Party Animals

Is it party time yet?

Is it party time yet?

Children’s parties have gone from simple cakes and games to play-centres and magical entertainers. The pleasure of organising them has been replaced with the stress of themes, transportation and even asking parents to sign disclaimers – never mind the expense.

What is so wrong with buns and squash and pinning the tail on the donkey?? In my creche, the children’s birthdays were pretty much just that and they loved it! So when it came to my own children’s parties, I had it down pat…or so I thought. It has taken me three years of parties to realise what I already knew – move with the times but keep it simple!!

When my eldest was in junior infants, I invited a few people from school (names that I had heard her mention) and her friends from the road – about 15 children in total. We had no party games planned, sure I ran a creche, how hard could it be?! Well there ensued two hours of meltdowns from the birthday girl, expectant faces looking at me to see what we would be doing, various children I didn’t know bursting into tears or feeling left out, while I tried to make up fun games on the spot and encourage them to tuck into finger sandwiches and fruit kebabs (there were enough of these leftover to feed us for the week..) It was a tiring, stressy day that I am pretty sure the birthday girl could have done without. I would do better next year!

Is tea and cake at home so bad?

Is tea and cake at home so bad?

Come senior infants, I hired out the local hall and invited the whole class. I planned it to a tee, researched party games, planned a little tattoo parlour and decided on pizza and goodies to eat. There, I was ready for anything. A few parents asked if I needed help. ‘No’ says I, ‘my husband will be here.’ (and sure I ran a creche for years!) The big day arrived and here follows my litany of errors:

  1. Blowing up the balloons at home and then transporting them – stupid, stupid, stupid, three car trips later we got all the balloons there.
  2. Rushing to open the gate to the church hall in the cold, snowy weather. My hand slipped, the gate rebounded at force and gashed my forehead definitely inducing mild concussion. While the birthday girl looked at me in alarmed concern as blood poured down my face. Nice.
  3. Not organising care for my three-year-old and nine month baby. Resulted in a panicked three-year-old stuck to my side, and the baby crying inconsolably for THE WHOLE TWO HOURS!
  4. Expecting to manage a group of nearly 40 children practically on my own, in an echoey hall, with six year old boys being six year old boys (my carefully transported balloons were all burst within five minutes..) a screeching baby, games that wouldn’t work because no one could hear me over the ‘play’ fights and screeching a.k.a. fun for six year olds!

I genuinely don’t think we would have survived that party except for my best friend Tammy showing up and taking control of the kitchen. I nabbed some of the older children to help me corral the gang into games, as I tried to stem the bleeding from my forehead, while my husband walked laps of the hall trying to soothe baby and toddler. Arguably the longest two hours of my life, and I am including three labours in that. Are we having fun yet?

Senior infants party fondly remembered as Hell hall!

Senior infants party fondly remembered as Hell hall!

1st class though, finally I got it right! She wanted a pyjama party, we invited eight children (all girls that were her genuine friends), we lay blankets and cushions down on the ground and on the sofas. The girls arrived and gabbed and giggled excitedly for about 15 minutes, then we played pass-the- parcel (with no presents tucked into layers). I printed out ‘Frozen’ pictures and invested in two new jumbo packs of markers and they settled down to a colouring competition – silence for 20 minutes, no joke. Then it was time for the party. They sang ‘Happy Birthday’, cut the cake and tucked into a carefully planned amount of food that was just enough. Then they got themselves cosy and watched Frozen with their individually designed popcorn cones. By the time my very happy birthday girl waved the last child off, the house was tidy and I had even had a cup of tea and a slice of cake!

Cake and friends-perfect!

Cake and friends-perfect!

Delighted!

Delighted!

So here are my tips on having an enjoyable childrens’ birthday party!

Have it at home: If you can bear the clean up. The guest of honour is generally more comfortable in their own environment and it is far easier to keep everyone safe and happy in your own surroundings. It is cheaper and you can even splash out on a cleaner if need be. Don’t clean your house before the party, no one will notice!!Another bonus is your other children will not be as fazed by all the strange faces in their own surroundings.

Keep it small: You do not need to invite the entire class – a group of 8 to 10 is about right to make it enjoyable. People may take offence that their child is not invited but that is not you or your child’s problem!!

Offer treats as opposed to healthy food: The finger sandwiches and chopped fruit will be ignored – buns, popcorn and cocktail sausages or pizza go down much better.

Plan a few activities: Let the children chat and play amongst themselves but have a few back-up activities; however, don’t force them if not being enjoyed. If you have a garden then plan an outdoor treasure hunt or obstacle course. These can easily be rejigged for indoors if weather does not suit!

Extra adults: Have a couple of people on hand to help. Good friends or family if possible, as they are easier to boss around! πŸ˜‰

Keep it short: Two hours is ample for young children.

Have an incentive to leave: Party bags are a bone of contention and mostly end up in the bin. However, they are a good way to encourage children to leave when the party is over. A slice of birthday cake wrapped up in a colourful napkin is a good waste free ‘party bag’ too!

The Treasure Hunt!

The Treasure Hunt!

I am not yet sure what we are doing for her party this year but I know one thing for sure – it will be simple and so she will definitely enjoy it!

Have you any party stories to share? Please let me know I am not the only one who has messed up royally!

Thanks for reading

Aisling

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. merrybeau
    Jan 08, 2015 @ 23:27:40

    Hi Aisling, Really enjoyed your latest post.

    I tried the fruit kebabs in my time too, and like yourself, they weren’t eaten.

    I also invited the whole class to a party.
    (How hard could it be? I work with children πŸ˜‰ )
    All was going well until the suggestion was made, that the boys would chase the girls which they all thought was much more fun than any activities I had planned.

    Then there was the pizza party… I delegated ordering pizza and ‘hot and spicy’ pizza were ordered πŸ˜‰

    And the party that went on too long. I thought I was doing the other Mums a favour (they would have plenty of time to shop or go for coffee) by starting the party at two and finishing up at five. The children got tired and over excited. I have a memory of having to calm a child, by taking her for walk in the fresh air as she told me she was ‘having palpitations’. (She was six).

    I always loved asking the children to make their own desserts (having bought in ice cream & sprinkles and other treats). Then I would forget to take the icecream out of the freezer in time; a cue for some unnecessary stress.

    I think you have given very useful advice that will guarantee lots of very happy party memories for parents and children alike.

    Keep up the good work πŸ™‚

    Reply

  2. Anonymous
    Jan 10, 2015 @ 17:09:16

    Great article Aisling. I think you nailed it for the ‘pyjama party’:) Great tips..I think a bit of planning and keeping it simple is the key and also to enjoy yourself, if possible! and like you to eat cake! Notice this year the huge difference between girls and boys parties!!

    Reply

    • BabySteps
      Jan 10, 2015 @ 17:59:33

      Thanks for pausing to comment. My son has had two parties and luckily they have been in good weather so have involved lots of football and trampoline action ie run then ragged πŸ˜‰. They have also been small and at home!!

      Reply

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