So you've decided to host a party for your child. Fun, right? Wrong. Well, maybe at points – but you need to be prepared. Welcome to the jungle.
We recently hosted a party for Frank's 5th birthday, since Covid restrictions have been relaxed (although we did limit numbers due to the ongoing pandemic and my own sanity). It wasn't our first party; back in the day BC (Before Children) we used to be pretty decent at throwing parties. It wasn't our first kids party either, but there was a key difference – he's at school now. So whilst in previous years it was just family and our own friends and their kids, this year we invited actual school friends. Due to Covid restrictions we haven't been to many parties this year, and thanks to (necessary) masked up social distancing at the school gates I'm not too familiar with any of the parents. So when it came to organising Frank's party we were spectacularly winging it, with no prior knowledge of what parties of school-aged kids are like, and with kids and parents we didn't really know. Here is what I learnt – my essential kids party survival guide.
Tip #1 – Don't have the party at your house
We did. It involved a lot of frantic tidying beforehand, the hiding of breakables, and a lot of sandwich crafting. It also involved a lot of cleaning up after, although I did have a few wonderful helpers. I am pretty sure my sister-in-law warned me off hosting kid's parties at my house a few years back, but I'm only remembering this now. Next year I am booking somewhere, anywhere, that isn't my house. Preferably somewhere that will do the food for me, as well as clean up. I plan on walking away from that bombsite with a spring in my step.
Tip #2 – Get helpers
Your parents, friends, brothers – literally anyone that can lend a hand, enlist their help. Offer them beer as a reward.
Tip #3 – Entertainment
We've been to a few kids parties recently, since friends I met in my pre-natal aerobics class BabyFit all had babies (and therefore birthdays) around the same time. It is clear that booking something to entertain the troops is essential. In my BC days entertainment at a party wasn't really that important, maybe setting up a beer pong table would go down well, but the focus was mainly food and drink. This is not the case with children's parties (although juice pong does sound pretty fun). Unlikely to stand in the kitchen and drink beers, chat and listen to music – children need something to do or look at before cake time. In the last month I've seen clowns, face painters and magicians, as well going to a party on an actual pirate ship, and one in the park complete with footballs/cricket sets/bikes. We went for a classic; a bouncy castle, that was squeezed into our garden and played music inside. We also had a pinata that proved tricky to destroy, but armed with the knowledge that there was candy inside the five year olds showed amazing persistence. If only their reading books came stuffed with sugar. Note – do not assume they will just play. and entertain themselves. You need to plan some sort of distraction from utter chaos.
Tip #4 – Don't put too much pressure on yourself
Even the most organised party planner cannot avoid the simple fact that things go awry. And there is a lot you cannot control such as the weather being bad, a child falling down steps, or a miniature party guest staying a bit longer than you'd anticipated (all these happened to us last week by the way). It's easy to set expectations that are too high, such as the perfect party, and then get distressed when things go a bit wonky. Don't stress too much and try to take a moment to notice how much fun your kid is having, because otherwise what are you even doing this? Chances are people won't notice that it's a bit drizzly and the games you had planned didn't happen, or that the magician started late.
Tip #5 – Take some paracetamol
Oh, you don't have a headache? You will. Prepare yourself now.
Tip #6 – Get yourself something to drink
This may be obvious but get yourself something tasty and alcoholic to drink after the kids are in bed. And maybe pair it with a slice of cake. And look at some photos of the day you've just had – there will be some gems in there.
Itis over – you survived, and hopefully your house did too. Your kid had a great time and so did their little friends so – well done. You now have a year until the next one, so that in itself is worth a celebration.