Wednesday 25 April 2012

Do you enjoy Kids Party Planning?

My girls have been to a couple of parties just recently and I have realised that we are only 3 months away from their fifth birthday and and as such I need to get on and book something. I have heard from many mothers about the competitive games that go on once your own children are at school and you have to try and compete in the Olympic sport of party planning.

To date I have managed to avoid getting involved with this big circus.  We do not have a vast amount of disposable income to spend on parties for our children and I am not really interested in being regarded as the Alpha mummy, the one whose kids are the leaders in all areas of school and extra curricular life.

The thought of planning a party for 50 kids with paid entertainment, bought in catering, personalised invitations, extensive goodie bags, professional cake, balloon modelling, face painting, individually designed and wrapped cupcakes to take away and anything else that is now considered trendy and the norm for a 'good' kids party scares the living daylights out of me.

I am pleased to say that JJ is a grateful little lad and whatever we have done for his birthday each year he has been grateful for. Age 3 we did have a party in our church hall with some friends and family. Catered by us and with traditional games and some toddler group toys, a good time was had by all but the cost was minimal and the level of planning was low.

I have no idea what we did when he was 4, I think we had a day out to Chessington.  The twins were only 2.5 months old so it was a pretty busy time. At age 5 I felt ready to tackle a party again but we had just a small old-school party at our home for about 12 kids. Cake decorating, party games and traditional party food where the order of the day. It turned out to be a stressful party with some spoilt kids being very ungrateful and ruining it for me, thankfully JJ had a fab time.

Age 6 we took 6 friends to soft play and for pizza all for half price and the year later it was Saturday morning cinema and McDonalds for 8 kids, another bumper-value event. Last year we took his cousin with us for a weekend away to a caravan park as JJ fancied this and I was really not sure I could face the whole party business.  The politics of who to invite, the question of should I offer a healthy spread or one that the kids might actually enjoy eating and the worry about affording the party where enough reason for me to run from the idea.

This year I am feeling braver, the girls are now at school as well and at the moment they are in the same class. We have therefore decided to have a class party for all their friends while they are together, logic being that in the future if we did this we would have 60 children to invite rather than the 30 now, because as of September the girls will be with different teachers.

JJ has never yet had a full class party and dh has mused whether this is some of the reason that he does not get invited to lots of parties.  Have we held him back because we made decisions to have small intimate parties or to go out as a family? Who knows, I can't ponder over that too much as it is fruitless, the time has gone. I am encouraging him to perhaps go for that option this year and we will see how that changes things.  Ultimately the decision will sit with him though (well within our budget).  Right now he is swinging between a full class party at a soft play, taking a friend to lego land and having a few friends to play quasar.

The girls are having a 1.5 hour after school party at a local soft play that does a really good rate for up to 60 children.  There is no way we will have that many but at least the number allows us to invite whoever they fancy. The food will be a simple party spread - sandwiches, cocktail sausages, crisps, grapes, carrot and cucumber followed by biscuits and cakes. Minimal fuss but I think it will get eaten.  I do not have anything to prove to other parents, if I wish to offer jam as one of the sandwich options I will.  Is there to be humus with dip and cherry tomatoes?  No because from what I have seen they do not get eaten by the kids.

I am pondering gift bags at the moment. Will I break the mould and not offer anything or maybe just do some sweetie cones (made by me, not bought I hasten to add)? I certainly won't be offering bespoke cupcakes at £3 a child, I really don't have that kind of money.  In fact with 50 odd kids potentially coming, I'd love to be able to get away with just about 50p per takeaway gift/ bag?

If you have any great ideas, they do let me know.  I'd love to hear what has worked well for you but does not cost the earth.