Planning with Kids : Stress-free birthday parties - Parties away from home, Birthday presents

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Parties away from home

As much as I love traditional at-home parties (which is how we normally celebrate birthdays), there have been times when we’ve chosen different options. When we were living in the inner city, we had a courtyard the size of a car-parking space and our house was quite small. When my eldest son turned four it was no longer possible to have a party at home — there just wasn’t enough room for all the kids we wanted to invite. When he turned four we had his dinosaur party at a local park, which was ideal for his age group.

On his sixth birthday we were in the process of looking for a new house. We’d sold our house and were running out of time to buy a new one. Most of my time was spent house hunting and there wasn’t time for me to think about — let alone organise — a party at home, or even in a park. That year we completely outsourced his birthday party. We went to a local pool that catered for parties and it was the first time we too only had to turn up for our own child’s party.

The outsourced pool party was the most expensive party we’ve ever had, but it was the best option for us at the time. For me, parties are supposed to be fun. If putting the party together is a stressful undertaking, then I reconsider my options. If, even after you’ve read the 10-point birthday plan, you still think the home-party idea is not for you — you may not have the space, or have too much going on — here are some middle-ground options between a home party and an outsourced party you could consider.

Picnic in the park

If the kids are under four, find a park with an enclosed play area and toilets close by — it makes the party less stressful. Use picnic blankets for the children to sit on when it’s time to eat. Take along a stash of nappy wipes, your own rubbish bags and sunscreen — you’ll almost always need them.

The movie theatre

Movies can be pretty expensive, so if you choose a movie party, invite fewer kids. Take along your own party-style food as the food at the movies is always overpriced.

A local activity

One year when we had a newborn, my husband and one of his friends took the kids rock climbing for two hours. Then they came home for party food and birthday cake.

Combined party in a local hall

I have friends whose kids’ birthdays are close together and who have many mutual friends, so they host combined birthday parties. They split the hire of a local hall and share the catering. They bring along toys (or hire a party pack from a toy library) and let the kids play. This works well for winter parties, when the weather can be unreliable.

Birthday presents

I’m one of those people who frequently buy books as birthday presents. I think they make great gifts. However, it doesn’t seem appropriate to give the same child a book for a present year after year. I prefer to stay away from commercially oriented gifts, but I do like to keep the price under $20. We keep a list of ideas for inspiration, which is helpful when the younger children who want to have a say in the gift have to choose something but can’t actually think of anything! Table 1 (overleaf) lists some presents we’ve given or received over the years.

Table 1: birthday presents

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