Planning a birthday for your child [017]

Is it just me or planning (and executing) a birthday for your child takes a lot of work?! Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun to give them a special day, but there’s just so much to think about and organise, and some of it, you have to do well in advance!

The birthday party (the where and when)candles-in-playdough-cake

As far as they’re concerned, this is the best day of the year, so you’ve got to make sure you give them the party they want, and one that they will be happy with! Last week it was our Middle Guy’s 5th birthday, and like last year, he asked to have his party at the popular Snakes and Ladders in Syon Park. Now, this is a place that parents hate as much as children LOVE – it’s the biggest soft play area you’ll ever see. It’s bright, it’s loud, it’s massive, and you’ll lose your child in it, for sure. (So you understand the love / hate thing going on there).

Because Snakes and Ladders is hugely popular, you have to book well in advance, so this is a task I have to put in the diary for about 1 to 2 months in advance, especially if you want the luxury of picking the day you want, and the time slot and party room you want (because apparently Circus is boring, but Submarine is cool. For now. Next year… well, we’ll find out next year).

The invitations (the who)

Of course, you then need to ask your child who they want to invite! And it gets tricky when the child who invited yours to their birthday party the week before apparently isn’t your child’s friend after all (according to your child), and they ask you not to invite them.

What do you do?

Invite them anyway to be polite because they invited you to theirs and hope your child doesn’t throw a tantrum? Or worse, tells them they were not invited?! Or do you just turn a blind eye and do as your child says? I don’t have an answer to this – in fact, if you do, just let me know what I should do.

Once your list is sorted, you’ve got to give the invites out. Because I book the party so long in advance, and then have to remember to give the invites out a bit closer to the time. I find 2 to 3 weeks is a good time – it gives the parents enough notice. Anything longer than that, I fear they’ll probably forget.

This year, because my son only invited a bunch of his friends from school, I decided to tell the parents myself, rather than having him wave the invites in front of all the other children that he didn’t want to invite! Subtle.

The food (the what… they are eating)

Whether you’re at home or in a venue, you have to think of what to feed the kids… and the adults! In fact, are you going to feed the adults? Buy them coffees? Thankfully, with us picking the soft play as a venue, food for the children is included in the package, and it’s not something that we need to worry about.

However, in the past, we have used venues where you need to bring your own food, and I prepared individual ‘lunch bags’ with sandwiches, drinks and fruit for the children. As I’m sure you know, unless you super enjoy it, making the food yourself is a lot of work. I’ll try my super best in the years to come not do that again!

On the day, we’ll offer the grown-ups coffees and order a takeaway pizza to bring in the party room, so everyone can have something to eat. You tend not to have to worry about the adults when the children are a bit older, as parents tend to just drop the children off and pick them up at the end.

The decorations (the what… the place looks like)

Thankfully, with having the party at Snakes and Ladders we don’t have to worry about that either, but if it was a home party or if it was held at a different venue that doesn’t do the catering, you’d probably have to bring your own festive table cloth, cardboard plates and cups, banner / bunting, balloons etc. Whatever you / your child wants.

The party bags (the what… they bring home)sweets

Now, let’s not lie about this. Children these days EXPECT party bags. Don’t you dare suggest that the party is over without having filled their hands with their party bag, or you’ll hear: “Where’s my party bag?” So there’s another thing to plan in advance for you.

Snakes and Ladders do have an option for you to add party bags to the birthday package, but at £1.50 each, they are full of those little plastic toys that end up in the bin on the same day, so I tend to avoid adding the extra £1.50 per child. Yes, it’s hassle-free and saves me for shopping for those annoying plastic toys and diligently fill the bags up, but it’s just not worth it, in my opinion.

My party-bag strike

In fact, I’ve decided to go on a party bag strike. That’s it – I’m not giving out a party bag. Ever. Again. And before you gasp, let me explain.

I’ve done the party bag thing and lovingly and thoughtfully bought toys that I thought the children would like (age appropriate, gender appropriate etc.), but I’ve been at the receiving end of these things too, and I know where they end up! Broken, lost under the sofa, and when found, in the bin! So what’s the point?

Now I make my own sweet cones – the children want to leave with something in their hands? Great, they can have a sweet cone.

Will I spend more than £1.50 per child? Yes.

