You might be surprised to learn that Dorset Adventure Park knows a thing or two about children’s birthday parties. On the opening weekend alone, there were seven separate birthday parties over the course of the two days. With years of practice, Dorset Adventure Park has perfected the art of the birthday bash. But what makes a brilliant and memorable birthday party for kids? So much has changed since the birthday parties of my childhood in the 1990’s and yet some key things have endured.
One change is the switch from analog to social media. Feeling sentimental recently, I looked back through old family photo albums – a thing that has become an ancient relic of the past. Once, we would take photos on our wind-up disposable cameras and hoped for the best before we sent them to be printed and pasted them into albums. These albums were just for the family; something to pass around the room and look back on and laugh. Now, we can take a thousand instant snaps and upload them onto our social media accounts. This is wonderful for sharing the joy of our celebrations but we also know it adds much more pressure and judgement on parents. With the rise of social media, influencers and even my beloved Pinterest, there is a heightened and inescapable pressure to throw aesthetically picture perfect parties.
But then, we always have and will always put pressure on ourselves when trying to produce the perfect party for our loved ones. I can look back at the 90’s and our birthday parties full of party-ring biscuits, pass-the-parcel, playing musical chairs, shooting silly-strings and pulling party poppers and think of it as a simpler time. Yet, my parents still talk about the chaos after my Mum made a farm-yard birthday cake for my sister and all the children cried because there were only three little toy pigs on it, and they all wanted to take a toy pig home. Or, the time my Dad dressed up as Kermit the frog and looked so unintentionally and absolutely terrifying, that again all the children cried and hid. Or, the time we turned up to a birthday party and I refused to step foot into the village hall because there was a clown. Or, the worst of all, the time that one of my sister’s overheard a group of parents joking in the kitchen of our joint 5th and 3rd birthday parties, skipped up to the entertainer and cheerily repeated, “my Dad says he hopes that you’re a better magician than you are an estate agent.” Apart from double-checking that no small children are within earshot before making any disparaging remarks about the double-life of your local children’s entertainer, what else do you need to do to throw a birthday party that -for all the right reasons- no child will forget?
What’s the point of birthday parties?
This may sound cynical but is a very valid and much asked internet question when it comes to throwing and hosting children’s birthday parties. With the cost of living so high and with such high inflation on food after Brexit, throwing a birthday party can seem like an extravagant waste. Even an article in the notoriously lux magazine Grazia, posed the question, “have children’s birthday parties gotten out of control?” When put to the pressure of working out how many children to invite, hiring a location to fit and feed them all; the writer remarked, “then there’s the cake, and the party bags. And suddenly the conversation about my daughter’s party changes from ‘just think how happy she’ll be!’ to ‘have you seen what our mortgage payments are going up by?’”
Whatever you decide to do for your child’s birthday, be it a Kim Kradashian style extravaganza, a trip to the bowling alley or something involving a cheese-and-pineapple-hedgehog, the point has to be about connection. Connecting with your child and your child doing something that encourages connectivity with their family and or their friends. It is the simplest but most vital part.
For any party at any age, we always have to set ourselves a budget. Setting that boundary actually takes some pressure off and provides a focus. Having a budget might mean that you can’t invite every single child in your child’s class and that’s ok. Your child will not remember every child in their class forever and they will still be able to make and maintain friendships. Again, think about the connectivity. If 30 children are there, they aren’t all connecting. The more children you invite, the more adults you need to invite also, which will increase your costs. Lots of places will provide party packages – these can be a great way to incorporate everything you need and can be much better value for money.
There are some absolutely brilliant online stores for party decorations. Amazon is an endless wonder with its reams of stuff. If you want something more precise or themed, there’s Meri Meri or Party Pieces; partywear sites that are full of beautiful, colourful decorations. This site suits those after the pinterest pretty look. It is easy to lose sight of a budget on sites like these but I’ve found that both my Amazon and Meri Meri paper decorations keep for reuse for many years. Peter Rabbit party plates are a definite one-off purchase though – alas.
It might seem obvious but the entertainment and activity you choose has to suit the child you are throwing a party for. Really find out and think about what type of thing they would enjoy. Think about things they like to do with friends, their favourite toys or the types of films they like. They also might not want to do what you expect. I remember the very awkward time of starting secondary school and feeling uncomfortable and embarrassed at the birthday party idea my Mum had for me. I was self-conscious at my new school and wanted a bit more agency in choosing what to do. My Mum’s lovely idea suddenly felt too ‘childish’, yet, I would have enjoyed it the year before. Talk to your child, bring them in on the brainstorming – and it doesn’t mean you have to promise them the earth!
The secret to any and all good parties is the food. When it comes to children’s parties, the food has to be fun. For most children, fun food really just means tasty, comforting food that they really want to eat. It’s probably why so many of the birthday parties of my youth were at Mcdonalds, Burger King and even Mr Wimpy (RIP). If you are having an energetic party then the food needs to be fast, fun and filling. Don’t forget, children aren’t known for their discerning palates and if parents are running around keeping up with theirs and all the other children, they will want something quick and tasty too!
This also applies to birthday cakes. As someone who has spent days of my life trying to achieve elobare birthday cake designs, I can safely say simpler and tastier is the better option. Making a bright blue ‘under the sea’ themed cake and party food backfired spectacularly when the five year-olds hit a horrendous sugar high before promptly throwing up sparkly blue vomit. I should have learnt from Mum’s three-little-pigs crisis of 1996. A vanilla sponge or a chocolate cake is perfect – it’s not a wedding cake, it’s not the Great British Bake-off. The point of a child’s birthday cake is the connectivity of coming together to sing, blow-out candles, make a wish and share a slice of cake together.
The Perfect Children’s Birthday Party Venue In Dorset
Really, everything you need to throw an unforgettable – for all the right reasons – birthday party, is at Dorset Adventure Park. A kids party at Dorset Adventure Park is memorable because it is so fun and playful. It is also enjoyed by adults as well as teenagers and children (and therefore awkward tweenage approved). At Dorset Adventure Park there are three party packages to choose from: The Mud Trail, The Water Park and the Mud Trail and Water Park Combination Package. Whichever you choose includes a personalised birthday cake, party food and downloadable invitations! Children are guaranteed to remember and laugh together as they play on two action-packed lakes of fun and a mud trail with more than 50 obstacles to get across! Settled in the foothills of the picturesque Corfe Castle and surrounded by the beautiful woodlands of Purbeck, your child is bound to have the most memorable day connecting and careering around Dorset Adventure Park. Book your party today by following the link here.
Remember, whether you upload them straight to social media or keep them for yourself, don’t forget to get some of your photos printed. One day you will want to look back, laugh together and share the memories of the unforgettable birthday parties of your childhoods.
Words by Olivia Lowry