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Creating a Traditional Kids Party in the 21st Century

By Emma at Party Box Design

Growing up in the ’80s has shaped my life. Yes, I still love to listen to cheesy 80s music, and sadly my fashion sense hasn’t changed much since then either, much to my husband’s dismay!

But for all the things to cringe about from the 80s, there’s one thing parents knew how to do back then. 

And that was how to kids party!

From parties at home with plastic sheeting on the carpet to protect it. To parties at the local community centre. And if you really hit the jackpot, a party at McDonald’s with Ronald making an appearance. Ahhh simpler times. They’re what I like to call the traditional birthday party.

Fast forward to today. And if you think about it, in reality, very little has changed.

Yes, technology has moved on – no dodgy cassette tape music where you struggle to find the start of a new song. The decorations and party bags have got way more lavish. And the choice of restaurants is as vast as the ocean. But when you boil it down, it’s still all about getting little ones together to celebrate. It’s just that these days, as with lots of things, we’re guilty of overcomplicating it.

Yes, decorations are important. It’s not a party without balloons, and a fab theme always helps. But at the end of the day kids just want to have fun. So here are my top 5 tips for creating an 80s style kids’ party in the 21st century.

Filling time

One of the biggest things parents worry about is how they will entertain the little ones at the party. Creating a mini agenda and breaking down the party into time slots will really help with this.

I always think having something for the kids to play with on arrival breaks the ice. Then schedule time for an activity or entertainment, time for sitting down to eat, for party games, and for cutting the cake, and you’ll soon fill the time with ease. By breaking it down, it’ll all seem a lot less overwhelming too.

Choose an activity

Whether it’s a bouncy castle, a disco, a magician, painting a ceramic gift or t-shirt to take home with them, or a homemade treasure hunt, having an activity that lasts up to 30 minutes will not only keep the little ones occupied for a good amount of time, but it’s a chance for them to get interactive. And it’ll give them something to talk about long after the party is over.

You can also set up a creative corner with various badge-making materials like colourful papers, markers, stickers, and badge pins. Kids can design and create their personalized badges, which they can wear during the party and take home as souvenirs. It's a hands-on activity that allows them to express their creativity while also providing them with a tangible keepsake from the event. Check out fun DIY badges by Makebadges for some ideas.

Create a party table, and you won’t need to stress about the décor

It’s no secret that I love a party table! And that’s because a party table not only looks good and provides an area for theming but because it’s practical too. It’s a place for the little ones to sit and eat. And it’ll provide fabulous, themed photo opportunities. And will add some structure to your party room or hall without the need for expensive backdrops and huge balloon garlands. Place the party table close enough to a wall, decorate the wall with banners, balloon bunches, and anything else you can think of. And you’ve cracked it!

In fact, one of my lovely customers has a fabulous solution to creating a backdrop without breaking the bank, and that’s to use a themed tablecloth. 

Here you can see two different looks she created using my Fireman Sam Party Box. The photo on the left is on the day of the party. And the one on the right is on the day of her little one’s actual birthday. Two looks using the same party supplies – now that’s clever!

And by encouraging little ones to eat together, you’re starting them on a journey they will repeat many times as they get older. Because look at us adults. It’s how we like to get together with friends and family. And at the very least, it gives the kids a little breather from all the running around.

Keep the party games short and sweet

It’s always good to leave people wanting more! Party games are a fab tradition. In fact, since we taught my nephew musical statues, he wants to play it at every opportunity. But games can be stressful too. I don’t think my Mum will ever forget me storming off in a tantrum at my own party because she didn’t let me win musical statues! So, choose just a few games and keep them snappy.  

Here are a few examples of short and sweet party games:

* Musical Chairs

A classic game that's quick and easy to set up. Play some music while the kids walk around a circle of chairs. When the music stops, they have to find a chair to sit on. Remove one chair each round until there's only one chair left and one winner.

* Balloon Pop

This game is perfect for a birthday party. Fill balloons with small treats or notes inside. Scatter them around the room. Set a timer and let the kids pop as balloons as within the time limit to reveal their prizes.

* Bean Bag Toss

Set up targets with varying point values using buckets or hula hoops. Kids take turns tossing bean bags at the targets to score points. Keep rounds short and rotate players frequently.

* Simon Says

Choose one person to be "Simon." They give commands starting with "Simon says," such as "Simon says touch your toes." If Simon doesn't say "Simon says" before the command, and a player follows it, they're out. Keep the commands fast-paced to keep the game moving.

And finally…add something new each year

It may be a different theme, a new activity, or when your little one gets to a certain age, progressing to a different type of party. Maybe that’s a party at a trampoline park or climbing centre (it was roller and ice skating back in my day!) or a tepee party in the garden. But the fundamentals are the same. You still have an activity, and I guarantee you’ll still want to get everyone together for food and cake cutting.

And always remember that kids have years ahead of them to enjoy lots of different experiences. If you give them everything now, they will always want more. And that can be hard to live up to and expensive too. What I enjoyed most about growing up were new experiences. But I didn’t need them all at once.

So, if you thought the traditional birthday party was a thing of the past. Think again. It still has its place today. And I think it always will.

For more top party tips, sign up for my free kids party planning guide here.
To browse my party boxes click here or to discuss party ideas, tableware, and decorations for your little one’s birthday drop me a line, I’d love to help out!