You wake up startled in the middle of the night. You sit bolt upright. You're covered in sweat.
What could have done this to you? What thought could possibly haunt all your waking and sleeping hours? What could make you break out in a shiver when even the merest shadow of it crosses through your subconscious? Then you remember: your child's birthday is coming up… and they want a party!
Cue screams, tears, tantrums and family arguments. And that's just the parents.
If the idea of planning your little one's next birthday is your own personal Nightmare on Salomonstraat hell, then let us help. You don't run a restaurant with a dedicated play area, family-friendly menu and room for outdoor fun and games without learning a thing or two about organising kids' parties.
Tip #1: Up until the 4th birthday, you really don't need to organise a party. A family gathering with cake and candles is just as lovely. Remember: it's really a milestone celebration for the parents. From the 5th birthday, the picture changes and birthday parties become a major event in your child's (and your) social calendar.
1. The pre-work
The Channel Tunnel. The North-South line. IJburg 2. Like all epic projects, advanced planning is key. Give yourself plenty of time in this phase, to consider all the major details, such as:
Choosing a date – one month in advance is really a minimum.
Timing – three hours is usually ideal to keep energy levels high throughout.
How many kids to invite – the general rule of thumb is one child per year (i.e. 5 friends for a 5th birthday, 8 friends for an 8th birthday etc…).
Location – are you going to do it at home or at a location that caters for kids' parties?
Theme – make the day extra special for kids who love superheroes, animals or a certain TV show. The theme should come to life in the invitations as well as the cake and decorations.
Tip #2: Tell parents to swing by for pick-ups a few minutes early for drinks and a snack, as it can really take the stress out of collection time.
2. The all-important invitation
First thing's first; send all the parents a save the date on Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger. This'll give you an idea of whether some kids might not be able to attend. Check with your child's teacher whether there is a school protocol for handing out invitations in class. Even if there isn't, you might prefer to hand out invitations outside of class so other children don't feel excluded.
Invitations should include:
Name of your child (you'd be surprised..!)
How old they're going to be
The date and duration of the party
The location and address of the party
Additional details like transport to and from the location, if kids will be playing outside and may get dirty, whether there'll be a meal included
Tip #3: Self-made invitations are a great way to get your child involved in the party planning and can help fill a few hours on a rainy day!
3. Activities & entertainment
This can be one of the more stressful elements and parents often bite off more than they can chew. Entertaining your own little angels at home is one thing; being a human climbing frame for 7 hyped-up little monsters quite another.
If you're not a master of treasure hunt designs or a party games expert, there are plenty of professional services available to rent out for the day. From jumping castles, to face painters, magicians and balloon artists. Some party locations can help organise this for you.
Parents have a tendency to overdo it. Most children enjoy free play and, by providing space and time during the party where they can do this, you can guarantee they'll have loads of fun.
4. Food & drink
Tip #4: When you send out the save the date, check with the parents if any of the children at the party have allergies or intolerances that you should take into account.
The birthday cake is one of the most important features of any birthday party. Whether you choose to make it yourself, buy one or opt to have it made by the venue, don't feel limited to the usual sponge cake. Get the cake that'll bring a smile to your little one's lips, whether that means cupcakes, an ice cream cake, a tiered vanilla cake or layer upon layer of chocolate. Just make sure there are enough candles and you have a lighter to light them.
With the cake providing the day's main sugar rush, keep drinks less sugary with an unlimited supply of water or weak lemonade. Towards the end of the party is the best time for a light, fun meal like hot dogs, pizza slices and fries balanced with chopped raw vegetables and fresh fruit.
You could offer candy as prizes throughout the party or as part of a thank you gift.
5. The perfect party flow
You don't need an official timekeeper to keep everything on a military schedule, but it's good to have a plan for steering the celebration. Include:
Blow out the candles on the cake
Activities or entertainment
Tip #5: There's a lot going on for parents during the day, so it can be a huge weight off the shoulders to outsource picture-taking to a family member or friend. That way, you might even end up in a few of the pics too.
6. Bringing the party to an end
Children love receiving a small gift to take home after the party. This could be one of the party balloons, a prize they received during the activities, some candy treats, a small toy or stickers, or a leftover slice of cake. A nice touch is to prep a few extras in case any young siblings are in tow when parents pick up their party-goers.
We hope you like MOJA's tips and tricks and that they're useful for planning your next kids' birthday party without being reduced to a nervous wreck. MOJA is a great place for kids parties – if you'd like to find out more, give us a call or drop a message and we'd love to help you arrange a perfect party.