Do you do party bags? Will your kids forgive you if you don’t? Does that matter? This post is by Nicola Baird.
Nell is nine today and wanted a party at the weekend. I’ve only just been able to gift her pocket money – she gets 60p every Friday so she can choose a treat after swimming – so costing a party is out of her ability. As money is tight at the mo I ruled out the whole class treats and venue hire that she suggested. In fact I think she was hoping for lots of presents rather than attempting a show-off party. (I’ll do another entry about present etiquette another time, as there’s a lot to be said about this particular topic!).
In the end we agreed on a sleepover with a chance for the guests to make bath bombs, tell stories by torchlight and the next day have a treasure hunt for mini Easter eggs. Now it’s over I’m pleased to report that this was a happy party for Nell plus her five friends who really enjoyed camping in one room pretending this was Harry Potter’s Hogwarts’ dormitory as they attempted to avoid the moment of proper shuteye.
I was pleased that the party friends didn’t resort to a DVD, in fact I didn’t really do much with the guests, other than make bath bombs (see info below) which took about 15 minutes. However I did make a non veggie meal and cooked my first ever roast chicken – what a doddle cooking meat is – which provided masses of dinner for the six girls and two boys and plenty of leftovers to be subsequently enjoyed by Nell and the puppy. Instead of composting the carcass (an organic/free range delight) I also managed to hand this over to a rather surprised foodie neighbour the next day so he can make a fancy stock. As this neighbour blogs a lot about food, I guess he may even mention it here.
Lola, Nell and the early arrivers also made the birthday cake – again very simple even without any electric cooking tools. Besides, if you put in delicious ingredients it seems quite hard to go really wrong. Admittedly Nell measured the flour and sugar out in Australian Ozes, rather than ounces (or grammes), but the only tool my favourite 70s’ cook book, xx, expects is a wooden spoon and some personal grit. We jazzed the end result up with thick butter cream dyed blue. But it was still tasty, especially when served with ice cream and jelly.
I was amazed to find that the sleepover option, even with an expensive £8 chicken, cost me about £20 (not bad for feeding dinner and breakfast and gifting nine people). Admittedly I did have to tidy up some rooms, a very painful experience, even if much needed…
As the guests didn’t want to muddle up their homemade bath bombs I also gave each child a once-used paper bag (for transporting bread or Soil Association veg/mushrooms), then wrote their name on it so that they could take their stuff home, along with a Mars Bar (35p each) as a going home present. And we did a treasure hunt too – chocolate eggs in the cabbages anyone?
I’m not convinced you should give out going home gifts, and certainly not for children aged one or two years, but as my kids have got older I like experimenting with different presents to see what their friends make of them. Some successful going home after the party offerings (depending on age) include a plant (eg, polyantha, hyacinth or a herb) or a couple of flower stems (eg, daffodils in February try the postal option http://www.scillyflowers.co.uk/ or call 01720 422169).
DIY going home gifts
Kids love decorated biscuits too, but the most popular (although most time consuming as you need to know who is turning up on the day) which sees you painting the child’s name in acrylic paints on to something, eg, wooden nameplate for a door or a bed, or a drinking glass. I’ve also tried giving party goers good luck wishes that are activated by something they need to search for on their way home, two birds say, or someone on a zebra crossing. This went down much better than you might expect of a generation used to Dses, Wiis or even a packed plastic bag of goodies/tat.
MAKE YOUR OWN BATH BOMBS
Ideal mini gifts, an easy activity and a good way of getting children to make their own party bag. You need:
* 2 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda
* 1 teaspoon of citric acid
* 3 drops of an essence (eg, lavendar or rose geranium)
* sprinkle of dried flowers (eg, lavendar or rose petals)
Mix all (gently) on an approx 6cm x 6cm square of recycled aluminium foil and then fold up to keep until wanted. It’s great in a bath, just add to the water and enjoy the fizzing mix scenting the water. There’ll be plenty of commotion too if you forget to skip out the petals/dried flowers and let them clog up the bath plug!
If you’ve got any inspirational ideas for thrifty, creative and eco-friendly going home bags please do share them – good ideas are very, very welcome in the homemade kids’ home. You can read about more ideas about easy-to-run celebrations in my book Homemade Kids, which is due to be published in July 2010 here.