Taking the stress out of your child's annual celebrations!

Archive for the ‘Cheap party ideas’ Category

A Mermaid Game for Birthday Parties

I was never  content with just making  bucket sandcastles  when I went to the beach as a child. Even as a 6-year-old, my inner artist was begging to surface.  My favourite thing to do was to make a sand mermaid. I would sculpt her face and tail from sand and then decorate her with seaweed and shells that I retrieved from the nearby rock pools.

 

Rock pools : for me, this was a magical world that was so visually rich and full of potential. What strange and wonderful clawed creature was hiding underneath those fronds of seaweed? What scary creature lived in that pretty shell? Sea anemones, well they were just strange, marvellous,  wiggly beauty , living  animal flowers of the sea and starfish still fascinate me to this day. As a child, all I needed was a beach, a bucket and net and rock pools and I was happy for the day.

Strike that, as an adult I’d be just as happy. I must get myself down to the sea sometime soon.

 

Given the challenge of coming up with Mermaid themed games recently, I turned to my fascination for rock pools. Surely they were mermaid’s gardens?

I had a basic idea of musical islands with a twist:Musical Rock pools.

Music played , children dance and when the music stops  I shout out a rock pool creature or thing.

Seahorse!

Then the children need to find a rock pool with a seahorse in it to stand on.

I found a seahorse!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So I made some rock pools from some off-cuts of vinyl flooring. I painted them blue and added rock pool creatures , painted in some seaweed and then varnished them to make them nice and durable. After all, I hope that lots of little feet will be stomping all over them for many years to come at future children’s birthday parties.

Dark, mysterious, magical rock pools

 

Mind your toes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I spy a jellyfish

I like playing musical rock pools!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I can’t wait to play this game at Mermaid parties.

 

 

Top 10 Ideas for Party Bags by Best Kids Party

Party Favors

Image by patchattack via Flickr

It has become a custom that all children expect a party bag at the end of a party, however the term \’party bag\’ is often the term used to refer to some form of gift.Here are my Top 10 ideas for party bags, that won’t necessarily break the bank and you can ensure the children go home with a big smile on their face.

via Top 10 Ideas for Party Bags by Best Kids Party.

Save the pennies: Be gender neutral

Teddy Bears' Picnic

Image by Cockburn Libraries via Flickr

It’s a tough old world for the party scene out there. Money is tight, we are all struggling to pay bills and now you are facing the expense of a children’s birthday party.

Have you ever considered the impact of gender stereotyping when it comes to expense?

What on earth do I mean?

Well I shall explain.

So many times as a children’s birthday party entertainer, I see the  host struggling to keep up with the party tea, handing out blue/car boxes to boys and pink/ fairy boxes to girls. Sometimes they are left with odd numbers or an unexpected child turns up and they only have the opposite gender box, posing a tricky situation. You try getting a boy to eat his sausages and sandwiches and crisps from out of a pink fairy box. It isn’t easy.

The same applies for party table ware and balloons. It is also very noticeable at going home time and the party bags come out. In that mad scrum of leaving and finding shoes and bags and coats, it is really an unnecessary  extra effort to have to provide the appropriate pink or blue gendered going away gift.

Children really don’t care much about this gendered thing, trust me. Adults are laying on the expectations for them. Why do we have to gender the decor or the party table ware? Unless your theme is pink and girly or Thomas the Tank engine, you are really making things hard for yourself. All this gender stereotyping stuff serves to do is alienate boys if things are all pink , causing them to act up  or vice versa. There are plenty of themes out there that are gender neutral, why not take advantage of their potential.

Think about animals. Every child loves animals whether it is a Jungle or Farm theme or Teddybear’s picnic, there is potential for joy without having to do something different for each gender.

Instead of pink or blue tableware, why not try bright primary colours? There is nothing more visually pleasing than a table decked out in vivid rainbow colours.

As for party bags or going away gifts, a book or a pack of bright crayons and a colouring book always goes down well. Finger puppets are a great going away gift, especially after a puppet party.

My fairyland finger puppet set

A knights tale complete with fire breathing dragon and a tower

A space adventure

Ikea do very cheap and good quality sets . If you are looking for very special finger puppets, I make my own one off story finger puppet sets  available online in my folksy shop. One simple gift nicely wrapped in gender neutral colours is just as appreciated as a gendered bag full of plastic tat and sweets. I’ve even seen children going home proudly clutching their very own daffodil in a pot, or a strawberry plant. Be creative. There is more to childhood than turning our kids into princesses and pirates at every opportunity. Sometimes it is good to just let them be kids and it is considerably cheaper and far less hassle.

