It’s my theory that are two sorts of people in the world.
There are Pinterest people.
And then there’s the rest of us.
When tasked with the idea of planning a party by Sky Movies this summer, I could have launched myself face first into Pinterest, and worked out how to best position the fairy lights around my home-made wigwam, in which I’d serve artisan, parmesan-dusted popcorn.
I could opt for the quickest, simplest party possible, using some of our tried and tested time-saving tips. After all – less time planning means more space for kids’ imaginations to rampage. That’s actually top parenting, right?
In the interests of full disclosure, we were provided with a hamper of Captain America-themed goodies and a copy of the movie by the team at Sky Movies – we’ll be sharing some more details about that tomorrow. But if you don’t have a ginormous hamper to hand, you can still have a kick-ass kids’ party with minimal planning and fuss. Here are my tips:
Simplify the Menu
The simple truth is that kids don’t appreciate the extra effort that goes into making pinwheel sandwiches, custom-decorated cakes and the like. In my experience, the winning menu is one that includes finger food and (unless you’re feeding toddlers) skewers.
I chop up a watermelon, strawberries and grapes, and give the children skewers to make their own fruit kebabs. It helps if you add in a few mini marshmallows, of course.
Alongside this, I’ll serve up slices of pizza, or hot dogs (I do slice hot dogs lengthways before serving kids, because they’re a major choke hazard, but there’s every possibility you’re less neurotic than me, so don’t consider this to be essential). If you’re serving hot dogs, offer kids a tray with toppings to add – mustard (mild), ketchup, onion, cheese bacon bits…
Get the Crockery Right
Simple food doesn’t mean mealtime can’t be special – you just need the right service – I find drinks are always appreciated in cute bottles with swirly straws, while hot dogs served on superhero plates or eaten with purple cutlery always seems like more of an occasion. Incidentally, this is true even if you’re 40. Remember to steer away from anything berry-based – four giggly girls and a bottle of Ribena is surely the textbook definition of asking for it.
Popcorn. Popcorn. Popcorn.
There’s nothing I don’t like about popcorn. We have a microwave bowl that lets us make fresh, oil-free popcorn in the microwave in 2 minutes flat. For Flea and her friends, I tend to whip up a plain old salted bowl, and a second bowl with cheese and chive seasoning (aka grated parmesan and sour cream flavoured dried salad dressing – sounds weird, tastes amazing). Healthy, cheap and way better for kids than the stuff you buy in the supermarkets. You can buy paper bags and boxes to serve it in for that extra ‘cinema’ feel.
I confess, I’m not a big believer in buying a whole bunch of stuff just to decorate a party. If you serve the food as a carpet picnic, all you need is a great blanket. If I do use the table, I tend to roll out some thick birthday wrapping paper, on the basis we always seem to have a bunch of rolls under the stairs. It can be taped to the table, and recycled when you’re done.
Movies make for perfect party entertainment when you’re dealing with 10 year olds. Because any game or activity I can think of is way less fun than sitting unsupervised, with your friends, giggling at something on TV. We regularly throw movie nights for friends, and settle in with a carpet picnic, popcorn and drinks with swirly straws. Make sure you turn the lights down – if you want some cool mood lighting, experiment by putting those glow sticks inside balloons – they’ll glow for up to 12 hours. My inner neurotic feels bound to remind you, of course, that some kids are allergic to balloons so check with parents if you’re going to use them, and don’t leave young kids alone with balloons – a popped balloon is a big choking hazard.
Get Creative with Invites
Let your kids create and customise their own invites – you can always download a template from the Internet, there are hundreds of free downloads available. But Flea enjoys drawing and writing her own invitations with in-jokes for all her friends. Just be sure to agree the guest list in advance, and confirm the date -Flea has been known to send invitations to her friends to spend the night with us without telling me, meaning I arrive at school on a Friday afternoon to find Flea with one of her besties, and a suitcase, all ready for a sleepover.
For our party, we agreed to invite “The Awesome Foursome” – her three best girlfriends – and her cousins. I texted the Mums to prime them to look for the invite in their kids’ school bags.
Our party is going to be a Captain America themed movie party. We’ll be serving the menu suggested above, as a carpet picnic, with mood lighting, and plenty of beanbags and cushions. Can’t wait!