Time to Party!

The cost of birthday parties for children is rising. Ask your fellow parents and you’ll most likely find that they’re spending somewhere between £200 and £800, which, in alternative costings is at least an arm and a good proportion of a leg. It’s entirely possible that the truly extravagant amongst us have skewed the figures considerably by hiring 50 Cent as the party entertainment and laying on party treats that are more carat than carrot, but it would appear that the price, both financial and human, of creating a very special day is on the rise. If you’re considering invoicing no-shows to your 7-year old’s shindig, it may be worth taking a step back and asking “who exactly is this party for?”

As a parent, it’s very easy to get locked into a world of compare and contrast. Posts of flamboyant parties on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can create a sense of one-up-manship, jealousy, and worry. Pinterest Party Paranoia is only a step away when searching for ideas for a themed party – is it possible to build the entire landscape of Frozen using nothing but an egg carton and some cellophane? Keeping up with the community standards of parties might sound ridiculous written down, but the problem can be very real indeed.

A quick search on blogs and forums reveals a sense of nostalgia from some parents who appear to yearn for simpler times. Not only is keeping it simple a lot less hassle, but it is cheaper too and if you do it right, your children will have a great time.

The first question is who to invite. The answer is, it’s entirely up to you and your child. Socially, this can be a minefield. Invite the entire class and not only does the cost escalate but it’s possible you’ll end up with children at the party that your child doesn’t even get on with. Don’t invite the entire class and your child might not be invited to some parties as a result. Being left out when the rest of the class is invited can be hard to explain. A good rule of thumb is to take the age of the birthday girl or boy, add one, and then invite that many.

You might consider holding the party at home. There are of course plenty of excellent venues that can host a party and having a small outing can save money and bother, but costs can escalate when siblings of guests are part of the equation. If you have the space and can handle the thought of hosting then this is a good option. There’ll be no venue hire and most children will be more than happy with a few party games, a cake and a few nibbles. Whilst we’re on the subject of food, if you can host the party in mid-afternoon, most children will have had their lunch by then and you’ll only be required to lay on a few light snacks and not be expected to provide a full meal.

Decorating the room might seem like an uphill task, particularly if you decide to go down the theme route. Think back to when you used to go to parties when you were a child and what was the one thing you remember? It’s not the fancy plates, the crepe paper hanging from the ceiling or a massive banner with a name on it. The chances are you spent most of the afternoon messing about with balloons. So, get a few packs of easily inflated balloons and attach them to the walls (mind the paint work) and have them scattered on the floor. They’re a winner every time. There’s a lot of really great DIY projects on Pinterest like glitter dipped tumblers, fabric garlands and banners and centrepieces that can give you loads of cheap but effective ideas.

Providing food can be tricky, particularly if your guests have specific requirements and you want to stay away from anything too sugary. A buffet style spread is a good idea, and you can mix the old favourites like sausage rolls and cheese on a stick with small servings of pasta (which is an easy one to cook and cheap to do) and some nice peppers and celery stick with dips. There’s always a danger that you waste your time and bread cutting sandwiches into beautiful princess shapes and find that not one child touched them because they only want to lick the icing of cakes and eat crisps. That’s parties!

Party bags are a contentious issue and are the subject of much discussion, comparison and debate. There’s no need to go overboard. Giving gifts for your guests to take home that cost more than the gifts your child received is a strange concept. There are any number of places to pick up cute and cheap gifts. The Poundshop is good start to pick up pencils, hero gliders, and wooden puzzles or perhaps you might favour somewhere a little quirkier like Little Cherry. However, you fill them, a really nice idea is to buy some sturdy paper bags with handles and decorate them with your child for that personal touch. It’s always worth making a few extra, just in case a few rogue siblings turn up, that way you don’t have to panic about finding extra!

The most important thing to remember is that you’re putting a party on for your child, not the parents of the guests and not for you. A good party will give you many memories to cherish!

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