Birthday parties at local leisure centres for the under eights are a popular choice and I’d say that in recent weeks, we’ve spent a lot more time sweating on the soft play than perspiring in the gym.
At about £8 a head per child, it’s a painless way to ensure that your child gets a great birthday with a bit of soft play, a bouncy castle and a prepared meal. Everyone knows the score, everyone knows where the venue is and you can arrive unflustered before heading off home happy in the knowledge that you don’t need to clean up.
Why then did MrM and I take it upon ourselves to hire an empty hall and sort out the games, the music, the food, the decoration and everything else ourselves?
Who knows? Not sure we’ll do it again though, but if we do, here are some of the things we learned.
- If you haven’t got any invitations in the house, then an old road atlas will do the job instead. Simply tear the pages out that represent seaside towns and turn it into a pirate-map themed invitation.
Note: you will need to then make sure the party is pirate-themed.
2. Don’t blow up balloons in advance.
When you open your car, 20 balloons will escape and will then head off in 20 different directions. Some people don’t like finding a crazed woman in their garden ranting about being unable to reach a balloon that’s trapped in the pergola. It’s then quite difficult to carry 16 of the remaining balloons into the church hall in any sort of dignified fashion.
2. Blow up the balloons in advance.
MrM bought a massive pirate-themed balloon which he blew up with a helium canister. Distracted by my ranting on the scarcity of helium in the world, we then watched helplessly as the balloon then rose straight up to the ceiling, almost literally showing us how our cash had gone up in smoke.
3. Make sure you know how to turn the fire alarm off.
Our first guests arrived at the party to hear the hideous wail of the fire alarm sounding and echoing around the village green while MrM and I floundered about looking for the key for the fire system and pathetically wafted the steam out of the kitchen.
There was no fire though. I’d taken LO to the toilet when the alarm started sounding and thought it was our doings in there that had set it off, before emerging to find that the urn that MrM had borrowed from work to make teas and coffees for the parents hadn’t stopped boiling and had made the kitchen resemble a set Top of the Pops from the 1970s.
MrM located two people who looked after the hall who both came and calmly told us that the fire brigade were not on their way and that the key was on top of the fire alarm. It had been obscured by a leaflet on how to turn the fire alarm off.
4. Don’t cut up your only bed sheet to use as a costume.
It’s all very well going all Blue Peter in the name of creativity but we ended up with neither a sheet or a costume. The costume we got from the supermarket served him very well but won’t work too well as a bed sheet.
5. Pin the tail on the donkey/pirate
a. Ensure the patches are adhesive.
b. Ensure that the blindfold is not see-through otherwise your game will be over in seconds.
6. Don’t overplan
We (and by ‘we’, I mean MrM) prepared lots of games and songs, but as it was a pirate party, we were delighted to see the children use their ingenuity to make their own “walk the plank” game using the chairs from the hall.
7. Pass the parcel
a. In my day, the winner was the person who opened the last layer. These days, every layer must contain a prize. Who knew?
b. Choose your music carefully.
Not sure why we chose the Pogues to be the accompanying music, but I’ll never forget the faces of the other parents as the parcel stopped on “cheap lousy faggot” and “happy Christmas your arse”.
8. Don’t put the birthday cake in reach of a small child. They can and will eat all of the icing.
Happy birthday little man!