Have we have lost the plot when it comes to children’s birthday parties?

Isaac 6

Yesterday I took part in a discussion on children’s parties on Britmums that was started as a result of the news that a father was handed an invoice to cover the cost of his son’s no-show at another childs birthday party – you can read the article here.

The question was “have we have lost the plot when it comes to children’s birthday parties

No, I personally don’t think so.

Some of my fondest childhood memories are of my birthday parties.  Ask me what present I received and I wouldn’t have a clue but ask about my parties and I can tell you in great detail.  My favourite one was a joint one with my step-sister where our parents cleared out of garage and turned it into a disco.  We had the most amazing doll cakes, where a Sindy doll had a dress made of cake!  We also had a swimming pool party, complete with huge inflatables – I don’t think they do anything like that these days.

Throwing any type of party isn’t cheap these days and my children understand this.  I don’t bother with birthday parties when they are 1 & 2 years old – they don’t remember it.  Simply inviting a couple of friends to softplay is more than enough.

Eliza had her first party when she turned 3.  It was a Create-a-bear party at our local soft play centre which was cheaper than Build-A-Bear with the added bonus of soft play.  We had strict numbers, but as she wasn’t at nursery then it was mainly family and friends that came.  Isaac was slightly different as he is at school and therefore wanted to invite his friends to his Phaser Party. Because of the nature of the party we had strict numbers so I knew how much it was going to cost.

Lemur Landings

One of the questions from the discussion was “How do you feel when party guests do not show up?” and I have to admit that I do get annoyed, especially if I have had strict numbers to work with.  It has happened many a time when the older kids were little and two guests didn’t turn up to Isaac’s party last year.  Parties are expensive and having to pay out for people who don’t turn up is frustrating.  If I get a phone call to say they are ill that’s fine, but a no-show when you have accepted an invitation is annoying.  I would never send an invoice to someone though.

“Is a great party a wonderful way of demonstrating your love for your child?”  I am not sure I would think of it in that way.  We don’t go overboard at Christmas as we consider birthdays to be their special day.  It is the one day of the year that is all about them and we like to celebrate.  This year Eliza really wanted a Frozen party and because her birthday is so close to Christmas there were no presents she wanted, so we threw her the party she wanted complete with a realistic Anna and Elsa who hosted it leaving me to sort food and any escapee children.

Dorset Dreamers Princess Party

Was it over the top – No, I wasn’t trying to outdo anyone, I just organised the party to the best of my ability.  I roped in help from friends and family which kept the event as stress free and inexpensive as possible.  I cooked the food, Nanny made sandwiches and cakes, my brother-in-law did the disco and my friend Joanne made the party bags.  We hired the local community centre for the party as my house is too small to hold a party, especially this time of year when you can’t use the garden.

In many ways it was an old-fashioned party in the with balloons, home-made food and musical bumps / statues and the kids loved it.  I was going to take Isaac to our local climbing centre for his party this year, but he loved Eliza’s so much that he wants his own version with Spiderman.

I am going to make the most of these fun birthday parties because it’s not long before all they want is the cinema and pizza with friends!

My top tips on throwing a fabulous birthday party are:

  • Set a budget and stick to it
  • Research possible venues, look at reviews and compare what they provide for the price
  • Rope in family / friends to help
  • Don’t over cater – think picnic food
  • Ask the birthday boy / girl what they want – it’s about them having fun, not the parents!

Do you throw birthday parties for your children or do you celebrate in other ways?

30 thoughts on “Have we have lost the plot when it comes to children’s birthday parties?

