Kids birthday parties; Go big or go home?

As a parent, the excitement of your child’s birthday can be bittersweet. The shared joy in seeing their overwhelming impatience for the day to arrive, the memories of the moment your little one arrived on this earth, and seeing them enjoy their day as you spend it celebrating together.

But then, there is the birthday party.

It looms on the horizon for months in advance. The do we don’t we, the where, when and who. The snowballing of the initially simple idea into one mahoosive free for all. It’s a minefield.

I don’t want to be all doom and gloom on kids parties – we have done a few biggies in our time and of course they can be fun to organise – a little project to work on, and a huge success after the event. But it does feel as though kids parties have just got a little bit…epic. (Just ask your Mum, the older generation think we have officially lost the birthday party plot).

Go Big

Once you enter the realms of primary school, your kids party just went off the scale, if you let it. The ultimate debate is whether to encompass a whole class party, or be restrictive on numbers, get into kids party politics and be ‘that Mum’ who upset so and so’s kid by not inviting them to the party.

It’s something that divides us – for some it’s a no brainer to hire a hall, invite the class (plus friends from outside school), hire an entertainer and throw a load of sausage rolls and crisps at the kids, letting them go for it. For others, the expense of all that is just way over the top, and forking out hundreds of pounds for your childs birthday.

Free stock photo of people, girl, young, colors

And so, whether you opt to go for an all star cast, or a selected few at a middle ground event, often costing up to £15 per child (bowling, trampolining, cinema, pamper party…) it’s likely a full on celebration is going to cost a fair few quid, on top of birthday presents. The hidden costs (party bags, invites, games, food) can really let party budgeting get out of hand.

Go Home

A few years ago I’d have rather eaten my own head than let a load of kids loose in my house, stamping cake into the carpet and running up and down the stairs getting out every toy they can get their mitts on.

BUT, having done the big hall parties, the tea parties, the *A.N. Other* parties, this year I’m bringing it home, and here’s why.

Now that Tigs is turning six, she’s not a feral toddler any more. She has common sense and boundaries she understands. She likes to draw, to play and to dance, and I am only hoping that a couple of hours with some like minded kids will be a dream to cope with.

I’m limiting the numbers

She was offered up five invitation to give to the friends of her choice (well, WhatsApp’d via me) so there will be a party vibe as opposed to a full on carnival. It’s not been easy to resist the temptation to add just one more, or maybe just one or two.  I’m hoping that the other Mums will understand that parties at home are restricted, and I absolutely did not get involved in who she chose, even though the guest list didn’t include some of my fave kids (and Mums). In their world there has been far too much excess over the years, and the parties where we have had two car loads of presents to bring home just felt all kinds of wrong.

Free stock photo of art, festival, party, colorful

I like hosting in our home

It’s no mansion, but it’s certainly big enough to cope with five kids doing pass the parcel, and with so much time and money invested in making it how we love it, Birthdays are the perfect time for it to come alive, to be filled with laughter and people – just as a home should be.

Free stock photo of food, party, table, fruits

It’s cheaper

Without beating around the bush here, there’s a lot of financial savvy in hosting a small party at home – like hundreds of pounds cheaper. On a far smaller scale you can throw a party buffet on a budget, skip all the venue and entertainment prices, and the kids will be none the wiser, they’ll still have had a magical birthday party that they loved.

It’s old school

Who doesn’t love a bit of nostalgia. Back in the 80’s kids parties definitely didn’t include spiderman, a drive and park games van, a set of twirly wands waved by Aurora, or even a Pinata. And it didn’t do us any harm did it? I’m all up for a bit of jelly and ice cream, sandwiches and wotsits (own brand, obvs). I might go all out authentic and not even put a prize between each layer of the pass the parcel.

So watch this space, let the party planning commence… am I mad?


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36 thoughts on “Kids birthday parties; Go big or go home?

  1. Tales From Mamaville (@MamavilleTales) Reply

    Ah, the ‘home or away’ decision of a party every year! So far we’ve gotten away with smaller, at-home, more personal parties (except for last year) but I’m suspecting that will change once Little Man is in reception. We do a family day out on his birthday (Chessington last year and Peppa Pig World the year before that) and then a small party with few of his best friends the day after. I prefer those tbh, though it’s more work/ planning but also more personal and cheaper!

