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Children's party tips

You've gone through the politics-of-the-party-invitations trial and now you're bracing yourself for the party itself. If feeding and entertaining your own children is difficult enough, you may be quailing at the prospect of hordes of the little darlings.

So to help you gird your party-hosting loins, we've got MNetters' tips on what works (and what doesn't) when it comes to children's parties, from games and themes to food and party bags.

And if your child seems to come home with a party invitation every other day, stock up on presents with Chad Valley's two for £15 offer, available exclusively at Argos. 

Party games and activities

  • If you're having a party for really little ones (under three years old), don't try doing any games, pass the parcel etc. They won't want to sit still, they don't get it and you'll just end up frustrated! NotshortI'mfunsized
  • When we do pass the parcel, there's a sticker in each layer that they put on as they unwrap their layer. Helps you see who has had a go at unwrapping, so then the end layer can then be an honest 'backs turned/eyes shut' go. nometime
  • Sleeping lions must always be played at the end for a pre-school age party. notnowbernard
  • "NEVER give out whistles or blowers out unless you want to either a) go mad or b) lose all your parent friends." ilythia
    Play the Mummy Game - divide the children into teams and one person in each team has to be wrapped up in toilet paper. The first team to completely cover the person in tissue wins. It helps to have an adult helper in each team if they are young. chicaguapa
  • Another good game is the Hats Game. Just like musical bumps but everyone has wearing - with one dissapearing each time. MUCH easier to judge than musical statues! upthehill
  • The best activity we have done at a party was cola rockets for my son 7th party. The worst was trying to convince 10 three-year-olds to try 'blindfolded-find-the-plastic-snakes-in-the-jelly'. We ended up armpit-deep in purple jelly whilst all the kids b*ggered off to play in the lounge. PigeonStreet
  • Have planned activities - we had fabric painting (just fabric pens and squares of cotton-covered cardboard), decorating fairy cakes and face painting, then a few games. Ask around, you'll find a parent who is good at face painting and other arty things who will be happy to help.
  • Have someone to take photos of the party. I am always sorting things out so ask my Mum to be 'photographer'. That way we can see how the children enjoy the day without having to stop and take pictures every few minutes. CoffeeGoneColdAgain
  • For older kids, aged around seven to nine, play Kim's Game. Bring in a tray with lots of objects and everyone gets a couple of minutes to look and memorise. Then it's covered up and they have to write down all the items they can remember. Younger children can do it in teams with an older child or adult to write the items down. shitemum
  • We did a treasure hunt around the garden, finds were pooled and divided up into party bags. We also did a timed obstacle course with a prize for the fastest boy and the fastest girl. Twelve children, all loved it. They were tired out by the time the food came out which is as it should be. TaffetaPaques
  • Buy lots of those little tattoo transfers and set up a table and chair area to put them on. Super cheap and keeps them occupied for five mins! nometime
  • Always have far more games than you think you need - including a number of 'ice breakers' if the children don't all know each other. Islands is useful for this - put a sheet of newspaper on the floor for every five children. When the music stops everyone must stand on the newspaper - anyone not on the paper is out. Remove sheets (or tear them in half) as you go along. They will end up standing on one foot, laughing hysterically and hanging on to each other as the game progresses. flamingtoaster
  • Best ever thing we did was a 'big draw' at the end whilst winding down for parents to arrive. Chucked a roll of drawing paper and a whole load of felt tips etc on the floor, children dived onto it and we got some fab artwork. Cue us looking a bit smug when all the parents turned up and the children were calm and orderly. LizaTarbucksAuntie
  • Bouncing castle - huge hit, almost no need to do anything else! Hulababy
  • Balloon keepy uppy... keeps them occupied for AGES! Becaroooo


Party themes

  • A theme transforms what would otherwise be a fairly ordinary party into something special and memorable. We have done (so far and in no particular order): monsters, secret agents, knights, dragons, science, princesses and pirates, space, and jungle. Theme everything: invites, games, food, party bags. My son's friends sat around at lunch at his last party and fondly recalled all of his previous parties - it brought a tear to my eye as it was concrete proof that it was worth the effort. As party attendees, I would also say that the most memorable ones have all been themed. stealthsquirrelsawaytheeggs
  • We had a Picnic in the Park party for DD, with individual picnic lunch bags. Plus, balls, cones for goalposts, and frisbees to play with. We all had a great time and you can invite as many people as you want. Best bit was my house was pristine on our return - just don't forget the binbags. driverdan
  • Throw a Pirate Party - then you can end with a treasure hunt. When they find the treasure chest, use it as a lucky dip for the going-home present. Everyone also then knows it's time to leave. strandednomore
  • DD's best ever was a Spy Party. They decorated T-shirts (fabric pens plus cheap tops) then put on fake glasses, noses and moustaches, and had to solve a series of clues using the code from Club Penguin, which finally led to a picnic and pinata in the nearby park.


