Birthday Parties (and how to survive them)

MN partyWhat makes the ideal children’s birthday party? Well according to a survey carried out by, the top venue for a party was a theme park, with lunch at Nandos, a laptop for a present and a guest appearance by David Beckham and One Direction. For those of us whose budget won’t stretch that far (and let’s face it, that’s pretty much everyone) here’s a run down of some ideas to make your child’s birthday party special.

1. Party Packages

Choosing a venue which caters and provides entertainment can really cut down on the preparation work you need to do and means no clearing up afterwards – and it can compare quite favourably on cost.

We have a plethora of softplay venues in Portsmouth from Pirate Petes, Krazy Kaves and the Farmhouse (Hungry Horse) to Mobys in Fareham which all provide birthday party packages including play time, a party room and a meal thrown in. You could even have the softplay come to you in the form of the Jungle Buddies Playbus, a converted double decker bus.

Older children might enjoy a more novel party at Explosion, Museum of Naval Firepower, or maybe the Royal Navy Submarine Museum at Gosport. You could also have a party at the Blue Reef Aquarium with a choice of Mermaid or Pirate party package.

For something a little different, why not try a swimming party, offered by Havant Leisure Centre or Mountbatten Leisure Centre. Alternatively you could try an ice skating party at Planet Ice or Quasar at Action Stations.

2. DIY Venues

Highbury Community Centre, Cosham £10 an hour to hire for birthday parties.

Highbury Community Centre, Cosham £10 an hour to hire for birthday parties.

If your child is planning to invite more than a handful of guests, then you probably won’t have room at home. For plenty of space to run around, consider hiring one of Portsmouth’s many community centres or church halls. Many are big enough to allow for a bouncy castle inside – a great option when the weather is awful.  Portsmouth is well served with businesses who will hire out bouncy castles, ball pools, soft play shapes and more. Have a look at our party supplies listings for more information.

3. Entertainment

Hosting a party is tiring, try and do it with someone else if possible.  It can be a great relief to hire an entertainer leaving you to get on with the food or chat to other parents.  Consider hiring a facepainter, a balloon model maker, a magician or clown. Younger children particularly seem to enjoy having a character mascot attend their party. Have a look at our entertainment listings.

4. Caterers and Cakes

Capital Cake Craft, Kingston Road, Portsmouth

Capital Cake Craft, Kingston Road, Portsmouth

Aspiring cake bakers who enjoy making cakes will find plenty of cake supplies shops in Portsmouth.  Whilst the rest of us all want to be as good as those contestants on the Great British Bake Off, most of us are either lacking in time or artistic talent to create the cakes that children seem to want most – the dreaded novelty cake. Once you’ve bought the shaped pans, the ingredients for the cake, the coloured icings in all the many colours you will need, it is quite likely to cost you more than paying a professional cake baker to do it for you.  You can even get local catering firms to put on a birthday spread for you or order party food from your local supermarket – saving you a lot of preparation time.  If you choose to cater it yourself it is a good idea to do a party box for each child containing basically a packed lunch – you cut down on waste and it is much easier to cater for as you know exactly what you’ll need.  If you want to avoid sugar induced meltdowns probably best to steer away from anything fizzy to drink.

5. Decorations and Party Bags

Pinterest is a great source of inspiration for party decorations, games and party food recipes.  The Mumsnet Portsmouth page has a board dedicated to parties. Why not start your own Pinterest account now and start pinning ideas to help you plan. Consider what you are going to put in your party bags.  Most of us end up binning the numerous plastic items that come in party bags and they can really add up.  A recent trend has seen parents buying one good item and giving that along with a piece of cake instead. Popular items have been lego kits, craft kits, books and colouring books.

6. Should I stay or should I go?

The consensus on Mumsnet seems to be that there is an unwritten rule that if your child is reception age or less, expect the parents of your guests to stay – their child is too young to leave with someone they may not know that well.  To be sure however, make it clear on your invite if you are happy for parents to drop off and then collect their children later, or whether you are expecting parents to stay.  If parents will be staying it is definitely the done thing to make sure they at least have tea and biscuits and if the party is over lunch, you’re going to need to feed the parents too.

7. Timing

Be clear about when the party starts and when it will end.  Two hours is more than enough for most children (and definitely for their parents). This is where having the party at another venue definitely comes into its own – as you won’t be the only person trying to draw things to a conclusion.

We have a page in our local directory for children’s party services.  Anyone can add a listing to the directory, all you need to do is register with the site.  To do this go to Mumsnet Local Portsmouth and click ‘Join’ at the top of the page. This will take you to the main site where you can join.  Once you’ve joined click ‘find your local Mumsnet’ which you will find at the top right of the page and join and you can then add a listing to the directory.  If you know of a really good cake maker, or a venue we haven’t included, please add it and share it with other parents.


About Shelley Cook

Self employed blogger, editor and copywriter. I work from home around my two children and am delighted to be able to visit local attractions and cafes and call it work.
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