I have organised a wedding, two christenings and planned numerous foreign holidays but nothing could have prepared me for organising a child’s birthday party. As my eldest hurtles towards her sixth birthday, it is time to start thinking about the celebrations again. Gone are the days when you invited a few friends home for tea – now arranging an under-7s birthday party is a feat of imagination and planning worthy of a debutantes’ ball. I am a traditionalist at heart so yet again have turned my back on soft play; swimming or pizza making and hired the local community centre for some old-fashioned fun. The bouncy castle is booked and invites sent out but now the really hard work begins.
The million dollar question is how do you entertain a room full of over-excited 6 year olds? I love a traditional party game so we are definitely passing the parcel and playing musical bumps but in this day and age it seems you need to do a bit more. A quick search on Google reveals that entertainers come in all shapes and sizes from real life Elsa and Anna from Frozen, a travelling zoo and a red-nosed clown to a very un-PC Punch and Judy man and balloon modeller. In her first little act of rebellion, and channelling her inner Kardashian, my daughter has kicked out against my hatred of child’s make up and asked for someone to give her and her friends a mini manicure. I’ve taken a deep breath and asked her god mother and a good friend to apply some garish nail varnish on the day, and Nana is ready with some glitter tattoos for the boys. With a specially complied CD by Daddy of all her favourite songs, and a few colouring books thrown in that’s the entertainment sorted.
Now on to the cake. When my children were born I made the rash promise to myself to always make their birthday cakes. My baking skills are non-existent but my mum always made my cakes so I felt had to carry on the tradition. So far my daughter has had a doomed Night Garden, wonky Mr Tumble, a passable treasure chest and a dodgy looking Princess castle. This year she wants One Direction and I have had to admit defeat. There is no way I am trying to fashion Harry Styles out of sugar icing (although thanks to Zayn I’ve got one less figure to make) so it’s a shop bought cake for the first time! Less pressure and a lot more guilt but a much happier child!
Then there’s the food – do you go for something hot and risk running back and forth to the kitchen all afternoon or spend hours making sandwiches and sausage rolls the night before? One year I spent far too long cutting star and heart shapes out of bread to make pretty sandwiches for my daughter – there’s three hours of my life I won’t get back – a sound lesson learned. The trend at the moment seems to be for party packed lunch boxes – minimal mess and waste as each child just gets what they are given but I have to admit to having a soft spot for bowls and bowls of crisps, mini sausages, cakes and buns been laid out in front of wide eyed kids and then watching parents desperately trying to get them to eat something savoury before the sugar fest beings.
Finally the piece de la resistance – party bags. Anyone who has ever been to a kids’ party will know that the highlight for the little guests is actually home time when they get a small plastic bag filled with sweets and a selection of day glow plastic from the Pound Shop. I know of one little girl who got upset at a relative’s 50th because there was no party bags – how could you possibly host a do and not give the guests a present as they leave? So the pressure to deliver on the party bags is immense! Surrounded by little bags, balloons, bubbles, sweets (and a large glass of wine) I will attempt to make sure that every guest gets their fair share of party tat whilst trying to ignore the fact that I won’t get much change out of £40! I won’t even start on the Myleene Klass ‘how much should you spend on a child’s birthday present’ debate – as far as I am concerned my daughter’s friends are there to have a good time – I don’t care if they arrive empty-handed (in fact I’d rather they did – we are fast running out of space for toys!) as long as they leave on a high of sugar and cake having had the best two hours of the day! No pressure then….