Thursday, 13 September 2012

The steps to a successful kids party?

We have attended a few kids parties and also held a few parties. With the help of Pinterest and our past experience, I planned Master 5's Birthday Party to be enjoyable, simple and fun.

My first instinct was to pay outrageous prices and throw the party at a venue that organised everything, including food, cake, entertainment, party bags and decorations. This idea is so appealing as it lowers the stress factor considerably, not to mention the cleanup efforts.
We opted for the more personal and cheaper option in the end. Why? It meant that Master 5 could invite all of his friends instead of limiting the number to 10. Also there are so many discount stores now where you can buy party supplies at great prices, like your plates, cups, balloons, party bag bits and pieces, etc. We also wanted a local venue for the convenience of all guests.

So this is how the party panned out, and the parts that made it a success.

I like to make the cake myself, unless the kids request something totally beyond my skills (which are quite limited). Again, there are many things on the market now to help you do this. I am a huge fan of the Cake Toppers available in different themes, ready to add to the top of your cake. I get mine from The Cheesecake Shop. I went in ready to get something around the theme of Fireman Sam or Lightening McQueen, neither of which were available. I then spied a very cool (by 5 year old standards) A4 Super Mario Bros. Cake Topper. SOLD!

We bought a large cake tin a couple of years ago, which proved to be a good investment. It was the perfect size for the A4 Cake Topper, which I positioned off-center to leave room for some candles. I used Betty Crockers Super Moist Chocolate Fudge Cake Mix x 4 and added green food colouring to the Frosting (included with the cake mix) to decorate the cake, along with some large coloured choc balls. I wrapped a board in some colourful wrapping paper to place the cake on, and my job was done.

We wanted a local park with BBQ facilities, shelter and play equipment. We chose not to go with the larger park, complete with bike track, play equipment, swings, etc. WHY? The park we did choose was smaller and less popular, which meant that we could monitor the children better. We didn't want to be searching across a sea of little heads trying to pick which kids belonged to our party. The smaller park meant we had exclusive use of the play equipment, park grounds and toilets, allowing us free reign on what activities we did and how noisy we could be. We also reserved the BBQ area through our local council for a small fee to ensure it was available.

On the invitation I specifically wrote 11am - 1.30pm. WHY? People like to be able to plan their day. If a parent is staying at the party, they like to know how much of their day it is going to take up, so they can then plan accordingly. If the parent is not staying, this gives a clear indication of when they should return to collect their child. Also, giving a time allows the parent to prepare their child for the duration of the party, sometimes by giving a rest time beforehand, or by informing the child that the party will be about as long as Playgroup, so that get some indication of timing.

Regardless of the age of the children, supervision is important. Accidents happen, children have disagreements, not every venue is 100% child-proof and children are inquisitive.
I encouraged parents to stay if they wanted to and/or thought their child would prefer. The majority of the children at the party were 4-5 years old, and while some are confident, can tend to their own needs and communicate well, not all fall into these categories, especially when in the company of strangers, in a large space, surrounded by a noisy group, and distracted with excitement. It is also a good idea to stand in front of the group and introduce yourself so the children know that if they have a question, need something or are upset, that they know your name and that you are the parent they can come to.

What comes next?
Children, particularly younger ones, benefit from clear instruction and knowing what is coming. It is good practise with children, so they can prepare and get a sense of time, to keep them informed what they will be doing, for how long, and what comes next. So, for example, you might let the children know that they will play Duck, duck, goose until everyone gets a turn and then have something to eat.

The games we played were not based around a reward or a winner. A great range of Party games can be found on our Pinterest Board - Party Games. We chose games that were age appropriate and fun for a group.

Doggy, Where's Your Bone?
The person in the middle (The Doggy), hides their eyes while a person from the circle grabs the bone. The circle then sings
Doggy, Doggy, where's your bone?
Somebody stole it from your home.
Guess who!  Maybe you...
Maybe the monkeys from the zoo.
Wake up doggy, find your bone.

The Doggy then has 3 guesses which of the people sitting around the circle may have the bone, all of whom have their hands behind their backs. With each guess, the person shows their hands. The person who had the bone then is the next Doggy.

Duck, Duck, Goose
The group sits in a circle facing the centre with one person walking around the outside. This person walks around the circle tapping each person on the head lightly, saying Duck to each one, meaning that this person remains seated. The person must chose one in the circle to chase them, to whom they say Goose. The Goose then chases around the circle until they reach their original spot in the circle. The last of the two to sit in the Goose's spot, now becomes the person on the outside of the circle.

Sack Races
Sacks can be anything of suitable size and durability. We used Wheat Bags. Each child puts their legs into a sack and stands at the line. At the command of "Go" the people in the sacks jump toward the finish line. This game always gets a laugh and kids love to race again and again.

Follow The Leader
The person at the front of the line is The Leader. The rest of the people in the line must go where The Leader goes, and to make it more fun they can also move like The Leader.

Wanting to keep it simple we opted for some old favourites.
We chose to have sausages and cocktails in bread, which were great to warm the belly on the windy day. We also provided colourful biscuits, bananas coated in chocolate and decorated, cake in ice cream cones, caramel slice, chocolate crackles, mini cupcakes, top hats, chips and sandwiches.

All of these and more can be found on our Pinterest Board - Party food

Lastly, remember that this is a kids party!
It is easy to get caught up in being organised, being responsible and keeping events on track. Remember that schedules need to be a little flexible and there should be a fun atmosphere. I am sure that if I had told the children at our party that they couldn't keep playing Duck, duck, goose for over 20 minutes, because I had so many others things on my list for them to do, I may have ruined the atmosphere and been a little unpopular.