips on having a stress-free children's birthday party
Kid’s birthday parties… they are kind of like marmite. You hate them or you love them. I have yet to meet a parent who loves them.
When your kid is invited to one, it’s easy enough to cope. All you have to do is send an rsvp (please put the kid’s mum out of her misery and send an rsvp), figure out what the kid likes (luckily presents are normally opened after the party so you don't see the look of dismay when they didn't get they wanted). If you are super lucky, you'll have done your time and your kid is now old enough for you to drop them off and leave. The few hours away from them will hopefully give you the strength to deal with the sugar-rush crazy kid you'll inevitably pick up.
However, when it’s your kid’s party, it’s all down on you to make everything happen! I used to find it quite stressful, but I’ve learned some tricks along the way to minimise this pressure we put upon ourselves. And breathe ladies… it’ll be okay. It’s just a party (said no kid ever!)
- Have a clear idea of what type of party you are having
There is no need to have a themed party, but it does help. Personally, I love themed parties. I get on Pinterest and type in ‘soldier themed birthday party’ or whatever my child is in to that year, and choose whatever I feel like I can do on a budget. You can get loads of inspiration; from party invites, games, costumes, decoration, food, cake and party bags.
Here are some of my Pinterest boards that I've used in the past for inspiration:
(Wild, wild west cowboy and Indians party)
- Keep the party small
I’m no Kardashian. I can't have the whole class turn up so I gave my kids a maximum of 10 friends to invite. It was for no particular reason.. 10 seemed like a good, solid one so that’s what I went with.
Having a smaller party does make it slightly awkward when birthday invites are handed out at the school playground, but I remind myself that my kids aren’t invited to everyone’s parties, so it's fine.
(Invites that I've made in the past; Painting party and Nerf party)
In our family, I’m the party planner. I check the calendar then choose a date and time, pick the venue, create the invite, list some games they'll play, buy some prizes, get the food, goody bags and cake ready. The husband is kept in the loop but stays out of the way until the day, where he is all hands on deck, and more importantly he is the one who does all the games.
This set up works for us. Friends always end up helping on the day too, which is amazing and much appreciated so it doesn’t feel like I have to do everything myself (If like me, you are a control freak, take a deep breathe and give a friend a job when they ask to help out.) ;-)
(Treasure hunt for my son's pirate party)
- Have your party somewhere (anywhere!) that's not in your house
It’s taken me 7 years to figure this one out! I’ve always tried to save money where I can, so in the past parties were at our house or at the park. However, after my daughter’s mermaid party this year, I found chocolate marks on the walls and sofa cushions, as well as packets of crisps in the kids bedroom (when everyone was told specifically not to go upstairs). I decided that the time had come… no more parties at home. So for my son’s 7th party, we hired out the local community centre, and I wish I’d done this for previous events; one floor, not in our house, everything could be mopped or swept afterwards. Sooooo much better.
('Adopt a dog' at my daughter's dog themed party)
- Feed the kids, but don’t forget the parents
You’re probably thinking, “Why? That’s just another thing to add to my to-do list?” Trust me. It’s worth it. Happy tummies = happy mummies (and daddies!) I used to cook something for the grown-ups but this time, I only put together a cheese platter and it was super easy. Again, Pinterest has loads of ideas on creating a good platter. If you don’t have time for that, get a take-away. I went to a kid’s party once where a whole load of KFC arrived for the adults and it went down really well.
- Set boundaries and be prepared to follow through
This is going to be controversial but….. I don’t think kids should be allowed to go feral just 'cuz. My kids are not angels and they do try their luck. I know it’s a party and everyone is excited. But that doesn’t mean they lose respect for everybody around them. Whenever we have a party, we explain to the kids what the rules are whilst they are at the party; for example; 'Stay downstairs because we can’t see you when you go upstairs.' 'Stay away from the cooker/kitchen because there is hot food,' etc. If they don’t listen to you, then you need to follow through with a consequence, for example they’ll have to sit the next game out. Call it a mood killer but it does beat hating a kid’s guts.
(A bit of crafting at my daughter's horse party)
- Get extra supplies for goody bags
There will always be that kid who loses or breaks something from the goody bag before they’ve even left the party, or there will be a sibling who ends up staying at the party. You don’t have to have the full shebang of the goody bag, but just make sure you have some extra chocolate or candy to avoid disappointing someone.
(One of the games I created at my daughter's rainbow party)
- Go through the day with the birthday child
Some kids love the attention, others don’t.. whichever type your child is, you need to empathise that there are a lot of emotions going on. I find that my kids handle situations better when they have an idea of what’s going to happen, so we’ll talk about how the day will play out before the craziness starts.
(A piñata I made for my daughter's horse party)
- Have an easy lunch/dinner ready for after the party
The party was a success and you think ‘Hooray. That’s it for another year.” then you come home and it’s time to feed your kids… again! Everyone is tired and cranky, and hungry. Instead of getting pissy about having to cook yet another meal, have something pre-made and good to go. And before you know it, it’s bedtime!
(birthday cakes I've made for my kids)
Here's a checklist I made of all the things I need to get ready for a party (and here's a link to a printable version if you'd like to use it):