birthday party inspiration
Activities and crafts

Birthday party inspiration

Are you planning a birthday party? Gwen Loughman shares her experience of throwing birthday celebrations for kids and gives us some valuable birthday party inspiration.

I remember the day our second son arrived home from school with his first birthday party invite. The grin on his face stretched from ear to ear. After two years of watching his older brother receive birthday invitation after birthday invitation, he thought this day would never arrive.

But of course it eventually did.

The school our boys attend have a policy in place regarding birthday invitations; they ask that the invites are handed out at the school gate and not in the classroom. This is fair as it is easier to hide the fact not everyone will be invited to the pending party when said event is ‘arranged’ at the school gate.

How to deliver invitations discreetly can be the least of your problems, however. Where to host the party can pose a bigger challenge.

The idea of a horde of seven or eight year olds descending upon your house is daunting even if the party is only a couple of hours long. A house party is also a lot more doable during the summer and with favourable weather. It can be made even easier if you have some assistance lined up in the form of other family members.

It goes without saying help such as this also applies to a winter birthday. Regardless of the season, it can be a tad difficult to entertain discerning youngsters especially when bouncy castles, magicians, face painters and party DJ’s are de rigueur.

Party venue ideas

Of course, you don’t have to remain confined to the house. There are other options available to help take the sting out of the day.

Some alternative ideas for party venues are:

Indoor family centres.

The pros for this choice are very tempting. Food and entertainment are provided. There is no clean-up for you afterwards. You are allocated a time and pretty much guaranteed the kids will have a great time. An obvious downside is the expense a party at such a venue involves. Costs can start at €10 per child and a minimum of 6 guests is required to make your booking.

A pool party.

It does exactly as it says on the tin and is proving very popular. These are great for large parties, and particularly handy if there are back-to-back birthdays in the family. You can double up and have a two-for! (Two for the price of one!). Or book with a friend to make up numbers and split the cost.

The pool is privately booked for the afternoon with fun and games plus party food before an hour in the water. A thumbs down for a pool party would have to be stress levels. You are not the life guard on duty but you will be pool-side watching 20 or more kids in a large body of water.

The cinema.

If your child has a select couple of friends, like my son, the cinema is an excellent choice. Most offer a ‘Kid’s Club’ which includes popcorn, a bag of jellies and a drink in the admission price. There is no obvious downside to this option providing everyone is happy with the movie choice!

Quad biking.

An option such as this can start at €45 per person and the minimum age is six. There will be a full safety brief after which you get a helmet and meet your bike. Initial training takes place on flat ground and gradually moves onto more ambitious terrain. A great idea for the adventurous.

Discovery parks.

These are a fantastic choice for a summer party and there is usually plenty to do for younger children. Most will cater for children aged seven and over with Tree Top Walks and Climbing Walls. Be aware, however, that some attractions are at an extra cost. Pack a picnic and everyone is happy.

There is a massive and impressive array of birthday packages available today to help you celebrate your child’s birthday in style, but as long as fun is had by all it will be a success. Whatever way you choose to celebrate it.

Cake!

birthday party inspiration

Who doesn’t love cake? We have lots of show stopper cake ideas for you to use or adust to your child’s tastes.

Our Rocky Road Chocolate cake will satisfy any chocoholic fan – simply amazing. 

Our Sumptuous Summer Berries cake isn’t just for summer – just use frozen berries if there are no fresh available.

This easy vanilla sponge is infinately adaptable – turn it into chocolate, coffee, lemon, victoria sponge or any other family favourite.

And don’t forget to let them lick the beaters!

birthday party inspiration

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Ask Allison

Q My sister-in-law and I both work three-day weeks and we help each
other out with child minding on our working days, which up until recently has worked out really well. Between us, our kids are aged between five and nine years – the problem is that it’s now become quite apparent that we have very different parenting styles. I prefer my two daughters (seven and nine) to have a structured day. For example, in my house, we have allocated times for television and iPads, etc. My sister-in-law, however, lets the kids run loose after school – homework is ignored and my kids end up wired after eating sugary treats all afternoon. I am considering looking at after-school childcare for the kids, but I’m worried that this is going to cause a family argument. Is there a diplomatic way that I can ask my sister-in-law to introduce some discipline into her child-minding days? It certainly doesn’t do her two kids any harm when I am minding them in my own house!

A
In a word, no, there is no diplomatic way to do this as it may very likely seem like your saying that your parenting style is better than
hers. As L’Óreal says, ‘now here comes the science bit.’ Dr. Kaylene
Henderson, a child psychiatrist, wrote a very interesting blog about ‘the
science behind the Mummy Wars’. She explains that before she had
children of her own she hadn’t been aware of how parents have a
very specific sense of the right parenting style. She also found that parents could be very definite in defending their chosen parenting style. Dr. Henderson, who describes herself as a curious, scientific, open-minded person, was surprised at how defensive parents could be and, at times, of their judgemental attitude towards each other. She explained the neurology of the Mummy Wars; okay, I’ll need you to bear with me for a second. Warning; I’m about to use some neuro-techie language.