  1. My birthday is in June and I have very fond memories of parties in the garden with party food, pass the parcel, lots of friends! My parents never went overboard with parties (they couldn’t afford it with 3 children!) but once I was allowed a party at McDonalds and I thought I was the bees knees getting a tour round their kitchen! (Do they even do that nowadays?!). My son has just turned 2 and we did throw a party for both birthdays but I don’t think I went mad. We hired a hall, I did all the food myself, mum helped with the cake and I roped my family in to help with all the little bits. We had a great time! (You can read about it here: http://www.entertainingelliot.com/2014/11/hosting-gruffalo-themed-birthday-party.html )
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  2. Globalmouse says:

    I’m always surprised at how the cost of parties mounts – I love the look of your Frozen one, my 5 yr old would love that! I always try to be imaginative with our parties but it’s hard with three children to keep coming up with ideas every year that are a bit different!!
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  3. Stephen says:

    Some great tips, I always wanted laser quest as a party when I was younger, every year!
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  4. Sara-Jayne says:

    I still don’t, and never will, understand why people care about how other people spend their money or celebrate their special occasions. I throw a big party every year for my boys who are born on Valentine’s and the day after. I love to celebrate the days they were born as much as they do. They have a joint party at the local village hall, I hire a bouncy castle and I do the party myself. I cook, style and decorate all by myself. Yes, it’s over the top, but my boys love it. They’re MY boys, it’s MY money and if I enjoy doing it too, who else should care? What is so wrong about enjoying things? Is it wrong? Should I begrudge doing it? People need to stop peeping over the fence and concentrate on their own lives more than those of others. Thankfully it doesn’t matter to me whether they all turn up – it just means that my husband has to eat more leftover cupcakes 😉
    Sara-Jayne recently posted…Our New Feature – Mug Shot Monday [Open Now]My Profile

  5. Monika says:

    I would be so tempted to hand no-shows an invoice. :oD

    Your points about how to throw a good but affordable party are great! The best party we had was in the local woods: a woodland fairy party.
    Monika recently posted…Another laptop bites the dustMy Profile

  6. Rachel says:

    I have no children, but a close friend of mine spent £20 on party bags and to me that seemed absurd, but maybe that is how it is done these days x
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  7. I think if you try not to compete with others and just have the party you can afford/your youngster wants then it can be great fun. One of the best parties we went to was at a sports gym. An hour of running, jumping, throwing and other such like games – it was then cake time & a little bag with some party food in and a small toy. Happy kid, not much sugary food & he slept like a log that night!
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  8. Mummy of Two says:

    It is difficult to get the balance right isn’t it and you are never going to please everyone! Have them at home and people will call you tight, go overboard and people will think you are showing off!

    We always had parties at home as children and adored them and I am trying to give my two the same experiences before they are too old and want sleepovers etc.

    As long as your children are having a great time, who cares what anyone else thinks – it sounds like they have had some great parties!

  9. We have always had tea parties at home – the kids have had a party with baby friends and family for their first, their 2nds and 3rds have been family tea parties. This summer Harrison turns 4, and he will be having five or six friends over for some party food and games. Hopefully it will be a nice day so we can get the paddling pool out in the garden and fire up the BBQ. I think parties are a personal preference – we won’t be hiring halls or doing anything like that until they’re adults.
    Rachel @ Parenthood Highs and Lows recently posted…The Ordinary Moments: Nursery Rhymes and Air GuitarsMy Profile

  10. Louisa says:

    My friend has elaborate parties for her children, every year trying to outdo her last one. It takes the fun out of it. I think you should adapt the party to the child and their age and as long as the focus is on them rather than one upmanship it will create lots of happy memories.
    Louisa recently posted…Why are some children’s toys so flimsy?My Profile

  11. Mina Joshi says:

    The first birthday party I organised for my son 30 years ago – it was at home and the guests were friends and relations, cousins etc. and I didn’t know anything about Party bags!! I only found out about them after a couple of years when he started going to other parties!! Since then parties did get better as I made friends with other mums who gave me ideas and help. I would never have dreamt of invoicing a kid if he didnot attend the party!! These things happen when they are young.
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  12. polly says:

    we usually have tea-parties at home… crafts, old fashioned games, sometimes a movie… it’s fun and doesn’t cost a fortune
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  13. Hannah Staveley says:

    I am getting so stressed with my daughters 5th birthdays for this March as trying to juggle my wedding this May its a nightmare .

