Here it is, feel free to download and print for your personal use:
With a full 6 weeks plus of holidays stretching before me and a 5 year old and 3 year old to entertain I decided that we needed a list of quick and easy activities to hand and set about looking for a 'Summer Bucket list' online. All those I found were for much older children ('Go to a pool party') or very American ('Make Smores', 'Sell Lemonade') or didn't really work in the middle of London ('Camp under the stars', 'Swim in a lake') so I set about making my own that I could manage on my own with 2 small children, that didn't take lots of special equipment or prep, that didn't trash the house and that didn't cost a small fortune.
Here it is, feel free to download and print for your personal use:
I recently held my daughter’s 3rd birthday party at home with 12 little guests. Below are all the details of the food and decorations etc. plus the links of where to buy.
I always start with the main colours from a theme which in this case are pink, green, blue and yellow. I then wander round the house pulling out any bits and pieces in those colours, bits of ribbon, a photo frame, table cloths, any crockery or party items such as treat cups or balloons left over from other parties etc so I can see what I have and what might be of use before buying anything. I also find any of the kids’ toys in that theme which could be used on the party table or to decorate the cake.
I had lots of pink, blue, yellow and green pompoms, honeycomb decorations, balloons and helium weights so just ordered a large foil number ‘3’ balloon and a foil Peppa pig shape balloon plus a helium canister (Argos deliver same day or next day and you select the timed slot which makes life easy).
I had plenty of pale pink and yellow small paper plates and napkins in stock so I simply needed to add in a few Peppa licenced plates and cups to set the theme.
Once the basics were in place I could start to have some fun with the theming.
Peppa Pig images are licenced so aren’t something that as a business I would be able to reproduce and sell however numerous people seem to have created Peppa inspired artwork for their own use and made it available free of charge to download. Searching “free peppa pig party printables” in Pinterest should bring up some results. I found invites then mixed and matched from a few sources to print off confetti, gift tags, an invite and water bottle wraps which I printed and cut out. Although these were all free it did take a couple of evenings to find everything I needed and cut it out, you will also need a guillotine, a 1” circle craft punch, a hole punch and a decent printer plus approx. 120gsm paper. I began to realise why The Humble Hostess had a business case as it was fairly time consuming!
I found a ‘Birthday interview’ sheet which I thought was quite cute and put it in a cheap Ikea frame to go on the party table.
As Peppa always seems to have ducks turn up at her picnics I filled a large glass dish with water and drop of blue food colouring and added some plastic ducks as a centrepiece. It stood on the table runner made out of an off cut of fake grass plus a few paper flowers.
Food and drink
As the guests ranged in age from 2.5-3.5 I kept it fairly simple, cheese and ham sandwiches cut out with a dinosaur shaped cutter to make ‘Mr Dinosaur’ sandwiches. Pom Bear crisps bear a passing resemblance to Peppa’s teddy so they were added to the table and ‘Miss Rabbit’s carrot sticks’ made an appearance plus some humous and cucumber sticks.
For dessert I made ‘muddy puddle’ chocolate dessert by decanting chocolate Petit Fillous into little cups and crumbling chocolate Oreos on the top and also offered Peppa Pig branded fromage frais.
My kids seem to constantly tip over cups and soak the table so I always use water bottles for parties and dress them up with water bottle wraps to match the theme.
As I’m not a fan of party bags and all the plastic tat and sweets they often contain I tried to keep them simple.
Guests had a pack of Peppa pig raisins, a mini pack of Buttons, a Peppa shaped plain biscuit (in a clear cello bag), one of the bath toy ducks from the table display, a wand which I added coordinating ribbon to and a threading toy which is great for hand eye coordinating and fine motor skills. The party bags themselves are regular cardboard food boxes with a printout image of Peppa’s house attached to one side with double sided tape.
We had a Peppa entertainer and played Pass the Parcel, the Peppa wrapping paper from Tesco helped theme it and the gift inside was a carryalong colouring book from Poundland.
