How to throw the perfect party
From guest lists to games, Gurgle gives you the lowdown on making your tot's birthday a day to remember for the right reasons
Though it’s tempting to pull out all the stops for your tot’s birthday party, why put yourself through unnecessary stress when the birthday boy or girl is likely to be oblivious to your efforts and more interested in eating jam tart crumbs and playing with people’s shoelaces. That said, you want to mark such an important milestone with more than a balloon tied to their highchair and a sponge cake bought from the supermarket. So, how do you strike the right balance? We asked those in the know for their top tips.
Who to invite
‘For one and two year olds, the party is really about you celebrating your child’s birthday, so family only is entirely appropriate,’ says Emily Potts, owner of Party Ark. ‘But many mums like to invite friends they’ve met at antenatal classes and playgroups too.’
‘Consider limiting the number of guests to avoid your baby feeling overwhelmed,’ says Lorraine Buckle from The Party Times. ‘Small groups work best until your child is four, when you can involve them in the guest list – they’ll have firm ideas about who their friends are by then. If your child is at a nursery, ask your child’s key-worker for a list of his/her friends – that way you can distinguish between the real and the imaginary people on your child’s list!’ advises Emily.
Another tip many mums swear by is to limit the number of invitees to the number of candles on the cake – three guests for a third birthday etc. And if you have a really little one, try to organise things around nap time. And specify a clear finish time!
What’s your style?
Traditional: Great for young children and simple to execute – have a few friends round for tea, don shiny party hats, eat cheese and pineapple on sticks and have the kids spend time riding around on the back of some dad on all fours.
Themed: If your child is into a particular TV character, or dinosaurs, fairies etc, this is a great way to bring together all the aspects of the party from the invites, to the food, to the decorations and games. And with a bit of thought and forward planning it doesn’t have to cost a fortune - you could always make the costumes yourself, for example. See box, left, for more ideas.
Bigger budget: There are plenty of party organisers out there who can help you. Claire, a mother of two, says of one party extravaganza she once attended: ‘The food was fit for royalty, the house was transformed into the island of Sodor, and a human Thomas the Tank Engine spent the afternoon entertaining the kids. It was completely mind-blowing.’
Emily from Party Ark shares some popular choices
Favourite themes for 1-2 year olds include traditional book favourites such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Peter Rabbit. In the summertime especially, Teddy Bear ranges are exceptionally popular and many parents choose to meet at a local park for a Teddy Bear’s picnic. The children can bring their own bears, and even dress them up.
The most popular ranges in the 3-4 age group tend to reflect the most popular CBeebies and Milkshake programmes such as Peppa Pig, Charlie & Lola, Ben & Holly and Thomas the Tank Engine. The Gruffalo is also incredibly popular for this age group, and is a theme that appeals equally to boys and girls.
Girls 3-4 upwards tend to become caught up in the world of fairies and princesses. Themes range from Rapunzel and Snow White to beautiful ‘generic’ princesses in marvellous castles – and not forgetting both garden and flower fairies!
For boys from four upwards, chivalry and dinosaurs make perennial favourites. For older boys, Harry Potter, The Smurfs, Toy Story and Batman make excellent party choices.
For boys and girls age four and up a combined knights and princesses party is always a success. A Mr Men theme also contains enough Mr Men and Little Miss characters to keep both boys and girls happy.
Kids’ parties, celebrity style
Kourtney Kardashian (left) held a circus carnival themed party for her son Mason’s first birthday, which included a carousel and his own petting zoo with piglets, goats and ducks.
Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise allegedly spent $100,000 on Suri’s second birthday, including $17,000 on fresh flowers and $45,000 on catering. And they filled the room with 1,000 butterflies.
For Kingston’s fourth birthday, Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale treated 100 guests to a $15,000 party. Entertainment included roaming superheroes, face painters, and a balloon artist.
Britney Spears held a truck-themed birthday party for her sons Preston, three and Jayden, two. The birthday boys drove around their party in motorised cars which featured personalised number plates.
Written by Elsie Button