Party food

"Don't spend ages making hot food. They will be far too keyed up and excited to eat it and you will throw most of it away!" Becaroooo
  • Veg and fruit crudités will most likely end up in the bin - keep things simple with sandwiches, biscuits, crisps and icecream. compo
  • Ask for food preferences on RSVPs. Makes life much easier and you make less food and get less waste. Hulababy
  • We arranged for the ice cream man to come round during our daughter's party last year. The kids absolutely loved queuing up for their cornets, and it saved a lot of faffing about with pudding. Not expensive either. bigflipflop
  • Always cook double the amount of sausages as the parents always eat them. sybilfaulty
  • Keep food simple because they really don't eat a lot. nometime
  • Traffic light jelly goes down well and is cheap to make: clear plastic cups, make some green (lime) jelly and divide it amongst the cups, let it set, and then repeat with some orange jelly and finally with red (strawberry/raspberry) jelly. The plus point is that what doesn't get eaten is a nice low-calorie snack for you! prettybird
  • Ask your child what they want. My son wanted pot noodles (usually a forbidden treat) so we made 20 pot noodles. Apparently, this made the party legendary among his friends. You can't hope to fathom the mind of an eight year old. trice
  • Keep the birthday cake with the candles for later (ie the adults) and give the guests cupcakes to take home. twirlymum


Party bags

  • "Instead of party bags, I put chocolate coins inside balloons, so that when the balloons pop the kids get a surprise!" 2gorgeousgirls
    Don't bother trying to wrap up the cake in napkins for the party bags as it goes all sticky, squashed and thrown in the bin when the children get home. Cut it at the party and serve it as dessert instead. Bert2e
  • Crispy cakes are much easier to put in party bags and most kids prefer them to shop-bought birthday cake covered in 3" of icing. geordieminx
  • Buy big (cheap) packs of things and split them between the bags. At DD's party, everyone got pencils, notebook, sweets, lollipop, balloon, eraser, glitter glue, cake and whistle and the bags came in under £1 each- craftynclothy
  • Instead of a party bag, let them make something, or plant a seed in a yoghurt pot and take that home. EngelbertFustianMcSlinkydog
  • I did chocolate mice in cheese wedge-shaped boxes instead of party bags, which went down as well with the adults as the children. whomovedmychocolate
  • Always bring extra party bags. Someone always brings a cousin or a sibling you didn't know about. latrucha


And finally, a few essential party-survival tips

  • When stuck, consult MN! No matter how far-out your party plan, someone will have been there before and will have advice to offer. I still have (and have forwarded to others) a complete science party plan provided by a MNer. stealthsquirrelsawaytheeggs
  • Only have as many guests as the age of the birthday child ie three at their 3rd birthday etc. Shitemum
  • Expect wailing and gnashing of teeth (and that's just the adults) and you won't go far wrong. whomovedmychocolate
  • Above all, don't get stressed if someone cheats always wins, have prizes for all and keep it short. Leave them wanting more. MrsWeasley
  • Gin. Atyourcervix


Get two toys for £15

Chad Valley LogoIf you've ever find yourself needing a last-minute present, why not stock up on Chad Valley's two for £15 offer? Children will be delighted with our boxes of birthday treats. Chad Valley toys offer great value for money and hours of fun, too.


Dinosaurs in a Tub Dragon Track Set Shopping Trolley Play Set
This tub is crammed to the top with an amazing assortment of colourful dinosaurs, trees and trunks. Children can have hours of fun creating their own miniature dinosaur adventures! Includes 13 dinosaurs, 2 trees and 4 trunks. 
 This fast-paced Chad Valley Dragon Track Set is great value for money and will keep children entertained for hours! An excellent toy for fans of racing cars. Race your car around the awesome double loops and bone chicanes of the Dragon Fast Track.
 This Chad Valley Shopping Trolley Play Set is a great toy to encourage role play and interaction. Includes 30 pieces of play food.
Bathtime Katie 500 Piece Card Making Kit Pick & Mix Sweet Shop
This cute Chad Valley Bathtime Katie is ideal for lots of bathtime fun. 'Bathtime Katie comes with her very own bath tub and accessories - including a rubber duck! You can bathe her, dry her, cuddle her and dress her just like a real baby. This doll is great for encouraging role-play.
Bring out their creative side with this crazy card making kit. Includes 1 storage caddy with 3 drawers, 15 cards & envelopes, 3 gel pens, PVA glue, silver, purple and fuchsia glitter glues, 5 foam sheets,10 sheets of tissue paper, 60 assorted pom pom, 20 assorted foam shapes, 20 wiggly eyes. Also includes 250 assorted confetti stars and 98 stickers.
 Let their imaginations come alive with this working sweet shop with real sweeties! Includes 2 sweet jars, scoop, bank notes and coins. Contains an array of assorted sweets, detachable working scales, opening cash drawer and detachable side trays.


Last updated: over 3 years ago