Other games found online included a Peppa Pig piñata, Peppa Pig photo cut outs, ‘jumping in muddy puddles’, ‘Pin the tail on Peppa’ etc. If you had space and slightly older children you could run a craft corner where they painted their own ceramic piggy bank or set of wellies.
It was a fun party to theme and the kids especially loved all the little touches that were the most inexpensive, the ducks, astroturf table runner, paper flowers and the bowl of blue water were a huge hit. They worked well together to theme the table, it came in at only a few pounds and the ducks were reused as a party favour.
Baby showers might be a relatively new thing here in the UK but started popping up in the US during the post World War II baby boom and have gained in popularity on this side of the pond in recent years.
If you fancy hosting a baby shower here are a few simple tips and some great products to make it look amazing and save you some time planning and shopping.
Hosting and invites
Baby showers are typically held around the 7th month of pregnancy and at least a month before the due date, close enough that family and friends are getting excited but not too close that the mum to be is getting tired and there is a risk that the baby might arrive before the baby shower!
It is probably best not to plan a surprise baby shower unless it is very low key such as adding a few games to a small group lunch or treating the guest to afternoon tea with a handful of friends.
As a host it is really thoughtful to print out an invite list with addresses for the mum to be to quickly and easily write to thank guests for any gifts or even give thank you cards ready addressed if it’s a surprise shower as it should not burden the mother to be with any extra jobs at this point in her pregnancy.
In the US it is often considered bad manners for one of the mother to be’s immediate family such as a sister or her own mother to host the party as US baby showers have a stronger focus on gift giving and it could be considered poor taste. In the UK it is far from usual to have a gift registry and there is a reluctance to buy gifts for babies until they are safely delivered so this is less of an issue and a sister or relative is highly likely to be the host.
If guests do want to bring along a small token gift a great idea is to ask each one to bring a children’s book to start a library for the new arrival. This could be something they enjoyed as a child or a best seller, doesn’t need to cost much and will always be an appreciated gift.
Planning the logistics
Plan the shower to be at the host or a family member’s house rather than the guest of honour’s house or consider hiring an area or function room in a local restaurant or hotel.
Typically, baby showers are a light brunch or afternoon tea. Simple finger foods rather than a sit down meal so that everyone is free to move around and chat to the guest of honour and play games. Check on any cravings or aversions that might help you plan the menu.
Much as the other guests might fancy a glass of fizz to toast the baby it is a little unfair on the mum to be, maybe investigate some ‘mocktails’ that could be served to keep things fun but alcohol free!
Here is a quick check list for the various things you might need for a child’s birthday party. Obviously, you will have things you want to add or subtract but it might help get you started or help you to remember something that might otherwise slip your mind.
2. Thank you notes. Ideally buy them at the same time as the invitations if you want them to match, you will always need them and it will save a job after the party.
3. Cake. Buy, make or put in an order. Don’t forget the candles. If you are making your own and aren’t a very confident baker then try these birthday cake kits from Craft and Crumb which have everything weighed out and all the decorations organised (photo credit for the gorgeous Princess castle cake pictured).
1. Balloons. 2 or 3 colours to coordinate with your theme looks best, think about how you will attach them to walls and whether you will need twine or whether it is worth filling them with helium.
If you use a helium canister you will need weights and twine – check the balloons are labelled ‘helium safe’ when you buy them and buy at least 12” size balloons as smaller ones have a tendency to ‘pop’ when filled with helium. Helium canisters available from larger supermarkets and Argos.
2. Pom Poms. These are a great way to dress up a party, do note that most online ship from China and the wait might be some time so order well in advance. They do take some time to ‘fluff’ so allow a whole evening in front of the TV to prepare them, you don’t want to be doing this the morning of the party or as the guests arrive.
3. Bunting. All Humble Hostess kits come with personalised bunting and various other personalised handmade decorations so you’re ready to go with all your decorations organised.
1. Table Cloths. Buy more than you think you might need as it’s hard to tell the size of tables in a venue that you aren’t familiar with. You may also need one for a present table or for a table of drinks for parents. You can always use one on the floor for a colouring areas for younger children.