Why do we judge each other?
As we have all had different experiences, this means that we all have very different memories stored in our brains. Most of our memories are ‘explicit’ memories – these are ones that we can recall easily such as important dates that mean something to us; important birthdays, special events or stories of and about our lives.
There is another type of memory called ‘implicit’ memory that plays a
key role in our parenting. This type of memory is the stuff that you do on autopilot. Psychologists call these heuristics or rules of thumb –
such as tying your shoelace, or driving your car (once you have learnt
to do both first!). Otherwise we’d really waste a huge amount of time
pondering over tasks that we have readily available to us. This seems to be where the science bit of our parenting style kicks in. This implicit memory goes all the way back to when you were an infant being parented by your parents. This is when you started the process of storing up how they did it into your memories.
Unless you make a conscious choice and effort to parent differently, what you saw and unconsciously learnt will be your automatic go-to parenting style.

We learn habits
This can really kick into gear when we feel our parenting style is
being mirrored or highlighted by disapproval from another parent. I know the cold sweat you feel when your child decides to make their outstanding bad behaviour performance at, of course, the most public and worst time. The implicit autopilot of how your parents dealt with these outbursts will flow unconsciously from you if you haven’t worked super hard to be aware and consciously change the old habits.
What’s happening for the on-looking parent is that they see you doing something they are used to doing, but you are doing it all wrong. Simply, because that is not how they know how to do it.

Find a way that works
You both have different parenting styles – who is to say which type is correct? You just need to know what works best for your family and that’s the bottom line. The irksome feelings won’t go away. You can talk to your sister-in-law, but I’m adding a caveat that it would be hard not to hurt her feelings. What we’re possibly looking at is that you prefer a more structured form of parenting, whereas your sister-in-law has a more permissive style. I’m not sure the two styles can mix, the mixture is a bit like oil and water.
If a collaborative shared form of parenting style can be agreed upon, then that is great, but our learnt hardwiring may prove difficult to change despite the intent to do so.
Perhaps, your own instinct of changing childcare might work best for you. In terms of making childcare work; the fit is ultimately the most
important aspect as you want a cohesive congruent feeling of the other caregiver to just ‘getting it’, like in any good partnership. Best of luck
with this and I wish you both well.

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Ask Sarah

Q I’ve heard a lot about the Paleo diet and as I am very interested in reducing the amount of processed foods and grain based meals my family eats, we are considering following this diet. From what I read it seems to be a back-to-basics type of eating. Is a Paleo diet safe for children? My kids are aged seven and nine.

A The Paleo diet is one of the most fashionable diets around at the moment. It is also known as the ‘caveman diet’ and is based on cutting out processed foods, starchy foods like bread and potatoes and eating more meat, vegetables and fruit.
As fad diets go, it is not the worst but there are some good and bad sides to it. Reducing the amount of processed foods we eat is always a good idea and by doing that you will usually reduce the amount of fat, salt and sugar you eat, which is a good thing! The problem with the Paleo diet is that it also cuts out dairy (on the basis that cavemen didn’t drink milk) and this means that the diet is very low in calcium. For this reason it is really not suitable for children who do need a lot of calcium for growing bones. How did cavemen manage without dairy? They ate a lot more food than we do (up to 10,000 calories per day compared to the 2,000 most of us eat). By eating that amount of food they were able to pick up just enough calcium from green vegetables and seeds. To put it in perspective, you would need to eat 16 servings of broccoli a day to get all the calcium you need. This is easier to do if you eat 10,000 calories per day rather than 2,000.
The other problem with the paleo diet is that it is not entirely based in science. Many of the Paleo diets out there say you should not eat wheat, even though we know that cavemen did in fact eat wheat and other grains. These diets also don’t recommend that you eat blubber and the big lumps of fat that were also a large part of the caveman diet!
A final problem is that many Paleo diets encourage people to cut out beans and lentils and to get their protein from meat and fish instead. Many studies over the last few years are clear that eating too much animal protein is linked with more cancer and heart disease. Eating some vegetarian meals based on beans and lentils is a great way to get your protein without always going for meat.
Is this a diet we should follow? I think there is a lot we can learn from the Paleo diets. We could all do with eating less salt, sugar and processed foods and adding in more nuts and seeds as well as more vegetables. However, I think following a strict Paleo diet could lead to low levels of calcium and vitamin D and so it is not suitable for children or teens and adults would need to think about a calcium supplement.