Just last year I had waxed eloquently that how I didn’t want to celebrate my daughter’s 1st birthday and 2nd birthday parties in a grand way. Well, this year my daughter turned 3 and before we could decide whether she would enjoy having a third-year birthday party, she took the matters right out of our hands. It was the kindergarten or the new school, I am not sure, but my little daughter has been so taken by the whole birthday thing that nearly every day she makes a birthday cake for herself out of playdoh and makes us sing the ‘Happy Birthday’ song for her. Looking at her enthusiasm, we had to throw a birthday party for her.
Having no or little experience in birthday party throwing, we went by faith and little imagination. This is our check list.
Small or big: First things first, we wanted to keep it small; so no party halls, big invitees’ list and extensive menu. Also, we wanted to keep it at home. Again, that was a tough task as we felt guilty deciding who to invite and who to leave out. One rule of thumb that might help is to invite only those who have kids. It fairly shortens the guest list, reduces your headache and doesn’t alienate people.
Theme: Next on list was the birthday theme. Frankly speaking, it was the easiest of all. Now I think of it, it was one of the reasons I had wanted to throw a party in the first place. My little daughter loves Barney the dinosaur. So ‘Barney’ it was. If your child has a favourite character or cartoon, your life becomes relatively easier. Make that as a theme, and if not, don’t huff or puff over it. Kids come to a birthday for fun, give them that and they won’t even miss a birthday theme.
Party paraphernalia: Deciding Barney as a theme was the easiest part. But the execution was not as simple. In India, Barney is not as popular a character as Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Spiderman, Princess, Angry Birds, Dora the Explorer or the most recent Chhota Bheem.
We tried to procure (unsuccessfully) Barney themed decor items, balloons, cutlery, return gifts. At the end, we did it at home. Thankfully, my mother-in-law was visiting me and being a good craftsperson, she helped me by making some Barney cut-outs, newspaper return gift bags, party hats stickers etc. They not only work out economical but also look great! You can get the stickers printed. Select a few images off the internet and give it to a printer shop. They will print stickers in the size you want.
Decoration: We had made Barney cut-outs. I was adamant that I didn’t want banners or streamers, only balloons in purple and green. In a 2 BHK apartment, 100 balloons seemed decent enough to me. But the party planner convinced me to put up at least 200. We agreed. When all the balloons were put up, I realized even 300 or 400 would have been put up and it still wouldn’t have looked crowded.
Activities: If you are good at thinking games and making little kids play, go by all means. I am not. So I decided to book a tattoo artist, magician and Barney mascot (yes, we got one finally after much search though he didn’t look authentic Barney). But even with these activities, you need to think of a few activities like dancing, games etc. to keep the kids and adults busy.
Cake: We got a Barney icing chocolate truffle cake. It was yummy. Just carry a picture of the character you want, and most good bakers/confectioners will do it for you. You can go for a sugar fondant cake but seriously not recommended for little kids as they find it hard and not to their taste.
Return gifts: I feel I can write an epic story on return gifts and the mental anguish that comes with them. How much I have fret on it till the last time! Will she like her or is it too kid-dish for him and so on. There are many good sites that recommend you return gifts to match every budget. But the problem is finding meaningful return gifts. I know its extra work figuring out return gifts for kids when you are already overwhelmed with party planning. But hey, kids come to a party only for cake, games and return gifts; accept it. So give some thought to it. If kids are of various ages, gifting the same sling bags to all doesn’t work.
Well, our party was a big hit with both kids and parents alike. The kids were of various ages ranging from 2 to 8, but the activities interested them all. Kids bee-lined for the tattoos while the magician had everybody spellbound. The Barney mascot was not such a good idea after all. It managed to scare the little kids away. I realized that my daughter loves the onscreen Barney but she was not so enthusiastic to meeting the live dinosaur. The pinata/khoi bag was loved by all. Kids were over the moon that they got to carry the loot on top of the promised return gift.
Some wonderful learning that I got from this party:
- If you are having fun, space doesn’t matter. Though being a small apartment in Mumbai, it housed over 40 people quite comfortably and everybody had so much fun.
- If it’s affordable, book a caterer and party planner. Believe me, this way you too can join in the fun.
- Be involved. If you get involved in the activities, everybody else will too. Kids are shy, so draw them into the spirit by dancing, clapping etc. in the activity.
- Keep a few extra gifts. You can hand out to kids for various activities like best dancer, first-runner up. These surprise gifts make it more interesting for kids. Also, smaller kids are not able to take away much for their khoi bags and they might come to you crying. Keep some gifts handy to pacify them.
- Request a few close friends/family to take charge of some activities or supervise gifts/food etc. Obviously, you are not a superwoman and can’t be at five different places at the same time. This healthy delegation not relieves you a little bit but also ensures that things run smoothly.
- However well you plan, there are going to be last-minute no-shows which means there’s going to be some left-over food. Keep disposable food containers handy. Pack leftover food/cake in them and give it to your friends. It keeps your refrigerator from choking while your friends will relish the food over the next few days.
- Always, I mean always, give some food to maids/guards of your building. They expect it.
- Kids these small love cake cutting. It doesn’t matter whose birthday is it or who’s cutting the cake. They all want to blow the cake and cut it too. If you and your child are okay with it, it’s better to ask all the kids present to hold the knife simultaneously. They will be ecstatic just to hold it and being a part of the cake-cutting.
- Be prepared for last minute hiccups. Maids not turning up, caterers and your party planners showing up late. Keep some alternatives handy.
Do you have some more useful tips to share? Feel free to leave it in the comment.