Kids birthday party survival guide
Children's parties can be fraught with tears and tantrums - to avoid last-minute panic, start planning about two months before the big day.
Step one - extravaganza or low key?
Decide how much time, energy and money you want to spend on your bub's big bash. Think about hiring:
- an entertainer
- a caterer
- a venue - think about busy little people and the weather
- equipment such as a bouncy castle or a kindy zoo
Step two - the venue
At home - Bubs like the familiarity of at-home parties. You'll have to get your humble abode ready for lots of littlies:
- remove breakable objects
- cover sharp corners and power sockets
- put safety gates on stairs
- shut away pets
- restrict the party to certain areas to minimise mess
Away day - If you have limited space, go to a local park where the kids can burn lots of energy (without destroying your home). Look for parks with shelter and play equipment. Or consider indoor play centres, the zoo, a kid-friendly museum or the movies for older kids. Book well in advance.
Step three - the guest list
Make up a guest list and time of the party, send out the invitations, preferably three to four weeks before the party date.
Step four - shop till you drop
Make a list of everything you need. Party supply shops are great for all those little extras, from themed paper plates and cups to masks and capes.
Step five - let me entertain you
Consider hiring clowns, magicians, fairies, puppet shows, superheroes, reptile shows, jumping castles and more. Look in the Yellow Pages or on the internet and ask other mums for recommendations. Book in advance and confirm in writing. Costs $170 to $300 for 1½ hour visit from a fairy storyteller with games and prizes included. About $220 for a one-hour reptile show.
- Lolly bags - Look out for costume jewellery, stickers, little cars and pencils. Visit two-dollar shops and add a few gems to your shopping basket at the supermarket each week.
- The camera - Make sure cameras have film, batteries or they're recharged and have disk space.
Birthdays through the ages
Best time: Avoid nap time
Guests: A few friends and family as large groups can be overwhelming
Games/entertainment: Tearing open pressies and blowing out candles is fun for your one-year-old. Arrange a play area and put on some music so the kids can dance. Get someone to read a story
Themes: Teddy bear's picnic or bright colours
Food: Make food and drinks for the adults. For littlies serve cheese cubes, carrot sticks, fairy bread, mini muffins
Tips: Keep it simple. Enlist help to watch the littlies
Caution: Avoid balloons, nuts or hard lollies
Best time: Avoid nap time and keep it short
Guests: Family, friends and a few tots
Games/entertainment: Keep games quick and simple, such as Ring a Ring of Roses. Set up a play area with ride-on cars or a plastic slippery dip from a toy library. Keep entertainment short; try clowns or a puppet show
Themes: Try your child's favourite character, animal, toy, TV show or colour. Link the theme with the invitations, partyware and cake.
Food: Try mini quiches, pies, muffins and pizzas, chicken wings, potato wedges, vegie sticks, sausage rolls, cheese sticks, fairy bread. Serve water, juice or poppers.
Tips: Try a children's party centre ?food, drinks and entertainment are included in the price and there is no cleaning up. For at-home parties, keep wipes handy and mention the toilet to any tots who are in training.
Best time: Morning or midday when they're at their most cooperative. Limit the party to two hours or less.
Guests: Ask your child who they'd like to invite.
Games/entertainment: Hire fairies, superheroes, magicians or a jumping castle (from $130 for four hours). Dress-up boxes are a big hit. Do four short games ?try Pass the Parcel, Musical Chairs, Pin the Tail on the Donkey. Get enough prizes to go around.
Themes: Littlies love make-believe so have a dress-up party.
Food: As for two-year olds. Cake is everything! Try an ice-cream cake
Tips: To quieten hyped-up kids, change to passive games such as Pass the Parcel or storytelling.
Best time: As for three-year-olds
Guests: Ask your child who they want to invite but limit numbers. Get adult help as kids may be left by parents
Games/entertainment: Musical Statues, What's the Time Mr Wolf, balloon races, a treasure hunt or the limbo. For hired entertainment, try a reptile show or craft party.
Themes: Try a mad hatter's party; get the kids to make a hat. Or, have a dance party with a disco ball.
Food: Set out toppings and get kids to decorate their own pizzas. Alternatively, consider a caterer ?some even clean up for you!
Tips: Keep a first-aid kit on hand and the phone numbers of parents who leave the party. Make sure all the kids know where the toilets are.