Parties - you either love them or hate them, but once you have children there is no escaping them! I recently read an article claiming that the average cost per child of a party bag was an astounding £7.48! Quite what people are putting in their bags is beyond me. From my experience, the content is usually what we affectionately call 'landfill'. Another articles suggests that parents are now spending around £500 on children's parties, in a bid to make sure their child is no different to their classmates. The cost of an entertainer is in the region of £150 for an hour. Room hire in my own experience is around £60. You then have the cost of the cake, the food and the decorations. Gone are the days of having 5 classmates round after school for a birthday dinner and a game of pass the parcel!
So what does it take to make a good party? Well there are a number of things you need to consider, primarily the age of the child and how many friends they have! A farm party is always popular amongst the kids. Prices vary from around £10-£15 per child inclusive of food. There is no mess for you to clear up afterwards and you usually get a few adult places included in the price, so it's a win-win situation!
Bowling parties are a favourite amongst the 6-7 year olds. Again, you usually have the option of having food there, so all you need to bring is a cake and maybe some party bags.
A personal favourite of mine is a traditional tea party. We did this last year and it went down a storm. We invited 6 close friends round. We spent the morning making all sorts of cupcakes, tray bakes, and biscuits… you get the idea. We laid a pretty tablecloth out and we put cakes and biscuits on a lovely cake stand. We hung bunting up and we had gorgeous handmade party bags for our guests to take home. It was slightly different to the 'norm' and all the girls loved the idea, I would definitely do this again. The cost was relatively small. If you do not have a vintage style tablecloth, you can pick one up quite cheaply. I have had my cake stand for a number of years now, but you can buy them for around £5 in most budget stores now. If you make your own cakes, you can keep the cost down. We didn't bother with sandwiches, we went for the full on sugar rush, but even so, food would not cost a huge amount. Bunting can be done cheaply or a little more extravagantly depending on your preference. You can get plastic, paper or fabric bunting. Our party bags were bought from the lovely Charlie Moo's. Each bag is handmade and then you have a variety of options depending on your budget. The fillers are good quality and the kids were genuinely excited when they saw them.
Hiring a church hall or village hall is quite a flexible option. When the children are younger, you can simply take some bigger toys to fill the space, i.e. a small slide, little trikes and giant building blocks. Some people hire small bouncy castles and you will find some halls that will allow them to be put up inside the hall. As the child gets older and you find yourself with 20 classmates on your hands, it may be wise to hire a professional entertainer. Not such a cheap option, but it usually guarantees a smile on the faces of most of the children! We brought in a few garden toys - bouncy dog, trikes, small seesaw and we shared the party with a friend. My friend and I shared the cost of some face paints and spent 2 hours attempting to paint around 20 toddlers! We did traditional finger food, which can be found cheaply in most supermarkets these days. We had pass the parcel and we made our own birthday cakes. We gave each child a book, a slice of cake and a balloon to take home.
Rather than attempting to keep up with whatever the other children are doing, I have found the best thing to do is decide how much you have to spend, and then give a couple of suggestions to your child as to what they can have. We were left a little in the lurch last year when a friend suddenly pulled out of a shared party with only a couple of weeks to go. With a hall, an entertainer and all the trimmings, this was a very costly experience for us. However this year, we are simply taking our little one and 2 close friends to the local theatre to see a show, then dinner out afterwards.
The priority is your child and their enjoyment as well as your purse strings!
Rachel Whitelock - Freelance Writer and mum of 2