Great Places for Kids’ Parties (£2.98 for the Kindle edition at Amazon*) promises to arm you with all you need to prepare for a stress-free children’s party. With an upfront promise like that, I’ll admit that I was expecting it to come with a free vat of wine, but alas, it does not. It really should.
Billed as a guide to great places for kids’ parties throughout the UK, this book is structured according to different types of parties, rather than according to geographical location. This means you can’t look up your region and find out about the different types of kids’ party venues or facilities that exist locally to you, which is sort of what I was expecting. It's not indexed in that way.
And, being based in Northern Ireland, I expected to find an NI-specific section in this book since the title makes it sound like a UK-wide guide, but that’s not how it works. You have to look up the kind of party you’re thinking of having (or skim through several chapters looking for inspiration) and then do your own research to find out whether the case study mentioned has a branch or supplier in your local area.
So for example the chapter called ‘Make A Swim for it’ is all about having a pool party. There’s a bit of an overview about swimming parties; basically common sense and very generalised information - e.g. “Most children love swimming. That’s understandable because, apart from being good for you, it’s a really fun activity”.
Then there’s a case study - in this case of a party at a swimming pool in Greater Manchester, followed by ‘Points to consider’ which again pertain specifically to the pool used for the case study. Unfortunately, since I don’t live near Greater Manchester and thus am never likely to book a party at the pool which features as the case study, I can’t say that I gleaned any particularly useful information from the chapter.
In the time it took me to read that chapter, I could have typed ‘swimming parties for kids’ along with my geographical location into an internet search engine and discovered everything I need to know about my options for throwing a pool party close to where I live.
I almost wish the information contained in the book could be geographically catalogued and then made available online - I’d find that more useful than a book, to be absolutely honest. Plus it could be continually updated and so would be much less likely to become redundant, which the information in this book presumably will do over time.
However I understand the premise of organising the information in the book into party themes like soft play, pampering or laser tag - and a flick through the contents page may well give you some great ideas for party themes or types that you might not have otherwise considered. But if specific local information couldn’t be supplied, I’d have found it more useful if each chapter gave you an even broader low-down on what to expect at a party of that kind, rather than a location-specific analysis and case study.
For me the book is a kind of cross-fertilisation of two different premises; a UK-wide guide to great venues for children's parties (which is what I expected from the title) and an ideas-based book which might have been better titled something like Great ideas for children's parties.
If you live in England as opposed to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland then this is probably less of an issue, and if you live in Central England then the book might be much more usable to you, as you're more likely than I am to find suppliers and venues which are local to you.
This book might give you some ideas and inspiration for parties though, and the organisations featured as case studies may have venues close to you if you’re lucky. If not, there is some information included about how to find similar organisations in other regions. For example, under 'pampering parties' the author advises: "If you prefer to have a party away from your home, you could try a local beauty parlour, as many of them host pamper parties for girls" and there are suggestions for what to type into a search engine in other chapters.
The book contains information such as how far in advance certain types of parties need to be booked and whether additional items are provided such as invitations and party bags. This is billed as a time-saving feature but again, it’s very specific to the venue used as a case study, and if a venue local to you is not included in the book then the information may be superfluous and you might find it more expedient to do a quick bit of online research.
There are exclusive voucher codes printed in the back of the book which you can use to get discounts when booking parties with selected venues, organisations and suppliers.
This is the second book by Diane Mannion and it follows Kids' Clubs and Organisations – a Comprehensive UK Guide, which is also available to purchase from Amazon
Pros Some good ideas and inspiration for party-planning
Cons The format, around a specific case study with generalised info alongside it, doesn't really give me all the information I need to plan a party - I still have to do some additional research and online is the obvious place to do that. Perhaps the book could be turned into a website and online community where parents can share tips, venue reviews and ideas?!
Overall verdict This is £3 well-spent if you live in Central England and are really stuck for party ideas or venue inspiration.