2. Kids’ cups. You might want to price up the convenience of using paper cups (and the likelihood of lots of spills) against using ready-made cartons of drink or mini sports cap water bottles (Sainsburys sells packs of 6x 300ml kids sports cap still water for £1 and the Humble Hostess Ultimate party pack contains themed water bottle wraps which fit them perfectly). Does the venue easily lend itself to making up squash and do you want to bother taking jugs etc.
3. Adults’ cups. Price up the cost and convenience of cups and ready-made bottles or cans.
4. Straws - do note that most online ship from China and the wait might be 3-6 weeks so order well in advance.
5. Plates. Paper plates typically come in 23cm or 18cm versions. You will most likely need the larger size for the party food and the smaller size for cake (alternatively order extra napkins for cake).
6. Napkins. Allow 2 per person. Include any adults present and allow extra if you will serve cake on napkins rather than plates or will wrap cake in napkins for party bags.
7. Serving plates – large platters for sandwiches, sausages, crisps etc. Flat plates are better for children than using bowls as they might not be sitting high enough to see into bowls.
8. Jugs for drinks.
9. Bowls. Some food might need bowls, e.g. popcorn. Small ‘treat tubs’ might be useful for this.
10. Party hats.
11. Cutlery. Even if you have finger food you might need tea spoons (e.g. for spooning dips onto plates) or knives for cutting up food for smaller children. Don’t forget a knife to cut the cake.
1. Prizes (small ones for winners of various games, larger one for pass the parcel, mini ones to layer in pass the parcel).
2. Any equipment needed (crayons, sticky tape etc.).
3. Face paints.
4. Temporary tattoos.
I suggest keeping it as simple as possible especially if you have to transport the food. You might want to use paper food boxes and make up a box for each child in advance for ease of transportation. This is a great tip if you have any children at the party with food allergies as you can easily tailor the contents as needed. They can also double as decorations as shown in the photo.
See my previous blog post for alternative ideas for party favours if you aren’t keen on traditional party bag filler items.
1. Bags. Add a few extras in case you end up with a few who didn’t rsvp or who bring siblings (it always happens!)
2. Labels. Add a personalised tag to the bag to thank your guest for coming.
3. Items to fill the bag
4. Fill them up
Rather than a party style tea which involves lots of prep cutting up sandwiches and slicing fruit you might find it easier to cook a filling meal such as pasta or wraps where the children can choose their own fillings. Something warm to see them through Trick or Treating and carb heavy to neutralise the sweet haul to come.
5. Trick or Treating
The standard etiquette is that if there is a lit pumpkin in the doorway then the household is open to Trick or Treaters. Depending on where you live, how popular Halloween is near you and how well you know your neighbours you may want to just visit a few houses that you know and forewarn those neighbours so they know to expect you.
Remember to take your own pumpkin in once you run out of treats or if you don’t want the door knocking once the children are in bed.
6. Treat yourself
Put them to bed, hope for a lie in after all the excitement and pray they got something worth pinching in the Trick or Treat haul.
When it comes to putting together a great looking party on a budget the 3 main tips are to Plan Ahead, get Extra Mileage out of everything you buy and to Get Crafty.
Invariably like most things in life if you leave it to the last minute then throwing money at the problem is probably the only option. If however you have your theme organised in plenty of time you can keep an eye out for anything that works with the theme as you go and are more likely to spot a bargain, have a flash of inspiration or have someone offer to lend you something.
Have a good look around in the sales prior to your party for anything that could be used as decorations or party bag fillers, I’m well known for buying all my kids’ clothes in the sales at least a year in advance and apply the same logic to birthday presents and party bits too! If you spot a favourite store doing items in your theme then keep checking back on their website at sale time, often stores you wouldn’t consider for party bag items might have one great piece hugely reduced. I’ve recently found dinosaur print aprons, ballet print bags, wooden bracelet sets, washbags, umbrellas and lots of other items which would be great favours all at £1-5 and generally 70+% off from places like Cath Kidston, Tyrrell Katz, JoJo Maman Bebe and GLTC.
