Organised chaos:planning your child’s birthday party

by | Jun 15, 2018

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It’s not just cake and candles anymore – planning a toddler’s party these days can be quite a job. Yashmitha Padayachee chatted to some of South Africa’s best party planners and got their top tips.

Planning a party can be overwhelming and costly. There are so many aspects to consider: venues, catering, photo-shoots, themes … the list goes on
and on.

According to K & M Kiddies Parties, your starting point needs to be your budget. Every decision you make for the event will be based on your budget. Allocate an amount as a whole, and then subdivide for your catering, cake, venue, and so on. That way, if you’re under budget in one aspect, you can re-allocate the surplus to another area.

Location, Location, Location

Start by considering when and where you want to celebrate your little one’s special day. Many parents are able to hire out conference-style venues or halls, while others opt for activity-driven venues such as an ice-rink, paintball arena or an indoor trampoline park. Others still are content with a local park or their own back yard.

Your choice will depend on the age and interest of your child and, of course, your budget. Keep in mind the season your party falls into, and whether or not you will need some form of an undercover area.

Can you dye my plates to match my serviettes?

Choosing a simple theme makes décor prep and ‘installation’ all that much easier. Most mainstream party stores stock a wide range of character and generic themed party items, from matching plates, cups and serviettes, to banners and balloons.

Children are exposed to a whole host of television characters and this can easily influence a party theme. Generic themes such as ‘flowers’, ‘ponies’, dinosaurs’ or ‘racecars’ can be a cost-effective alternative. Let the theme carry through all aspects of the party, from invitations, to décor, to the shape of the biscuits.

A party without cake is just a meeting

Baking has transformed itself into an art similar to couture fashion design, and themed cakes, biscuits and cupcakes can make or break a toddler’s party. A first birthday cake smash is must: you can have it professionally photographed if it fits into your budget, or snap a few pictures yourself. It might be easier to have this done on a separate day to the actual party.

Any function often leads to large quantities of wasted food: remember that your VIP guests all have tiny tummies and miniature cupcakes are a cute substitute to a traditional cake. Cupcakes can also be shaped and iced to form a themed cake.

In this age group all parties will still include parents, so your catering choices must accommodate for both palates. Light finger foods are always easier to prepare, and going simple leaves less room for error. Be mindful of labelling possible food allergy culprits such as nuts and dairy, or checking dietary requirements ahead of the big day.

Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened

Last, but by no means least, a small parting gift is just the thing to make your guests feel special and thank them for attending your special event. Goodie bags are customarily given to all children attending, and come in many shapes and sizes. Buckets, baskets, packets or brown paper packages tied up with string, they should ideally contain a juice, chips, candy, and some toy or treat that ties in with the theme. Colouring pages with a mini pack of crayons are a perfect way to let the party go home with your guest.

Additional tips

As your child grows and develops their own likes and dislikes, they can become more involved in the planning process such as the theme and possible catering choices.

A child’s party shouldn’t run unnecessarily long, and shouldn’t be riddled with formality. Children under age five often still need naps, and the event can be quite draining on the adults too.
A toddler party should be kept short and structured, with simple yet entertaining age-appropriate activities.

Decide on whether or not you will be opening gifts at the party or after. While it is delightful for the ‘gift giver’ to see the excitement and joy their gift brings to the birthday boy or girl, it can be a bit too much at the end of a high energy party. It’s a good idea to set the presents aside for after a nap, when your little one is feeling refreshed and ready to rip off all that gift wrap.