Every child should have at least one birthday party.
There, I’ve said it.
I know what you’re thinking – she would say that, she has children’s party entertainment to sell.
And yes, perhaps I am a little biased on one type of kid’s party, but having helped organise and supported Christmas parties in schools, as well as holding all kinds of parties for my own children, I’ve seen the joy children get from attending parties. Not only that, holding a party for the child to act as host, holds its own special social skill.
The reasons why your child should have a party is not necessarily about what the party is, it’s the child getting attention from friends and family in a welcoming environment that is important. A party is about play and it’s about interaction, of learning social skills different from anything taught or learnt in school. The real value is not about cost. I believe it is vital for a child’s development – to be the focus, even in a small way, for whatever length of time. It can be a real confidence booster, or a nightmare if held without thought for the child. If done right it can carry a child into adulthood, giving them the ability to be happy in the spotlight. If done wrong – getting carried away so that the child is less of the focus and more an excuse to hold a party can turn it into a noisy, upsetting catastrophe that can put a someone off parties for life.
Stepping out into the limelight, at a gathering organised especially for them – indeed because of them and who they are – is to tell them they are loved and worthy. Warmest memories in childhood can be created by being amongst friends of their choosing and doing something of their choosing.
The venue should be somewhere your child and their friends are comfortable and not overwhelmed. Where they can just play, and enjoy each others company. If a child can already see that their parent is stressed, how are they going to approach it?
Almost all children love parties, and will attend at least one other child’s party.
Very few children say “I don’t want a party” or “I don’t want to go” unless they’ve already had a bad experience. Or, perhaps, the parent had a bad experience as a child and is approaching or anticipating the idea that their child is going to have an awful time too.
The anticipation and build up to a party can be as much a part of it as the party itself, and so it should. However, take care this doesn’t get out of hand; never make false promises. Never tell a child you are going to throw the most wonderful zoo party on the moon if you know you won’t be able to. There’s nothing more heartbreaking than a disappointed child. Be firm in what you can afford without telling the child it’s because you can’t afford it – this can be negative on a child, feeling they are responsible and unworthy.
Younger children attending their first party, especially if it’s being held in a large venue may make them feel anxious and insecure. If you don’t feel comfortable leaving them, then don’t but don’t make a big deal of standing over them – don’t transfer your anxieties onto them, are you staying for them, or for you? Be an example, make an effort, talk to other parents. Once your child can see you relaxed and comfortable, chances are your child will too and go off to play. Of the parents holding the party, let them know why you’d like to stay but remember they’ll be busy so don’t take up too much of their time.
Although usually noisy and chaotic, you’ll see how much enjoyment your child will have playing with friends away from the school environment. Most children love it, some may find it intimidating at first but as all things in life, until you try it, you will never get used to it.
A party doesn’t have to be every year
And aren’t necessary at all before a child starts school – although nice to mark the occasion with close family and friends. To have attention from family and friends can be the start of getting use to having an audience, something a child may not have had up until this point.
A pretty good rule of thumb to go by is to have roughly the number of children as your child’s age – so if they are going to be 8 years old invite about 8 children. More on that in my post: How Many Children Should I Invite?!
If you decide only ever to have one or two parties for your child I suggest they have one when they are young enough to enjoy games but old enough to remember – somewhere between the ages of 6 and 10. This is the age when parties are the most fun and still manageable.
To eliminate some of the problems
(that came up in my previous post)
Remember, it can be fun to organise a party, but leave yourself plenty of time, start writing a list at least 1 month ahead. Be realistic.
If you are going to a venue check what it will provide – get it in writing if possible. Also make sure they have adequate insurance.
Unless you know what the venue will provide it may necessary to take these things with you: –
Here’s a small checklist:-
Things to take
▢ Kitchen towel
▢ Wet wipes
▢ Bin bags
▢ A dustpan and brush
▢ Candles/ matches or lighter
▢ Presents if applicable for party games
▢ Pegs! Can be useful to peg shoes together if they have to take them off, add name tags too.
▢ Disposable – recyclable party cups/plates/napkins/decorations/table cover
▢ Party Bags
▢ First Aid Kit
If the venue is to provide the party bags make sure you’ve seen a sample, and that you are happy with them, if not say so, or failing that, add one thing that you think will make it half decent. Here’s a site that has all kinds of party bag items should you feel you need them.
If you are to provide the food, make it simple. Children eat very little, especially when they are excited; two or three small sandwich quarters are enough, certainly for under 6’s. Crisps, fruit and some cake, all out of packets if need be. Avoid all nuts. Although I have seen many bad offerings of venue food for kids I can never remember any parent providing awful food, so take the pressure off – you do NOT have to compete with perfect ‘Pinterest’ party food – although you may wish to take a peek there for ideas.
With older children, if you decide to hold a party at home then it is possible to have warm food, keep it simple, something like pizza or pasta, or prepare something before the day that’s simple to warm up.
Whatever you choose, make life easy for yourselves and for your pockets – remember the real reason for having the party is to ensure your child has a fun time with friends, not to show off your bank vault or your culinary bake-off skills. It is NOT a competition between parents. For your child it is just as much about seeing you enjoy their party too. If you can join in and be silly, do it! Kids love seeing adults muck about.
Er, small warning there: Don’t do it when your child is over the age of 10 – I learnt the hard way, I’ll be paying their therapy sessions when they’re older!
Make sure you know exactly who’s coming, again look at the post ‘How many should I invite?’ – see above.
Don’t make it exclusively a Facebook page event – two reasons:
It excludes your child from being able to hand out the invitations, remember the anticipation is part of the fun.
Not everyone looks at Facebook on a daily basis, or in fact, has a Facebook account.
How to get your child to write an invitation
Please tell us about your party experiences – like them or hate them?