Double up, make your party props do double duty
If you can buy anything for an activity that then becomes the party favour then even better. For example if you’re having a superhero or princess party then one activity could be to decorate your own superhero mask or princess wand that the guests then take home or if you need equipment such as aprons or rolling pins for a baking party then send them home as party favours.
Raid the house for any relevant toys that could be used or anything in the colours of your decorations that might coordinate (maybe decorative boxes, ribbon, photo frames)
Any greetings cards to match your theme could go in a picture frame (try Ikea or Poundshops for cheap frames) as a decoration and you can still send the cards afterwards (just don’t lose the envelope!).
Buy your themed Thank You card before the party and frame one or a collection to put on the party bag table to display a ‘Thank You” message, use the pack of cards after the party as your Thank You notes.
Corodinating or themed wrapping paper could be used as a table runner to brighten a plain paper tablecloth and if you are having a dinosaur, sport or animal themed party you could find off cuts of artificial turf to cut as placemats or a table runner.
Get your children to draw pictures on the pathway or drive with chalk to lead guests to the front door, cut out a template before to help them. For example they could draw crowns for a Princess party, paw prints for an animal themed party, a treasure map for a pirate party.
If you have an easel or chalkboard use it for a birthday message on arrival or for guests leaving, message ideas include “CHOO CHOO, Sam is 2” (train party) or “Thanks for stomping by”, complete with a dinosaur drawing. You could also add a picture your child has drawn or use the personalised stickers in your Humble Hostess pack.
All our boxes come with a sheet of personalised stickers which you could use to seal the envelopes on your invitations and thank you cards, use on your own party bags, use to seal clear plastic bags of treats to take home, buy large flat round lollipops and stick in the centre to add to the party bags or as decoration. If you are feeling really crafty then buy paper luggage labels, attach a sticker and use as place settings or tie onto party bags or going home presents.
Good luck and remember to save a few pennies for a well earned cold drink at the end of the party!
4 weeks before
Order your Humble Hostess pack!
Invite extra guests if you have had a lot of declines.
Keep an eye out for anything connected to your theme that might make good decorations or party bag fillers.
2 weeks before
Make a list of attendees for catering, keep a note of parents’ contact details in case of emergency. Note any allergies you’ve been informed of.
Your Humble Hostess pack comes with ideas for games, food, party bag fillers to match your theme, read it through and start planning.
Plan the party food.
Plan party bags, order party bag fillers and any decorations or items for games/ prizes/ piñata.
1 week before
Confirm with venue, ensure any payments made.
Confirm with any suppliers e.g entertainers.
Make a shopping list for food and other requirements (e.g candles)
Plan party games.
Get ahead by filling the party bags, wrap Pass the Parcel, any other preparation for games.
If making the cake and any cake decorations can be made ahead of time start the prep.
Pick out outfit for the birthday girl or boy.
2 days before
Shop for food.
Finish any party game prep or filling of party bags.
The day before
Make/ collect cake.
Collect any supplies ordered e.g. helium filled balloons or helium canister.
Make on the day
Fresh items such as sandwiches.
Finish party food prep.
Fill balloons with helium.
Things to take on the day
List of children attending and the parents’ phone numbers.
First aid kit.
Extra napkins/ cups/ straws.
Sellotape/ double sided tape.
After the party
Large glass of wine!
Comment below if there's anything I've forgotten!
Make party planning child’s play, top tips for staying sane while hosting a room full of cake fuelled small people.
How many children you are inviting will likely dictate the venue or vice versa so it’s probably one of the first questions to answer. There is a supposed ‘rule of thumb’ that for younger children there is one guest for each year of their age (i.e. 3 year old birthday child has 3 guests) but obviously many parties will far exceed this and good luck sticking with that once they start school! Either way get a list together and send out invitations well in advance if you want to limit numbers for any reason or if your party falls over a holiday period.
Include any details on the invitation which might affect whether someone feels able to attend such as the venue not being suitable for younger siblings or whether parents are expected to stay.