And if you are wondering, as a lady entertainer I am personally partial to pink and tutus and all things sparkly. But I do like a bit of rainbow thrown in for variety. Let’s open our minds to the possibilities of gender neutral and save ourselves a few pounds in the process. Can’t be bad.

Balloons, the pros and cons.

A pile of inflatable balloons.

Image via Wikipedia

As a London children’s entertainer of over 17 years experience, I’ve been to a fair few parties. How many I couldn’t possibly accurately calculate, but I’d hazard a guess that I’m probably past my thousandth party.  With all this experience I’ve become acutely aware of what can make or break a children’s party, especially from the entertainer’s perspective. Ideally when hiring an entertainer, the intention is to have a fun party with as little stress as possible. This doesn’t come without some planning and the best parties come from good team work between the client and the entertainer. Communication is vital, make sure you spend some time chatting to your entertainer to make sure they know what they are doing. Personally I feel an entertainer who is willing to compromise and bend to all requests may suggest an entertainer with little or no experience. An experienced entertainer is a source of many hints and tips for making your party successful, so don’t be afraid of picking their brains. A wise client is one who listens to suggestions from the entertainer and works in conjunction with them.  Good teamwork is essential for a smooth and calm party. I don’t know about you, but I like to avoid chaos at all costs.

Let’s start with BALLOONS.

Balloons. What party is complete without them? They provide instant festive decoration and are a party must. Right?

Right. But there are also times when balloons can be the cause of party chaos.

As an entertainer who wants to make sure my client’s party experience is a calm and controlled affair, I walk a tightrope of sergeant major/party-pooper. It’s a fine balance of keeping control but also not destroying the fun atmosphere. After all , fun is what a party is about. But out of control fun can soon descend into very unpleasant chaos. This is easily avoided though by taking some precautionary measures.

When booking a party with Diane’s Puppets, I suggest to my clients that if they are having balloons, to make sure they are kept off of the floor.

Party-pooper alert? Hmm, maybe, but balloons are great fun to play with on the floor as long as there is no other planned activity going on. If you are having a free play /soft play session for your party, by all means cover the floor with balloons. They are a  simple and cheap way of keeping small children busy. Combine balloons with a few bubbles and that is a party in itself. But and this is a big BUT if you have booked entertainment for the party, keep the focus on the booked entertainment. Children find it hard to focus on one thing if there are lots of other things going on at the same time and that inability to focus often leads to all-consuming chaos.

Keep balloons tied up and out of reach if you don’t want loose balloons to become bouncy weapons and missiles, perfect objects to hurl into puppet booths or bash puppets/entertainers/each other with.

Don’t underestimate the noise balloons can create when in a child’s grasp, the squeaking and bursting and general distraction they can cause can’t be over-emphasized.

Helium balloon ‘forests’ can be a beautiful decorative feature, but make sure that the dangling string is just out of children’s reach otherwise expect a few children to take on the role of chief balloon collector and claim them all. If there is to be a puppet show, make sure helium balloons are away from the front of the stage as the constant bobbing of the balloons can completely obscure the view for the majority of the audience and also risk popping on the hot lights. On that note, do bear  in mind that some children are balloon phobic especially if they happen to be autistic and sensitive to noise. Balloons can then be a very terrifying thing, unpredictable and very loud when popped. We want to minimize tears and disruption and maximize fun by thinking in advance.

So to summarize:

  • Keep ‘air’ balloons off of the floor if you are having entertainment and use them for decoration and going away gifts at the end of the party.
  • Make sure the string of helium balloons is just above the reach of the tallest child at the party to minimize squabbles and disruption if you want to make a forest of helium balloons .
  • Tie helium balloons firmly to the child’s wrist on departure- they have a nasty habit of flying to the moon if you don’t. ( The balloons that is, not the children!)
  • Consider tying helium balloon to each of the chairs at the tea table. This is a great way of adding instant party pizzazz but keeps the balloons in a secure place.
  • Be mindful of any left over latex from burst balloons, small children can easily choke. In my time as an entertainer, adults have been known to use the stretchy stuff to make makeshift caterpaults to fire at the entertainer… Hmm. Not great. Silly grown-up’s hey?

Save the pennies, get crafty!

A beautiful card isn't hard to make.

A great way to save money when it comes to children’s birthday parties, whether you are attending as a guest or are the host, is to have a go at making your own birthday cards and/or party invitations. Now before you all shout at me : “But I’m not artistic!” there is no need to be that creative in order to end up with a really lovely card. What makes a card special is personalization. Find out what the recipient really likes, be it fairies or  cars , superheroes, animals or pirates and let that be your starting point. The Internet is a fantastic source of imagery. Find a suitable starting image and print it out and trace it off . Decorate with felt pens, inks, glitter glue and let your imagination rule the way. Include the child’s name and age for a special touch. Cut out your images and glue them onto a folded piece of card or for real ease of use, blank card sets are available at most good stationers and from many internet suppliers.

