After flinging together a 2nd birthday party for JJ three years ago, with nothing but a hired hall, bouncy castle and some Disney cars themed plates, cups and decorations, I decided this year to attempt to pull off something a little bit more special for EJ’s 2nd. I wanted a theme – something that could be tweaked and customised – and settled on the circus theme because I think it is fun and colourful.
In hindsight, I think I got a little bit too caught up in this, and the idea of making it perfect – picture perfect too. In the event there was so much going on, and so many elements to bring together that I pretty much forgot, or just didn’t have time to get my camera out, and I really didn’t have time to line up every little element to make it into the perfect photo-shoot.
Silly little things were forgotten, like string for the balloons – so my dad ended up using an entire cannister of helium blowing up about 20 little balloons all of which then sat on the ceiling for the following three hours!
I had booked the hall for an hour in advance of the party thinking that would be enough time to set everything up with just my mum and dad to help (the hubster stayed home with EJ while he napped). By the time the party guests began arriving we were still running around like headless chickens (well I was!) with hardly any food out, still not quite sure how we were going to present it all and the cake and banana muffins still to be iced! (I’d made the icing in advance but didn’t feel confident about transporting ready iced cakes (melty buttercream frosting) for fear of a disastrous mess! In the event my mum did the icing for me and it wasn’t quite what I’d envisioned (I’d also forgotten the Smarties!) but still looked and tasted good.
I think my worst fear at that point was that my little ‘fun’ elements – the home-made lion ball toss game:
and EJ’s new circus tent:
were completely swallowed up in the big hall and without music, planned games, pass the parcel or any real focus like a bouncy castle or entertainer, it felt a little empty and lacking to begin with. Even my ten year old step daughter came and asked ‘is this it?’ – which wasn’t great! Fortunately the cavalry came in late – a few more guests and my sister, brother in law and lovely nieces. The kids began to warm up and run around, and I remembered that I’d bought a party parachute!
The nieces came into their own, rallying the kids around (bear in mind that despite this being EJ’s 2nd Birthday, the majority of the children were older – only two other two year olds and everyone else either three, four or five). They knew lots of parachute games – I wouldn’t have had a clue! – and the kids loved it (particularly the one where you get ‘wound up’ in the middle before everyone pulls back to ‘pop’ you out!
There was a little funny game of pin the nose on the clown too, the first little girl getting it almost exactly right before admitting that she could see despite the blindfold!
Then it was tea time and I seemed to have got it right with variety and amounts of food (I think!). I took the controversial step of not bothering with sandwiches – does anyone ever eat sandwiches at a party? – and opted instead for cold pizza (I’d cooked four in advance), a variety of crisps, sausage rolls, cheese and onion rolls, cocktail sausages, cherry tomatoes, grapes, strawberries and some home made completely ‘free from’ banana oat muffins (ironically no one at the party suffered from any allergies or intolerances but they still got, at least partially, eaten!).
By the end of the day I felt relieved and happy that I was sending people away with a smile on their faces (and a stuffed party bag with the clown pop of their nightmares!*)
I’ve learned some hard lessons though. Firstly, this isn’t about me, this is about the kids. Secondly, I’m no photographer and I can’t see how you could possibly act as official photographer and host a party too – maybe it would be different if your party was at home and you had all the time in the world to set things up, then take the pictures before your children even got a look in! And my party planning leaves a lot to be desired.
With JJ’s birthday a mere five weeks away, I now have the task of improving upon what I’ve learned – there will still be some home made bits, but everything will centre around the much-requested ‘bouncy castle with a slide’! There will still be cake pops (albeit far less ambitiously decorated), and there may just be individual lunch boxes for all instead of the full spread. The cake pop decoration and laying out of food were by far the most time consuming and stressful elements.
How about you? Do you have any lessons learnt from planning your kid’s party or any tips to share (heaven knows I could use some!)…
*see this post for a full explanation!