The What, When and Where of Children’s Parties

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Rule 1:  Parties need to be age appropriate 

It’s coming up to birthday time, and you’re thinking about The Party!  If you don’t know where to start, or are just looking for tips for improving your already awesome ideas, then you’ve come to the right place!

I am Kathryn from SpongeBlob Parties and I am something of an expert on parties.  I’ve hosted lots of parties in my time, and I’ve been to, quite literally, hundreds!  A question I see a lot of people ask on the parenting forums is ‘What’s a good party for my 2 (or 3 or 4, etc) year old?’

Now all kids are different but in my experience, these are the general guidelines for hosting an age appropriate party.

Your child is turning 1

Hurray!  You’ve made it!  Your child is turning one.  They might be able to walk by now, they may even have a word or two under their belt, and they’re developing their own little personalities.  It’s a great time to be a parent.  And it’s also completely exhausting.  If you’re back at work, then you are probably shattered, but also want to make the most of ever precious minute you get with your baby.  So here’s the low down on the one-year old’s party.  Your child will not remember it at all.  Show an 8 year old photos of themselves at their first birthday party, and it’s like it all happened to somebody else. They’ll be pleased to see that you gave them a good time when they were babies, but it will feel pretty academic to them.  So here’s my first piece of advice:  unless a first birthday is massively significant in your culture, don’t sweat the first birthday party. If you are itching to throw money at a milestone party, then spend it on your favourite tipple.  You’ve earned it!

Your child is turning 2

They’re walking, talking, entertaining bundles of fun and energy.  But when they get overtired… that’s when all the fun stops.  For pretty much everyone.  So my advice is:  keep the party small, short and sweet.  Most entertainment packages come in two hour slots.  For this age group, 90 minutes is more appropriate.  By now, you will have a reasonable idea of what your child likes and dislikes, including his naptimes.  Factoring these into your plans will save on tantrums.

A party in your own home with just a few guests, and lots of silly running around is generally the best option at this age.  Face painting and balloon animals come with minimum age requirements, and you are just not going to get value for money if you book them now.   Even mascots can be scary for toddlers.  So sort out some silly games (not pass the parcel yet though) and lay on plenty of crisps.  That’s the way to the two year old heart.

If you really want to take the party on location, many leisure centres have small soft play areas that are ideal for toddlers and pre-schoolers.  And there are professional playgroup providers (like Tickety-boo in Solihull) that are fully geared up to providing birthday party entertainment for this age group.

Your child is turning 3

Three year olds are better at making (and being) friends than are two year olds, so your child might have acquired some pals from playgroups or nursery.  But even the most precocious three year old is still quite random and strange, and she is probably not a great party investment just yet. There is very little more irritating than spending hundreds of pounds on a party only to discover that the party child has woken up grumpy and uncooperative, and you are going to be spending the entire party persuading her into at least pretending she’s having a good time.   So I would urge you to hold fire on fancy parties just yet.

Home is still a great venue and there are now lots of party games that your 3 year old has the emotional and intellectual capacity to play (keep an eye out for another blog post dealing with just this subject!)  Home parties do create a lot of mess and many parents will cordon off the stairs, so that the mess is contained.  If the weather is dry, then outside, even on colder days, is an option as long as the guests have been warned to dress appropriately.  At this age, a bouncy castle in the garden is, weather permitting, hugely popular!  But please – don’t bother booking a face painter or balloon modeller… you still won’t get sufficient value for your money.  Some children’s entertainers are happy catering to pre-schoolers and there’s no denying that a good entertainer will save you a bucket-load of stress.  Your local Facebook parenting forums are a great place to find reputable entertainers, as is Netmums Local.  Most three year olds love dressing up and pretending games, so this is the year when you can think about having a very loose party theme, even if it’s just ‘come in fancy dress’, which covers all bases!

Your child is turning 4

This is when you can let loose your inner party maven!  Your child will have nursery friends now, and this is often when the ‘whole class’ party kicks in, so suddenly the family home becomes less attractive as a party venue.   You will generally be looking to arrange a party that your child will love, and that the other children will also love because a party where only the party child is having a great time is not a great party!   Whole class parties will involve a wide age range – a child who turns 4 in August will have party guests are nearly 25% older than them.  That’s quite an age gap.  So try to keep as broad a base as possible for your party.  And be prepared to welcome siblings, often without any notice… you don’t have to provide them with a party bag, but it’s generally wise to over cater, just in case!

Great options include:

  • soft play.  The conveyor belt feel of most soft play centres can be very off-putting for adults, but the kids don’t really notice it, so don’t let that deter you from booking your local soft play centre
  • children’s farms.  These can be expensive but you can at least see where the money is!
  • a ‘traditional’ style party in a church hall or community centre.  If you don’t feel up to running such a party yourself (and I’m not going to lie to you – it’s hard work and possibly even more stressful than your day job) then this is where you check out the local children’s entertainers!

For my son’s 4th birthday, my friend and I booked a children’s entertainer called Conk the Clown.  He was awesome!  He even helped us to get ready for the party, and clear up at the end.  He was so good that I booked him again for the following year…  Your local Facebook forums will be able to provide you with similar reviews for entertainers in your area.

Face painters and balloon modellers are also great options at this age.  I’d advise against swimming parties just yet – you’ll have to call on the guests’ parents to join their children in the pool and not everybody wants to do that.  And don’t get me started on the changing room chaos…

Next week:  Age appropriate birthday party ideas for ages 5 to 12.

 

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