When it comes to invitations to parties and you have booked a children’s  entertainer, do remember to ask the entertainer if they can supply you with invitations. Most good entertainers will be happy to send you a pdf file invite that you can print off yourself at home.

Come on, don’t be scared of being crafty! You may even find you end up with the crafting bug. I know I did.

Birthday parties and the great British outdoors

Candles spell out the traditional English birt...

Image via Wikipedia

Summer time is coming, hooray! We all look forward to those long hot days and balmy evenings…

Okay, wake up now, this is England after all. I don’t know about you, but I’m not so trusting about the weather. Our lovely island has a special feature in that if it is sunny outside and you plan an outdoor activity, best pack the wellies. You’ll probably need them. This is fantastic for gardens and the countryside and the lush vegetation of our countryside and our parks, but not so lovely if you are planning to hold a party outdoors.

Every year, around this time, I get numerous requests to entertain at birthday parties held in the great British ( London) outdoors. When the weather is fine, there is nothing nicer than to gather a group of children underneath a big oak tree in the park hung with pretty bunting , sit them down amongst the daisies and buttercups dotted in the grass and tell them stories and play fun games and chat with puppets. This is a childhood idyll at its best. It is also a very cheap ( free) venue, saving wear and tear on your freshly decorated home.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, if you are planning to host a party in the great British outdoors, have a plan B. Make arrangements for a nearby suitable venue ( gazebo/ shed/ any form of shelter possible better than a leaky tree) that you can easily decamp to if necessary. It’s not being negative, it’s clever. You won’t appreciate how much you’ll thank me if next time the heavens open at your party in the park.

Remember, picnics outdoors can attract all sorts of bugs, so remember to pack  a basic first aid kit including an insect sting spray . So many times a party has been ruined by a rogue wasp or bee. It’s hard to pacify a stung panicked child without some sort of pain relief.

If you are hiring an entertainer, especially one who has kit to set up, please check with them first before you book them that their set up is suitable for outdoors. There may be safety issues with gusting winds/ uneven ground etc. You may have to come to some sort of compromise as to what they offer in terms of entertainment, and have a less structured session for the outdoor setting. Bear in mind also that it is fairly hard to focus children’s full attention in a venue without boundaries ( walls). Try seating the parents and children in a semi circle  to form a  natural boundary in which the entertainer can operate.

So have fun partying in the park.

Let’s all cross our fingers for good weather this Summer, I have a fair few outdoor parties to entertain at!

Cheap piece of tat or something special? The prize debate.

Crochet cuteness handmade by Diane

Parties often aren’t complete without games and games are often not complete without prizes. The question is , what do we give for prizes?

Personally as a mum, I’m not too keen on sweets, although they are a good cheap option. Many children aren’t allowed sweets for various reasons. So what do you do then? There is the option of going to the party supply shop and buying a host of cheap plastic toys. Now what happens when those toys get home? If your home is anything like mine, there are baskets and boxes full of bits and bobs, mostly comprising of bits of plastic and cheap tat. Are these toys really good value for money? I’m not so sure as they are often destined for the rubbish bin after about half an hour of play.

At a Diane’s Puppets party, I like to make my birthday client feel special. I’m a crafty sort of lady, trained in Fine Art in my youth and the sort of person with constantly busy hands. I like to put my finger -fidgets to good use and have recently taken up crochet.  I love it! How wonderful to create lots of little pretty things. Now I’m able to master the ‘yarn over pull through two’ I’m churning out a myriad of cuteness which I turn into badges or fridgies or hairclips. The birthday boy or girl receives a hand made card with a crocheted applique attached. Boys can look forward to being the proud owner of a cute car or monkey or space rocket.

delicious crochet!

In these hard bitten economic times, I feel the personal touch is what it is about. Less plastic tat, more handcrafted cuteness say I?

Do you agree?

Yo ho ho and a whole lotta pirates!

Buried Treasure: illustration of William "...

Image via Wikipedia

Birthday party themes are fun. Having a theme can turn a simple party into an extravaganza. But do be careful not to let the theme take over and lose the fun in pursuit of the theme. Don’t let a theme prohibit you from playing your favourite game, for instance, just because it doesn’t really fit, play the game and have fun!

Your child’s  birthday is looming and your thoughts turn to planning their birthday party. The most popular theme for boys has to be pirates. Step into any party shop and you can’t fail to notice the absolute plethora of pirate paraphernalia. There are Jolly Rogers a go-go and eye patches galore.

