Monday, 9 November 2009

Mum's Monday: organising kids' birthday parties you either love it or hate it

How do you feel as your child's birthday party looms on the horizon? Do you like hosting parties for your kids, try and avoid doing anything major at all costs or fall somewhere in between? Inspired by the carnival of parties insomniac mummy is hosting on her blogsite, I got thinking about my experiences and what follows was the result.

I have always enjoyed hosting dinner parties because I love cooking and the whole social interaction with others. However for the first two years of my eldest's life birthday parties were low key events and that was partly to do with the fact that there is only 15 months between my two girls and it was enough getting through each day. This year coming up to three, Sienna really understood for the first time that she was going to have a birthday so I felt it was important to mark it. And yet the idea of a theme or a party entertainer just did not appeal.

It just so happened that one of my friends from our postnatal group also wanted to make it more of an occasion so we decided to join forces, as we had a common core of six people. We wanted to keep it manageable so we agreed that we would each invite up to six other children. However we had forgotten to take into account that many of our children's friends had siblings and that as it was a family affair and we often knew both kids, the whole family would expect to come. We had also both thought that we would keep the family celebrations separate so as to contain numbers but our families had other ideas. On the day we ended up hosting a party for 50!

It nearly did not happen because I have the most appalling hand writing, which comes from the fact that I experimented with different writing styles when I was at school for the fun of it and the end result is a real hodge podge. It turned out many people thought I had written that the party was going to be on 10 rather than 19 even though the former was good Friday. I then had to text everyone to confirm the date so that there was no one turning up 9 days early and it meant that one or two were then unable to attend.

Naively I thought that holding a party in a village hall where we had access to the hall's toys and so had the entertainment covered would mean that we would be able to keep costs down. We had not taken into account the cost of producing party bags and we felt that we needed to do them as our kids always seemed to get them. I spent what seemed like an inordinate amount of time on ebay sourcing the best deals. Only to find that the other Mum had bought a whole load of stuff at Sainsburys which was a valuable addition to the booty but added significantly to the price. I had wanted to have all wooden toys but they were much more expensive so there was a lot of plastic tat in the bags.

We had lots of discussions about food. We decided who would provide what which worked. I was keen that we had high quality ingredients so ended up buying organic sausages, cooking them and cutting them into cocktail sausage size just so that I knew what the kids and adults were eating. That approach of course meant the costs went up and my co-party organiser was not sure we would have enough so supplemented with some ready to go cocktail sausages from Morrisons. We also felt that adults often got a raw deal at kids' parties so produced a number of smoked salmon and cheese bagels for them. These went down very well but I had not realised how long it took to put bagels together and probably over-catered. We bought 50 mini bagels and I think managed to prepare about 30 for the party!

For me the highlight was making the cake. My friend was concerned because her son had set his heart on a Thomas cake from Waitrose which was around £20 so I promised to do something fun. Initially my daughter wanted a pink heart but I did think that was a bit too girly for a boy so she then chose a gumball machine - you know the ones where you put in a penny and get out a handful of jelly babies. It was red and white with a black piece for the slot machine and four black screws, one in each corner. I filled it with mini chocolate easter eggs as their birthdays are near Easter, and stuck a 1p into the slot machine. It was quite a healthy carrot cake with orange flavoured cream cheese icing, and despite one of the cakes being a bit over done because I am not used to a fan oven - which needs a slightly lower temperature than a conventional oven - the cake went down well w/ adults and children alike. In fact I felt chuffed that one Dad is very fussy about cakes said it was the tastiest carrot cake he had ever had - he must have had a bit from the non-burnt end.

In spite of all the mini dramas along the way, it was very enjoyable to organise the party with someone else and as long as you keep your sense of humour, I can highly recommend this approach. In the end the event cost two hundred pounds which when you think of the numbers attending is about four quid a head so pretty reasonable. I would love to hear about your experiences of organising kids' birthday parties so please do leave me a comment.


  1. Wow, I take my hat off to you. I don't think I could face doing all of that myself. £4 per head is excellent though - well done!

  2. My LO turns 1 very soon and couldn't decide what to do about a party - do you think that a 1 year old really needs a party, or should I put it off til he is a little older? You seem to have the same sort of ideas as me when it comes to parties (wooden toys, organic food) - although I reckon that I'll probably end up going through the same sorts of mini dramas that you did! Good on you with the cake it sounds great x

  3. Thanks ladies. When my two were 1, I kept it very simple and just had family and my good friends around as to be honest they know no different. Probably sound like a bad Mum but realistic.

  4. Wow! You are super mum!!! I have to say, I tend to ask my friend Anna to make the cake - however, I have made two cakes with Sam in the last two weeks!!! WHOA! Martha Stewart - watch out!