  2. pamsbakeandbabyblog Reply

    I have my two toddlers birthdays coming up in the next few months and we arent doing a party this year. My 4yo is having four friends round and thats it. I want to save parties so they become special and not just expected every year. Its becoming a game of top trumps between parents to see who can out do each other on the birthday front – even with home parties now! Crazy! Whats wrong with a birthday tea? Haha. Great post #coolmumclub

  3. Jenny Curtis Reply

    We did a last minute home party for our 3 year old this year with just 4 other kids. She absolutely loved it! I’m hoping to hold off on any big parties until she’s at school. #coolmumclub

  4. Alice Letters to my Daughter Reply

    I’m doing an at home party for my 3 year old tomorrow. There will be up to 12 of them if everyone shows. Hoping that’s manageable and they’ll all just get on with playing with the toys. It is hard to restrict the invites though – last year I invited everyone because I felt guilty and it was AWFUL. Definitely not enough room! We’re doing a second party at the weekend for friends & family so she can celebrate with her cousins!! #coolmumclub

  5. Vicky Reply

    Definitely home, for now anyway. My little one’s birthday is 5 days away from mine so we did a bbq at home as a joint thing. That way, we didn’t have parents & toddlers only and got people to bring some bits and bobs too. #coolmumclub

  6. absolutely prabulous Reply

    Ah I must say I did feel a whiff of nostalgia reading the bit about old school parties. Took me back to the many years I organised my siblings’ parties (that’s what you get for being the eldest by 10 miles) and yes it was a VERY simple affair! Birthday parties in Malta tend to be simple (with the exception of the ones hosted by the wealthy families all out to outdo each other). Frankly, after years of outsourcing our parties, we did one at home for our (now 11yo) son’s 4th birthday and (now 13yo) daughter’s 6th. All I’ll say is NeverAgain Good luck! #coolmumclub

  7. emptynestmummy Reply

    Thanks for hosting #CoolMumClub
    I really enjoyed your post on parties. Out of utter laziness, and because I HATE those big parties, I opted out of the big parties. But school etiquette is all kids for reception year, but at least we shared the party with 2 other sets of parents. Second child is in reception now but I think that’s it then for me on big parties. We’re going Small, But Perfectly Formed from now on…..

  8. Rachael Reply

    My son started Reception class in September and since then, the birthday party politics have been off the scale. It’s not so much the parents, it’s all the kids coming out and saying “so and so’s not invited to my birthday anymore!”. It drives me mad. At the moment, I’m still getting away with having parties just for him, family and a few friends…but I know it won’t be long until I either have to join the other mums in their big rented halls (which I really cannot afford!), or throw one at home — does anyone else get anxious about their home being judged by other mums?!

  9. Kate@TheMumConundrum Reply

    I’ve got a 5th and a 7th birthday party coming up for my two eldest within two weeks of each other soon… kids parties are HARDCORE! #sendwine! #coolmumclub xx

  10. Navigating Baby Reply

    I do at home for the littler ones and then a bigger thing for the older children. We usually partner up with another family at school to share the craziness. I do love an at home birthday tea though. Great post thanks. #coolmumclub

  11. Tubbs Reply

    We did a mixture – with parties at soft play centres or getting someone in to do craft stuff as well as parties at our house where we threw them in the garden. (Not literally!) With limited numbers. We don’t try to compete with some of the more flashy affairs or invite everyone. Can’t afford too! I think sometimes we lose sight of what it’s all for …

  12. The Mummy Bubble Reply

    I think parties at home are the way forward. I’m really nervous about the day my kids friends will start holding ever grander birthdays and the pressure that puts on us! #coolmumclub

  13. Cheryl @ Tea or Wine Reply

    I hear you! Both mine are born in the summer and I get a nervous, sick feeling as their birthdays approach about what to do and weighing up all the impossible cost and logistic options. A party at home can be great if you keep the numbers limited and know that the kids are good and won’t trash your house! I guess we’re lucky in that we (mostly) can get everyone out in the garden! Thanks for hosting #CoolMumClub xx

  14. motherhoodtherealdeal Reply

    I am massively trying to resist the go big thing – we are lucky that the little is a June baby so we usually all decamp to a park but we had a little new year party here in January and the place got wrecked by the kids!!!! Prepare yourself….sending #coolmumclub love xoxo

  15. talkingmums1 Reply

    Aww I think you may have just help me make my mind up for an upcoming birthday party! My daughter turns 6 soon and previously we’ve done the whole class – big party thing but this year I’m in favour of small and at home with about 5 or 6 friends. The only question is do we keep costs small and do the entertaining ourselves or hire someone?! x

  16. Helen (Cooking with my kids) Reply

    We did a home party for my daughter’s 4th birthday last year and she loved it. I loved it as well, because it wasn’t expensive and surprisingly easy to organise! #coolmumclub

  17. Sharon Reply

    I always opted for ‘go big elsewhere’, I shudder at the amount of money I used to spend on my eldest daughter’s birthday parties it was obscence really but god, the pressure was real to stand out!! and she only remembers it because its on video! Ive done one party at home which was okay but in fact, it doesnt matter where the parties are because they always want their friends to stay, and sleepovers have got to be worse than any party you could stage at home!!! lol. #coolmumclub

  18. fiveinthehive2018 Reply

    Party politics oh how I love you! Just planning my boys 7th birthday now, what fun! #coolmumclub

  19. Kate Reply

    Throwing my first kiddie party for my eldest’s first birthday was so traumatic for me I’ve avoided ever since! I feel a bit guilty now and think I should start planning some parties for this year!