Keep it simple and draft in all the help you can. If one of the other parents is willing to stay and help offer to do the same in return for them. Sign up any aunts, uncles, grandparents or other willing helpers to set up, organise activities, keep an eye on the time and of course clear up afterwards.
You might want to look into a venue that runs activities for you or hire an entertainer to give you a hand and don’t forget to take essentials such as pen and paper, bin bags, scissors, sellotape, first aid kit etc. (check list in another blog post coming soon).
Our Humble Hostess boxes come with links to ideas for games and colouring sheets to match your theme as well as ideas for themed food and links to high street shops stocking related items for party bags to really make things easy.
When planning the time of day to hold the party consider whether attendees or their siblings are typically at school or have after school classes and whether parents will be able to easily drop them off and collect them around other activities.
When you send out invitations I suggest adding an RSVP deadline date and request the RSVP to an email address as this makes it easier to file responses and search for them later, far easier than searching through your texts and the parent’s email address might help you identify the surname and help you tell whether it’s ‘little Jack’, ‘big Jack’, ‘blond Jack’ etc who is coming and which might help in writing thank you notes.
When you get an email response from a parent that their child will be attending I also suggest a quick response thanking them, adding your phone number and asking for theirs if the children are old enough that they will be leaving them just in case of emergency. Include any directions if the venue is hard to find, if there are any parking issues and asking for notification of any food allergies. You might want to include a quick sentence as to what the party will entail such as a bouncy castle, if it is to be held outside or whether there is an entertainer or other activity so the parents can ensure the child is appropriately dressed or prepare a more shy or reticent child for the activities to come.
It is amazing how far in advance some popular venues book up for children’s parties (obviously lots of parents far more organised than me out there) so the availability of the venue may dictate the date and time available so check the availability of any key attendees well in advance. Popular venues can book months in advance so plan ahead if you want somewhere in particular or if there is little choice in your area.
If you are new to the children’s party game or new to an area try posting on local mums' Facebook groups or other local parenting forums for suggestions of suitable places.
If the children or lots of younger siblings are likely to arrive by buggy consider the space available at the venue for buggy parking or if parents will be leaving them maybe consider how far away the toilets are from the party room for older children. You’ll need a space for activities/ games and ideally a separate space for the food to be set up while games are in progress. Have another table available for presents and space for coats and bags to be left out of the way.
Before the party write up a quick plan of timings for yourself so you don’t end up with parents arriving to collect the children and suddenly realise that you haven’t cut the cake or equally have the children fed, full of cake and then realise that you still have them bouncing off your walls for another 40 minutes before their parents arrive! Depending on the venue maybe allow 15 minutes free play at the beginning of the party while everyone arrives so any late comers don’t feel they are arriving in the middle of something and perhaps have an extra activity set up such as a colouring station (little table or picnic rug with crayons and print outs to match your theme) for any children taking a while to warm up or not interested in the entertainer or a particular activity.
More blog posts coming soon for ideas on party food and a party planning checklist.
Party bags just seem to be one of those ‘love to hate’ items. The kids love them, you somehow feel that you have to do them but are probably lacking in inspiration for things to put in them that the other parents won’t hate you for. No parent loves a party bag full of sweets and little plastic toys that get scattered all over the house.
They do at least have the bonus of signalling the end of the party and encouraging your little guests to leave your house!
Here then are some original ideas to save you racking your brains and spending all night on Amazon.
1. One decent gift
There is a current trend away from party bags with several small items towards one larger more useful gift. If you look at the price of party bags plus the extras you’re going to put inside you can probably buy a little gift and just add a ‘Thank you for coming to X’s birthday’ tag (coming soon to the Humble Hostess store!) and a bit of ribbon and give each child a small present to take home.
This could be perhaps socks or gloves to match the theme of your party, this is fairly easy if you have a children’s character as your theme as High Street shops or supermarkets are likely to sell them and parents generally don’t mind an unobtrusive piece of clothing which can always be kept in the car or pre-school bag as a spare!
You might also be able to find small jigsaws or board games which fit your budget.
