Your children’s birthday parties – love them or hate them?

It is that time of the year again when L starts talking endlessly about the birthday party that he wants.  L’s birthday is at the end of August and so we have to start thinking about it early so as to get the invites out and preferably answered before the end of term.  These days I am a lot calmer and more laid back about parties than I used to be and I know that the subject of  children’s parties often provokes mixed feelings with parents.

In your head, you have this idyllic idea of a group of beautifully behaved, smartly dressed little darlings all enjoying pass the parcel and pin the tail on the donkey all going home with a smile and a piece of cake.
Then there is the reality.  Sugar-crazed, red-faced, sweaty little devils who are easily bored, rampaging  around the party venue reeking havoc and leaving you with a feeling of general exhaustion and  never wanting to do it again.

That is without the cost of it all.  It can be really surprising how the cost of paying for the party, party bags and the food can seriously mount up and of course most children still expect a large present to go with it. This makes for a big financial drain year in year out and worse if you have more than one child.

L has already made a few plans for this year’s event and it has got me thinking about the whole party thing again.  Kids today do seem to expect to have a party every year.  That is entirely our fault of course by setting the precedent.  I only ever had one party as a child and that was perfectly normal then.  It was my seventh birthday and I had the most brilliant time.  I can still remember it now.  How many of our children’s parties will be remembered like that when they have so many?

When O was small,it was the norm to have a party every year.  Usually it was a play barn type affair which cut out a lot of the parental stress but also emptied the purse.  When I say it was the norm, all of his ‘friends’ at nursery and then school had parties every year; one of them even had two (the mother felt that a year was too long so she let him have two birthdays!!). O was my first child and life as a first time mother often felt a bit like treading water and so I went with the flow and we did play barn parties, bouncy castle parties and then probably a few more play barn parties.  

One year, O’s dad decided that we would have a ‘traditional’ party.  He is quite creative and he made all of these traditional games with the idea that the children would do a round robin of the games with a few bigger games along the way. It was a really lovely idea and he made some wonderful games but I did have my doubts about how it would all work. How difficult could a group of twenty six year olds be?  Yes twenty six year olds.  Entertaining was the word. There were six adults and could we control these kids? No we could not.  The lovely traditional games had all been played with and got bored of within about twenty minutes, leaving us with and hour and forty minutes of rampaging children.  
When R came along and was of the party having age, I said that enough was enough and that whilst I didn’t want to be the world’s meanest mother and deprive him of having parties, I was not and I repeat was not, going to have parties every year. With L only nineteen months younger, that gave me double the incentive. Yet we still seem to have had more than our fair share of parties over the last few years.

Children’s parties are a huge business these days and those parents who lack time or inspiration can pay oodles of cash for a variety of different people/animals/things to entertain their little ones.  A mum I chat to at swimming was looking into the possibility of having a donkey party for her daughter where a chap would bring three donkeys to their garden for a couple of hours.  The cost?  A mere £290.  £290!! I know that it is a lovely idea and all but £290!! I did  have to say that I thought that was a ridiculous amount.  She was still thinking about it when I last spoke to her but was also toying with the idea of having a pamper party and getting someone to come in and do hair and make up with the girls instead which was still quite expensive but not as much as having three donkeys trampling the garden.

I do wonder if we are in serious danger of losing the point of birthday parties.  We want to make our children happy and to bring them together with a few friends and maybe family to celebrate their special day. It shouldn’t have to cost the earth or be stressful for everyone involved and I genuinely don’t think that there has to be a party every year.

There will certainly never be any donkey parties in this house, but in recent years I have tried to be more creative; gone are the play barn parties in favour of  discos, Lego parties, climbing parties and sports parties in the garden. The boys went to a treasure hunt party last year and it is still ranked as their favourite party.  Such a simple idea and the kids loved it, although you would have to have reasonable weather.  Another friend hired the local village hall and had a Nerf gun party.  She hardly spent a lot and again the kids had the best time.

As time has gone on, I have realised that parties  don’t have to cost the earth and you can ensure that your child has a great birthday celebration with a bit of imagination and not too much money.  Last summer, we had a sport themed party for L’s seventh birthday and it was one of the best parties that we have ever had.  A few friends came to the house, we did races and games in the garden, a bit of food and everyone went home with a medal, a few sweets and most importantly a smile.  The wonders of the Internet with blogs and sites like Pinterest give us amazing access to ideas and with a bit of time and effort, you really can achieve memorable inexpensive parties.

L’s party for this year is in the early ideas stage, but I am determined that I am going to do it on a budget and hopefully it will be lovely.  Maybe if I am really lucky I will even get everyone to respond to the invitations too .. but that is a whole different blog post.

17 Comments

  1. I’m a bit hit & miss with organizing my children’s birthday parties. I always go overboard. But this year I’ve reined myself in a few notches. My daughters 8th birthday party is next weekend. I’ve already got her party bags made {30+ kids! O.o} and venue/bouncy castle/slide booked. Just all the baking to do next weekend. Its hard work doing your kids party huh! lol x

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    • It really is but it does sound like you are super organised which is great.

