How to hold a fun birthday party for a five year old

When it comes to organising kids’ birthday parties keep it simple, and short. And have confidence that you and your child can be the host either at home or the nearest park. For more ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children follow this blog or get my book Homemade Kids, out of the library. This post is by Nicola Baird, also see www.nicolabaird.com

Blue icing on the cake.

Here the birthday girl is nine…with a homemade cake.  A wise friend suggested having one more (or one less) guest than the new age of your child, This is good advice until they get to be teens.

Have you heard about the Cornish mum who sent a £16 invoice to the parents of a reception aged child (ie, five years old) who she thought was going to her child’s birthday party (on a ski slope) and then failed to turn up – without bothering to let the host family know? Here’s the link on BBC News.

Everyone has an opinion about what the mum’s done (rude) and what the recipient child’s family have said they plan to do to her (ruder).

Imagine how awkward it would be to be at their school. And that’s the point: children’s birthday parties are not to fall out over.

With two daughters now aged 16 and 13 I’ve helped organise a lot of birthday parties (although the girls have had to do plenty too). At first it stunned me at primary school how people simply don’t respond to RSVP. This would be fine if you were just giving a little tea party for a few friends with some cake. But it becomes a nightmare of organisation if you are having to pay for a venue or plan to offer party bags. So cut this stress by not organising something too grand or expensive…

One party I painted wooden name tags for kids to put on their door or bed and ended up with a few to hand out at school the next week for the unexpected no-shows. I think the kids who’d missed the party quite liked having a little memory – and if they didn’t does it matter?

I was stunned by how generous some families are – handing over £10 gifts, or more even, just to a little child. Even recently a mum asked if her daughter and friends could club together to give my soon to be 14yo a camera (I said no, that’s just way over budget, but what a lovely, generous, thoughtful offer).

Many people who have very little money are willing to pool it to make the best possible party they can for their birthday child. This is a generous thing to do, but it just adds to the birthday party stress. If you are willing to rethink birthdays then here’s the way to do it in a thrifty, creative and eco-friendly way.

xx

Get the kids outside, whatever the weather. Or just invite less if your home can’t fit a classroom of children – and not many people have that amount of space.

1 Ideally hold the party in an outside space – make sure the kids are dressed so they stay warm and dry. You can then hold a picnic, do activities, try a treasure hunt or just let them run around making as much noise as they want.

Make your own quills! Is this a suitable gift?

Make your own quills! Is this a suitable gift as a party bag offering?

2 Avoid the party bag full of breakable rubbish. You can always give a small going home gift – but just make it one, practical object (felt tip? drinking mug? homemade tote bag?) or something whimsical that you’ve made without too much sweat (eg, a fairy basket made from hazel nut shells glued together).

3 Or get the kids at the party to make their own going home gift. Bath bombs are fun and not as messy as you might imagine. Or they could hunt for an amazing pebble and then pop some eyes and a mouth on it (or just hand out a stick/log). Or decorate a horse shoe (that’s going to take some organisation finding!). A bit easier might be to plant up a bulb or robust flower, depending on the season.

Trampoline party over, next excitement is half-term...

If you’re organising a party activity – like a trampoline party – can you share the cost (and birthday) with other families?

4 If you decide to book a treat like rock climbing, theatre or some other expensive activity remind yourself that this is something you want the birthday child and the others to enjoy. It’ll be an experience for whoever turns up. If someone doesn’t turn up, just remember that life is complicated and invitations with the host child’s family contact numbers get mislaid. Move on with a smile, not a bill.

Good luck with your parties.

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4 Comments on “How to hold a fun birthday party for a five year old”


  1. I saw that on the BBC earlier today and couldn’t believe it! Yes, it’s annoying and inconsiderate when people don’t RSVP, or say they’re coming and then don’t turn up, but it’s the risk you take when you organise a party, to send an invoice is ridiculous!

    I’ve done a mixture of “homemade” and more expensive activity parties for my two over the years, and the kids don’t have any more fun at the expensive ones than the homemade ones! (It is of course much easier for the parent to book an activity out somewhere, which I don’t mind admitting has been my main motivation for doing that many times!).

    One of the most fun homemade parties we did was for my son, I think it was his 5th. We did a breakfast party, 9am-11am, told everyone to arrive in their pyjamas and said we would be serving the food first so that they didn’t have to wait too long for breakfast! Food was pancakes, waffles, mini cereal boxes, cereal bars, fruit and yoghurt. And then the games and activities were all breakfast themed, like making fridge magnets, stringing cheerios onto laces to make necklaces, egg and spoon races. It was great fun, and all finished before lunch time so we had the rest of the day to just tidy up and relax and for my son to play with his new things.


    • Hi vanessa jane – i’ve had problems responding to you in the past couple of posts (my own wordpress fault nothing to do with you), so hello and happy new year. I LOVE that breakfast idea. Your kids must have had some lovely times. And how important to let your child also have time on their own to PLAY with their toys. It’s something too easy to forget. Nicola x

  2. desertmum Says:

    I planned birthday parties for my kids 18 months ago on a £30 budget each – food, party bags, activities. Quite a challenge, but fun too! (Read more here: https://desertmum1.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/robot-party-on-a-budget/ and here: https://desertmum1.wordpress.com/2013/09/08/birthday-party-on-a-budget-part-one/ if you’re interested.) I think the hardest thing is managing a tight budget when you also really enjoy going for it with parties and doing some fun things which will make good memories for the kids. This year I bottled out and stopped adding it all up…!


    • wow, that’s impressive! I’ve just read about the dolls theme party and it sounds amazing! You say you aren’t good at sewing but the going away present was ridiculously impressive and ought to be a huge hit with the kids. I suppose if you were playing fair in the maths you should add the cost of this into your budget. But if you found it fun and were just using scraps then brilliant to manage it as a really fabulous “party bag”. Your daughters and their friends are very lucky! Nicola


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