We’ve become masters of the lockdown party at our place. Which made us realise/remember that YAH, PARTIES ARE GOOD. But so long as there are some decorations, some cake, something they are not usually allowed to eat or do, and something to open, kids are very very happy. Here’s some of the things we do for our kids on their birthday*.
1. Make the morning The Moment.
Kids get the morning. Just ask Christmas and Easter: they’re the masters of Exciting Mornings. I like to adorn the birthday child’s ‘birthday throne’ (I’m Dutch, it’s a Dutch thing, decorating a birthday chair) with decorations and set the table up with gifts and balloons and cards so it’s a feast for the eyes. Then they can have whatever they want for breakfast. Ice cream? Yo! (On pancakes.) Cake? No problem. (Side of fruit.) Lobster linguine? Sure! (No.)
From the essential Stevie Wonder version of Happy Birthday for the cake-n-candles, to an upbeat party playlist as background music for balloon battles, trampolining, and new present playing, music is CRITICAL on birthdays. (Don’t worry, I’ve made playlists for you: just hit play.)
Celebration, not obligation, is my general rule. Just the people your kid really likes and wants around. A giant party can be terrific fun, but as host it gives me tremendous social anxiety. So, whether this is true or I just tell myself this, there is something to be said for outsourcing to a play centre, or ‘choose three friends’ (and one for each of the siblings) and doing a small, intimate thing, whether that’s an excursion or activity or just covering the garage in tarp and letting them play DIY paintball. Make unique memories is the point. Have a friend dress as Elsa/Batman/Dumbledore and walk past the window nonchalantly. Encourage a food fight. Hire a pony. In the past I have gone big, only to realise - surprise! It was all shit I cared about, not the kid.
Disposable cameras, Polaroids, a photo booth: anything non-digital where possible. Keep the moment, in the moment. Hand around the photos at the end, or stick them on the wall in your kid’s bedroom so the birthday lives on.
5. Lo-fi wins.
Kids. Don’t. Care. Give them a bowl of lollies, some games and give all of them a party bag full of good stuff. Serve (lots of! People come to parties hungry!) good versions of party classics – your homemade soss rolls and a stunning box cake drenched in butter icing – and everyone’s happy. Coffee (or something harder) for the grown-ups and you’re done. As long as people are fed and watered, the kid is loved and exulted, no one really cares. Make it simple, put your heart into it, enjoy your kid’s birthday. Remember: you only get 12 or so of them before they start to ignore you.