It is important to get the length of the party right, so there is time to have fun, but not so long that the kids get bored. The optimum length for birthday parties involving children from 4 to 8 years old is about 2 hours. This gives time for food, entertainment, and a couple of games.
In my experience, a 2 hour party is best scheduled as follows.
0hrs. Party begins. Guests arrive.
0 hrs 30 mins. Clown! (45 mins)
1 hr 15 mins. Food (30 mins)
1 hr 45 mins. Games. (15 mins)
2 hrs. All go home!
This arrangement allows latecomers to arrive in time for the show. It is usually best to eat after the performer has finished.
Where to hold your birthday party? The local Village Hall has the advantage that there is plenty of room for the guests, and of course minimal disruption at home. You will have space for entertainment, usually plenty of tables and chairs for the feast, and easy parking.
Celebrating at home keeps the costs down and saves you having to travel back and forth, often making more than one journey, with all the things you need. Also the atmosphere at home will be more relaxed and familiar.
They should be sent out early to give plenty of time for reply. You can buy them ready made, or make your own, which will give your child a chance to be involved and gets the excitement going. Whichever way you do it make sure the invitations contain
· Child’s name and age
· Where the party will be held
· The date, and exact timing
· Details of Fancy Dress, etc
· How to reply (your phone number, etc.)
I have never yet been to a birthday party where all the food was eaten. Party kids are usually not starving, and in many cases will have had a large meal shortly before leaving home. Try to set out the food in advance and cover it with cling film or a tablecloth.
· Keep to bite sized pieces, cutting sandwiches in eight,- Kids love food they can get in their mouth in one go.
· Balance sweet and savoury treats.
· Some children may be Vegetarian
· Make the tables look special using matching paper tablecloths, napkins, and cups.
Have the food in a separate room, or covered at the back of the hall, until the time comes to eat.
Do try not to mix the focus, such as eating during the entertainment.
If the party is in the local hall, be sure to arrive at least 30 - 45 minutes before the guests. This gives you a chance to turn on the heating, unload the car, set out tables, and get the kettle on for a refreshing cuppa before the onslaught begins…
They will start arriving at the time you said the party will begin. Many will not leave home until this time, so there will always be children who arrive 15 minutes late! Guests will usually have a coat that needs hanging up and a present for the birthday child. Many parents prefer to place these presents on a table and save the opening for later.
If you are having an entertainer, it is a good plan to begin the performance about half an hour after the start of the party. This gives a chance for the latecomers to arrive and for everyone to settle down. So there is an opportunity for an ice breaking game such as
hide a thimble somewhere before the guests arrive, and have a small prize for whoever finds it.
Tie a long piece of string in a circle and have the children sit down holding it. On the string is a ring. One person is placed in the middle and closes their eyes while the ring is hidden in someone’s hand. Then s/he opens his/ her eyes and the children rhythmically move their hands along the string, trying to pass the ring round but hide it from the person in the middle. When the ring is found the person holding it goes into the middle.
Your performer (if you decide to have one) will usually arrive before the party and discuss the performing space and any other requirements. It is a good idea to sit the children down before the show starts, having made sure they have all had a chance to use the toilet and get comfortable!
One of the most difficult and distracting things for any performer is to have a group of adults chatting away behind the children, or even in the kitchen. So try to make sure that any parents or relatives that may be there either watch and participate in the show or get completely out of earshot! Avoid giving the children squeaky noisemakers, guns, etc.
It is difficult for an entertainer to also fulfil the role of order keeper, so it is a good idea to nominate an adult for this job, as very occasionally there may be a disruptive child who could spoil the fun of the party for everyone if unchecked.
If you organise the party along these guidelines, you will not need many organised games at all. You will have time for ‘Pass the Parcel’ after the food, which everyone loves and is a more or less essential ingredient in a good party.
Of course, for your party to be really memorable, it is most important to get the right entertainment. Clown Kevin has now retired from the Birthday Party business, but here are some links to entertainers that you might like!
There is something you can do to make the show more enjoyable for everyone. There is a fine line between playful interaction and disruptive interference. Please assign an adult to help the young guests stay on the right side of the line.