Will the children suffer from major sugar rush craziness for the rest of the day? Yes.

Will the parents hate me? Yes, of course, but they hate me anyway, because I made them spend 2 hours on a weekend at Snakes and Ladders.

So if I’m going to lose anyway, at least I know the children will have some sweets, and they won’t end up in the bin.


The cake

Now, it’s not a birthday without a cake! The thing is, the cake these days just seems to be the thing that you use to hold the candles and to rally around to sing an out-of-tune Happy Birthday. So yes, you’ve got to have a cake, but most of the time the cake gets cut when you’re already out of time (and supposed to have left the venue) and gets wrapped up in tissues and put in the party bags.cake

They don’t even eat it.

By the time it gets home it’s squashed in said tissues and often ends up in the bin too. Especially if it’s not chocolate. So what’s the point?

Last year, my eldest and my middle one had a combined birthday party, and I decided to make them a chocolate cake each – I spent the morning ignoring the (then) toddler and stressing about the cakes, so never again. This year, it’s a cheap and cheerful, supermarket-bought, chocolate cake that The Husband and The Middle Guy went out to choose together on the morning of the party.

The candles

Because by now you’ve probably figured out that I like to make my life easier, instead of bringing X amount of candles, it’ll be just the one. The numbered one. A good old 5-shaped candle will do. Easy. And it’ll make the cake look nicer.

(And don’t tell anyone that I’ll keep it for when The Little Guy turns 5, or The Big Guy turns 15? Maybe not).

The presents

It’s not a birthday without presents! Now, while you can’t control what the other children will give them, your child will probably have some very specific requests as to what they want from their birthday. And they’ve probably been talking about that for the last year anyway! So you’ve got to make sure you’ve ordered/bought what they want and have it ready for the day.

In our case, we decided that if the birthday party doesn’t fall on the actual birthday, we give them the presents on the day, but life has taught us not to do this in the morning before school (if the birthday falls on a weekday), or you can forget getting to school on time and having a stress- and shout-free school run!

The ‘fun on the day’

If the birthday falls on a weekday, and they have school, we try and make the day a little special anyway – we keep telling them it’s their birthday, give them a special breakfast, and normally have a little cupcake with some candles, so they can blow the candles on the day, (and we can take some photos to send to the relatives, of course).

After school, we can go somewhere together, or they can have their presents and maybe a special dinner or treat if they want to. If the birthday falls on a weekend, it’s probably also the day of their party, so we do the little things anyway, but the party is obviously the event that steals the show for the day!

Something for the school friends

Party aside, if the birthday falls on a school day, you also have to send something small to school, so your child can ‘celebrate’ with their class mates. Our school doesn’t allow sweets, nuts or chocolates, but they do allow raisins (which are, by the way, extra packed with sugar), so we have to make sure we buy a few little snack boxes to give out to all the children in the class at home time. Another one for my to-do list of course.

Going back to the day it all started

And FINALLY, call me nostalgic, but at the end of the day, their birthday isn’t just about them! Yes, they’re turning a year older, and it’s their birthday, but on the day, while they are still little (ish), I like to actually spend some time reminiscing and thinking about the day it all started – the day they were born. The day I went into labour and gave birth to them, and every year, sadly, as the years go by, I probably forget a little bit more about that day compared to what I remembered the year before.

Anyway, for this year we are two birthdays down. One more to go (in the next 17 days), and then I can rest for about 8 months! Phew!

What do you do for your children’s birthdays? Do you find a lot of planning and organising goes into them?

*Please note, this is NOT a sponsored post. All recommendations and opinions are my own.


  1. Toyin Aromire
    23rd November 2016 / 9:30 am

    Great article and thanks for sharing. Personally I think I like the sugar rush because it helps the kids burn out energy oh and that makes for a good sleep when you get home. What I usually frown at is the fact that I cant take my eyes off for 1 sec…that would mean spending another 10mins looking for my kids. But at the end of the he day it’s all about the kids having a great time…

    • Sara
      23rd November 2016 / 11:47 am

      Ha ha – that’s another take on sugar rush! 😉 You’re right – when the children are old enough you just have to lose sight of them in there (that’s why I personally find the place a nightmare). For the little ones it’s a different story of course – you just can’t lose them! I’m glad to report everyone survived! 😉

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