It is indeed a fun theme, despite being built on a romantic notion of very dubious sea faring vagabonds; try explaining the morals underscoring the average pirate to your little one and I guarantee you’ll struggle! Probably the most edifying pirate story from a woman’s perspective is that of Anne Bonny  and Mary Reid who according to legend, were feared pirates active in the Caribbean who initially dressed as men. Surprising that in an exclusively male environment, early feminism reared it’s head in these two women. But back to parties…

So, you want to host a pirate party.

Pirate Decor

You’ve got jolly pirate bunting from the party shop, or you’ve made your own from triangles of spotty/stripey gift wrap/fabric stapled at intervals onto a long piece of twine.

You’ve bought the black balloons with their Jolly Roger emblem and hung them up on the walls,(do be aware that loose balloons on the floor are fun but can be a source of anxiety for those children who don’t like loud noise, balloons have a very bad habit of popping).

You’ve purchased a very jolly set of paper tableware festooned with pirate faces and pirate ships and have made /bought a cake that looks just like a pirate ship or treasure chest.( For ideas and how to, have a look at this site Coolest birthday cakes  )

Now what?

You’ll need something to do when they get there.

Pirate Games

As children arrive , it is a good idea to play a fun game of

Match the picture

Give each child half a picture of all things piratical, here are a few suggestions:

Snap My friendly crocodile

Sharkey cool dude my helpful shark

Pirate puppet show

Captain Punchdrunk and his parrot

Marina my mermaid

Then get the children to search for the other half of their picture. When they find it, they are rewarded with a chocolate gold coin!

Pass the pirate parcel

Pass the parcel is a good game and is easily adapted to a pirate theme. Instead of having prizes in between layers, maybe have pirate themed forfeits instead.Here are some suggestions:

  • Dance a pirate jig
  • Chop up a pirate ghost with your cutlass ( little boys will relish being able to actually use their cutlasses here! Just make sure the ‘ghost’ is pretend …
  • Walk the plank ( a piece of brown paper laid on the floor)
  • Say Pretty Polly like a parrot
  • Sing what shall we do with the drunken sailor ( with help from the group)
  • Shoot your pistol at a ghost crocodile

Once you get into the pirate mindset, the ideas should come flowing!

Then when the forfeits have been completed, reward the effort with a sweet or chocolate coin.

Save the main prize for the end of the parcel and make it truly random, thereby upping the tension. Believe it or not, Pass the Parcel is meant to be a competitive game albeit random!

Oh and for extra pirate flavour, try and find some pirate music to play the game to.

Musical Islands

( For instructions for this game, please see my previous party game post)

What’s the time Mr Crocodile?

Snap My friendly crocodile

Instead of playing What’s the time Mr Wolf , tweak it a little into a pirate game of What’s the time Mr Crocodile. ( Instructions in my previous party game post)

Tip: To avoid panic fighting with swords /hooks etc, ask your pirates to store their weaponry in the ‘safety chest’ ( a cardboard box ) before the game.

Please remember that if you provide play weaponry as part of your child’s costume, they will want to use it. They will not understand it is just for decoration!

Treasure hunt

The obvious game for pirates, this is a fabulous way to end a party. It can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it.

For very little children, keep it very simple; provide each child with their booty bag and send them off around the house or garden to search for simply hidden gold chocolate coins.

For older children,  you can make the game more complicated by providing a treasure map with clues. It can be obvious clues or more cryptic clues to up the stakes. Get the grown-ups involved for a really fun time.

Pinata

Pirate Pete and his treasure chest

A pinata ( pronounced pin ya ta ) provides a perfect opportunity for your pirate party goers to use their weaponry in a constructive and controlled manner. This does require adult supervision but it is very much worth the effort.

Basically a pinata is a soft cardboard construction that is filled with sweets and small toys. It is suspended from a hook and children take turns to hit the pinata until its contents spill out.

Tip: If you can’t find anywhere to hang your pinata, suspend it on a long rope and have two adults hold it tight  at each end ( like a skipping rope). Have the children queue up and stand far back from the child who is hitting the pinata, well away from any swipes of the baton. Have a limited number of strikes, have the children count down as they hit the pinata and then move down the queue.

Many ready made Pinatas are available from all party suppliers and online, but why not have a go at making your own? A simple treasure chest pinata is easy to make.

Take a  cube shaped cardboard box( make sure it isn’t too strong) and fill it with sweets, confetti and cheap party favours. Fringe a few packs of brown tissue paper and glue the fringes around the box making a frilly brown cube. Decorate with a yellow paper keyhole shape and yellow paper rivets. Use a picture of a treasure chest to inspire your decoration. Seal the top and tie a loop so you can suspend your pinata.  That’s it, you are ready to go!

