By now, you probably know one end of a carrot stick from another, so this is a whistle stop tour of parties for 5 to 12 year olds.
Your child is turning age 5, 6 or 7
Welcome to party heaven! A five to seven year old’s party is most children’s entertainers’ dream gig. This age group is responsive, fun, enthusiastic, gullible (yes, we do see this as a positive attribute!) and they know and follow the unspoken party rules. The party world is now your oyster. And, best of all, they still want to have you at their party, so you get to share in all the excitement!
In my experience, you absolutely cannot beat the traditional party for this age group. They’re young enough to believe in magic and old enough to recognise it, they enjoy dancing, dressing up, bouncy castles, face painting, balloons, cake, singing, pass the parcel, musical statues… In a few short years, they’ll be way too cool for a lot of this, but right now, they will love it! Even my own little introverts got a lot of fun out of watching good children’s entertainers. And as long as I wasn’t forcing my son to join in with the dancing, he was happy enough watching the other children hokey-cokey their hearts out.
That’s not to say that this will appeal to every child, and you will know yourself if this is your child’s idea of hell on earth. In that case, you have to go with your gut!
A lot of parents (like me!) angst over decor. In my time, I have spent a lot of time and money on tablecloths, tableware, bunting, and many other decor details that my children did not even notice. By all means, decorate the room because it will make you happy to do it, or decorate it to impress the other adults, but please don’t do it because you think it will make the party special for your child. And this advice holds true for every other year, right up until your children have outgrown wanting you to organise their party for them.
I always themed our parties. We had a science party, a Harry Potter party, a Narnia party, and a few others that were clearly less memorable. If your child has a favourite book, film or TV show, it’s fun to use these as the party theme. Just don’t make the theme so integral to the party that the guests will feel lost if they didn’t read the book or see the film.
Parties for this age group will generally be ‘dump and run’, so if you are going to need help running the party, you will need to either hire it in, or tap up your friends!
Party invite etiquette. For the love of Pete, do not give your child the party invitations to give out in class unless you have invited every single child! Nobody likes to feel excluded and they will like it even less if everybody knows that they have been excluded. This is a time to teach your child how to be kind. If it isn’t a whole class party, then your child is under no obligation to invite somebody she doesn’t play with. But it’s worth reminding her that it isn’t kind to rub that somebody’s nose in their lack of an invitation. Most children lack discretion; it’s up to us as parents to help them to develop it.
Your child is turning age 8 to age 12
Children in this age group do like to be different (as long as the difference is peer approved). In our time we have been to parties in many different venues, including:
PopStar studios, football, trampolining, swimming (shudder!), pony riding, model trains, pampering, henna, pottery painting, pottery making, soft play, laser quest, Nerf wars, go-karting, science, painting, pizza making, climbing…
As you may have gathered from that long list, the party business is lucrative, and even garden centres can now be relied upon to have a room available for hosting parties. There is kudos to being the first to discover a particular party – the downside is that it can be risky being in the van! If your child would be happy with a home party, they do still work well for this age group and have, at least, the merit of being something different!
It is tempting to book a party that follows your child’s passion, so that they are guaranteed to have a good time. If your child’s passion is something that most other children enjoy, then why not? Just bear in mind that it can be a bit tactless to have a party focused on an activity at which your child excels, particularly if the guests are inexperienced at it. In such circumstances, you need to be prepared for (and not grumble about) a low turnout.
By now, you should have escaped from the shackles of the whole class party. Single gender parties are the norm for this age group, so you may still be inviting ‘all the girls’. Party etiquette still dictates that you should invite either a very small proportion of the class (or ‘the girls’), or invite the lot. At any rate, it’s generally not a great plan to exclude just one or two, no matter how horrible they’ve been to your child. It’s a short term solution that will generally make the long term problem even worse.
So… that’s it, in rather lengthy nutshell.
Next week, I’ll be talking about the various church halls and community centres available for parties in Warwickshire and the West Midlands.