Christmas is coming and the summer is here and somehow when you need to be saving money and preparing for the silly season, you are now caught up in the birthday party circuit.It’s enough to bring a grown woman to her knees, sobbing about peer pressure and her child’s future happiness.
It’s alright, you don’t need a gut of steel and nerves of iron to survive – or a really bad superhero outfit that shows off your wibbly bits. Instead I’ve gone off to find out what other parents do and completely stolen their ideas. Here are some brilliant tips from enterprising mums across the UK. No matter how small your budget you can throw a stunner of a party and have fun doing it.
First, let’s look at gifts. It’s turned into something of a minefield. What do you give to another child as a present? All of the mothers I spoke to agreed that the type of present is entirely dependent on a specific pecking order. It’s about how close your child is to the other one, how close you are to their mum, how nice they are and what they gave your child last year.
Right. So this last weekend I made an extremely expensive Lego purchase because I am great friends with the mother and, well, I rather love the kid. It still hurt my wallet though, so don’t make my mistake and buy a present at the last minute. Plan in advance and use discounts we find here on PlayPennies – or do a search on HotUKDeals. Take advantage of sales and special offers and grab gifts to stick into your Present Cupboard.
If your child is, say, four then it’s likely that the parties they will attend will be hosted by those turning five. So get toys to match the age. I always find that I’m broke just when I’ve got about 20 birthdays in one month so I tend to buy whenever I have extra.
When it comes to planning your own party start out by deciding exactly what your budget is well in advance. Apply the same principle as above when buying your sweets and party-bag fillers so you already have the bulk of your essentials well organised and you don’t face a huge lump payment in one go.
This brings me back to my Present Cupboard. Seriously it has everything in there. Paper, toys, gifts, sticky tape, cards – everything. It is the most useful place ever, especially if you are forgetful like me.
Try not to get caught up in the “Susie had flying elephant at her party so I better hire Tom Cruise to tap-dance for them” mentality. Your child really does not care if she’s in a park or at a play centre as long as she has her friends, her loot and her cake. There are some stunning and inexpensive locations for children’s parties that will impress those inevitable snobby parents and won’t eat your wallet for breakfast.
I recently went to a party where there were no party games, only an hour of concentrated activity in a gymnastic hall. This was followed by spaghetti Bolognese and fruit salad for dessert. It was such a healthy and fun choice. The kids had a whale of time learning how to swing from poles and jump on trampolines while the parents could relax with tea.
This mum told me that she had to play to her strengths. She was a good cook but a terrible entertainer. The staff did the hard work for her and she had as much fun as her tot. Sit down with your partner and create an event that suits your child and your own core strengths. If you’re a sporty family then look at an active party or if you’re a creative family then you can easily pull off a themed one.
You can find cost-effective locations such as family friendly restaurants, farms, your local hall or community centre, soft play areas, children gymnastic schools, sports facilities and theme parks. Some of these may seem expensive to hire but if they include food, juice, activities and trained staff they may work out cheaper than a park where you do all the catering (and all the work).
From party poppers to presents, you can get good prices by searching online or talking to other mums in your area. Some venues won’t advertise and are discovered through word of mouth, these are often cheap and cheerful too. Plan in advance, grab all the bargains you can, and remember to have fun. Breathe. And relax….