A Mum’s Guide to School Birthday Parties

There are three things that will happen on a regular basis once your child starts school:

  • The mundane school-run (which, however, can be made a wee bit entertaining with these common conversations)
  • Dress-up days and bake days and ‘my child is ill – again!’ days (read this post to prepare yourself to become a ‘proper’ school-mum)
  • and birthday parties!

Yes, 80 per cent of your weekends will pass by at a birthday party of one of your child’s classmates (or even a schoolmate from another class as they all mingle during lunchtime). Mind you, these aren’t the let-your-hair-down and up-the-booze kind of parties; they’re more soft-plays and super-heroes and grown men and women parading around like various characters to entertain a bunch of over-excited kids. There’s no wine to get you through this, but the coffee helps. There is an overload of sugar (cake and sweets and juice) and your child will be in hyper-active mode for the rest of the day. It’s fun being a parent, isn’t it?

Having been there, and continuing to go there (no, you CANNOT miss these parties because the little people talk. A lot. At school. And then make you feel like the world’s worst parent for having missed one of them. Mum guilt is a real b*&%h!!!), and now quite a pro at it, I thought of compiling a ‘Mum’s guide to school birthday parties’. Just to get the newbies prepared…



1. The gifts

The amount of parties you attend is equivalent to the number of gifts you’ve got to buy – which is a hell of a lot!

Which means two things – you are constantly doing the rounds of toy shops (or last-minute ordering on Amazon Prime) and spending a lot of money.

I’ve now learnt a few tricks to keep this process stress-free and (relatively) economical:

  • Buy gifts in bulk when the sales are on (Christmas is a great time to stock up) or when there are deals in-store. You know the average age of the child – just buy a couple of toys/ games/ books for both boys and girls. Then decide what to give depending on what the birthday boy/girl likes
  • Recycle gifts. No, there’s nothing wrong in doing this (as long as it’s unopened and unused, of course). There is only so much space in your house and so many toys you can handle at one time (your child will have a different opinion, though, but let’s not get into that), so keep some of your child’s birthday/ Christmas gifts away. The ones they don’t want or have something similar. And save it for another of those birthday parties!
  • ALWAYS keep wrapping paper, gift tags and party bags (invest in some big ones too as most kids’ gifts are huge) handy – make sure you never run out or you’ll be making last-minute runs to the shops for them.

2. The return-gifts a.k.a party bags

Ok, I’m going to be blunt here, but most party bags are nothing more than cheap plastic crap! Whistles, bubbles, wobbly pens, paper models of planes etc etc etc. Now I’ve come to learn that it’s not that the hosts are cheap and want to cut costs, it’s just that the kids absolutely LOVE this shit! They look forward to the party bags and then dig into them with joy that is equivalent to us grown-ups winning a lottery – the only good part is that these act as a great distraction to get them to leave the party!

Oh, and there are also a lot of sweets and chocolates in the party bags, so the sugar high will continue well into the evening!
An honest tip: Fight the temptation to restrict these treats. Be a good mom another time. It will result in a FULL-BLOWN tantrum because your child is now a deadly combination of over-tired, over-excited and over-loaded on sugar already.

3. The cake

Something new I have learned attending these big class birthday parties is that although the cake is cut at the party, you (or the kids) rarely get to eat it there. The cake is cut, then taken away and placed inside those party bags to be eaten at home (or in the car, depending on your child’s mood). Guess that gives the kids more time to run around and play…

4. The event

  • These parties are usually ‘themed’ (super-hero/ sports/ disco/ magician) so pay attention to the invite for the dress code. You don’t want to be the mum whose kid turned up in formal clothes when the rest of the class trapezed around in Batman masks and Superman capes.
  • If it’s an afternoon party, give your child a snack or even a light lunch beforehand. Because the food will only be served an hour into the party, after the games and entertainment, by which time your child will likely be whining/ hangry or will then be munching on the biscuits meant for the parents. Besides, kids hardly eat at birthday parties, they’re too excited and just want to play, so make sure their tummies are full beforehand.
  • There will be tea/ coffee and some biscuits and nibbles for the parents – drink up mommas, you will need the caffeine boost. Besides, it’s a nice opportunity to catch up with other school mums over a cuppa and amidst loud music and screaming kids. Hadn’t I mentioned parenting is fun?!


And when it’s time to host your own, here’s a post I wrote to help you through the process – or not!
How to host the perfect children’s birthday party


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  1. Sarah-Marie Collins

    I’ve always wished you could just say to parents rather that each buying a gift just donate 50p and I’ll buy a gift he really wants – £15 from the class would buy a nice toy. It would really be so much better for the birthday child and just much more economical for the party guests. #ItsOK

    1. Nicole

      That is a brilliant idea – everyone chip in and let the birthday child get something worthwhile!

  2. Helen Copson

    I’m currently in pre-school birthday party hell. We seem to have one every other week and he’s not even started school yet. I’m now off to read your other post on how to host our own ready for June! #ItsOK

    1. Nicole

      It’s just the beginning Helen – brace yourself!

  3. Anita Faulkner - Brazen Mummy Writes

    Argh, you had me worried about the lack of cake. But there should be coffee and biscuits! Phew. I’m in. #It’sOK

    1. Nicole

      There’s plenty of coffee – believe me, that keeps you sane!
      The cake comes home in the party bag, so there is a chance to peck into it unless your child gets to it first!!!

  4. Jodie

    Got all of this to look forward to but can you possibly write about being the one hosting the party I wouldn’t have a clue where to start.

  5. Josie - Me, Them and the Others

    I think you must be going to better parties than me, I reckon I only get coffee at about half! My kid’s are 6 and 8 now and the rate of parties is finally starting to slow down! #itsok

    1. Nicole

      Yes I suppose it eases out as they get older, as kids then prefer something more personal with just a few good friends.
      PS: Well, at least you get the coffee – that’s essential;)

  6. Tracey Carr

    I have just started out on the whole birthday party voyage. I brought my daughter to her first party last month and she immediately walked out afterward asking if she could have her party there (a soft-play centre). So we had her party there yesterday. I was bricking it because I am such a newbie to this and felt completely out of my depth! But it went really well and I am so glad it is over. However I am starting to realise that this going to become my social life now at weekends, hurray….Your guide is absolutely spot on. Every word is true and excellent for beginners like me. I could have done with it last weekend! #itsok

    1. Nicole

      Yes, Tracey, this is the beginning… and it will never end! You are spot on in believing that this is your social life on weekends now. But you seem to have rocked your own first party as host, great going! Just remember to look out for the coffee and biscuits;)

  7. Jacqui Bester

    Can I confess that I always beg my husband to take the kids to parties… I just can’t deal!!! Oh, and we serve our guests wine… Mama’s gotta get through it right? #itsok

    1. Nicole

      Oooh, I love a kid’s party with wine! That sounds enticing!

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