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?

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