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Event Planner extraordinaire Rebecca Green from Rebel & Anchor shares the secrets to planning a kids party stress free for the grown ups without losing out any of the fun for the kids.
My one bit of advice to planning a stress free Children’s birthday party….. to hire a party planner! Jokes aside, I plan events for a living, some small experiences to very large numbers with lots of moving parts, but none are as stressful as organising your own child’s birthday!
In all seriousness, our own children are the hardest clients to please. If yours are anything like my 4- and 5-year-olds, then one theme is simply not going to cut it. What’s a party unless it’s a footballing, Harry Potter, party with dinosaurs. I mean what’s difficult about that?
The trick is to keep it simple.
I know this is obvious but it’s very easy for costs to get out of hand! Work out your budget and then try to stick to it.
There’s also the option of having a joint birthday party, especially if the guest lists will be similar. You’ll not only share the cost but also the work.
If you can get away with it, do not ask your child, “what theme would you like?”
Spend a little time researching ideas. Pinterest is really good for this. Only then give your child a choice of two themes.
Choosing the right day is always good. Saturday parties give you more time to have a weekend but Sunday parties gives more time to prepare.
Set the right time for their age. Morning parties can work well, especially for younger children – they’re not as tired and you can lead into lunch time which saves the parents having to think about it! Do be conscious of nap times, however, if the children are still in that age bracket.
Perhaps send out save the dates. Once your child is at school there are likely to be several parties each weekend. So a simple ‘save the date’ text or WhatsApp will save you the stress of competing with another.
Also remember to put RSVP complete with mobile phone number. Make sure on your invites you give the parents all the info they need, obviously the location, times and date, but also is there parking, can they drop off and leave, if siblings can come along or if numbers are capped. Ask them to let you know if there are any dietary requirements – it’s up to the parents to tell you if there are any allergies to be wary of, but it’s wise to prompt them.
Choose a practical venue that’s right for your style of party! Things to look out for when you’re choosing include: ease of access to the venue, good parking, toilets, kitchen and if you can have time to set up and take down after the party.
When booking a venue do check capacity as, bear in mind, you might have siblings and parents. Check what you’re allowed in the venue. For example, you may want a bouncy castle, but some venues don’t have the ceiling height for this, or their insurance would be null and void, so definitely check.
Keep it simple!
This is the only way you will keep your sanity unless you have a paid party planner. Even then, my own son’s party looked like every other party going – party planners aka someone like me generally need a little budget to work with to create the WOW.
Try and go for eco-friendly decorations, balloons – even latex ones that claim are eco-friendly aren’t that great. Paper pompoms and decorations are the way to go.
Piñatas are a great option for adding decoration and doubling up as an activity, just be careful about what you provide to hit the piñata with!
Party Games & Entertainment
Make sure that you have something suitable to play music on for party games, it’s crazy how much sound a group of excitable kids can soak up and some of the games just don’t work if no-one can hear the music.
If you’re worried about the entertainment, and facilitating thirty 5-year-olds fills you with dread, then look to the pros. That Neon disco maybe better run by a professional dance teacher, used to dealing with the excitable troupe and it may help give structure to the party. Or if your child loves football then perhaps there are professionals out there to help with fun sports games. This is what we did for my son. He plays sports at afterschool clubs and loves it, so we asked if they would come along to his party to play some of the games with the kids. They were much better at doing this than I ever would have been!
Running The Party
Give clear tasks to everyone helping; this really helps free you up to actually host the party. This doesn’t mean you’re being lazy, it’s just that being the host with the most is a full-on job.
Think about the flow of the party, even if you have a professional leading it. For example, if you fed all the kids at the start, you might struggle to contain them enough to play any games as they may either be too full or running around like road runner after one party ring too many.
On food you don’t have to always spend a fortune, but do consider what you’d like your little one to try and consume and I bet it’s not chocolate, crisps and cake only. Make sure there are healthier options and leave the sweet stuff at the end of a grazing table or, even better, do a separate dessert station that they can have after they’ve eaten.
Sandwiches can seem like a simple option, but they take time to make and below a certain age lots of kids don’t really eat them. Or is that just mine!?
Pizza makes a great ‘grab it’ savoury party food and most kids will eat a carrot stick if prompted! Open up some hummus and pop it on the table.
Have drinks for adults, you won’t be expected to provide food for adults, but it is a good idea to offer some sort of drink. We always do teas & coffees and I’ve also lately done a little glass of Prosecco. Remember, unless you’re braving drop off, most parents have to give up their time to sit and watch – in high party season it can be a little same, same! At least with a glass of something fun they feel like they’re having their own mini party.
Party bags, the joy of the bag filled with stuff that is a bit rubbish but kids seem to love.
If you want to create your own party bags, choose a theme and set yourself a strict budget.
Perhaps look at other options like hot chocolate sticks and marshmallows, or seed packets to plant, along with some little fun sweet packets and the kids will be happy and parents grateful for not more plastic bits.
Another tip, do the cake mid-way or at least 20mins from the end so it gives you or a designated person time to cut up and put in the bags. One, it’s another item for the bag, but also, you’re not having to panic cut a cake for 30 children under pressure!
Having said all of that, give yourself a break and take just you and your family for a fun day out with a couple of close friends, like ice skating or to the cinema and save on time and energy……
Q&A with Rebecca!
