Claire Gardner: Sparkly crowns and party games, too
WHEN my five-year-old announced that she wanted a birthday party, we quickly suggested an intimate affair with a few special friends in the comfort of our home.
We would play musical bumps and “Simon says” and maybe a quick game of pass-the-parcel before a slice of cake and home time. But, she told us, with petted lip, it simply wouldn’t do.
“What I want is a huge big party with all my friends with a bouncy castle and party bags and nail painting and a crown-making competition,” she said.
“Out of the question,” was our response.
So now we are days away from the bumper party with 23 little girls and a bouncy castle at the local community centre – and I’m on the brink of collapse just thinking about my tick list for this kiddies knees-up.
It wasn’t meant to be like this. I had grand ideas of efficiency with games planned and food stocked and prizes wrapped weeks before the big day. Then there was the party bag plan and my intentions to avoid cramming them with sparkly, pink plastic landfill.
I had grand and noble ideas to order wholesome books in bulk from a knock-down website, which would mean the average spend per child on these shocking bags of tat was 50p rather than a tidy fiver.
Oh, I was going to do this and so much more. But, back in the real world, I have 48 hours to get this show on the road.
So, at 9am I find myself in a sweaty panic in a craft shop hunting down shop assistants who can point me in the direction of the sparkly crowns that my daughter wants all her friends to decorate. They are all out of crowns. In fact, they don’t seem to have anything I need.
So, I dash over the road to another toy shop only to find there has been a rush on crowns and all arts ‘n’ crafts stuff in general.
Trying to contain my panic, I move on down my tick list to the party bag section and end up in a supermarket shoving in pink bouncy balls, ballerina stickers, balloons and a box of chocolates to be divided up into the bright pink plastic bags I’ve chucked in the trolley.
Every parent knows that the entire contents of these bags always ends up crushed at the bottom of the car and still we persist on spending our hard-earned cash on this trash, including me.
Next the games section. I’ve organised a few kids parties before and know that you need prizes, then you need consolation prizes for those who finished second or third. Then you need consolation prizes for the whining brats who moan they didn’t get a consolation prize – and it goes on.
I still have the food and the cups and plates and glasses and princess-themed tablecloths to buy – that’s before the crispy-cake making begins.
To top it all, a litigiously conscious parent casually asked me if I had sorted insurance for the bouncy castle yet?
Surely planning kids parties has not always been this hard?
Back in the late 1970s, everyone had parties at home and played musical chairs and a particularly dull excuse for entertainment called Kim’s Game.
There were crisps and cheese and pineapple on sticks and chocolate fingers.
Then you went home clutching a piece of cake wrapped in a napkin.
A few more extravagant friends had an old bloke called Coco the Clown, who came and did tricks such as pretending to cut people’s fingers off, but that was about it.
Nowadays, like it or not, kids parties have become much more sophisticated.
A survey by Mumsnet discovered that one in five parents with young children admitted to feeling pressured into organising more extravagant birthday parties for their children than they would like to.
Actually, these days, a bouncy castle is quite small beer, with recent reports of celebrities spending bonkers money on children’s parties, with circus games and bumper-car tracks and carousels.
But whether you spend £50 or £5,000, the bottom line is that the children have fun.
I, for one, don’t plan to do this big party again any time soon. Next year, my daughter will enjoy an intimate party at home.
We might even bore everyone to death with the dreaded Kim’s Game.
But this year, I’m sure when I’ve handed out the last of the pink plastic party bags bulging with sparkly landfill, I will feel that it’s been worth all the stress. Happy birthday Katie.
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Sunday 26 May 2013
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