Kids' parties don't have to be tots running wild, try these wallet-friendly ideas
I said goodbye to children's birthday parties some years ago but while many parents are delighted with the idea of 20 tots running riot on fizzy drinks and cupcakes, others dread the annual appearance of their child's special day.
The latter know that the place risks getting trashed and they'll be down a fortune as they try and compete with the classmates' shindigs.
I fell into the latter category and confess I often out-sourced the day to an entertainer, or brought them along to a play centre. In the years I couldn't afford to it was Rice Krispie cakes and party games all the way. Cheaper perhaps, and a lot more work, but no less fun.
Here are some ideas to make children's parties go with a bang, while you keep your head above water ... and your wallet intact.
Decide how much you want to spend first. Children get invited to so many parties, it can seem like the entire class has to come to yours, but unless you're doing it at home, the numbers will rack up costs elsewhere. You could give your child the option of say, a cinema and pizza trip with six friends, or have 15 to the house for a 'disco'.
Let him/her make the decision if they're old enough and they'll feel involved from the start. It's perfectly okay to let your child understand money isn't limitless. Include costs for food, entertainment, goody bags,cake, decorations and perhaps a glass of wine for collecting parents!
Two hours is loads. Consider having it after school rather than weekends as it can tend to drag on otherwise. Give parents clear times on the invite and your phone number so they can confirm attendance. Tell them exactly how to get there so you don't spend time taking phone calls from confused attendees.
Home or Away?
Deciding where to have the party is probably your biggest decision. There's big business in play centres and while they can certainly cost a lot more, for older children and fewer numbers it can be really fun to meet at a dedicated place and be able to leave the mess behind. The table (above) shows some popular options locally but websites like fundays.ie, rollercoaster.ie and mumstown.ie all give good advice.
If you're heading to a venue, make sure parents know how to get there or that you have enough lifts for all. Ask the venue exactly what's included. Some expect you to bring your own cake, for example, while others supply it.
If there's a cost for goody bags, ask what it includes, or make up your own in advance. Ensure there are no age restrictions for the activities included.
Entertainers are very popular whether it's a magician, clown or crafts. They may do an hour's fun but you'll still have to provide tea afterwards. Consider asking some teenagers to help out with face-painting.
Pick a Theme
Pirates, princesses, favourite singers or sport heroes - get the kids to come dressed up and theme the day with music and games as appropriate.
Otherwise a teddy-bear picnic is great for under 5s, or play dress up (have fun accessories in a box), hide and seek and pin-the-tail-on-the-bear. Put on the works: tea-cups, cup-cakes, table linen, picnic blankets and chairs for teddies, of course.
Another option is a chocolate making party: buy moulds (www.bakeworld.ie has lollypop ones for bunnies, puppies and princesses from €5.95) and melt chocolate into them - it cools while they're playing and they can eat it afterwards).
Arts and Crafts are always fun, if a bit messy. Engage an enthusiastic teenager (go on, pay her if necessary!) and stock up on collage paper, glitter, paints, crayons, stickers, glue-on decorations and make a collective frieze for your child's bedroom. Include putty for pottery pieces for older children, hand-made cards, mask making or glass painting (www.inspiringideas.com and www.artandcraft.ie have supplies). Whatever you do though, making your child feel special with their friends matters the most!