Lucky dip treasure chest

Instead of giving out party bags at the end of the party, why not turn the going away gift into a game? Make a treasure chest out of a cardboard box, fill it with party favours and confetti/ shredded paper/packing foam chips and then invite each child to be blindfolded and root around in the treasure chest. You can specify how many ‘dips’ each child gets. If you are lucky enough to have an old barrel, this would serve just as well as a box as a treasure chest and would make things very exciting.

Go fish!

Don't catch this on your rod!

This is an exciting way to dispense your party bags at the end of the party. Each child has a turn at swinging a fishing line over a sheet and ‘reels in’ their bounty . Sometimes the ‘fish’ can be a prize, other times it can be a shark or crocodile /old boot etc picture and then the child gets to fish again until the prize is eventually won.

Make a simple fishing rod from a bamboo cane and a length of string. Attach a wire loop to the end of the string. ( This is for attaching the prizes/pictures ) Suspend a sheet across a doorway/ the end of stairs and have an adult sit behind the sheet with a box of pictures and party favours. Each child is helped to swing the rod end over the sheet and fish for a prize.

This is great fun and really worth the effort.

John Browns Body

This is a little bit scary but is great fun for the older child’s party. Dim the lights, and have someone tell a spooky pirate story ending where a pirate is buried . At the end of the story tell the children that you’ve somehow managed to get hold of the pirates body parts ( euggh!) and hand around the group each ‘body part’. Now this is where your imagination comes in: use cooked oiled cold spaghetti for veins, a peeled grape/lychee/hard boiled egg  for an eyeball , jelly in a container for some brains, sticks painted white for bones…

Icky scary pirate fun!

Puppet Show

Captain Punchdrunk and his parrot

Most reputable children’s entertainers will have a pirate puppet show in their repertoire. I know I do! A puppet show can really focus the children and set a great atmosphere. A full pirate puppet show in an old fashioned puppet booth costs as little as £140 for an hour’s entertainment here at Diane’s Puppets.

Face painting

Pirate face painting isn’t difficult.  Here’s my video showing you step by step how to paint a very convincing pirate.

But if you don’t want the back breaking task of painting a whole crew of pirate wannabees, hire a professional. Save some money and ask around to see if there are entertainers that have face painting as part of their party package. That way you can have a puppet show and face painting at your party without too much expense. Here at Diane’s Puppets ,I offer an hours swashbuckling pirate puppet show plus face painting for as little as £170 for up to 20 children.

I think the pirate theme is very suitable for both boys and girls, for those little girls not wanting to wear pirate garb , suggest they come dressed as mermaids , but if they turn up as a princess, who’s going to complain?

I wish you all a wonderful pirate party !

Marina waves goodbye

Easy party games to keep children entertained on a shoestring.

Sorry folks, it’s been a while since I’ve  posted. I feel like I’ve neglected you all and for that I apologise.  I’ve  been a  busy bunny, entertaining at children’s birthday parties in my capacity as a children’s party entertainer in the London area.  Now I’ve had a moment to breathe I thought I’d jot down a few of my favourite  party games for the over 3’s. I hope you find them useful. I’ve included games that are easily played in a confined space, just in case you are holding the party at home.

Bubble Blowing

Never underestimate the fun potential of simple bubbles. Blow bubbles and ask the children to pop as many as they can. Special catchable bubbles are easily obtained from party stores that are fun to catch and build up into towers. Add some jolly background music for a bubbly fun time.

Musical bumps

An old favourite, Musical Bumps has endured because of it’s simplicity and because it is a whole lot of fun. The way I prefer to play it is that I can never find the person who is last to sit down ( I’m such a silly grown up!) thereby circumventing that horrid feeling of choosing someone to be out. Play good fast and funky music and encourage the children to jump about and wave their hands in the air. Then switch it off and watch them all suddenly drop to the ground.

Musical Statues/ Animals

A variation on Musical Bumps, instead of bumping to the ground when the music stops, the children have to freeze into statues . Wobbly statues are out if you are feeling brave enough to choose… Ring the changes by choosing an animal to impersonate when the music stops.

Animals

A really funny game, each child has a picture of an animal stuck on their backs. They have to guess what animal they are by asking other children  to help act out their animal.

Hunt the picture

A great game for that awkward time when people are arriving.Give each guest half of a picture ( magazine picture/comic book/ drawing) and tell them that the other half of the picture is hidden somewhere in the house/room/garden. If they can find the other half of the picture they get to win a small prize.

Islands

A great game especially good for a pirate themed party.

For every child at the party, provide a piece of newspaper, less one. Lay them down on the floor so they don’t touch.

