I found the idea of throwing my 3-year-old a birthday party very daunting. I thought I would share with you all the things I have learned from throwing my first toddler party in the hope it can help others out there.
You don’t need to impress anyone
Parties can be expensive and costs quickly escalate. You do not need to impress anyone, your toddler will be just as thrilled to have a play date at home with a picnic in the garden than with some fancy expensive party in the nearest soft play. Do what is in your budget and don’t feel the pressure to do any more than what you can afford. It’s about making the memories that count, not how much you spend.
Parents will not RSVP on time
There will be some parents who think it will be okay to RSVP 3 days before the party, despite you putting out reminders a couple of times on Facebook. I was shocked and sort of annoyed that 5 weeks after sending the invites out, and just three days before the party, I still had people RSVPing to me! Next time I would put a deadline on when to RSVP by. Until you have a final number its hard to organise food, party bags and prizes (if you need to supply them).
Package deals are hassle free but expensive
There are some excellent party package deals in our local area. We have several soft play centres where they can throw a birthday party for a set price. This is great because you won’t have to worry about, sorting food, entertainment or dealing with the nightmare of cleaning up afterwards. However, this option can be pricey especially if you want to invite more than 10-15 children. I think this option is great for smaller parties and for children all of a similar age. But make sure to look into any hidden extra costs!
Hiring a Hall and entertainer
I thought it would cost a small fortune to hire a lovely local village hall and an entertainer, but I was wrong! We wanted to cater for about 20-30 children varying in ages. I was able to hire our local village hall for £40 for 4 hours. This gave us 1 hour to decorate the hall before the party and 1 hour to clean up afterwards. The downside to this is that you do need help to set up and then clean away after the party, but it is lovely to have a whole space that is yours for a few hours to have the party in. If you are hiring, make sure to take bin bags, rubber gloves and a dustpan and brush with you!
If you are hiring a hall, you have the option to put on entertainment yourself or pay for an entertainer for a couple of hours. We went to a fantastic party not so long ago where they hired an indoor bouncy castle and let the children get on with it! It was great and a much more affordable option than an entertainer. All you need is some music and balloons, and the children were happy.
Because we were inviting older children who we thought would get bored with just a bouncy castle, we decided to book an entertainer. There are so many good entertainers out there to book. Everything from superheroes, to Disney princesses, clowns and face painters.
We ended up booking Steve Sausage for our entertainment because he had terrific reviews. He managed to keep all the children happily entertained despite the large age gap and even the adults were laughing all the way through his act. He was very, very funny and very professional. He ran the whole birthday party; I had so much fun just joining in and sharing the day with my son.
If you are not opting for a package deal, you may want to sort food out for the party. I wish I had listened to my friends because I decided to cater for both children and adults. This turned out to be a bit of a waste because the adults were too busy looking after their children and talking that they didn’t touch the food. A lot of my friends said to just put food on for the children, and I think in future this is what I would do. We found a local cafe that gave us an excellent deal on proving a cold buffet of sandwiches, sausage rolls and pizza with crisp, fruit and cakes at a really good price.
My experience is that party shops on the high street are expensive! Amazon or eBay is so much cheaper for buying cups, plates napkins along with balloons and decorations. And you can but theme packages easily. I went for a Thomas theme and was able to get cups, plates, napkins, tablecloths and decorations all for under £30.00.
We found a local cake maker to make our cake. My little boy specifically wanted a “Flying Scotsman” Birthday cake (this is a character from Thomas and Friends). Next time I think I would choose a cake from our local supermarket.
Most supermarkets offer a cake making service where if you give them enough notice that can order a larger cake and decorate it for you. This would have been a much cheaper option for us and something I would do next year.
Party bags are expensive! Our entertainer provided them at a discounted price to us, so I only spent a £1 a head for a bag. However, if you want to make your party bags, you can buy the actual bags from Amazon or eBay and then I would suggest going down to your local Poundland and filling them with colouring kits, book, and bubbles.
Even if you prepare for everything… a stomach bug can still hit!
You can think you have everything planned for and then the unexpected can still happen. Two days before the party our toddler’s nursery had to close. Half the children and staff were hit with a nasty stomach bug. I felt so sorry for the children who were disappointed not to be able to make the party. In the end, half the children couldn’t make it. We decided to go ahead with the children that had been unaffected and for my little boy too! The last thing I was planning for was a stomach bug to stop half the party being able to make it, but these things happen. Despite half his friends not being able to make it we still had a great time.
I hope this gives you some options to think about if you are planning to throw a party for your toddler. It really wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be and we made some fantastic memories which is the most important thing. Happy planning!