Tuesday 22 October 2013

Parties for the reluctant parent

I don't look forward to children's parties and am certainly no party planner. Over the years there have been several incidents that I would prefer not to repeat: the crazy boys in a restaurant, the cake catching fire and the child suffering the consequences of too much cake. Some incidents have been a bit surreal: the occasion when my husband had competing job offers and was engaged in negotiations about them in the middle of a child's birthday party.

More recently, I've come to an accommodation with children's birthday parties and some, recently, I've even enjoyed. Just in case there are other people out there for whom children's parties aren't their favourite activity. Here are my thoughts on reducing stress and managing children's birthday parties.

  • Very young children don't need parties. A one or two year old needs a loving family and will probably enjoy a cake. We have made simple chocolate cakes with buttons for first birthdays.
  • Parties don't need to be large. 
  • Mixed age parties can be easier to manage. 
  • Short is good but that short time needs to be organised. If the parents want to chat at the end and the children play informally that is great and a sign that the party has gone well.
  • Helpers-teenage children can be really useful. Make sure there are sufficient helpers for the number of children.
  • Sometimes an outing can take the place of a party. Last year, one of the children chose to take a couple of friends to the Battle of Hastings re-enactment rather than have a party. This was low stress and a fun but muddy day out.

  • Quiet activities reduce over-excitement. I well remember my Mother saying "Excited and silly and you will end up in tears" which seems sadly true of parties. We've found that some version of sleeping lions is a useful quietener. Sleeping princesses goes down well with little girls. Kim's game works well with children old enough to attempt to write or draw objects.
  • Creative activities: decorating ice creams or cup cakes,
    making name plates or bracelets and decorating plant pots are all activities that we have used successfully.
  • Use music that isn't overly noisy for games requiring music. We have found that The Four Seasons works well.
  • Watch that the younger children don't eat too much-OK, I failed on this one recently!
Enjoy the party and remember that you are teaching your child even with this. Is this a celebration and thanksgiving for another year of life with a calm, happy parent or is it an encouragement to "me-centredness"? 


  1. Your stack of mismatched plates for a party just makes me happy! Here in the USA parents just go overboard for most things for their children and everything has to be perfect. You are doing it the right way :)

    1. Hah-they did have some paper plates for the finished product but certainly nothing was perfect!

  2. I confess -- I have not done big birthday parties for my kids usually it is with cousins. So far that has worked for us.

    1. Small, relaxed parties seem to work so much better. I guess we also don't want to teach them to like large adult parties either but to enjoy being hospitable to individuals.