I think it is reasonable for an at-home party, not to invite everyone in the class. To be honest, I'm not keen on inviting everybody anyway. My children know who their friends are, and they want to celebrate with them. In my daughter's case, she wanted to invite her circle of good friends, but as her brother, and little sister were going to be there too, she invited a sibling of a friend for each of them. We ended up with a total of 13 (including my children).
It's possible to run a party by yourself, but easiest to have help. I ran the games while the Grandparents and Kenny sorted out the party table.
We were fortunate in that my daughter wanted to have her party at her Grandparent's house (and they agreed), so they could do a lot of the set up for us. We had balloons, birthday banners, and party tableware. Granny also put some effort into cutting coasters out of the patterned paper napkins, which was really cute. Granny fixed balloons to the doors of all the rooms in the house that party people were allowed to go in. This was an easy rule to follow. It is preferable to have some outside space if possible.
Two hours is long enough for a party with games. It gives you time for lots of fun, for party food, and for everyone to go home when they're starting to flag. We had the big girl's party on a Friday afternoon 4-6pm. This was not such a good idea, because the girls were tired from school, however, there were a lot of events on in the town over the weekend, so it seemed the best time.
I found it easiest to have a party playlist on my 'phone. This had some One Direction songs, tempered with popular songs like Happy and Gangnam Style. We're thinking dancing. Had we been at home, we would have used this with no problem, but I was glad I checked my setup at the Grandparent's house. It turned out that the bluetooth on their stereo wasn't talking to mine, and the jack I'd brought didn't fit my new 'phone! (Seriously Google Nexus! It needs extra long jacks and extra long chargers. Grr). Happily, I'd only just switched over and had my old 'phone to hand, so used that on the jack instead.
The big girl will not play any games that involve getting messy. As these seem to be the games I think of first, we needed to come up with some other options. Here is what we went for:
- Pass the parcel: I made sure there was a layer each, and put a sweetie in each layer. You can put small presents in, if you don't want to overdo it with the sweets, but then you need to have somewhere to put them all. I put two prizes in one big parcel, so there were two winners. This game needs to be set up in advance, with at least two colours of wrapping paper, so people know where to stop unwrapping. When you're stopping the music, try to ensure that everyone gets a turn. But if it does stop on the same person twice, they're usually happy to pass it to the next person who's not had a go.
- Musical statues: You know the drill, you play the music, preferably something very upbeat, the kids dance and when the music stops, if they move they are out. I tend to give a sweet when they are out, to soften the blow.
- Musical cushions: Like musical chairs, except with less solid objects being moved about. You throw cushions on the floor, and when the music stops the children have to find a cushion and sit on it. You remove a cushion each time someone is out, until there is a winner. Keep the cushions well spaced out, and make sure the children move around the room, not just hogging a cushion. Children seem to enjoy choosing a cushion to remove when they go out.
- Other musical games: There are so many variations on this game. Musical bumps (sit on the floor when the music stops - last one down is out). Musical monsters (monster faces, last one is out). Musical angels (hands together, innocent face, and singing 'ahhhh', while remaining still - a bit Doctor Who that one), etc.
- Pin the tail on the donkey: There are lots of variations on this too. Stick the clown on the nose, stick the cutlass on the pirate, stick the tiara on the princess etc. You can buy kits for not much money, or you can make your own. We found a printable pin the tail on the donkey here, coloured it in, and stuck it to cardboard, and with an old blindfold from a pinata set, we were good to go. Spin people round a bit, and let them stick or pin. Nearest to the right place wins.
- Treasure hunt: If your birthday is near Easter, you can do an egg hunt. Otherwise, weather dependent, you can hide small objects, playing cards, or shapes around the garden, or inside. For the big girl's party, we had butterflies (cut out with a butterfly cutter), previously we've done pirate coins in the garden, and wooden stars. It works especially well if you have different colours (or suits with playing cards), and the children need to collaborate to ensure they've got one of each (or just three different ones). You can help ensure everyone will get a chance by ruling that everyone can only have three in their hands at once, and they need to swap them to get three to exchange for a prize.
- Dress up: Split everyone into two teams. Each team forms a relay to dress up one person with as many silly clothes as you can find. There needs to be a pile of silly clothes at one end of the room and the people at the other. This works very well if it's Mum's clothes in the pile, and you've got two Dads to dress up. At the big girl's party we dressed up the two boys in dressing up stuff. You then need a judge to declare one team the winner. No-one seems to mind who this is, as it's a fun game.
You can make it as fancy or not as you like. We did sandwiches, pizza, sausage rolls, mini sausages, veggie sticks and hummus, grapes, strawberries, biscuits, crisps, mini cakes, and of course THE BIRTHDAY CAKE. I was asked not to bake one this year, because the girl wanted to have the same cake as one of her friends. It's all good. I like to put all the non-pudding items out first, then do the birthday cake, and serve mini cakes and biscuits after the cake. Don't forget to get some matches, or find a friend that smokes. You don't have to do any hot food, but the kids ate the pizza and sausage rolls in preference to the sandwiches. If you pass the veggies around, the children mainly seem to take some. The amount of food you need will depend on what time of day your party is at.
Change it up
Just playing games at a party might work well for some children, but the kids at the big girl's party were getting restive after lots of party games, pizza, and chocolate, so we took them down the road to visit the local castle.
Having something else to focus on, and doing something different, helped everyone to calm down a bit, and gave everyone something to talk about.
If for some reason you don't have a local castle, you can take them out to a play park (you might want to take some medals or stickers with you for races). And if you need to stay at home, doing something crafty can help bring everyone back into focus. You could make bracelets, or decorate a felt bag for your party favours. If you're doing crafty things, it can be good to do them at the start of the party, and move the food to the end, rather than in the middle.
What did you do for the last party you organised?
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