Guest List: Planning A Kids Party

Guest List: Planning A Kids Party

unnamed-2This is a handy one. One of the worst things about being a parent is that kids don’t come with a handbook. So when Ellie of Buttons Parties offered to share her knowledge of how to plan a kids party I jumped at the chance.


I’ve been planning and hosting children’s parties for a long time, before I started Buttons I worked in events and before that in a school. To give you an idea, when I first started I had to print map directions from my home to the first party, from the first to the second and then directions on how to get home! Yay for the Sat Nav.

It’s the type of job that people tell me I’m mad to do. I can see why they might think that but as an 8-year-old told me the other week (mid treasure hunt) you have the best job ever. That kid gets it, I am a big kid.

  • So, planning your child’s party doesn’t not need to result in buying out Sainsbury’s wine aisle. I can tell you the stress comes from trying to do way more then you have time for and not realising how long it takes to set the party up. I have seen my fair share of balloon related marital meltdowns.

  • Get a date picked and venue/entertainment booked early (8/10 weeks) otherwise you will find the clown you wanted to book is committed to spraying water from a flower into the face of little Jonny from number 5.

  • If you want to go all out and big then do it. That could be a troop of entertainers, a show stopping cake that needs three adults to carry it, fire work show to music, a pink elephant spraying ice cream from its truck, a private show from Little Mix, red carpet welcome or 5 tons of sand to turn the hall into a beach. Only one of these I have not seen with my own eyes.

  • If the thought of all that & the cost sends you into a cold sweat then remember that is not the norm. If you want to set the guests list to 10 friends, bake some brownies and send the children outside to play in the garden then do that.

  •  The amount of fun the birthday child has does not correlate to the hours you stayed up making the cake or the money you spend on party bags.

  • Don’t succumb to any type of party pressure otherwise you will end up dreading the whole thing. Do what you and your child want to do.

  • Get the birthday boy or girl involved, planning games, picking invitations, choosing party wear or ‘helping’ to pack the party bags.

  • I love getting a play list form the birthday child, who doesn’t want their favourite songs played at their party. Even if it is ‘I like to move it move it’

  • Sit down and plan, keeping in mind how much time you have and what you want to spend.unnamed-4

  • Two hours is a standard length of time for a party. Older kids could do three hours and little ones might be better with one.

  • The most popular time slots are 11-1 and 3-5, for venues and entertainers so you might find picking one of these options makes booking everything else easier.

  • Your party planning list should include:

  • Venue – Check for parking, kitchen and use of table and chairs. Give yourself an hour to get set up. It takes way longer then you would think (especially inflating balloons, see my first point).  You will need tables and chairs for the party food, a table for the cake, a table for the gifts and party bags, chairs for parents if they are staying (they tend to stay up to age 6/7) and possibly a table for adults’ drinks and food if you’re being that kind. I’m also a believer that parents can help themselves to drinks and tea / coffee. You have enough to do don’t feel you need to take that job on as well.

  • Entertainment – are you going to host the games? Get a good list of games and what you need and then add in about 3 more as back up. Unless you’re a child wrangling pro keep them simple and stick to the classics otherwise you will spend the whole time trying to explain what you want them to do. If your booking someone then decide what you what them to offer (magic, games, face painting, crafts, cooking, outdoor adventure…) get recommendations from friends and get on Google, looking at reviews. I have heard some horror stories from clients about nightmare people they or their friends had booked (you know the magician that clearly can’t stand kids or the princess who looks like she just fell out of a tent at Glastonbury).

  • Party food – if you’re planning the party outside of a meal time and just want to do nibbles and drinks then make a note on the invitation so parents know to feed them beforehand. If you’re doing party food keep it simple. YOU WILL NOT NEED AS MANY SANDWICHES AS YOU THINK. Don’t forget the party rings and chocolate fingers, even if it’s just so the parents can swipe them of their child plates.

  • Venue Decoration – Whether you’re going all out or not, a theme can help bring the ‘look’ together. The best place to concentrate your efforts is on the party table as this will make a great focal point, floor weighted balloons will help bring instant colour to the room. If you don’t even know where to start then get on Pintrest. Just put the thing your child is into and the word party and you will have a ton of ideas at your fingertips. I have about 80 boards on different themed parties.

  • Cake – buy one from Marks & Spencers or hand make and decorate one. It’s cake and they will love it either way so really, it’s what will bring you the most joy. I know making a cake would stress me out that way my amazing mum is making my daughters 1st birthday cake! It has certainly taken the pressure of me and my mum is in her element. I mean we have had two cake related ‘sit downs’ already and a trial run.  

  • Party Bags – I’m not saying you should do them, but…. If the children are under 8 years old I wouldn’t want to be a mum who didn’t. Kids LOVE a party bag, they love them even more than pass the parcel and that’s saying something.  You don’t need to spend a fortune, a bubble wand, a bag with some sweets, chocolate and stickers inside, a book or a little toy.

  • Don’t forget –  CANDLES & MATCHES. When I first started in Kids parties half the room would have a lighter but it’s not the case now If you forget the matches you can only keep your fingers crossed for a gas hob in the hall kitchen.

  • Heads up – Those cake sparklers take AGES to light and can set of the hall fire alarms. I run around opening door like a crazy person when I see one.

  • Don’t put the party food on the table until just before it’s time to eat, otherwise you will find your hula hoops have vanished before the first bum hits the seat.

  • If you’re having your party outside then have a plan B. The stress of weather app checking every 2 hours in the run up will do nothing for your nerves. While we are waterproof and I don’t mind a bit of rain it does nothing for the sandwiches.

  • You will need more table covers than you think.  I have normally have spare in my car because I see this so often.

  • Do not get stuck in the kitchen making tea for two hours (unless that’s your safe place in which case don an apron, look busy and have a secret stash of G&T).

  • Get photos, marvel at how big your little baby got and how you have done such an awesome job.

  • Now drink wine.unnamed-4

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