How to throw together a fabulous kids birthday party
Growing up I always wanted to change the date of my birthday so I could have a party in the summer. I’m born on June 2nd which in the Southern Hempishere is smack in the middle of winter. Over time I grew to like having parties that were cosy and intimate. For my 30th birthday I invited my friends for a weekend in Ohakune (at the foot of Mount Ruapehu) and dinner at the local Italian. However, now that I am a mum my job is more about organising my kids birthday parties – as it turns out one happens to be in summer.
My daughter Molly turned 6 this year, on January 25th.
Being an excited 5 year old, Molly began talking about her party early and gave me plenty of warning of what she wanted. But with the craziness of Christmas and school holidays it was upon me before I realised.
Luckily I have a habit of collecting things throughout the year for these ‘just in case’ moments. I knew Molly was a fan of watermelons so I had bought a watermelon Pinata and watermelon goody bags while on my travels. They formed the base of our wonderful watermelon party.
Here’s how we put together Mollys party and some tips I have learnt over the years:
- When & where to have the party
- Choosing and executing a theme
- How many kids to invite and how
- What to feed the kids
- How to pass the time
- How not to spend a fortune
Where and when to have the party
I usually choose to have our kids birthday parties at our home because I’m loathe to lug everything to a venue (it is also free!). This year our landscaping was in a state of chaos so I designed the party to work in one location, on our deck. We are very lucky to live next door to a school so I knew we could use their space as a back up if the kids needed to run. Initially the invite went out with a start time of 11am until I rethought and scheduled it to start at 3pm. This gave me all day to get ready and the kids helped me decorate.
My tip for planning where and when is to make sure you set an end time for the party. I keep ours to a maximum of two hours, any longer and the kids attention starts to waiver.
Choosing and executing a theme
A theme does not need to be complicated or too specific. I try to choose something that I know the kids will like (and agree to!) but also something that is simple to execute. Choosing a theme that is in fashion helps because there will be plenty of ready-made items to purchase if you don’t have the time (or inclination) to make.
My tip for choosing a theme is to start with something you already have as a base. I had a watermelon Pinata that I had found and purchased at the Auckland Fair, so I used it as my starting point.
How many kids to invite and how
We had thirteen kids at Mollys party, I wouldn’t want to host many more, 15 is the maximum for everyone getting a turn before the first person gets bored. Small numbers are good if you are planning a sleepover or adventure, but for the classic ‘at home’ party i’ve found 8-12 is perfect. For our invites Molly drew a picture of a watermelon which I then photocopied and folded. She then wrote on the invitations, copying my test. Once the kids know how to write it is nice for them to be part of creating the invitations.
My tip for invites, followup with a text to each parent that includes the important details like where and when – because when we leave to drop the kids at a party the last thing we can find is the invitation and address!
What to eat
Kids parties are the ultimate excuse for naughty party food, although I asked Molly what she wanted and was surprised by her healthy choices. We ended up with an eclectic mix that gave the kids plenty of options. We had corn on the cob, carrot sticks, popcorn and of course, watermelon - all easy to prepare in advance. To add some sustenance I ordered hot chips. And for the cake I made a cupcake tower, from (gasp!) packet mix.
My tip for party food is to choose things can be prepared in advance and avoid obvious allergy triggers like nuts.
How to pass the time
When putting together a kids party always have a back-up plan! Having been in the position of keeping a dozen kids occupied when the games (and prizes) have been finished waaaay before the parents are due to arrive back. I now plan twice as many activities as I think we will have time for. My favourites are a treasure hunt, pass the parcel and piñata. They can all be prepared in advance. and a treasure hunt is a good way to wearing the kids out by covering a lot of ground.
My tip for games is always have more prizes than you think ups’ll need in case someone extra turns up.
How not to spend a fortune
Food, decorations, goody bags… the cost of kids parties soon ads up. Over the years I have invested in plenty of plastic cups and plates so I don't have to buy disposable ones each year. I purchase one or two themed items that will pack some punch and hand-make the rest with the kids. This year we made our own tablecloth by wrapping the outdoor table in brown paper and drawing watermelon pictures on it. Serving food that is in season also helps keep costs down.
My tip for not spending a fortune is to think creatively about how you can re-purpose something you already have.
And lastly, if you have a wonderful friend or family member who can help you tidy as you go, the aftermath wont feel so unsurmountable.