My Top 7 Tips for a Successful Birthday Party!

How to organise a stress-free birthday party

I’ve always been adamant that I wasn’t going to get caught up in the whole Birthday party thing; inviting the entire class and spending a fortune.  However, I don’t mind paying a bit more for a small group to do something special.

Last year we didn’t have a party when our daughter turned 5.  It was her first year at the school, her birthday is in September and we didn’t know enough people to invite.  So, we had a quiet family party and spent the day with one of her closest friends.  However, after attending a plethora of parties this year there was no way we were going to get away with it this year.

I’ve had a party at the house once and if I’m honest it cost nearly as much, was stressful and I was left to clear up the mess at  the end.  Plus our house is tiny.

Kids Party - Sledging - Hemel Snow Centre

1.) Find the right venue!

This year we decided to go sledging at the Hemel Snow Centre near St Albans.  It’s not cheap at £19.95 per child, but after I booked I had a nosy at other venues, mostly soft play and it was only about £3 cheaper a head and you didn’t get a warm buffet.

However, the sledging party included:

  • 45 minutes sledging
  • 2 party hosts
  • Hot Buffet
  • Visit from the Snow Cat
  • Party room for an hour
  • Invitations
  • 4 Adults can join in

Plus, for an additional £30 you can have waterproof clothing for all the kids, which I think the parents appreciated.  All we really needed was a pair of wellies or snow boots.

Children's Wellies - Snow boots

2.) Get down and boogie

I was a bit nervous about what we were going to do in the party room with 10 hyper kids for an hour. However, the time flew by, by the time they ate we only had about 30 minutes to fill. You can bring your own music as they have a docking station but do bare in mind the new Iphone 5s don’t work.

Prior to the party I put a little birthday party playlist together of songs that I thought would get them dancing.  I did check out a few kids party albums, but they really did make my ears bleed.

Top 10 songs for Children’s Party

  1. Get the Party Started – Spacer
  2. Firework – Katy Perry
  3. Dancing Queen – Abba
  4. What Makes you Beautiful – One Direction
  5. I like to Move It – Madagascar
  6. Dance With Me Tonight – Olly Murs
  7. Gangnam Style – PSY
  8. Mama Mia – Abba
  9. Call My Name – Cheryl
  10. YMCA – Village People

3.) Kids Musical Party Games

As an ex-teacher the thought of children running riot with no structure terrified me.  However, I didn’t want to go down the road of bringing loads of equipment to play games, wanting to keep it as simple as possible.  As I had the Ipod with us I decided on musical games.  As soon as I thought they were going a bit ‘doolally’ we gathered them together and played a quick game of Musical Bumps.

However, I’d also planned:

  • Musical Chairs
  • Musical Statues
  • Limbo

Don’t forget to bring prizes for the winner.  I opted for little bags of gold coins that cost .45p each.

4.)  Don’t forget the cake!

I know some parents are hell bent on baking their own cakes for their kid’s birthday parties, I applaud them and I’m sure the look on their faces is worth it.  However, as I’m domestically challenged, if I baked a cake for my daughter I’d definitely remember the look of sheer disappointment on her face.  I’m a strong believer of paying the professionals and knowing ones limitations.

In St Albans, we are blessed as we have the lovely Lucy from Heavens a Cupcake who is incredibly talented.  All I said to her was that it was a sledging party and I needed 12 cupcakes.  Aren’t they gorgeous!  She makes all the toppings by hand and they not only look amazing they taste amazing as well.

Heavens a Cupcake - Sledging

5.)  Say no to Party Bags!

As I’ve mentioned before I’m not a huge fan of party bags.  I hate seeing parents waste money on bags full of plastic tat that ends up in the recycling bin when the kids aren’t looking.  I originally was going to just give out books.  I bought a 10 pack of Horrid Henry Books for Early Readers from the Book People for £9.99 but then had a wobble as I thought the kids may be disappointed as they would be expecting a party bag.

So, I popped to the Mr. Simms Olde Sweet Shoppe in St Albans and bought little bags of traditional sweets (£1 each) for the kids.  In the end each party bag cost just under £2 which I think is reasonable.  Do consider buying an extra one just in case.

6.)  Phone a friend

I was absolutely blessed that the parents that came to help out, were not only friends but they’re also the type of people to jump in and help at any point.  They could tell I was a little befuddled so jumped right in setting up the room whilst the rest of us were traipsing up and down the hill.  Thanks ladies!

7.)  Thank you cards

I’m a big stickler for thank you cards, but we all know that it can be incredibly stressful and frustrating to get an early writer to write 10 thank you cards.  I tend to cheat, I use services like Photobox, where I can upload my own photo and create our own thank you card using the post card option.  Each child then ends up with a photo to remember the day by.


Did I miss anything?  If so, please do leave a comment below.

Disclosure:  The Wellies were courtesy of Start Rite Shoes for review purposes but aren’t they gorgeous.  I want a pair for myself.



