How To Organise The Best Kids Party

By Ali + Julie on 1 Sep 2022
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As parents, we’ve all been there and we’ve all said it, that seminal line, spoken moments after your child’s birthday party has ended, “NEVER again”. And yet…in our infinite wisdom and another year wiser, we cleverly decide to hold our darling child’s party at a play centre or the like only to discover, too late, that it’s just a different type of torture.

So rather than give up and refuse to have parties (grinch I hear my kids whisper) or girding your loins for the chaos that is 15 sugar-injected, screaming, hyper-active kids running riot through your once beautiful home, GroupTogether has come up with 10 easy birthday party guidelines to live by. Something to make those annual fiestas a more welcome and ultimately calm event.

THE 10 STEPS TO ORGANISE A SUCCESSFUL KID'S BIRTHDAY PARTY

1. Start Planning A Month Before The Party

“Planning is the key,” said every parent everywhere. But, we hear you…DULL! We’d rather wing it, live in the moment and be one with the spirit of our children. That, my friends, is the type of thinking that got you into this mess. Trust us, last minute is not an option – give yourself at least a month before the party, possibly 6 weeks if you’re the type that can spend an entire day in the party favours aisle of Big W.

2. Set Your Budget

It almost goes without saying but the key is not setting the budget, the key is S-T-I-C-K-I-N-G to it. Figure out your budget and set it in stone. Not a penny more...hopefully many pennies less.

Keep in mind that forewarned is forearmed. Do NOT let your child’s gorgeous, innocent and completely unrealistic expectations of what makes the perfect party cloud your judgement and pocketbook. You may think you have the upper hand but your child has spent their entire life perfecting the perfect pitch, speed, and repetitiveness of “mum, mum, mum, mum, mum, mum, mum, mum, mum…why can’t I”. If you don’t focus, remain firm and buy earplugs, you’ll have thrown in the towel after a day. Don’t consider it, don’t even look at more expensive options – you’ll thank us later.

3. What Kind Of Party Does Your Child Want To Have?

Now that you have a firm number in mind, it’s time to ask THE question, what kind of party does your child want? You can thank us for the tip on budget now because your definition of a circus party (red noses and balloons) and your child’s (VIP backstage passes for 15 to Cirque du Soleil’s latest show) can be quickly managed and decisively quashed. Once the tears have subsided (candy is always good to combat tears), you can now discuss expectations on decorations and activities.

Major tip 1 - have Gucci taste on a Gap budget!

There’s nothing like overdosing on Pinterest and Instagram searching for that perfect theme. Want rainbow unicorns? There are countless Pinterest boards for it. If it’s Batman you crave, Instagram can flood you with images of OTT parties and tricked-out BatMobiles. Our advice? Don’t covet the decorations or the venue, keep Rule #2 in mind and hit the discount party outlets, the $2 dollar shops, online stores and your friends & family network. Think atmosphere – be disciplined. Use what you’ve got, borrow what you can, buy only if you need to. Necessity truly is the mother of invention but in a totally fun way.

4. How Many Guests Will You Invite?

Next major hurdle, how many kiddies to invite. Again, having determined your budget makes this easier. Weigh up the following: do you have to invite the entire class (goodbye jumping castle)? Do you need/want to invite friends, family and neighbours? You might feel obliged to have a big party but many children just can't cope with big numbers. Work through the pros and cons.

It might be HUGE so, this is very important, come up with a definitive list – this will have major implications on your budget. Now, take your budget and divide by invitees – this is your number – memorise it, embody it and write it on your child’s arm. You cannot plan anything that exceeds, is greater than or is above this number (remember candy is good for calming tears).

5. Book Or Reserve The Venue

Based on what type of party your child wants to have (pizza and footy in the park, movies, bowling) you need to book a venue. Major tip 2 – do this in advance, seriously, there’s nothing worse than finding out the venue is booked. Major tip 3 – ask other parents for recommendations, we’ve all been there – we are happy to give the unvarnished truth of what (or who) works and what is a sure ticket to disaster.

Oh, a home party is so much nicer and more low-key, but it's a major ordeal - what if it rains? What if the parents stay and bring the sibling? Moving the furniture, cleaning the bathroom, etc. It is lovely but don't forget the hassle and hidden costs. The park is brilliant, especially if there's a scout hall or something as an indoor alternative just in case

6. Sort The Invitations

Invitations are insanely important. I can’t tell you how many parties I have been tripped up by this step. Remember ALL the W’s: When (date & time), Where (venue), What (yup – what kind of party, pool, sport, socks/towels/costumes required), Why (birthday, duh!), WTF! (category encapsulating all other information). WooHoo! I think that covers it. Major tip 4 - you may want to double check that best friends are available before you decide on a date, tears on party day are never fun. Don't forget dietary considerations on the party invitation - ask people to tell you about allergies or dietary restrictions.

7. Gift Or No Gift?

What is it your child wants for their birthday? Don’t forget to ask, it may be a bike or a tablet or it may be they want to rejoice in ripping through a mountain of wrapped gifts. It’s worth asking the question because a lot of time and effort from your guests goes into this step.