What’s your biggest struggle with being self-employed and juggling family life?
The eternal feeling of mum guilt, which we all know never 100% goes away no matter what we do. I love what I do but to do it well I do need some time to focus and that can be hard to carve out, especially with smaller children that aren’t yet in school.
It’s a constant battle to make sure I don’t overwhelm myself and I try to also be kind to myself. I go to baby yoga once a week and it’s a non-negotiable. I mean I’m not even child free as I take my little one, Margot, but it’s still exercise and I feel more mindful.
What’s your biggest parenting fail?
It wasn’t really a fail, but I went to a buggy burn class recently, again with baby, and I turned my phone off, which I never usually do. When I turned it back on there was a multitude of messages from school and friends who were down as emergency school contacts, to say that my daughter had fallen at school and split her chin so they had taken her to A&E. My daughter, Audrey, has a condition called Elhers Danlos Syndrome so any cut is not ideal as it’s a connective tissue disorder. It wasn’t a fail as such just, embarrassing as I rocked up to A&E in my exercise gear looking like a lady of leisure.
My husband once took our son, Baxter, to school and accidently left Audrey, at that point not yet at school, in the playground. He realised when he was nearly back at the car! Fortunately, she was still there looking baffled.
What’s been your best day as a mum so far?
The birth of all three of my kids is up there but I’m quite good nowadays at stopping and looking at all of us as a family and thinking we made them and they’re perfect. We went to see the Seals recently at Godrevy and took a very cheesy family selfie and I remember thinking it doesn’t get better than this.
Top tip for keeping organised?
We have a family calendar that splits out individuals as a family of 5 with a dog and a lizard – we do have a lot going on. Plus, Audrey has a lot of doctor appointments so I need to keep on top of it all.
Little things like getting things ready the night prior, breakfast bowls, their school uniforms, bags and coats at the door ready.
Top tip for balancing family life with your business?
I’m not the best person to answer to be honest – I’ve been self-employed for almost all my working life and my children are 6, 4 and 0, I’ve still not got the answers. Just muddle through and know you’re doing the best you can. Take support when offered and set yourselves days or times that you ring-fence just for work.
What do you do to take time for yourself/ practise self-care?
As mentioned, I do yoga and an exercise class both with my baby, Margot, so not completely for myself but she and I enjoy it. I then try and carve out the odd dinner with friends; as I still feed Margot I do need to express to be able to do it so my husband can cope for the evening. It’s a bit full on for him but he knows it’s important for me to have those occasional times to just laugh, moan, and regroup.
The world would be a better place if….
There’s so much I could say here like an armchair politician that I am, but in all honesty, I think we all need that time and space to stop, get off and smell the flowers, whilst we still can.
When we connect back to nature and this beautiful planet, that we’ve still not stopped harming, we realise there’s much more to life and our existence than the stresses and pressures we either put on ourselves or succumb to.
Cornwall is a great place to live to be able to do this, going for that walk, or swim, taking in the salty air and breathing. It makes me a better person and I think as a collective the human race needs that little bit more compassion, for others and ourselves and the planet we live on.
Either that or David Attenborough & Dolly Parton need to rule the world….
Rebecca was born in Essex, grew up in Yorkshire, educated at Exeter Uni, and lived and played in London, before finally settling down in Cornwall.
Rebecca now lives in Swanpool, Falmouth, with her husband Paul and three children, Baxter 6, Audrey 4 and Margot 6 months, Minty the King Charles Cavalier and Luna the Leopard Gecko. Her life is full, hectic but mostly fun.
After studying Drama, Rebecca started her working life being a jobbing actress for the first couple of years, before turning her hand to Experiential Marketing and Advertising in and around London.
Eventually, Rebecca veered towards becoming a Creative Events Producer, freelancing for several agencies and clients in and around London, across the UK and Europe. Rebecca set up her own bijou agency Rebel & Anchor here in Cornwall to facilitate the varied work she was doing down in the South West.
Rebecca’s work varies from large scale corporate parties, charity galas, press launches, fashion shows and shoots, to weddings and smaller scale experiences such as beach proposals. Rebecca loves creating memorable experiences for people and ensures everyone she works with feels special, creating a bespoke and personal service. Rebecca dons many hats: Producer, Art Director, Stylist and, the most rewarding but challenging, Mother!
ABOUT PROJECT MOTHERHOOD
This blog series exists to champion the astounding achievements of awe-inspiring mums. Because the truth is – motherhood is a full time job in itself. It is tough (and rewarding). There is no day off (we’d miss them if there was). There is no escape button (except the toilet – sometimes!). But, we’re in it for the duration and we wouldn’t change it for the world.
And when you throw another job, building a business, career or anything outside of motherhood into the mix – then, life gets a hell of a lot more of a challenge!
Somehow, against all odds, we pull through and get that shit done! Because we need something for ourselves. We need to feel a sense of achievement outside of being xx’s mum. We need to feel a sense of who we were before.
So here’s to you all mommas who are absolutely killing it. You are amazing, you are awe inspiring – you are champions!
Do you know an awe-inspiring mum who deserves the spotlight? Or perhaps you have some useful life hacks or advice to share with other mums in this blog series? If so drop me an email at email@example.com . They (or you) will even get a few photos in return to say thank you x