If you’re a bit neurotic about birthday party planning like me, it takes you ages to decide what to do, you bounce backward and forward over a plethora of ideas. Its absolutely crazy, I’m absolutely crazy – I blame it on my mother. Pinterest becomes my obession, we eat cake for weeks before and after, trip over party decor – its just cray cray.
So this is the way I go about birthday party planning, well in a perfect world I would be this structured and wouldn’t change my mind a hundred times.
I have not tackled the issue of the cake, maybe I’ll get there in another post 🙂
STEP 1: KNOW YOUR CHILD
This itself is a two part step a) how old is your little one and b) what is your child’s nature. These two questions answered will give you a good indication of what to do, where to do and when to do it.
If your child is under the age of 3 you can pretty much determine what type of party you want to give – what works for you or what you like or what you think your child likes.
Something to bear in mind with little ones is you want them to not miss their nap just so they can be at their party – that is the worst worst idea ever! Plan for the party to operate between naps.
As I have learnt from spending time with a lot of kids and coming from a large family there are diffiernt personalities who will enjoy different types of things. Some children are observers and would be most happy having one on one time with someone like Elsa or Sophia, other children don’t like big crowds so a few close friends work and other kids love a crowd (I was one of these) so combined birthday parties can work here.
Determine what would be special for your child, not what you think you have to do because everyone in your mothers’ group did 🙂
STEP 2: KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
Who are you going to invite, is it just adults, a bunch of hyped up 3 year olds or some lovely little one year olds who don’t know what is going on. Whatever you plan has got to special for your child but suitable for your attendees.
STEP 3: SET A THEME
The theme is a whole disaster on its own. The way I see it, there are a few categories within which to choose:
- character: think sponge bob square pants or Minnie Mouse or octanauts
- Colour: green or pink would be the go to colours in my house and have been
- Idea: sailing for the boy whose father loves boats or hot air balloons for the girl whose mom thinks they’re the cutest
- Activity: swimming party, ice-skating, you get the vibe
- Place: from zoo to jungle to Africa or from tea house to Paris, you can go as big or small.
Not everything has to be themed, have one or two decor items and one or two food items to tie it all together. If you want to go nuts, sure, you have my blessing. There are so many fantastic options and I will delve into this in a little bit.
My first first birthday party was an Sesame Street theme and I went nuts, when my sister saw the picture she queried whether Elmo had vomitted everywhere so that has been my line – don’t make it look like the theme vomitted everywhere, graphic but you get the point.
STEP 4: FIND A VENUE
Where do you have a children’s party? This is largely affected by the number of people you’re having (do 15 one year olds fit in your lounge), what you’re planning on doing and what time of year your party is.
So some ideas:
- The local or at least closest good park. There are some great parks in Sydney. Upper North Shore has Wahroonga and Turrumurra Parks. Lower North Shore has Balmoral. The City has the Botanical Gardens and then there is always Centennial Parklands for the City. I haven’t explored more than this just yet, forgive me I’m still new 🙂 If you go onto your local counsel’s website they will have a list of parks and even places within those parks that you can hire. By hiring a place you should have access to bathrooms, electricity, a shelter and potentially parking.
- The beach, Sydneysiders love the sea and the beach, I reckon that’s one of the reasons we live here. There are many fantastic beaches which have BBQ facilities and space for children to wear themselves out. The last time we were at Clifton Gardens a little girl was having her birthday and she seemed to be having a ball.
- Indoor play areas. We have only been to two at this stage Sportsbliss in Thornleigh and …. in Alexandria. But there is also Wannabees in French’s Forest which has kids parties.
- Gymnastics or sports parties (with the former you can go to the venue and have a supervised party where your kids can play on a gymnastics circuit and with the latter you can arrange for a coach of a certain sport to come to your home or chosen venue).
Remember your venue needs to cater to the time of year you’re having the party and the time of day, too hot or potential for rain you will need to have some form of shelter. I have learnt that it rains in September in Sydney and as a result we can’t rely on a purely outdoor party venue.