How many birthday parties?

Now that Madame has started school, I’m finding that the number of Birthday invitations is rapidly increasing.

According to my calculations, with 60 children in Reception there is a likelihood that she could have a party a week to go to!   That’s a lot of presents, cards and gift wrap.

Realistically, how many parties do your kids go to in a year?

I have to run out this morning and get a present for a 6 year old boy which I’ll find challenging.  I’m okay with buying presents for girls the same age as Madame, but when it comes to boys I’m a bit clueless.  I’m thinking of some kind of construction kit.

Luckily I have a selection of cards and wrapping paper at home courtesy of Orchard Cards, who also have loads of gorgeous Christmas Cards, wrapping paper and Late Advent Calendars.  They have also kindly offered a £25 worth of Orchard Cards products to one of my lucky readers.  Simply enter using the Rafflecopter form below.

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I hate party bags!

I have a very strong aversion to kid’s party bags; I don’t know where the fear comes from or where the tradition originated. Can we blame the yanks again? I’m doing my best to keep my daughters birthdays under control, as an ex-teacher I know how it can all get carried away. I’ve heard stories of kids having to pay to attend parties.

My daughter’s birthday will be one of the first in her year, being mid September, and I’m determined to set the bar low, hoping that other parents will appreciate the gesture. I have friends with normally very well-behaved kids and they have thrown themselves on the floor in a strop when not given a party bag and they died of embarrassment.

However, today when buying party supplies I found myself wavering near the matching party bags and tempted to follow the status quo, but I put my foot down.

So, what’s the alternative? As usual I asked on twitter and got loads of amazing suggestions. Sorry if I haven’t credited everyone but copying and pasting them all was enough for me. I hope this helps you in some way!

  • Mosquito nets (charity)
  • Craft sets from Poundland
  • Biscuits with names on instructions
  • Helium balloon filled with sweets
  • Vouchers for Smiths or ELC
  • Measure out Flapjack mix with instructions
  • Lucky bags! Or a balloon with sweets in, they love popping them for the sweets!
  • Bucket and spade sets – £1 each online
  • ‘grow your own beanstalk’ kit. Small pot, compost, ‘magic’ beans and instructions all in a plastic bag.
  • A book and stuck a small bar of chocolate on to it. Try The Book People for cheap good books. You can separate the book sets and could stick to a theme if you have one.
  • Personalized gift wrapped cup cake that cost a quid!
  • Colouring book. Mini craft packs. Little pots and Seeds. Buns.
  • Well anything but bloody bubbles!
  • Children’s magazine or comic
  • Packet of seeds to grow
  • Card saying you donated to charity on their behalf…. Then go and get yourself a nice bottle of wine (this is my favourite!)
  • We had lots of gingerbread men & icing pens/decorations & kids got creative & took those home
  • We baked & decorated cupcakes for friends, handed out in boxes
  • We used to make a donation to a kids’ charity instead then thank kids and parents, rather spend money on that than more tat.
  • Sunflower seedlings
  • Usually do one Lego minifig or mini book instead (£1.50)
  • A little cup cake with child’s initial on it.
  • Helium balloons
  • We did a pool party and they each got a cheap rubber ring.

Do you have any other suggestions?

I’m a Freak! I’m scared of Birthday parties!

I’m not afraid of clowns or balloons but today I realised I have a fear of birthday parties (I’m a Fragapene)??? My daughter turns three in 3 weeks.  I have always been adamant that I’m not going to get swept up in the madness of having the perfect birthday party, spending hundreds, organising venues, hand-made fairy cake tiers, hiring paedophile clowns, inviting 60 zillion kids and the dreaded party bags.  I quietly promised myself that I would keep them small and intimate as long as I could get away with it.  Last year we took two of her 2 best friends to a theme park, Gulliver’s World in Milton Keynes, catered by Costco and we had a brilliant time.

However, this morning, I was talking to a good mate and we were trying to think of what I could do this year.  She reckons I could use the same model but choose another venue.  This is when it dawned on me.  It’s not the expense; it’s the whole idea of organising the perfect party that completely freaks me out.  Bottom line is I’m shit at organising parties.  My hubby’s 40th was a complete flop.  You could see the tumbleweed rolling by.  For my own 40th, in 18 months time, my only request is no party as I’d rather use the money to go away with good friends (@chickenruby I hope).  Don’t feel sorry for me but whenever I throw a party either no one shows up or I end up in a room full of people I don’t really like.

I’m not child friendly so the idea of organising party games etc….scares the hell out of me…Do bear in mind that I have skydived, bungee jumped and travelled the world solo.  I have faced packs of wild dogs and have been attacked more than once but the prospect of a birthday party scares me even more.  This is probably why I opted for a small wedding (16 people only friends and family).  It may surprise you but I hate being the centre of attention.

So, with all this, what do you think I should do?  I’m tempted to bugger off and take her to Disneyland Paris??  I think it will be money better spent.