We’ve been through this: 7 kids x (avg.) 13 years and know that it that may or may not be a gift they like, a re-gifted gift, a gift requiring batteries it will take you 3 months to purchase or a gift you already have 6 of gathering dust in the cupboard. A group gift is the way to go! It saves all of the parents time (and money), and your child gets something they really want. Start the trend with your group, next time you're invited to a kid's birthday party just ask, "Would you like me to organise a group gift on your behalf? What would Jimmy love?"

8. Start Making Lists

If you hate them, learn to love lists. For example:

  • BUY LIST (groceries, decorations, wine (adults only)
  • BORROW LIST (tables, chairs, homes – I’m not joking)
  • PARTY SUPPLIES LIST (plates, cups, forks, knives…maybe not knives)
  • ACTIVITIES LIST (craft, sport, clean up around the house, etc.)
  • HELP LIST (friends or other parents to help supervise).

Major tip 4 - add shopping dates into your phone and take a pic of the list before you go, or keep them in the notes on your phone so you can always add to them when you think of something.

9. Create A Run Sheet (Really...Just Like Will And Kate)

We hear you, it may be boring but it’s necessary to keep the party from descending into chaos. If you’re lucky to have someone else planning the party – then just grab a glass of wine and skip this step.

Otherwise include:

  • Arrival (what to do while waiting for all the kids to show up)
  • Activities (do you need to explain what’s happening – build in time for that too)
  • Eating (one of the favourite pastimes of kids): snacks, cake and don’t forget setup time, eating, candle lighting and the inevitable crying from a child who did not get the corner piece
  • Farewell (Finally!).

I CAN'T STRESS THIS ENOUGH: make sure parents know drop-off time (you can fudge this a bit) and pick-up times (honestly go for 15 minutes early) as there is nothing worse than waiting around for tardy parents.

10. Don't Forget The Little Details

There are always lots of odds and ends. Double check with invitees – who’s coming and who’s not. A few days out make sure you have completed the shopping and have all the items on your lists. Check with the venue to confirm the times. The day before – send out a reminder to all the guests that you’ll see them soon. If the event is at another venue make sure you’ve packed any items you need to bring and leave them in the car. If you’re at home, organise your house (clean, decorate, cook/bake and drink lots of wine!). The day of – take care of any last-minute details: put out the food, display the cake, consult your running sheet and greet the kids.

BONUS: 23 TIPS AND TRICKS - FROM DECORATIONS TO ACTIVITIES

For Handling The Pressure

  • Be organised: use apps & websites to make it easy.
  • Make list - one for each: decorations, food, activities and helpers (yes! put to work those lovely mums who volunteer to help out)
  • Add calendar reminders to help you stay on track – don’t forget to set an alert to remind you!
  • Create a 'Day Before' and 'Day Of' checklist…and use it.

For Decorations On A Budget

  • Instead of hiring a party planner, use social media (especially Pinterest)!
  • There’s no need for candelabras or boiling cauldrons on the table, you can use simple tricks of the trade to impress guests.
  • Check out party sections of discount and $2 shops and improvise.
  • Gold letters are fun!
  • Just have one “oooh” styled spot to take pics to share (more manageable, less stressful and cheaper!).
  • The cake table – get some height for impact! Buy bulk cupcakes from your grocery store and stack them in a pyramid or on tall (lego) blocks.
  • Throw feather boas or sombreros over each chair so it looks great in pics.

For Cheap Activities That Rock

  • Choose 1 "wow" activity! Focus your energy and resources on one activity that will keep everyone busy.
  • Is your child dying to play paintball or laser tag? How about a DIY party at the local park where you split the kids into teams, paint their faces and arm them with water balloons?
  • Buy bulk doughnuts from your local grocery store and hang them on a line but at eye level so the kids have to reach. Make it a contest to see who can eat their doughnut the fastest.
  • DIY photo booth with props from the dress-up cupboard – hats, glasses, etc.
  • DIY nail bar – bottles of nail polish + glitter from the $2 shop.
  • Going to the park? Style yourself a fab party table with snacks and cake.
  • Clean out your garage, use it as a venue: a backdrop for a graffiti wall (paper & paint from…you guessed it, the $2 dollar shop) or have a water balloon battle.
  • Supply uniced cupcakes and have bowls of coloured icing sugar and decorations on the table and let each child ice and decorate their own. Messy but satisfying.

For Gorgeous Group Gifts

  • Guests can spend less and give more when they chip in together. 20 kids x $15 = the perfect gift.
  • Give one card worth keeping, with photos and messages from everyone.
  • Cut out all the waste associated with broken toys, unwanted gifts, plastic packaging and wrapping paper.
  • Organise it all for free online with GroupTogether.

OUR FINAL ADVICE

Don’t spend all your time, energy and money trying to make everything perfect because you can’t. Instead, breathe deeply, let go of the tension and focus your energy on three things...

  • Make it fun: fun fits into every budget
  • Make it memorable: make your child the centre of attention
  • Make it meaningful: consider sharing the love

Oh! And keep your camera/phone (charged) at the ready to get those perfect shots.

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One great gift, less stuff

Parents can spend less and give more when they chip in together. If there's 20 kids x $15 = one great gift! Organise it easily online with GroupTogether.

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Ali + Julie

Co-Founders, GroupTogether

Life’s busy. That’s why we’re here to make it easy for you to collect money from a group and spend how you want. Less wasted time, less packaging waste, and spending a little less but giving a lot better!

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