While the music plays, the children dance around the ‘islands’ but when the music stops, everyone has to find an island to stand on to avoid being eaten by the sharks/crocodile/octopus. Keep going until there is only one piece of paper left, the child on the paper island is the winner. If you want to really up the ante on this game, you can start with one large sheet of newspaper only, and all the children have to try and cram on to it to avoid being out, and every time the music stops, a piece of the newspaper is torn away eventually leaving a piece only big enough for the winner.

What’s the time Mr Wolf?

One child is the wolf. They stand at the end of the room facing away from the other guests while the children try and creep up on him , all the time chanting ‘What’s the Time Mr Wolf? ‘If the wolf says one o clock they are allowed to take one step , two o clock , two steps and so forth. When Mr Wolf turns around they must freeze, if he sees them moving they have to go back to the start. If he shouts DINNER TIME! all the children run as he tries to catch one to replace  him as the wolf. If anyone manages to creep up before the wolf shouts dinner time, then they automatically become wolf.

Pillowcase game

Place some objects in an empty pillow case such as a small teddy, an orange, a spoon, etc. Make sure the objects have no sharp edges, safety first! Then get each child to feel inside the pillow case and guess the object. Each correct guess wins a small prize ( or if you carefully select the objects they can win what they correctly identify).

Squeak Piggy Squeak

Everyone sits in a circle on the floor with their legs crossed. One child is blindfolded and is spun around the inside of the circle. They are given a cushion and led to put the cushion on someone’s lap and sit on it. They then ask ” Squeak piggy squeak” and the sat upon child squeaks like a pig and the blindfolded child attempts to guess who it is. If the child is correctly identified, they get to be the blindfolded cushion person asking the question. This game is potentially hilarious and can end up with all the children in absolute fits of giggles.

Noise game

Prepare a simple story beforehand with lots of potential for noises, an animal or car theme is good.  Sit the children down and give them all a noise. At the appropriate time in the story , Diane says Quack! George goes Nee naw!etc. When you say a certain identified phrase such as Good Morning! everyone makes their noise at the same time. Plan the story carefully to make sure each child gets at least two chances to make their contribution.

The cardboard box game

This game is good for grown ups too!( Probably the supple ones)

Start with a  large cardboard box . The idea of the game is that each person takes turns picking up the box with their teeth only. No hands allowed at all, and no knees to touch the ground. After each successful attempt, a strip of cardboard is torn off of the box around the rim, making it lower to the ground. The winner is the last person who can reach the box with their teeth. A simple game but sometimes the simple ones are the best.

Home or away? Where to hold your party.

A party at home? No Way!

So you have a party looming. The thoughts of twenty or so children running screaming around your house fills you with dread. Images of flying popcorn, smashed furniture and food smeared walls fill your mind. The party has to be away, there’s no way you can hold it at home. Or can you?

Of course you will save money by not having to hire a venue if you hold the party at home, maybe invest what you have saved by hiring an entertainer for  an hour or two. An entertainer can keep the calm and keep children occupied and under control without the children even realising it. Giving children something to focus on will really deal with the fidgets and stop them turning to their own devices for entertainment. Many entertainers really do not need a huge space to work in, contrary to popular belief, and having something like a puppet show will really pull in the focus and keep everyone spellbound.

Children’s entertainers really prefer working in a home environment. There is no space quite like it.

If an entertainer is outside your budget, make sure you have prepared plenty of games /songs /craft activities for the children  to make sure they are focused and amused. I shall suggest more games in a next post.

A party at home has charm, intimacy and a great atmosphere. It is perfect for younger children as they relax so much better in a home environment. If space is a problem, keep the numbers low as you will have to keep in mind that parents will be accompanying a small child. Remember if you serve alcohol to the grown-ups they will become a little naughty and loud, so maybe consider a large jug of elderflower or home-made lemonade and tea/coffee as alternatives.

No! No party at home for me! So now what? Where? …Help!


If holding a party at home really isn’t a possibility or you just can’t face the prospect, be choosy about your venue.  A hastily chosen venue can make or break a party. There are a few options available.

School/Nursery

If your child attends school or nursery, your first port of call could be the school. Nursery schools especially are great venues to host birthday parties, but remember to take some blankets to hide large play equipment and put all the nursery toys out of view if you want your party guests to focus on the party.

Church halls

are numerous and cheap(ish) but do have the distinct disadvantage usually of having terrible acoustics ( no soft furnishings/carpet etc to absorb noise) and quite often are just too big. It is hard to focus children in a huge echoing environment. A sheepdog would be  useful to round-up the party-goers! Before handing over your deposit to your local church hall provider, do have a look at( and a listen to) it. Shop around. Some church halls are better than others. Be wary of stages with swinging velvet curtains. The stage holds an almost impossible to avoid allure for children and it is really time-consuming to have to keep asking Johnny and Jenny to get down before they fall off the stage!

