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It’s party time! Another year older, wiser, and fully aware of the glories of childhood birthday parties. For three years we were able to get away with low-key family gatherings to celebrate Hannah’s birthday, but not anymore! Her little world was massively broadened towards the end of last year when the invitations rolled in, and there was no escaping the full-blown, (parent) heart-attack inducing spectacle that is the PRESCHOOL BIRTHDAY PARTY!!!
If you are here because you too have suddenly found yourself in this predicament, never fear. Through my keen powers of observation (I don’t know why Emma is laughing as she reads this over my shoulder…) I have compiled this ultimate list of party essentials for preschool birthdays!
We have a reasonably compact townhouse, so a small army of sugared-up pre-schoolers tearing through the place is out of the question. Even if you have a decent-sized abode, you may wish to consider the merits of moving the mess to a location that can be hosed down by council, or where other people are paid to clean up after you. Of course, you can have it at home, but don’t blame me when you’re still trying to scrub the footprints off the ceiling long after the last sugar-induced-tantrum throwing toddler has been carried out the front door.
There is an abundance of options when it comes to external venues. These include good-old favourites like play centres, council halls and bowling, while more recent options include trampoline parks, art/craft studios, hosted party centres and many, many more. Be warned, all of these venues will have you parting with substantial amounts of cash.
The simplest, cheapest (and in my view the best) option is the local park. Here the kids can roam (relatively) free. They will more-or-less entertain themselves as they run, climb, chase and play together. Take a couple of balls, or some bikes and scooters if it has a bike track, and the fun will take care of its self! Brilliant.
Pro-tip – send an advance party of willing grandparents/relatives/good friends to secure the best spot early in the morning. The best party spots in many parks are colonised well in advance, and you don’t want to be left without shade/shelter or easy access to the play equipment.
With the park and play equipment doing most of the heavy lifting, all you need to do is set the party atmosphere with a little music. DON’T blast Baby Shark at obnoxious levels – that is a sure-fire way to anger other people who are perfectly entitled to an enjoyable day in the park.
The JBL Pulse 4 is just the tool for the preschool party music job. While it is capable of getting LOUD, it is perfectly comfortable pumping out The Wiggles, Caspar Babypants and the odd, retro Peter Coombe song at a neighbourly volume. It sounds fantastic, but best of all it mesmerises the pre-school (and, if I’m honest, the adult) audience with its amazing light show options. Pair it via Bluetooth with a Spotify Premium-enabled smartphone (with downloaded tracks) and you will have hours-upon-hours of background party music.
I said that the playground will do most of the work when it comes to entertainment, but there is always a little room for the classic party games. Frankly, it isn’t a proper party until the parcel has been passed! Of course, its not quite the same as it was back in my day. These days you include a prize in every layer, because everyone is a winner and no one likes tantrums.
Of course, Pass The Parcel requires music, which makes the JBL Pule 4/Spotify Premium combination even more valuable. Musical Chairs and Musical Statues are some other timeless party-game options.
There are two food groups at a party. Substantial food and junk food. The little people will be completely and utterly focussed on consuming as much of the junk food as is humanly possible. In Hannah’s case, I actually don’t have a problem with that. Her diet is very healthy on a day-to-day basis. She rarely consumes processed sugar or high-salt food, so junk food at a party is something special for her. I think that is the way it should be. Essential junk food includes:
If you are not from Australia or New Zealand and have not heard of fairy bread, I feel sorry for you. Your childhood was most definitely lacking something and it probably goes a long way to explaining that hollow feeling you sometimes get in the pit of your stomach.
Fairy bread is the holy grail of preschool party food. Simply buy the cheapest, least nutritional loaf of white bread that you can find. IT MUST BE WHITE BREAD – I cannot stress that enough. And definitely not sourdough. Slather the bread in a generous amount of easy-spread butter or margarine (make sure you cover the entire surface of the bread. This is important). You can use unsalted butter, but keep in mind that salted butter is unhealthier and therefore more highly prized by little people. Finally, flip the bread over and place in a bowl of hundreds and thousands. The result will be a glorious, irresistible concoction of sugar and salt that will be a sure-fire hit. Make sure you make enough for the adults, who will simultaneously make fun of the fairy bread whilst consuming large amounts of it.
Lollies and chocolate
As with the fairy bread, this is neither the time, nor the place to try and impose your strict ideals of sugar consumption. Get the good stuff, with real sugar.
I highly recommend the timeless classics. Allen’s lollies, including: Red Skins, Milko Chews and Sherbies are about as good as it gets, while Cadbury Freddo/Caramelo Koala chocolates can’t be beat. Each of these choices has the added benefit of being individually wrapped. This means that you can all partake in the magic of highly-processed sugar, without worrying that tiny, grubby hands have soiled the goodness.
Best of all, any left-over lollies can be used over the following days to play a game that I like to call “Try To Eat As Many Lollies As You Can While The Kids Aren’t Looking”. I am an expert.
Buy chips. Kids love chips. Adults do too. Buy chips.
Let’s face it, the kids ain’t at the party to enjoy a three course, sit down dinner. Food needs to be consumed in the shortest amount of time possible to maximise play time, and should contain all the essential sugars for hyped-up, manic play followed by a devastating, tantrum-inducing crash right about the time the party ends.
While disciplined parents might be able to coax their pre-schooler into joining the proper lunch, this part mainly exists for the adults. My advice is to keep it as simple and stress-free as possible. Anything that cannot be prepared the day before (or easily purchased on the way to the venue) isn’t worth having.
Our go-to option is a large chunk of meat in the slow cooker for approximately 12 hours. Pork, beef, lamb, or even a combination (depending on your cooking options) is the way to go. It is almost impossible to overcook, so you won’t have to stress about keeping a constant eye on it, especially if using my favourite option – the Philips All-In-One Cooker. It is dead-easy, tastes delicious cold on a roll with a coleslaw or garden salad and some sauce, and is sure to impress!
Friends and Family
Invite as many kids as you can think of. The more, the merrier! The food is easy to scale up or down and if your party is in a park you aren’t exactly going to run out of space! It doesn’t matter if they don’t know each other – pre-schoolers have very few inhibitions and they will soon all be playing together in the most enjoyable ways. While organising these parties may feel stressful for many weeks leading up to the event, the sight of a stack of kids cutting loose and having fun together is a genuinely enjoyable experience.
Make sure you take the time to soak it in. These days don’t last for long and you are witnessing the moments that might just becomes some of your child’s fondest memories of childhood.
Because the partygoers haven’t had enough sugar already! Send them home with a bag of sugary goodness as a way of saying “thanks for coming to my party!”
There are plenty of other things that can make a party great, but get the essentials right and the rest is just tweaking around the edges. No matter how you go about it, remember that pre-schoolers are pretty simple creatures who just want to have some sugar and some fun with friends. It is their day and, as long as they have fun, the rest doesn’t really matter!