Perfect Birthday Parties For 1-5 year Olds
Mum of three, Bryony Sutherland, offers a few suggestions that won’t break either the bank or your sanity…
So another year has flown by and it’s time to celebrate your little one’s big birthday.
Fortunately you are still some way off hosting elaborate parties involving magicians, clowns and gratuitous expense, so it’s best to keep parties simple, for your child’s sake and for your own!
Age 1 – hold a tea party at home
Your toddler’s first party should be special but not overwhelming. One-year-olds are notoriously clingy and sensitive, so invite only a few family members and close friends. Your little partygoer will still be napping during the day, so the best time for a party is just after a sleep and a feed. Afternoon tea is an excellent idea and, as toddlers run out of energy quickly, limit the time to an hour-and-a-half. Arrange a large, comfortable floor area for free play, with adult seating alongside, and provide a selection of age-appropriate toys such as chunky puzzles, ride-ons, stacking rings, board books, plastic balls and soft toys. Formal party games aren’t necessary at this age but if you’re brave enough, you could always lead a sing-along featuring your child’s favourite action songs from playgroup!
Age 2 – take a trip to the zoo with a friend or two
Two-year-olds adore animals, so why not mark the date with a visit to a kiddie-friendly local attraction, such as the zoo or a children’s petting farm? Choose a couple of good friends (preferably with nice mothers as they’ll be coming too), then get to work cutting and sticking animal-themed invitations together. Keep an eye on the local papers for discount vouchers and perhaps choose a weekday rather than the weekend for your expedition, to avoid the crowds. Pack a picnic, a blanket to sit on, plenty of snacks, and a change of clothes and wipes in case of mud or other toddler-related accidents, then enjoy introducing the kids to the animals, up close.
Age 3 – try a teddy bears’ picnic
Three-year-olds love picnics, so an ideal venue would be at a nearby park where they can also play safely on climbing frames and swings. Alternatively a picnic in the woods can be fun (and preferable if the weather is unpredictable), followed by a short trek to stretch everybody’s legs. Teddy bears would be the obvious theme for a picnic, and few three-year-olds don’t have a beloved bear, so why not invite them along too? There could be a prize for the best-dressed ted and the theme could be further extended with storytelling (Goldilocks and the Three Bears, or anything from Jez Alborough’s Eddy and the Bear series). For the food you could cut sandwiches into teddy shapes using cookie cutters, bring Pom-Bear crisps and bake homemade gingerbread bears (rather than men). It’s a good idea to insist on guests eating sitting down, and a picnic blanket works a treat to limit mess.
Age 4 – let’s bounce!
At the age of four children are literally bursting with energy, so make physical activity the focus of this birthday party. If you have the space in your garden, a bouncy castle can be hired for around €90 and will provide hours of amusement. All you need to do is to add a cheap bubble machine, play some top tunes and no more entertainment is needed save a birthday cake. The bouncing theme can easily be extended with trampolines, space hoppers and ball games. In fact one of the best party bag alternatives I ever witnessed replaced expensive trinkets and sweets with a good old-fashioned football. Years later that ball is still being kicked on a daily basis – result!
Age 5 – themed party with games
Five-year-olds love dressing up, so let your birthday boy or girl choose a theme. Boys love pirates, spacemen and football; girls love fairies, princesses and pop stars; great unisex ideas include animals, circus performers, TV or book characters and aliens. Next plan your party games to match your theme: mini pirates can be made to walk the plank (and receive a prize) or embark on a treasure hunt following clues hidden strategically around the house and garden. Circus performers will relish the challenge of an obstacle course and aliens can be made to bob for apples in a bucket of green jelly! For more inspiration, read Perfect Parties by Nicola Baxter, which is packed with ideas for different themes.
Sadly, it’s unlikely your child will remember his early birthday parties. But you will, so limit stress for these special occasions and accept all offers of help, charge up your camera and ideally get someone else to take the photos so that you feature in the memories too!