Kids’ parties: love ’em or loathe ’em, you’ve got to do ’em. Here’s how.
You’d think I’d be a dab hand by now, having organised 16 children’s parties. But it turns out you can still surprise yourself with your own ineptitude. Whether it’s your first or your 50th, here’s a handy checklist to stop you pooping the party.
Decide on a date: If you have it on your child’s actual birthday, make sure you don’t spend the whole time meeting and greeting so you fail to actually interact with your little angel on his big day. Whenever you decide, give plenty of notice (6 weeks or more), or you find yourself up against rival parties.
Decide on a venue: Soft play, football parties, Frozen in the church hall, at home…so much choice. Personally I go for the one that will run the whole party with no other intervention from me than turning up. Having tried to run Grandmother’s Footsteps for twelve toddlers, I’ve had to admit, I’m not a natural leader of children Go by what you think your child will enjoy the most; if that’s too expensive try and find a nearby birthday in their class and split it.
Don’t tell your child. Too soon, anyway. “How many days is it till my party, mummy?” “61.” “How many hours is that?” [Pause.] “1464.” “How many seconds is that?” “Um.” Start your countdown a more manageable distance from the party to save your brain and your patience.
Use Paperless Post, or similar. Paper invites are cute and all, but I find it a nightmare to track who is coming to what. I used Paperless Post for the first time this year and it was much easier to keep track of who was coming – and it’s free! Of course, I managed to send it out without the RSVP request the first time. So I guess what I should say, is use an online invite company – correctly.
Don’t rest on your laurels. I was so chuffed with myself for booking the boys’ parties two months in advance, I relaxed too soon. Then this happened:
Don’t forget the party bags. I mentioned that I like to just turn up to parties these days, but my casual approach went awry this year when I forgot that neither of the venues I’d booked for my sons’ parties (on consecutive Sundays) offered a party bag service. This I did not realise till the morning of the party. You’d think having done the crazy whirl of whatever shops were open at 10.30am on a Sunday once, that I’d prepare ahead for the next party. Not so! There I was again, a bit quicker this time having memorised the sub-£1 offering of the local proprietors, but still a little more fraught than is ideal pre-party.
Don’t forget the food. Whatever you do, don’t, at 12.30pm on the day of a party starting at 2pm, suddenly remember, with prickling armpits of fear, that you never did quite send the food request form to your venue of choice. Bearing in mind you’ve only just recovered from the forgotten party bags blow, this is quite a double whammy. If this does happen to you, and God forfend it doesn’t, there’s always Domino’s pizza. Cheap(ish), popular and a lot less faffy than sandwiches and cucumber sticks.
Don’t forget the cake. The birthday cake IS the birthday, as far as my children are concerned anyway. In my defence, I didn’t forget to make the cake. I just left icing it to the last minute. By which I mean, 1.15pm on the day of the party. I don’t know if you’ve ever triple iced a cake, but if that’s what it takes to stick mini R2D2s to a sponge, then you just do it, don’t you?
Don’t make your children cry just before the party. You’d think this would be so obvious I wouldn’t need to mention it. But I feel I should do public penance for the fact I made both the birthday boy and his big brother cry just as we were leaving the house for the party. All I did was turn off the TV in the middle of their programme and ask them quite loudly to get their shoes on. But I felt like I’d shot the dog.
Don’t forget to tell your husband where the party is. “Hello? Where are you?” “Where are YOU? Have you got the drinks?” (You’ll recall I hadn’t ordered any party tea so he’d gone to Tesco on the way for Fruit Shoots to dilute the salt-attack pizzas). “What do you mean you’re at the other place?” I’ll leave you to imagine the rest of that particular phone call.
Don’t be cripplingly hungover. When all of the above is going wrong, and even if it’s not, being hungover for your child’s party is a recipe for pain. (You might think it a large explanation for many of the mistakes, especially the last one; but in my case, all this could easily have happened even if I’d not touched a drop.) All those shrill voices screaming with joy, for a start. Then all their parents you may never have met, standing round awkwardly looking to you to maintain the social flow, when all you want to do is gibber quietly on the sofa with a family pack of pickled onion Monster Munch. Last time we did it, we swore we’d never go out the night before one of their parties again, yet here we were, responsible for everyone’s fun and barely in control of our innards.
The moral of the story? It is not give up booze or don’t do children’s parties – just don’t combine the two. But most of all:
Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored by Paperless Post, Domino’s, Tesco or anything but my own stupidity.