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  2. We’ve generally gone to an indoor play area but eldest was eight this year too so this week end I had six other boys and him dancing ‘Gangnam Style’ in the garden and eating pizza. I’ve never seen my son so happy! Don’t suppose that really helps? :))

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    • Do you know what, that sounds brilliant! That is the point isn’t it that they are spending time with friends and enjoying themselves! I think my son would love a Gangnam Style party

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  3. I love kids’ parties – whatever form they take! The only one I dislike was eldest’s 6th when we had all the boys in his class and they fought constantly for two hours! We’ve tried various things and have always enjoyed them. Whatever we do it always seems to get to nearly £200 though!

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    • £200!!?? Wow I think £100 is a lot. That’s great that your parties are always successful, maybe I will have to get some tips from you.

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  4. £290 for a donkey!! Oh my god, that man must make some serious money letting little kids have a bit of a ride! For the past 2 years we’ve had 2 birthday parties each year for z because of ..err…”family complications!” And I find the organising real stressful for one of them. On the actual day I have a brilliant time but I always vow not to do another…then do! :)

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    • Oh trust me I know all about ‘family complications’ which add a whole extra dimension to the stress of it all. I know I think I may buy a few donkeys and start hiring them out, what a great money making scheme

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  5. Yup I too have done all manner of parties but no more – my son (9) has had 3 x cinema parties basically put on a film and eat popcorn (January child) and he’s loved it and so have I! Anyhow, they never remember what type of party they had and I can’t stand all the tat that comes with party bags! I try and put them in the bin asap. I make them novelty cakes and they remember those more than the party. This year for my youngest (3) I took him and a his little friend to the farm – perfect. Thankfully as you move up the school you don’t get so many parties – the longest 2 hours of your life that you’ll never get back! x

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    • P.s and don’t get me started on prizes for losers – nope no prize if you lose get over it do they really need another filing? And what is with the mum’s that buy a cake but don’t dish it up in the party bags – written about that one – bizarre! Its like look at this fabulous cake but you lot are having none of it. Surely that’s the point of a birthday party to celebrate and share the cake?!x

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    • Ha ha that made me smile as I am the same with the party bags too! The boys went to a party the other day and I was really relieved when I saw that they only had a medal and a cupcake. R is January and we did a DVD and Lego party with a few friends last year and that was great. we went to a disco once where the kids all got so many sweets as prizes, they didn’t want hardly any food which I thought was very silly.

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  6. Wow, you are very lucky to have a husband who gets involved with the party planning! I have done a whole mixture over the years, on the whole, parties are something I dread if I’m honest – they feel like a necessary evil. I’ve had large parties at home (never again!) and parties in soft-play centres (always feel a bit of a cop-out) and magicians in a local hall. Now they are a bit older, I am all in favour of a day out with a friend, although we ended up doing two events this year as The Teenager wanted to do something with her old friends and her new ones! Whatever way round, it’s definitely an expensive business and a glass of wine is always necessary at the end of it :)

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    • Definitely is expensive and yes to the glass of wine too. I used to dread them but I am more laid back at the moment, having said that A turns 4 this year and wants a princess party which could be the cause of some stress…

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  7. My eldest (six) loves parties. Last year, for her 5th birthday she had a party instead of a present (Feb birthday is too close to xmas anyhow!)She had about 25 guests, and with hall hire at £50 & face painter at £90 it added up too quickly. All the kids had a great time though, and we had tons of craft things left over too. This year after a huge drop in income, we just couldn’t even think of hiring a hall so had six friends at home. More crafts, bouncing, food and ending up watching Scooby Doo! They all had fun, but I feel guilty about all her friends we couldn’t invite! Parties are a minefield…

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    • They really are a minefield as a few people have said about the ‘taking one good friend somewhere’ which is a great idea in principle but if they are part of a group it can be really tricky. I took O and two friends to Legoland a few years back and one of his friend’s mums whose son didn’t get invited was really funny about it and O never got invited to any more of his parties. You just can’t win!

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  8. I think I’m really lucky with my boys. Ds2 is 10 this year and just wants some water balloons to take down the park!
    It’s a minefield with oh you didn’t invite such and such, and then can they bring their siblings!
    3 out of 4 of mine have birthdays in school holidays too – think it’s easier to avoid the parties if you wish then too.

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  9. I’ve learned to get really creative with the themes these days. I actually really enjoy planning them. I 9 times out of 10 have them at my house. My son just had his fifth birthday party and we had a beach themes party where we set of little water play areas for the kids and games that dealt with the ocean and they really had a blast. I made a shark cake and then stuffed some sugar free candy into the goodie bags ( to avoid a sugar overload). It’s all about thinking outside of the box these days to save money while making it a memorable day.

    Reply

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