Family Friendly Restaurants

No, I’m not suggesting having to suffer the golden arches experience. Heaven forbid!

Italian restaurants are special aren’t they? Whether it be good old Pizza or Pasta, there is no more family friendly a restaurant than an Italian one. And what child doesn’t like the food? The staff is usually very child friendly. Many places will have a function room either downstairs or upstairs, it really pays to ask. If ordering food there is often no charge for hiring the room.

Leisure Centres/Sport Centres/Soft play Centres

A good way to combine entertainment with the venue is to host your party at one of these specialised centres all of which have their own function rooms. If you are a member of a gym/tennis club etc ask there if you can host a party at their facility. This is often a good way of finding a good size room with great facilities and none of the acoustic problems of a church hall.

Get Creative: Think out of the box  

I’ve attended parties at museums, city farms, on barges, in parks,woods and gardens. If you plan a party in the great British outdoors, remember this is England! Have a plan B for rain prepared. You would be amazed of how many times I have had clients panic call me when their park party is washed out.

London party venues: 

While by no means exhaustive, here is a list of various venues around the London area.

North London venues:

Cafe’s /Restaurants  
Pizza Express      (A good size upstairs room )
Abbey Road
NW6

Cafe Rouge ( upstairs)
Hampstead High Street
NW3

Sports Clubs/Recreation/Play centres
Cumberland Lawn Tennis Club  http://www.cltc-hcc.com/public/index.aspx
25 Alvanley Gardens
NW6

Regents Park Tennis Club
York Bridge Road
NW1

Treetops Softplay
Talacre Community Sports Centre Dalby Street , Kentish Town
www.camden.gov.uk/talacre

Halls and Community Centres
St James’ Hall
11 Prebend Street  email:  hall@stjamesislington.org
N1

Highbury Roundhouse
71 Ronald’s Road, London N5 1XB  http://www.highbury-roundhouse.org.uk/roomhire/index.php

St Augustine’s Church Hall
108 Highbury New Park
N5 2DR

Muswell Hill Community Centre  email : youth.office@haringey.gov.uk
Hillfield Park
N10 3QJ

St Augustine’s Church Hall  Fr Philip Goff
Langdon Park Road N6 email: saintaugustine@blueyonder.co.uk
St George’s Centre Hall
Crayford Road
Tufnell Park
N7

Whittington Community Centre   020 7272 1847
9A Yerbury Road
Tufnell Park N19 4RN

St Lukes Church Hall
Kidderpore Avenue
NW2
http://www.stlukeshampstead.org/

Primrose Hill Community Centre
29 Hopkinson’s Place,
Fitzroy Road,
London, NW1 8TN
Phone: 020 7586 8327     Website: www.primrosehillca.org.uk



West London Venues

Cafe’s and Restaurants

Pizza Express
36 Earls Court Road
W8

Cafe Pasta (downstairs)
Kensington High Street  email: kensington@cafepasta.co.uk
W8

Riverside Studios Cafe
Crisp Road
W6

Charlies Portobello Road Cafe
58 Portobello Road
W11

Leisure/ Sports /playcentres
Seymour Leisure Centre
Seymour Place
W1

Avenue Youth Centre
37, 3rd Avenue
Queens Park
W10 4RA

Cathnor Playhouse
Cathnor Road
W12

Halls
St John’s Parish Hall
Hyde Park Crescent
W2

St Stephens
Westbourne Park Road
W2

St Mary’s Catholic Church
Moorehouse Road  W2

St Michaels Centre
Elmwood Road
W4

Scout Hut
Prebend Gardens
Wilson Walk
W4

The Labour Hall
Dorset Road
W5

Salvation Army Hall
Dalling Road
Hammersmith W6

Christchurch Vestry
Victoria Road
W8 5RQ

St Mary Abbots Hall
Vicarage Gate
W8

The Maida Centre
221 Lanark Road
W9 1NX

St Helen’s Church Hall
St Helen’s Gardens
W10

Westbourne Grove Church Hall
cnr Ledbury Road
W11

St Johns Church
Lansdowne Crescent
Notting Hill
W11

Victoria Hall
Becklow Road
W12

Holy Trinity Church Hall
Brooke Green
W14

East London

Mudchute Park and Farm
Pier Street
Isle of Dogs
E14 3HP

The City

Coram’s Fields
93 Guilford Street
City of London, Greater London WC1N 1DN 020 7833 0198

South West /South East London

Cafe’s and restaurants:

