Your baby’s first, second or third birthday may seem like forever away when you’re having that first cuddle, or battling through sleepless nights, however before you know it, birthday number one will be upon you and you’ll be thinking about how to celebrate this special day.  Being organised and putting some time and energy into planning a child’s party can make the difference between ending the day in smiles or in tears, and we’re not only talking about the children!!

Get the basics: where, when and how?

Popular children’s venues seem like an easy choice for a party location, especially for a child. But, with popularity comes low availability and a high price. So, book the venue as soon as possible.

Similarly, finding a date that works for everyone can be difficult. So, it is important that once you’ve found a date you send out invitations at least 4-6 weeks in advance – you could even send out a save the date email further in advance just to be sure.

Deciding how long the party should last can be difficult, and will depend on the age of children and the activities planned. As a guide, parties should last around two hours.

How much is too much?

Birthdays can be an expensive business.  You want to give your little treasure a day to remember, but do bear in mind that they’re unlikely to remember and little ones can find party environments a bit overwhelming.  Before you go mad booking venues, entertainers and organising the guestlist, have a think about how much you want to spend and can afford.

Budgeting can can be a stressful task, especially if money is tight and there is competition between parents to put on the best party.

Both issues can be avoided if you set a budget and if you speak to your child and get their input. Make sure you propose a list of activities that are within your budget and let them choose. As long as they are having fun, they are not going to tell the difference between a John Lewis or Asda tablecloth.

The guest list

Once your child is old enough to get involved with who they’d like to celebrate with, make sure you get their input.  However bear in mind that their new best friend could be their sworn enemy by this time next week!!  Playground politics may come into play here to the extent that some pre-schools and schools have rules that the whole class needs to be invited to parties. Check into this before you start planning so that you don’t get a big surprise at the end.

Decide if you are expecting parents to stay or drop and run. As a rule, you can assume if a child is under five their parents will stay. However, with older children it becomes less clear, so make sure you ask, or make a note on your invitations. Either way, make sure you have enough adult helpers to make things run smoothly.

Invitations

Whether you’re posting, hand delivering or emailing invitations, make sure to include the following:

  • Name of the birthday child including surname
  • Day, date and length of party
  • Party Location: The more information you include here the less questions you will need to answer
  • R.S.V.P (with date) along with your telephone number or email address – expect that not everyone will reply.  It’s annoying, but there are always one or two parents that you’ll have to chase and the odd no-show on the day itself.
  • Any expectations like fancy dress

Theme/Decorations

Having a theme will help you decide on decorations, activities and entertainment, if any. Party themes can be anything from a garden party to a full on pirate invasion. As children get older they may be influenced by a TV show or film they have seen.  Keeping the theme fairly general means parents won’t have to go to any additional expense – superheroes or princesses are fairly vague and most children will have a costume already that fits the bill!

Decorations can be as simple as balloons and streamers or as elaborate as wall displays and replicas, just remember to stick to your budget.

Food

The food you need to organise will depend on the time of day of the party. Of course you’ll have a cake, or cupcakes to finish things off, but when it comes to lunch or dinner keep it simple and balanced. Finger foods are easy, just make sure you have a healthy option also. It’s a good idea to ask on the invitation if there are any allergies.

Another option is to provide each child with a lunch box.  Party boxes are relatively cheap and can be prefilled with a party meal – sandwiches, carrot sticks, a cake and a drink.  This makes things simpler on the day.

Entertainment

First, are you doing the entertainment yourself or are you hiring someone? Obviously doing it yourself is cheaper, but hiring someone for an hour or two can reduce the hassle.

If you are doing it yourself, have LOTS planned. Traditional games to suit your theme can be fun and entertaining. Depending on the age of your child, musical chairs can become musical manhole covers, or lily pads. Pin the tail on the donkey becomes pin the wings on the fairy or you can bob for golden pirate treasure (aka apples).

Your own creativity is the only limit here. Remember that if the game you are playing eliminates children, you’ll need to entertain the ones that are out. Having a small prize for everyone tends to avoid tears as well.

Gifts

Traditionally, gifts are opened after the guests leave. But as cultures merge this is less clear. If you do open them at the party, make sure you have an adult close at hand to write down who gave what. This will come in handy for thank you notes, which are a must; first of all it’s polite and second of all it’s a great habit to get your children into early in life.

Party bags

Remember this is a thank you not a gift! Set a total budget for party bags, this can be as low as £1 per bag. Avoid anything that contain nuts and buy items in bulk and divide them between the bags.