kids

Please, let me tell you about what has become of children's birthday parties.

When I think of the parties I attended when I was a kid in the '90s, it’s a blur of doughnuts hanging from clotheslines, pass the parcel, fairy bread and a game of musical chairs. I’m not even sure that I had a birthday party every year and I certainly wasn’t inviting the entire class.

A few of the fancier parties had treasure hunts, and I have distant memories of going to a ‘fairy cave’ dressed in a tutu and having mini sandwiches and cupcakes. 

Or, if you were REALLY lucky, your parents threw you a Maccas party with the iconic ice cream cake and party hats that feature Ronald McDonald himself.

There was always a homemade cake; dutiful parents had blown up balloons and strung them up haphazardly through the backyard, not forgetting one on the letterbox to indicate, “yes, the party is here!”

Watch: Things People Never Say At Kids' Parties. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia

Since entering my third decade, I have started attending more children's events than adult ones. My weekends (thanks to COVID and just because there is no one in my friendship group left) are no longer filled with messy hens weekends and elegant wedding receptions. 

In their place are a whole lot of children's birthday parties.

When planning my son’s first birthday late last year, I knew that I wanted a theme, personalised cookies and a cake, bunches of balloons, a ‘1’ foil balloon, a personalised board with all of his milestones as a nice keepsake, an invitation designed on Canva, matching plates, tablecloths, utensils, and a good lolly bag. 

I had created this mental list of birthday party ‘rules’ I'd subconsciously developed after years of watching my feed fill up with perfectly curated and coordinated children’s birthday parties. Pinterest has a lot to answer for. 

I had two parties due to COVID restrictions, so it definitely skewed the cost, but it wasn’t until I had dished out well over $800 (which I’ve since learnt is small change compared to some) for the first party on its own, that I realised I may have gone too far. 

ADVERTISEMENT

This, despite the fact I had ‘cut out’ some of the nice extras I’d seen at other parties (like event coordinators and a professional photographer), I’d also chosen to go with a Cheesecake Shop cake with a picture of Spot the dog printed on the top, instead of a $350 fondant cake that I’d been originally looking at AND I didn’t have a balloon arch (they are all the rage). 

Image: Supplied.

I also bought books to use as decoration to feel less wasteful, but if I’m honest with myself - anything Spot themed was really hard to find and I’m sure I would’ve been suckered into spending much more had there been better accessories. 

ADVERTISEMENT

(Yes, this is a cake for a child's first birthday)

I wasn’t sure what to put in the lolly bags either. I wasn’t sure the sherbet lollipops and musk sticks of my youth were appropriate (??) so I went with items like play dough, bubbles, party hats, veggie chips, a personalised colouring in sheet I made on Canva to thank the kids for coming, all of which added up.

At a party I recently attended, all of the kids got a box of cookies that had edible icing for them to paint onto the cookie. 

A friend of mine went to a basketball themed party where all of the kids were given actual NBA snapbacks. 

Another friend who is a few years ahead of me with two kids in primary school tells me it gets bigger and bigger, more personalised items (giant freckles, lollipops, zooper doopers with kids names on it) and a barbie doll in each lolly bag to go along with the theme.

And before you assume all the people I hang out with are loaded, with more money than they know what to do with, that's not the case. These are ordinary families, with hard-working parents, who have decided this is how they want to spend their money.

ADVERTISEMENT

(There are cookie boxes which will set you back $15 a pop, which is pretty good considering the average spend on ‘party favour bags’ can be anywhere between $10-50 dollars on average).

(Hudson’s personalised cookies). 

These parties are... actual events. 

There are not any Jatz or cabanossi sticks in sight, there are professionally assembled grazing boards, chocolate fountains and woodfire pizza vans cooking pizza right in front of your eyes.

I’ve attended parties with stylists/event coordinators, professional photographers and I once went to a first birthday party that was actually catered. Waiters were walking around with the most delicious finger food.

A colleague of mine had a coffee cart come to the park where his son was having his birthday party so the parents could all have a decent coffee.

There are animal petting zoos, magicians, jumping castles, ball pits, face painters, Disney characters and fire trucks.

ADVERTISEMENT

Also, don’t be surprised if you start getting invited to parties that START at 5:30/6:00pm - it’s the only time play centres will let you hire the venue exclusively, for a hefty fee of $800-$1200 for two or three hours. 

(Demitri’s Coco Melon themed birthday party - where for lunch we had fresh woodfired pizza’s straight from the oven).  

And that is just my timeline. 

Recently, I’ve noticed that some of the event managers and photographers I had followed for inspiration when I was planning my wedding have started moving into kids' birthday party planning, styling and photography. 

Diane Khoury, who has over 370,000 followers on her Instagram, is one of Australia’s most well known wedding event planners. 

Slowly but steadily the number of kids' parties featured on her account are rising. And, there are no words... 

Except, how can I get an invitation to Elle’s second birthday? 

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

I think it’s easy to look at the parties people are throwing for their kids these days and pass judgement about how extravagant or excessive they seem. 

But, if there’s one thing I’ve learnt about parenting, and the one piece of advice that I cling to for dear life whenever I am struggling to make a decision, it's: If it works for you, then it’s not a problem.

Feature Image: Supplied / Getty.

Share your thoughts in this super-quick survey!