Tips for hosting a child's birthday party at home

Holding a party at home for children can be daunting at the best of times. EIMEAR HUTCHINSON shares some tips and advice to help things go smoothly
Tips for hosting a child's birthday party at home

A lot of parties were put on hold or postponed over the past two years - but 2022 will be the year we see them return. Picture: Stock

OUR eldest is turning ten in a couple of weeks - oh, who am I kidding... it’s in 10 days, four hours, and I’m sure if I asked her she could tell me almost to the second when exactly it is.

She is absolutely obsessed with her birthday! We have to ban her from talking about it from Christmas time until the start of February, otherwise I don’t think any other topic would be discussed in the house.

That said, we do love birthdays in this house so maybe I can’t blame the child for being excited. It goes without saying that after the last two years, it is an immense pleasure to be able to get excited about a party without having that dread hang over you that it could be cancelled.

Usually, we hold the parties in our house, the ten-year-old has other ideas this year so I think this is one of the first birthday celebrations that we won’t be holding at home.

While hosting a party for a scatter of small kids is a bit daunting at the best of times, it is also so much fun. I know I have so many memories of going to birthday parties in other people’s houses when I was young, and I hope the girls will remember their parties at home with the same fondness.

We have learned a few tricks over the years in terms of hosting parties and I know friends of mine have found these tips useful, so I shall share them here for those of you that will be hosting parties at home this year.

HOW LONG IS TOO LONG?

The biggest revelation over the years was that a three hour party is definitely an hour too long. A two hour party is long enough, especially for children under the age of eight, any longer and they tend to scatter to the four corners of the house, and when I am minding lots of other people’s children, I like to be able to keep an eye on them all easily enough.

We held a movie party one year, I think she was turning seven and it turns out seven-year- olds, when they are at someone’s house, are not really interested in sitting and watching a movie for very long.

We didn’t have any games prepared, although somehow we managed to pull it off, but it has been embedded in our memories ever since and now we won’t budge a minute over two hours for a self-hosted party.

They usually do drag on a little past the two hours by the time you do the cake, but the parents are there at that stage so it’s easier to manage when you aren’t the sole source of responsibility.

KEEPING THEM TOGETHER

The best tip we have discovered over the years is to have lots colouring pages and pencils out on the kitchen table at the start of the party. 

Direct children there as they arrive, that way everyone is together and no child ends up arriving at the door being greeted by two adults and having to wander off alone to find the rest of the pack.

This always works well for us, especially with the younger children who might be shy, it means there is a less chaotic start to the party, which is always a plus.

GAMES THAT ARE A HIT

We have a few tried and tested games up our sleeves that are always a hit, pass the parcel is a great one if they are a bit hyper and need a few minutes calming down, and it does pass a good few minutes. Be sure to wrap a layer for each child at the party, I have been known to get distracted and lose count, which is not ideal. 

Keep it simple, put a chocolate coin in each layer, one year we had chocolate coins in some layers and little toys in other layers and the ones who got the toys wanted the coins and visa versa, so keep it all the same and no-one can complain.

The other game we love, which my husband used to play growing up, is to hang donuts on a string off the washing line and the kids have to eat them with their hands behind their backs, so funny - and they all love having sticky mouths afterwards.

PARTY FOOD

We always aim to have the food ready to eat about an hour after the kids arrive. By the time they settle in, do some colouring and play some games, they are just about ready for food.

We usually do sausages, chips and pizza and put a platter of fruit and veg in the middle of the table, to ease our conscience, but you’d be surprised how many children will reach for some.

Just before they are ready to leave, we do the cake, we might give them a few treats then too, a wise move to give them the sugar at the last minute before you send them on their way and let their parents deal with the come down!

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