I love a birthday party! Now I won’t lie to you: my children’s birthday parties are in no way the kind of parties that would end up in a lifestyle magazine, with perfectly crafted cakes, rosy-cheeked cherubs dressed in their Sunday best. Neither are they happening in THE party place of the moment, but they are definitely stress-free birthday parties that make us all happy.
Do you find planning a birthday party daunting? Let me try and help you change your perspective on throwing a birthday bash. It should be no more stressful than a play date and enjoyable for everyone involved, including the adults.
Here are a few tips that might help you organise stress-free birthday parties:
1) Keep it Simple
Parents put a lot of pressure on themselves to organise the perfect party for their children. Just think for a minute. What do children really (really) want? They want to run around like loonies with a few of their friends, not their whole class and every other child they have ever met. They want to dress up, make a den, turn the house upside-down and get some finger food when they get peckish. That is all. I promise you!
2) If life is too busy to organise it all and host it, make it easy on yourself
- A Party Package
If you can afford it, all-inclusive party packages are convenient, stress-free and all you have to do is turn up. We had a couple of parties in soft-play areas when I was heavily pregnant or with a newborn in arms, and that made life much much easier. You can preorder the food you want for the children. The party bags are taken care of, the entertainment is all sorted and there are even entertainers to cut the cake and get the children fed. It is convenient and but it can get really expensive.
- A Smaller Do
Inviting only a couple of friends and going for a trip to the farm, the zoo, the theatre, a theme park or the cinema is a lovely alternative. It is not as expensive as a birthday package and it is memorable because it is pretty special. It is also less stressful and there is a lot less to organise than for a large party.
- Summer Birthday? Have a Party in the Park!
You can have a picnic, an afternoon of crafts in the park, a fun session with a parachute, a few chalks, bubbles, a badminton kit or a few balls.
- A Party at Home
That is definitely my favourite way to organise a party. I know, it is messy, noisy and chaotic, but if you relax and embrace the madness, it can be fun. If you ask friends to help with the organisation, send a text instead of formal invitations and get the parents to bring a small dish to add to the buffet, it can all be rather stress-free.
3) Set a time limit
Even if you are hosting the party at home, make sure the invitations or your text message mention the start and end times. A couple of hours is more than enough for little ones. Any longer and they get overtired and grumpy.
4) Plan ahead
One of my favourite tips for planning stress-free birthday parties is to plan ahead. Most things can be done before the party. ‘Pass the Parcel’ can be put together ages beforehand. You can gather little things for the party bags as you spot them, when you go to the pound shop or when they are on offer. Blowing up balloons and putting up decorations can be done the day before. A lot of the food can be made ahead. I usually find myself really stressed the day before my children’s parties, and spending most of the evening before cooking. The time before guests arrive is generally spent tidying up and cleaning the house frantically, but once the party starts, all stress evaporates.
5) Party Bags
Do we really have to fill party bags with plastic junk and sweets?
Here are a few things that make a nice treat in a party bag:
A story book or chapter book makes a perfect small gift. I usually buy ours from The Book People or the pound shop.
- Bubbles: do you know any child who doesn’t like bubbles?
- Seeds in an envelope, with instructions stuck to the front. Sunflowers are easy to grow, so is cress. That gives your little guests a nice project.
- An age-appropriate activity book like an introduction to French, writing practice or a fun learning set based around the theme of the party
- A helium balloon
Balloons are perfect to decorate a room for a party and children are always happy when we tell them to choose one to take one home.
- A treat that tastes nice and doesn’t contain any junk. I have always had Organix treats in party bags. Check Crevette’s party bag from 4 years ago.
6) Food for the Children
- Think Simple and Get it Ready Ahead
Why overcomplicate things when you can make the food nice and simple? Focus on things you can make ahead: quiches taste better if you make them the day before, so do potato and pasta salads. As long as you do not add the salad dressing in salad, you can prepare it all ahead as well. Macarons and cookies can be made a long time in advance and frozen. If you decide to serve ice cream, you can scoop it out ahead, and keep in the freezer on a baking tray.
- Fruit Fest
Children love nothing more than making their own fruit kebabs. If you cut plenty of fruit, they could make their own fruit kebabs. That way, they will get exactly what they love on their kebabs.
- Veggie Heaven
Leave vegetable sticks and dips on a table the children can reach so they can help themselves between games and activities.
- Healthy Snacks
Leave a bowl of cereal bars, packs of raisins and puffed corn on the table so if the children are still hungry after getting fed, they can help themselves.
7) Indoor Picnic
It is unlikely you will have enough seats for all the children. You can just put a large blanket on the living room floor and after the children have helped themselves to food, they can go and sit on the blanket and have their food. When they are finished, you can take the blanket outside and shake it. Voilà! Stress-free and mess free!
8) Feed the Parents
Is there anything worse than going to a party and going hungry? Granted, at most children’s parties, you get handed a cup of tea or coffee, but then at some point, the children get fed and you get… nothing! I I always try to sneak a few crisps in or a small sandwich when no one is looking. I find that odd. You are organising a party and there are adults at the party. Feed the adults too! They have come to a children’s party. Yes, you read that right: a party full of children that are not theirs! Give these poor people some food.
You don’t have to go over the top and complicate things. A loaf of bread and cheese platter with a glass of wine are sustenance enough. If you are feeling organised, give them some quiche and salad too.
- Happy Smoothies
If you have a blender, why not let the children chose what goes in their smoothies at the start of the party? As they come in, give them a glass and let them choose the juice they want to use and add in the fruit of their choice as well as a few ice cubes. It will give them plenty of energy and keep them hydrated.
- My Water Bottle
One of things that seem to stress people out at parties is spilled drinks. Make it less stressful by giving the children their own sports water bottle. There is less risk of spillage, and if they do spill their water, it is only water and it will dry.
To make sure everyone drinks out of their own bottle rather than sharing germs, give them a water bottle at the start of the party and either write their name on it using a Sharpie pen or let them choose a sticker to remember which drink is theirs (in that case, you might have to make a note of each: Jumpy – Dora sticker, Wriggly: Cinderella etc.).
OK, so what do you do when you have a party at home?
Well, it is pretty simple, really. I usually put on some music. A bit of Gangnam Style, Justin Timberlake or One Direction never fails to get all the children (and a few of the adults too!) boogeying. There is always a lot of food and drinks for the children as well as adults. Every single time, the children run around like feral (but happy) creatures. I normally put together a little ‘Pass the Parcel’ for birthday parties and I generally get a request for a piñata. Stress-free birthday parties are a great excuse to get together and have a little fun.
There is no need to impress, to spend a lot of money or throw the party of the year with a guest list longer than Kate and William’s wedding.
Just relax, embrace the party mood and give them a party where you enjoy yourself too.
Check these posts out for more ideas for fun and stress-free birthday parties:
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Disclosure: I work with Organix as a No Junk Mum. This post all about stress-free birthday parties is part of our #NoJunkJourney. All opinions and photos are my own.