STEP 5: DECORATIONS
There are two places I would recommend going to first Big W (we go to the Macquarie One) and Spotlight (we go to Belrose). After that you can look at KMart and Target, those stores collectively should give you everything you need. You could also check out your local Woolies and Coles for any things that fit in your theme.
My current list for decor includes (current being what I’ve learnt to limit the decor to as per husband’s orders 🙂 )
- Balloons, for us our kids are nuts about balloons so I always incorporate them but some places won’t let you bring balloons to a venue
- Loot bags / party packs, Target and Big W have big packs of fillers so you don’t have to spend a fortune buying little toys
- Happy birthday banner, who doesn’t love a birthday banner
- Serviettes, you can never have enough but, should you have enough or too many 🙂 use them afterwards for the birthday child whenever s/he eats dinner, it’s a lovely reminder of a great day
- Paper or plastic plates, I generally go with a simple colour so that I can reuse them for future picnics
- Plastic table clothes (make sure you get the right shape – made that mistake before)
I have been known to get carried away and have also included themed straws, plastic or paper cups, a cupcake stand, the odd centrepiece (yes you read that right ) and flowers (I love having flowers so any excuse will do).
If you buy good quality plain coloured items you can continue to use them for years to come.
STEP 6: FIGURE OUT YOUR CATERING
If you are having the party at a venue you may have to use their catering while others may allow you to bring your own food in.
There are two aspects to this – food and drink, I’ll deal with drinks first as this is the easier of the two.
Make sure you have waters for the kids and adults, especially if you are an indoor venue on the weekend because it gets crazy hot in there! You can either buy bottled water or just have jugs of water, the problem with jugs of water is you need to carry with you jugs and cups, plastic, and you have to have a source for refills. I go with bottled water and keep my eyes out for specials.
Decide if you want alcohol, some parents may expect it while other venues may not let you serve it.
Fruit juice is a firm favourite are as sodas but it can get so complicated with the hundreds of different options available. The other thing is you often get left with half drunk 2L bottles and who in the world has space in their fridge for that?
My biggest problem here is that I always always over-cater and then send everyone home with left overs. I don’t know if that’s embarrassing or not, I’m still undecided 🙂
Food is a time issue – the time of day you have the party will determine what foods you provide but there are a few staples I always go to. Here is my list which you can name and tag according to the theme (I have intentionally left off sweets so you think I’m a great super healthy mom:) )(I’m not)
- fruit platter
- cupcakes. These of course are always themed, always 🙂
- biscuits (this is age dependent for babies Maries are great and for youngsters tiny teddies are a hit)
- cheese muffins (I’ve got a great simple recipe which I could blog if anyone wanted it)
- carrots, cucumber, baby tomatoes and corns
- cheese board
- chips / pretzels and dips
Outside of the above, some of the things I have included in the past are:
- scones with strawberries and cream
- meatballs with dipping sauce
- shooter glasses with milk in and tiny cookies to go with
- mini meringues
- sausages rolls
- beef, pickle and mustard crostinis
- savoury tarts – a really easy option if you use store bought puff pastry (great recipe at http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/18583/prosciutto+tomato+and+ricotta+tart)
STEP 7: PRE-PURCHASE
Having been through the previous steps, it is now safe to go out and start your buying.
I always start buying a few weeks before, I keep an eye out for the specials at Coles and Woolies and then start stocking up. You can buy the drinks, biscuits and chips weeks in advance, sometimes even your cheese and baking items can be bought way in advance.
You do however want to buy your fruit the day before or at a max two days before so that it stays fresh.
In addition to the food and decor stuff above, remember to pick up birthday candles or candle – you can get cute little numbered ones, I’ve managed to find goodies at Coles and Woolies.
Wow this has turned into a super long post, my apologies for that friends but I hope you put it to good use. Now go forth and try and enjoy this experience. Good luck, you’ll do great!