Top tips for a stress-free children's party
My children were born in September and October so, once mid-August arrives, I start birthday party planning. Naturally, I always have a Perform Party (what else?!), so that certainly makes things easier for me. But, even taking that into account, I still find my own children's birthday parties possibly the most stressful two days of my year!
And I know it's not just me. Having entertained at hundreds of children's parties myself, I know that many other parents feel the same way. However, this year, I am determined to make my own kids' parties more enjoyable..for me as well as for everyone else!
So here are my top tips on how to ensure that your child's birthday isn't as stressful for you as the day they were born. By the way, I've assumed that you are hiring a venue and have some sort of hired entertainment or activities (though many of the tips will still apply even if this is not the case). The list is certainly not exhaustive so, if you have any suggestions or ideas, please do let me know.
Venue (assuming you aren't using your home)
1. Call your venue the week before and the day before. Don't worry about being annoying, it's far better to double-check than turn up on the day and be told that the space is double-booked (and I have been to quite a few parties where that's happened). 2. Always book the venue at least one hour before the party start-time - more if you want an easy life. You will definitely need an hour to set up. 3. Find out from the venue when the next event is in after you so you know how long you've got to clear up. I'd always allow at least an hour for this too if possible. 4. Balloons are lovely and colourful but, in my experience, it is best to pin them to the walls for colour rather than letting them bounce around the room. They can be really distracting if you have entertainment that involves the children running around. 5. If parents are staying then try to hire another room so that they can congregate there and chat during the activities. If that's not possible, designate a bit of the room as the parent section while the children are being entertained. And don't worry about reminding them politely that they must keep noise levels down. It's not a grown-ups' party after all and it can really ruin the children's enjoyment of an activity if they are being distracted by chattering parents. 6. Designate a present table and a coat table near the door before everyone comes.
1. Always double-check everything thoroughly with your party entertainer. Speak to them the day before and ask them to text you on the morning of the party to tell you all is well. Always check their arrival time and ask them what would happen if they were to be unexpectedly unavailable. At Perform, we always have someone on standby so that if a Party Leader's car breaks down or they are sudenly taken ill, we can always send someone else at short notice. 2. Only have one form of entertainment. Too many parents go over the top and have a bouncy castle, face painter and a clown. Simple is best and children generally have a better time with one thing to focus on and really get into. 3. Make sure you make choices that will appeal to the whole group of children. Sometimes parents choose a party theme that their child loves but none of the other children are into or even know about. Obviously consider your own child's likes and dislikes but try to strike a happy medium and go for generic themes to appeal to both boys and girls. 4. Listen to your party entertainer. It's pretty much a one-off event for you but they will be doing this all the time and, if you are unsure about anything, they will know what works best. 5. Check if the party entertainment is suitable for all of the children attending. For example, a Perform Party wouldn't be suitable for a 2 year old though a Mini Ps Party would be. If you have a wide range of ages attending, take alternative entertainment for the toddlers such as colouring in books, stickers etc. 6. If it's a joint party for two children, make sure that the party entertainer is aware of this when you book them. I once went to a party where the entertainer didn't know it was a joint celebration and only referred to the one girl throughout.
For your sanity
1. Delegate! If your family are coming, give them all jobs. If they're not, trade with another Mum and offer your services at their child's party. I always put my husband in charge of drinks, my Mum in charge of food and my cousin in charge of decorating. 2. Make sure someone is responsible for your own children while you are preparing the party - the last thing you want is having to watch your toddler while blowing up balloons. Ideally, ask whoever is looking after them to bring them along at the last minute. 3. Give each child a name sticker on arrival. It's helpful for you, your party entertainer and anyone else helping out. 4. Take a suitcase to put the presents inside when it is home-time. When you open them, make sure you write down IMMEDIATELY who gave what for thank-you cards. Unless you have the most amazing memory, you'll never remember every gift. 5. If you are giving the parents drinks, use plastic glasses. However unlikely it is that one will get smashed, children and broken glass just don't mix and it's just extra hassle if there is an accident. 6. Children's food: I'm a big fan of those food boxes that you put everything into before the party and then distribute individually to each child. But however you choose to distribute sandwiches etc., keep it simple as the children will be too excited to eat much. 7. Have a little bottle of water with you and sip throughout. The stress and anxiety has often caused me dehydration headaches after a party (and that's not because I've drunk too much alcohol(!)). 8. Don't forget: blu-tack, sellotape, scissors, matches, a bottle opener, a corkscrew and lots of good quality bin bags. 9. Take a CD player and lively music for when the children start arriving in order to create a fun atmosphere. 10. This last point is bound to be controversial ? sugar. I hate going to parties where the food for the kids is healthy, healthy, healthy. Bring on the cakes and sweets I say. It's a party!