  20. oldhouseintheshires Reply

    Parties can be so expensive so I loved parties at home when mine were younger. I agree that most parents don’t mind once the children are growing up a little that their child isn’t invited to every party. Good luck! #coolmumclub

  21. mummy here and there Reply

    Last time we went to soft play area as I live in a small flat and it just is too much for me. But so much easier as they do all the food. I just need things simple as I am autistic and so is my son X #coolmumclub

  22. MotherAlmostNeverKnowsBest Reply

    So much pressure from all angles!! But mostly that which we put upon ourselves. Great post #coolmumclub

  23. magicalmamablog Reply

    Wasn’t it us moms who did all of the work on their “birth day”? Where’s our celebration? Haha
    I adore hosting and keeping it small! It feels crazy to me to spend so much money and effort on these shindigs!
    I love keeping it at home to keep down the cost, the stress, and to increase the chance of the kids having a great time and actually remembering the fun they had! Sounds like you’ve done just that!

  24. Kate on thin ice (@kateonthinice) Reply

    My worry about home parties is that my housekeeping standards will be judged but that is probably daft of me. I have done the big expensive one with a clown and that was worth it purely because we had just lost my Mum and Dad laughed for the first time since her death. It is too much of a minefield with too much pressure especially when so many families are struggling with money. I did a really simple retro style one once and it went down a storm with the children with some really old-school games etc. #CoolMumClub

  25. Nicola Reply

    I vowed never to have a kids party at home again after a particularly disastrous affair for my son’s 9th birthday! This year my daughter wanted a trampolining party at the local trampoline park but the cost was astronomical! So I compromised! She had 6 friends to go trampolining then we all came back to our house for lunch. It meant they were worn out by the time we got home and then after lunch only had 30 minutes to trash the place! It was perfect! #coolmumclub

  26. Caroline Reply

    Good for you. I have so many happy memories of birthday parties at home when I was a kid, and I’m sure it’ll be the same for your 6 year old. My boy is only 2 so we haven’t had to face this yet, but I’ve been horrified at some of the stories friends have told me about birthday party excesses. I imagine it’s so easy to get sucked into all though! Hope your daughter has a lovely day! #coolmumclub

  27. Emma T Reply

    We’ve done younger parties at home (3 and 4yo), but had them in the summer like a playdate in th egarden. It worked really well, (with a january birthday there’s no outdoor options really). At that age he didn’t care that his party wasn’t near his birthday.

    2 years we’ve done joint parties – one a science party in the village hall, and last year pizza express just with 8 kids total (although N was then sick that morning and had to miss it). This year we just did bowling and pizza express food for N and 3 friends. I know he’d love trampolining or gokarting but when it’s £15, plus you have to get everyone to drive an hour to bring their kids to the venue. I just can’t justify the cost for the of minimum people it asks for. #coolmumclub

  28. Charlotte Stein Reply

    You’ve not gone mad at all! I have hosted a few parties at home again in the last few years and they’re the way forward. Daisy’s craft party for 5 was so much more civilised than an overpriced softplay hell with 30 kids. That said it’s always a relief when it’s over #coolmumclub

  29. The Queen of Collage Reply

    We’ve yet to get to enter the primary school party realm but it’s interesting to read what others do.. #coolmumclub

  30. mummyconstant Reply

    Great idea. We have hosted quite a few parties at home. I love getting creative but you definitely have to keep an on the budget! #Coolmumclub

  31. Siobhan | The Baby Boat Diaries Reply

    So far after 2 birthday I have always “gone big” I love making a fuss on birthdays! #coolmumclub

  32. Musings of a tired mummy...zzz... Reply

    I always offer a party but the kids always ask for a bigger pressie instead and a small family party. Phew! #coolmumclub

  33. emmaology Reply

    I’m quite happy my son is out of the “big party” phase, this year we had 4 friends go trampolining then a McDonald’s which was plenty for him (and me). I’ll have it all to start again though with my daughter… or can she jump straight to sleepovers? Haha #coolmumclub

  34. crummymummy1 Reply

    I’m divided! We have cream carpets – & neighbours who don’t need an excuse to complain (we live in a block of flats). The church hall is rather alluring…#coolmumclub

    1. MMT Reply

      Given the snow looks set to challenge any guests trying to arrive, Im suddenly really pleased we haven’t paid a big deposit for a Hall and entertainer…

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