Pizza Express
Kings Road
SW3

Pizza Express
Moreton St
SW1

Pizza Express (downstairs)
363 Fulham Road
SW10

Pizza Express (upstairs)
Beauchamp Place
SW3

Pagliaccios ( Downstairs room)
Wandsworth Bridge Road
SW6

Maloca
287 Putney Bridge Road
SW15 2PT

The Depot
White Hart Lane
Barnes
SW13

Cafe Plum
189 Munster Road
Sw6

Play/ Sports clubs and Leisure Centres:

Gambados Chelsea

Imperial Wharf

Townmead Road

SW6

Putney Leisure Centre
Driburgh Road/Upper Richmond Road

Canons Health Club
Burr Road
SW18

Sands End Playcentre
247 Stevendale Road
SW6

Hurlingham Play Hut
Hurlingham Club
SW6

Eddie Catz
Putney High Street

Battersea Park 1 oclock club
Near Adventure Playground
Battersea Park
020 88717541

Brixton Tennis Club
35a Killieser Avenue
SW2

Vauxhall City Farm                                      
165 Tyers Street, London, SE11 5HS
Tel: 0207 582 4204
Web: http://www.vauxhallcityfarm.org

Invicta Children’s Centre
Invicta Road
SE3 7HE

Pippa Poppins
165 New Kings Road
SW6

Waterside Centre
26 Avenue Road SE25

Halls
St Xaviers Church Hall
Pimlico
SW1

Napier Hall
Hyde Place
SW1P 4NJ

St Barnabus Church Hall
14 Ranaleigh Grove
SW1
Pimlico

St Michaels Church
Chester Square
SW1

St Luke’s Church
St Luke’s Street
SW3

Hall of Remembrance
Flood Street
SW3

National Army Museum
Royal Hospital Road
SW3

St Michaels Church Hall
1Pond Road
Blackheath
SE3 9JL

St Pauls Church
Rectory Grove
SW4

Wilberforce Centre
Clapham Common
SW4

Contact Centre
60 Hambalt Road, Lambeth, London SW4 9EH

Brompton Library Meeting Rooms
210 Old Brompton Road
SW5

Mission Hall
Cnr Parsons Green/St Dionis Rd
SW6

St Matthews Church Hall
Peterborough Road/ Wandsworth Bridge Road
SW6

Kings Hall
Chipstead Street
SW6

St Elthelredas Church Hall
Cloncurry Street/Fulham Palace Road
SW6

St Barnabus Church Hall (Howard Hall)
Addison Road /Melbury Road
SW7
St Michaels Church Hall
Stockwell Park Road
SW9

St Luke’s Church Hall
Redcliffe Gardens
SW10

Chatham Hall
Northcote Road
SW11

St Andrews Church Hall
Altenburgh Gardens
SW11

Battersea Spiritualist Church
46 Beverly Road
SW11

Balham Library Room

St Stephens Church
Weir Road
SW12

St Lukes Community Hall
Thurleigh Road SW12

St James Community Centre
Ouseley Road
SW12

St Thomas’ Church Hall
Radbourne Road
SW12

St Lukes Church Hall
Ramsden Road
SW12

Montgommery Hall
Harleyford Road
Oval
SE11

Kitson Hall
Kitson Road SW13

The Shene Hall
Queen Elizabeth Walk
Barnes
SW13

St Michael and All Saints Church Hall
Embank Gardens
Barnes SW130NX

St Mary Magdalene Church
61 North Walpole Way
Mortlake
SW14

St Mary’s Church Hall
Putney High Street
SW15

Broomwood Hall
3 Garrards Road
SW16

Holy Trinity Church Hall
Trinity Road
Tooting Bec
SW17

Southfields Baptist Church
Wimbledon Park Road/ Purbright Road
SW18

Brathway Hall
Brathway Road/Merton Road
Southfields SW18

St Anne’s Church
St Anne’s Crescent
SW18

Scout Hut
22 Lyford Road
SW18

Earlsfield Library Hall
Magdelen Road
SW18

Merton Hall
Kingston Road
SW19

Sacred Heart RC Church
Edge Hill
SW19

St Mary’s Church Hall
Arthurs Road
SW19

Holy Trinity Church Hall
The Broadway
SW19

St Matthews Church Hall
Spencer Road
SW20

Christchurch Hall
16 Copse Hill
SW20 0HG

St Saviours Church Hall
Church Walk
Grand Drive
Raynes Park
SW20

St Stephens Church Hall
College Road
SE21

St Barnabus Church Hall
40 Calton Avenue
SE21

St Saviours Church Hall
Herne Hill Road/Finsen Road
SE24

Herne Hill United Church Hall
Red Post Hill l
SE24

Village Hall
off Bute Ave/Sudbrooke Lane
Petersham
TW10

Tag Cloud