Planning a children’s party can be daunting. The prospect of 30 little darlings turning up and expecting to be entertained for a full two hours is enough to make even the most organised parent shudder. Fear not. Mama asked party planner extraordinaire Charlotte Morris of Dazzle and Fizz to talk us through her top tips for throwing a successful kid’s party that will leave both you and your children happy.
1. Start planning well in advance
The shortest notice that we have had to deliver a fully styled event this year was 24 hours. Where this is possible(ish) I strongly advise that you start your party planning at least 12 weeks in advance. Popular venues book up well in advance, as do entertainment options, particularly during the summer months.
Whether you are hiring somewhere or planning to host the party at home, starting early on will instantly reduce your stress levels and also afford you plenty of time to consider all options. Make yourself a timeline of what elements you would like secured by what point and ensure that all services are booked 6 weeks prior to the party.
2. Establish your budget early on
We receive so many enquiries from clients who do not have a specific budget in mind. Without a set budget, it is actually very difficult for a party planner to start planning your perfect party. You are unlikely to start wedding planning without a pre-determined budget, so treat your child’s party in the same vein.
It is still very important to set yourself a realistic budget before you start engaging with suppliers or researching services. Many clients tell us that they have no idea what a realistic children’s party budget is these days so do your research by calling suppliers and venues or looking online to gauge the price brackets.
3. Pick the perfect location for you
Whether you want to party at home, or at a venue, make sure you choose somewhere that can accommodate your party plans whatever the weather! If your party is outside, make sure you have a wet weather contingency – a marquee or gazebo are good options.
If you are choosing a venue, make sure that you have mobile contact details of whomsoever will be your contact on the day. Years ago one of our clients booked her local village hall for the party. When I turned up 30 minutes before the party to set up my equipment, I found the Mother in tears in the car park. The caretaker, who was supposed to open the venue an hour before, had not turned up and she had no way of contacting him. Thinking quickly, I saw that the venue had a lovely garden which we could access. I proceeded to set up in the garden and took the children on a magical wonderland adventure around the grounds. An hour in, the caretaker finally arrived, so we ended our adventure inside the hall and the party was actually lovely!
When choosing a venue, do ask what restrictions the venue has. Quite a few venues with very high ceilings might be adverse to balloons for example and venues in built up areas may have noise restrictions.
We’ve even had party venues tell us that we can’t use candles on the birthday cake before! Also check what access the venue allows. If you’re planning a very elaborate event with lots of styling for example, a 30 minute set up allocation would be completely unsuitable.
4. Choose appropriate catering for both adults and children
Many clients ask me what catering one should provide for parents at children’s parties. Now, although this is a matter of opinion, my general guidelines are as follows:
If your event is 2-3 hours in duration, then drinks and canapés for the grown ups is more than enough. The parents always end up finishing the children’s meals too, so canapés are a perfect offering for shorter party times.
For parties over 3 hours, I would recommend drinks, canapés and bowl foods, or a buffet for the grown ups. We generally keep adult catering at children’s parties informal and flexible, so that Mum and Dad can be mobile and cater to their children should they require.
As for children’s catering, we love bento style themed food boxes for younger children. These are simple, attractive and fun for the children to open. Themed buffets are also excellent and work best when the food compliments the overall party theming. At a recent Harry Potter inspired event we served cheese sandwiches in the shape of a giant serpent, lightning bolt shaped cheese biscuits and cupcakes with cauldrons on the top which both the children and adults loved.
5. Making the perfect birthday cake…
I am always in complete awe of all parents who make their child’s birthday cake! We are fortunate enough to work with some of the best cake makers in London, so I always order in for my personal events. If, unlike me, you fancy baking your child’s birthday cake yourself, here are some top tips to ensure that you are star baker!
- Generally a standard one tier cake can feed 15-20 guests, a standard two tier can feed up to 30 and a standard 3 tier can feed up to 50 guests. Choose a cake board and cake size to suit your party numbers.Make the cake days in advance. Our master baker recommends one full day’s cooling time for the sponge before beginning to ice.
- Preparation is key. Make anything that you can in advance to minimise stress levels! Sugar icing characters will last for a long time for example, so can be made weeks in advance if stored in the refrigerator.
- Consider how the cake will travel to the venue! Drive your cake on a flat, dry surface and remove any hazards that could fall on the cake in the event of an emergency stop. Over the years we have heard of all sorts of horror stories, from melted cakes, to dropped cakes to cakes flattened in transit! Thankfully 100% of our cakes have reached their destinations in one piece and long may that continue!
6. Keep control of sugar consumption
Whilst treats and parties go hand in hand, do try and offer a balanced menu over the course of the event. For example, if you are having a treat table, offer fruit for dessert. If you are offering a sugary dessert, allow your guests to take their slice of cake home in a cake box.
Pre-bag the sweets for a sweetie table for the guests to take home, so that no one child is going home with a crazy amount of sweets. Simple gestures like this show your guests that you are thoughtful and eliminates awkward conversations between parents and their children about what they can consume during your party.
7. Plan [more than] enough activities
Party games can take up far less time than you expect! As a general rule, one game will last 5-7 minutes, with 5 minutes for explaining the game and handing out prizes. Therefore, you will need to plan approximately 10 games for a standard two hour party, after allowing 30 minutes for lunch and 10 minutes for serving and eating the birthday cake.
It is always best to have too many games than too few to ensure a fun and energetic party. Some of our favourite traditional party games include musical statues, musical bumps, limbo and grandma’s footsteps.
8. Refuse plastic
It is estimated that the UK and USA throw away over 550 million plastic straws every day! These take some 200 years to break down, very few are recycled and many end up in our oceans. That is why at Dazzle and Fizz we only use paper plates, napkins, straws, cups and wooden cutlery for our parties. All of our curated products are recyclable or biodegradable and we never EVER use plastic straws. Shop for your environmentally friendly party products at Dazzle and Fizz
9. Know your party styling
There are so many different and exciting ways that you can decorate your child’s party. From flowers and balloons, to set, staging and lighting, the great thing about a child’s party is that there are no rules and your styling can be as wild as your imagination! Here are some general guidelines to consider when styling your child’s party:
- Pick a colour scheme and apply it across the whole party. 2-3 key colours are recommended for a stylish event.
- For more modest party budgets, opt for balloon based decor, as it fills the space with out breaking the bank. Choose contrasting helium and air filled installations, all in the same colour scheme to add interest to your event styling.
- For larger party budgets, you may like to start thinking about set and staging. If you are having entertainers, build them a staging area that will complement their show and help bring the magic to life for the children.
- Be realistic. Choose styling that is manageable to set up on the day and works with your access times, manpower, experience and venue.
10. Offer your guests thoughtful party favours
Parents have become much more creative in recent years when planning their young guests party favours. We believe that ‘less is more’ when selecting party bag contents and prefer to choose fewer quality items, as opposed to lots of plastic, sweets and throw away toys. Choose gifts that have longevity and encourage interactive play, such as story books, puzzles, musical instruments and activity sets. Also think about the bag itself, it’s aesthetic and it’s environmental qualities. We use brushed cotton fabric party bags at our parties, as they are beautiful, durable and reusable.
Most of all enjoy the party planning process, have fun, be creative and try and involve your child as much as possible in the party planning.
For more inspiration and your own slice of Dazzle & Fizz magic, visit dazzleandfizz.co.uk.