I am no expert! I've been through the home party, the hall party and the soft play party. But that's does not give me any experience or authority on the matter. These are just a few tips from a real mummy working to a budget.
*Choose a location that works for you. We picked a hall that was close to us that was big enough, had good baby changing facilities, had a high enough ceiling (which meant I didn't buy helium balloons due to the fact I do not want them getting lost up there) and have a good kitchen area depending on what you're after. We needed just a basic kitchen to be able to make tea and coffee and this one had everything we needed. We were lucky in the fact this hall we were able to use the toys available within it. If not we would of looked into hiring a soft play set up or bouncy castle or bringing some toys from home.
*Work with the ages the party. As this was the first birthday party it was mainly going to be children under the age of five. Nathaniel does not have many baby friends so a lot of the people were parents with children the same age as Maxwell. We planned party games for the older kids. (leaving the smaller ones to wander about) We planned a couple of pass the parcels, using pocket money toys, chocolates and single books out of special deal sets. The Works and the book people are great for this! Working out in some cases left the £1 a book. We used newspaper and magazine paper to wrap the presents. I had as a box with a selection of prizes for other games. Using pound land etc to pick up token gifts for the winners. The box was the ready to be dipped into the after the games. We made sure we had extra prizes just in case we needed an extra game fill the gap before home time. We played musical chairs, musical statues. Keeping the games simple at fast paced.
* I planned very little food for the adults. I stayed with simple party food of sausage rolls and chicken satay etc and also cupcakes and biscuits.
* I planned "pack yourself" lunchboxes that the children and laid out so the parents were able to select the items for the for their children. That way it meant that if there was any children with allergies or didn't like something, parents were able to pick the items for them. I packed up sandwiches of cheese, jam and ham. Keeping it simple with fillings! Bagged up half a sandwich per bag. Each sandwich filling was in different colour bag, easy to see the different fillings. I got multipack crisps in different flavours and also lots of apples, oranges and boxes of raisins - which was surprisingly popular with the children. I also had a big witches cauldron full of different sweets and chocolate which meant that if the parents wanted their children to have a little treat they were able to go through and find something suitable for them. I mixed up different types of sweet treats from chocolate buttons for the smaller children ranging up to drumstick lollies to the older children. I baked a big batch of sugar cookies I find this brilliant the kids parties are so quick to do, you can cut them in different shapes. I used a star cutter and left them uniced.
* I made up the lunch boxes the night before and added little smiley faces and googly eyes on them- to stick slightly with the monster thing that we had going. Packed up little toys in each box are some temporary tattoos and some silly necklaces, rubber, some crayons, balloons nothing major. Each box was different and was just something little.
* I bought balloon sticks and balloons off eBay and we blew them up the night before - and attached them to the sticks (like the ones you get in McDonald's) these went down really well with the kids. This were meant that no helium balloons are escaping, and each child was able to take one (or more!!) home with them as an added party favour.
* I made sure I packed black bin bags and extra sweets and chocolate, just in case!! I kept these aside in the kitchen
* multitasking and thinking ahead is key. As the children had finished eating- the husband aka games master, lead them all in another couple of games. While they were playing again - I tidied up around them. This meant that the bulk of the tidying and packing up was done before the party was over. I made sure I walked round and asked the parents if they wanted anymore of the sandwiches, (which are likely to be thrown if leftover) cakes (which take up lots of room in the carriers) or sweets ( as we had tons!!) to try and limit the amount we would be taking back home.
* Buy in bulk. I bought in bulk things I new would then be used at home for the coming weeks. Like crisps, sweets and fruit. And kept other things which are more likely to be thrown like the sandwiches and finger food to a minimum. Does mean we now have enough sweets to last at least the next month!!
*I made sure Ieft a table at the front door so that presents/ cards could be dispatched there by the guest. We took a large box with us on the day (the box on the way to the party had the lunch boxes in) so that once the party was over I could put the presents into the box to deliver home.
*Choose the timing works to you we went for a two hour party so it was quick, with a fast turnaround. it was late afternoon on a Sunday afternoon and most of our children were going back to school the following Monday so I didn't want something that would be too long and make the sunday evening pre school prep a rush! Because it was such a short time it was full of energy for the kids and it was over fairly quickly which is always a bonus of the parents
*I made sure that there was tea, coffee, sugar and milk in the kitchen and told parents that if they wanted tea or coffee to help themselves to a hot drink. they were more than welcome to have a cup of tea if they felt like it but it also meant I wasnt running around making cups of tea for everybody
And that's all I have to say on the matter really. I love the look of pinterest style parties. I just never seem to achieve them But the main thing was I did it. The party went well and everyone had fun. That's the important part. Right??