2. Recycle your party decorations
If you have hosted a party which involved buying more substantial decorations or equipment for example a baking party and you bought 20 mini rolling pins, aprons, chef’s hats or Princess cookie cutters then there’s your party bag gift.
3. Add to the toys they already have
Most children will have a stash of crayons, Play Doh, play food, Lego etc. and no parent will object to a fresh tub of playdough or new colouring pens.
Try Dotty Dough Factory for 3 cute pots gift wrapped
Another addition to the book shelf is usually welcome. Perhaps go for something that ties with your theme or something new or unusual so that the guests aren’t likely to already have it. Maybe a simple child’s cookery book might be welcome along with perhaps a cookie cutter.
5. Activity Kits
Everyone needs a rainy day, long flight or Doctor’s waiting room stash. Sticker books or activity books make great going home gifts. You can also buy or make up your own ‘cookie in a jar’ gift. This is a large jar with all the pre-measured ingredients layered in it and a recipe attached. They can be bought ready done and personalised with ‘Thanks for coming to X’s party’ or you can search online for directions on how to make up the jars, print out the recipe and attach a Thank you label.
Try Zac and Lily ‘Baked with love kit’ in stylish personalised tubs, the pretty bags from Katie Bakes or these great kits with themed cutters from Bake at Home
6. Something that can be used up or left outside
A helium balloon from the party decorations will keep tiny ones amused. A small inflatable is ideal for an animal themed party and (pre-inflation!) fits in party bags easily, it can then be used in the paddling pool or kept in a wendyhouse.
For a summer birthday party you could give a bucket and spade or outdoor play kit e.g plastic digger or a shaped sandcastle toy. These seem to get lost on a pretty frequent basis (or is it just us who constantly leave them at the park sandpit?) so a re-stock and something to entertain them in the garden is a popular idea.
You could stick with the gardening train of thought and, if the children are likely to have gardens, give a plant. This could tie in with your theme, maybe for a pizza making party they could get a tomato plant or seeds, for an afternoon tea party give a strawberry plant and for a dinosaur party they could have a plastic dinosaur who could live in the flower bed and a small fern plant or similar.
If in doubt you could always try try pre-filled bags! Try Little Lu Lubel from £3.75
Any other bright ideas? What’s the best thing your child has received in a party bag? What do you dread them coming home with?
Following my last blog on cake decorating, here are the next two tips on putting together an impressive looking birthday cake with as little work as possible.
Tip 3. Use toys as decoration
If you are concerned about making the topper and can’t find anything suitable to buy then you can always look into using toys. I made this very simple Postman Pat cake using plastic Postman Pat figures and just making Pat’s van from sponge and covering in ready coloured fondant. I made all the letters, flowers, covered the board in fondant etc. a week before so only had to made the sponge using a brownie pan, cut it to shape, cover in fondant and assemble the various bits. Making it was especially easy as I found a great blog post to follow for instructions @tamingtwins
Tip 4. Cheat with the actual cake.
Much as I love baking various types of cake I can’t say I find baking plain sponge cakes for birthday cakes much fun. They generally have to be made within a day of the party to ensure freshness, then let it cool and then flat ice it before starting on the decorating in the evening once the kids have gone to bed. This level of pre-planning, time management and energy have so far eluded me. I have to confess I therefore frequently ‘cheat’ and buy a readymade and flat iced sponge cake on the grounds that plain sponge cakes aren’t my greatest talent and that most people don’t really notice the taste of the cake.
As supermarket cakes obviously contain more preservatives that something you would make yourself they do also have the advantage of lasting longer if your cake doesn’t disappear on the day of the party. They are available in most supermarkets for about £4 or you can often order larger ones or ones of different sizes (usually need 7+ days advance ordering) from Marks & Spencer or Waitrose Entertaining which you can put together for a 2 tier cake.
You can then move them onto your cake stand, either pipe around the bottom or add some ribbon and then assemble your decorations on top. Bingo, cake you bought, decorations you made a week ago and a cake that looks like you were up all night….