Parents of kids everywhere: how many of us like throwing birthday parties for our kids? Like, be honest. Really, really honest. Dig deep – don’t be afraid. I’ll go first: I love nothing more than the delight on my kids’ faces as they blow out their candles, play with their friends, and ransack their cake and gifts. I don’t love the inevitable sugar-high that ensues, followed by the disaster (did my house just vomit glitter and Legos?), and the complexity of coordinating a reasonably organized setup for guests.
I love hanging out with the other parents, because let’s face it – we always try get together but we never do, and birthday parties are a great opportunity to catch up. I don’t love the fact that I can’t finish a conversation with any one parent without being interrupted and pulled away in about 388 directions, whether it’s a new knock at the door, or one of my kids losing their shit over a sock. Throwing a kids’ party is HARD WORK. That said, there are always ways to minimize the work and maximize the fun – so here’s a list of Do’s and Don’ts that we’ve learned through trial-and-error, that help us to make the most of our kids’ birthday parties.
DO support your local bakery, cake shop, or supermarket by delegating the cake-making to them. Because honestly, unless you love baking, if you’re working and raising kids, ain’t nobody got time for that. Your kids (and your guests) will appreciate the cake whether or not you slaved over a hot stove. We are fortunate to have an amazing cake shop in our neighbourhood, which has literally been the best birthday hack ever to make us look like we have our shit together as hosts. The cakes are so gorgeous (and reasonably priced), that we almost look like we’re hosting a Pinterest Party.
DON’T fall victim to hosting a Pinterest Party. I made this mistake with my daughter. To be fair, it was my first child’s first birthday, and social media had me convinced that it was my utmost responsibility as a mother to host an exquisite Pinterest Bash. So yeah, even though I was on maternity leave and had the time to buy mason jars, clothespins, and obnoxious little matching cupcake wrappers, Pinterest had me utterly fucking convinced that I too could make little fondant 1’s and butterflies to decorate the cupcakes with. Heed my warning, people – if a project looks like it takes 47 hours and Pinterest says it’s easy, then Pinterest is LYING. There is nothing that will make you feel more inadequate as a mother than Pinterest. Don’t. Just don’t.
DO support your local pizzeria or Costco for all your food requirements. Much like the cake, unless you love to cook, ain’t nobody got time for that. There’s no need to go bananas on the spending by hiring a caterer, either. If you really want a home-catered dish, hit up your mom, your dad, your in-laws, your brothers, and your sisters. Someone will be happy to bring something delicious, and you won’t have to cook it.
DON’T worry whether or not everyone has a place to sit for their meal. I also made the mistake of doing this at my daughter’s first birthday by renting tables and chairs. Believe me, this only adds unnecessary hours, set-up, clean-up, stress, and expense. If there’s not a chair to sit down and eat, people will either stand or sit on the floor. Believe me – your guests will thoroughly appreciate the food, so they won’t be concerned about where they eat. If seating is really important to you, lawn chairs work indoors and outdoors, and you can always ask your guests to bring them.
DO support your local brewery or winery by giving your adult guests the option of adult beverages. This may feel overboard, but hear me out: you could spend all sorts of completely unnecessary time and money on throwing a Pinterest Party, or you could spend a few bucks on booze. There is no better way to socialize with another adult guest that you might not know, than over a beer or three. Besides, many adults will choose non-adult beverages, and you get to keep the leftover booze. Is this even an argument? Do I need to say anything else?
DON’T stress over sending out formal invitations. Since this piece is basically a dossier making fun of myself for the first birthday party I threw for my oldest child, I will admit to making custom invitations on Vistaprint, which were sent to guests via snail mail. *Insert laugh track here.* And again…I was on maternity leave with only one child…so while this was a task that was completely doable at the time, it was effort and money spent on something that was totally unnecessary. If my kid wants me to invite your kid to their birthday party now, you’ll be getting a text message anywhere from 24 hours to one week before the event, depending on how chaotic my life is, and if you’re one of my people, that will be good enough for you.
DON’T give out loot bags containing slime, anything that makes noise such as a whistle, small parts, glitter or any colouring instruments made of liquid. Unless you also plan to hand out smuggled benzodiazepines and a voucher for house cleaning to the adults, this should be common sense.
DO consider an alternative to loot bags, if you want the kids to part with a small token from the party. We recently attended a birthday party where each child was offered a small toy of their choice upon exiting, and this was the most genius idea I’ve seen since the invention of Netflix. It saves you the ridiculous amount of time that you’d normally spend on assembling the loot bags, which pretty much end up in the garbage anyway. If you go to Costco, you can find bulk boxes of puzzles, small toy trucks and stuffies at a very reasonable price (I would argue less expensive than a loot bag) – and these toys will be appreciated by both the parents and the kids.
DO accept help with clean-up, if it’s offered. I would never in a million years expect for any guest to help with any clean-up for an event I’ve hosted, but the beautiful thing about having kids is that now, when people offer to help with cleaning, I will gladly accept it. It seems that every birthday we’ve ever hosted have been blessed with a fair share of Fairy Godmothers (and Godfathers) who hang around until the very end. You can thank these Fairy Godmothers by offering them some extra booze, if you’ve complied with the rest of this list.
So there you have it – without this being an exhaustive list, these are just a few of the things that have helped us as hosts when celebrating the madness of a kid’s birthday. And if you’re still making fun of me for trying to host a Pinterest Party years ago, I’ll totally understand.