  14. Do you know what, I think it depends on the child. For GG it is all about having fun with her friends so a good party is important, but the Bug would be happy with his best mate and something special for tea. I’ve had a couple of no-shows at a party and it didn’t bother me as much as it bothered my child. But then I’ve been a no show too, and it was to a party she was really looking forward to – I felt awful, but it was a genuine mistake on a rainy sunday afternoon and we had a flim on by the fire – we just completely forgot!
    Actually Mummy… recently posted…Dear Coleen Nolan, diabetes is not my faultMy Profile

  15. We went to a party once where the invitation specified “no gifts”. I thought this was quite a refreshing change and really put the focus on the joy of coming together to share food and fun and not about the cost, the presents, the prizes, the party bags etc.
    Emma (My Little 3 and Me) recently posted…Valentine Friends Stick FiguresMy Profile

  16. Sonya Cisco says:

    Betsy has always been a fan of a proper party, Max prefers just a couple of mates, Syd has only had family tea parties so far- but am sensing that will not be enough this year as the talk of birthday parties has already begun and it isnt his birthday til August!! I think not turning up and not apologising is terribly rude and annoying when you have paid per head, but I wouldnt have gone as far as the invoice!
    Sonya Cisco recently posted…Socialist Snow and Nit Nuking.My Profile

  17. The Frozen party looks amazing and my daughter would love this at her birthday this year. I do think that some family’s get a bit carried away with the whole party day though and it becomes less of a party for the child and more so for the parent. Your tips are perfect! xx
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  18. I like to throw a party for my children at home. We stick to inviting just ten children. I always make the party bags/food, etc. myself, even though it takes me months to prepare! I love doing it for them though. They help to make some of the decorations and activities. I always have trouble sticking to the budget though. If someone doesn’t turn up, we just think of it as having more room in the house for the other children to have fun 🙂
    Bek dillydrops recently posted…School Run Colours 29th January 2015My Profile

  19. I’ve never gone down the route of hiring a place and throwing a huge party and luckily it doesn’t seem to be the thing where I live. The norm around here is to invite max 10-11 people, and often less to, your house for old fashioned games and tea. Very simple and the kids love it. The whole themed party hasn’t caught on yet which is fine by me. The invoice saga was such an extreme step and made me think the world had gone mad!
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  20. Amy Squires says:

    I don’t see the harm in throwing them a big bash every now and then but it isn’t something I would do every year. This year we’re doing a little party for my twins because it’s their first year at school. I guess it’s seen as old fashioned but I’d much rather stick with pass the parcel and musical bumps. i loved it as a child so I’m sure they will too.
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  21. leonii amber says:

    We just held our little girls 4th birthday party the middle of January me and daddy both work so why not try make it as special as possible, We hired a big hall with bouncy castle etc over invited thinking half wouldnt turn up and I must of had 35 children turn up OOPPSSSS it was manic but Vay loved it!

    Do what you like mumma I do to put smiles on my kids faces. I like it when they think im awesome haha x
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  22. I admit I am not looking forward to the start of having to have big birthday bashes etc for my daughter, however she shares a bday (1 year apart) with a friends little girl so hopefully we can share etc! I can’t imagine billing someone for not turning up though!
    Lauren | Belle du brighton recently posted…Interiors: Nursery lighting inspirationMy Profile

  23. we don’t throw parties but we do take the children on holiday to Coombe mill in October half term which falls between the boys birthdays and they love that instead. I simply can’t afford it even with strict numbers all 3 children’s birthdays fall within 6 weeks and 5 weeks before Christmas at that. So all celebrating on holiday works best for us

  24. I like to throw the boys a party too but our eldest doesn’t cope well when he’s over stimulated. This year for his 5th birthday we are on strict numbers (10 including him) so he is off to ringo. I also like to host a halloween party for the kids were the guest don’t feel obliged to being a present and just have fun.
    Mummy to boyz recently posted…Potty trainingMy Profile

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