Parenthood

Children's birthday parties can be hugely expensive and become the source of much stress and worry for mums and dads.

Childhood birthday parties are almost a right of passage and although they are a pain in the bum to organise, your son or daughter will have a great time being the centre of attention.

They're only small for a wee while and before you know it they will be temperamental tweens who don't want to party anywhere near us, so it's nice to celebrate their birthday while they'll still allow you to be in the room.

Here are our five top tips on how to organise a children's birthday bash that won’t break the bank:

1. Organise early

Organising yourself early is the key to planning any stress-free party. Sit down with your child and figure out what they really want from their birthday. Establish a location for the party. If your house or garden is large enough for a party have it at home. Children will not remotely notice if your house isn't immaculate so don't bother with a huge cleaning spree or repainting the kitchen. Local community halls and GAA clubs are also great party venues and are usually pretty reasonable price-wise. In almost eight years of attending kids' parties I'm yet to see a basic bouncy castle in a big hall fail to please (no matter what the age group).

2. Keep your guest list small

There is a perception in Ireland that you have to invite every kid in your child’s class, which is fine if the class numbers are small but over thirty children can make for a very overwhelming guest list and experience. Six to ten party guests is totally acceptable. Ask your child to help you make the guest list and to name their closest pals or those they play with most often. Small parties are a lot less stressful and will help you keep the costs low. If you aren't inviting the whole class do try and be discreet with the party invitations to avoid hurt feelings and disgruntled parents.

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3. Keep it simple

Shop-bought cakes are pretty expensive and most children are so stuffed with the other sweets and crisps that they hardly touch the cake. You can't go wrong with a train themed cake by buying two chocolate logs, some jammy dodgers for the wheels and jelly snakes to connect one carriage to another, or a good old caterpillar cake. Smarties or M&Ms are great to add colour to your creation and more importantly the kids really love the classics.

4. Make Menus

If you are serving savoury food at the party do up some fancy menus on your computer and allow older children to order as they would in a real restaurant. Have two easy to make options on the menu like burgers or chicken nuggets, several drink options and offer either chocolate or vanilla ice cream for dessert. Smallies will get a real kick out of it and it will make them feel really grown up. Be warned: you may end up with a lot of children shouting at you at once. All in the name of fun though eh?

5. Sport never fails

As a boy-mum to "Irish twins" the one thing I've learned is that organised sports keep a pack of little boys manageable. You can hire soccer coaches to come to parties and teach the kids a few tricks on the pitch and separate the children into teams for a match. Having seen some in action I reckon any football savvy other half could do the same and it will save you spending a fortune. Set up makeshift goals if you don’t have them and award prizes for things like 'man of the match' and 'top scorer'. You should have a little prize for everyone at the party so you don’t hurt anyone’s feelings. Ask guests to bring their football or GAA jerseys and boots to the party to create a sporty theme. Sorted.

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Birthday parties, birthday party, party ideas, children's party, birthday trends