It wasn’t like this in my day!
I am far right, sporting a tiered creation of floral panels and bottle green nylon. Please note the compulsory ” party frock” is sported by all the girls. This one dress would be dragged out to every birthday party until it was too small. Then a new version would appear on the 1980’s party scene. Please also note the absence of village hall, ice rink, pottery cafe, laser quest or bowling alley. In the old days, we had a few musical bumps in the living room a cheese and pineapple hedgehog, some frazzles and a victoria sponge cake and everyone went home happy.
My daughter has just come past and asked if this is a photo of a Halloween party! Bit rude!
Fashion sense aside, how did we arrive at the level of children birthday parties we have now? Gone are the days of a party in the dining room. It’s a whole different ball game!
Birthday parties for children today.
With absolutely no planning at all, we managed to have two December babies, with birthdays only 6 days apart. The month of December, which is already pricey has been elevated to a whole new level of expense. Christmas, plus two lots of birthday presents and two lots of gifts can add up. For this reason, my children have second birthdays, rather like her Majesty The Queen. We celebrate with their friends in the new year when some of the madness has died down. The most recent celebrations led me to consider the different types of parties we have held and attended over the years. Please do note, these are personal opinions of great parties we have been to. There will be many other businesses offering similar ideas. Check them out!
After 11 years of birthday parties, we have certainly held and attended a wide variety. What format has shone through? Which have been brilliant but easier on the purse and which have left me in a state of nervous exhaustion, seeking wine and a darkened room?
“All in one” parties.
These parties are a dream scenario to any parent who dreads the idea of over-excited children and dishing out triangle sandwiches, chipsticks and cocktail sausages while running party games and distributing party bags.
Our children first had proper parties once they started school. Before that, we had small family affairs at home. Urmston and Stretford offer two fantastic options for those parents whose child has just started primary school and wants to invite half the school class.
Jackie Wellock has been running excellent parties for 4 to 9-year-olds at the Scout Hut on Ashfield Road, Urmston for 25 years. The parties are a traditional mix of games, dancing, disco lights and even a limbo! The party costs £130 for 20 children and food is included. Just show up with the cake and party bags and Jackie does the rest with her bubble machine and disco lights. Our children loved it and the parents get to sit, chat and have a brew! You leave feeling calm and your birthday girl or boy will be very happy.
Michelle, the “Party Hut lady” is an absolute master! Her parties for primary aged children are held at The Party Hut in Victoria Park, Stretford. Michelle runs amazingly fun parties, which include egg and spoon races, blow-up saxophones, fancy dress, disco lights, pass the parcel and even parent v. child dance-offs! Be prepared!
She has a wonderful way with the children, who are utterly captivated by her and her energy seems to know no bounds. The party package includes all the games, food and party bags, and cost us approximately £120 for 20 children. Parents arrive with the cake and chat and drink tea and coffee, while the party lady works her magic. You will not be disappointed!
Creative Children’s Parties.
For the artists among us!
Bean and Brush is a fabulous cafe in Sale, which offers not only a fine selection of tea, coffee and delicious food but is able to cater for a more creative party for your little one. The party packages last an hour and 45 minutes and include either pottery painting or decopatch and cost £13.95 per child, including food and they get to take their handiwork home.
Turn up with your cake, let the staff take care of the crafts and enjoy a coffee. Although, I am sure you can join in too!
Animal parties for children.
For those keen naturalists out there!
My son has always been a lover of animals. For his 7th birthday, we contacted Wise Owl Bird of Prey Rescue, from Huddersfield. They brought a selection of owls and hawks to Urmston and offered the children a really exciting encounter with some beautiful wildlife. A particular thrill was when all 10 children lay flat on the floor and the bird swooped low over them all. My father-in-law loved it just as much as he caught the hawk at the other end. A fabulous and different party.
We held the party in a local church hall and it was a great success with some parents lingering even though they could have left.
Although we haven’t used it specifically for a birthday party, I do know that another excellent Falconry centre, Gauntlet in Knutsford, offers three party packages for children ranging from one to two hours long, with or without party food supplied. Prices start at £150 for one hour.
This centre is a firm favourite with us anyway, as it is a great educational experience The flying displays are superb and they do so much work related to education and conservation. Worth a visit!
Active parties for active children.
I think the more active, adrenalin-fueled parties kick in later in primary school. Around 7 or 8, our two seemed to switch it up a gear. The days of pass the parcel were now a distant memory and it was all about action!
Living in Urmston, we are so lucky to have the Chill factore on our doorstep. Parties here can cater from toddler age, Mini Moose Land parties, to snowboard and ski parties for the older children. Prices start at approximately £200 for 10 children plus food in the snow park, reaching up to £300 for 10 children plus food with skiing. This is not a cheap option but certainly does bring the adrenalin.
Okay, so this definitely isn’t in South Manchester. However, with the new addition of a clip and climb wall at Urmston’s new leisure centre, I am adding this in.
Our daughter had a great time with her friends recently at Active Tameside, Medlock, where they have a fantastic clip and climb area. The children all have a safety briefing and are fitted with harnesses, before heading off to conquer the heights. As the area is allocated one-hour slots., it was never overcrowded and everyone managed to climb several different challenging walls and then glide gently back down on their safety harness. There is a great cafe and you can either opt for the fully catered party package or do what we did and order some food and bring a cake and balloon.
Here in south Manchester, our closest laser quest is at the Trafford Centre. If your child loves to chase people and shoot guns then this is their thing.
It has been popular with my son and his friends for the last couple of years. Personally, it is my idea of hell on wheels, but they loved it. Parties are for children aged 7 – 17 and cost £15,45 per child/teen. Including one game of laser quest, two climbs of the wall, Pizza Hut pizza, ice-cream and unlimited squash, it’s not a bad deal. Minimum 8 children. parents can join in if you like that sort of thing!
Inflatanation replaced Jump Nation when that business folded. It is one huge bouncy castle type inflatable experience. it’s brilliant for all ages with toddler areas and some steep slides for the thrill-seekers. Party packages start at £12.50, climbing to £20.50 per child depending on your food selection. Of course, you could take a few children, let them bounce and then pay for them to eat in the cafe.
Fusion Gymnastics offers something a bit different with a gymnastics party. For £100 children get a warm-up, party games, free play on all the apparatus and party food is served for an additional £3 per child. The party lasts an hour and a half and is something a bit different.
My daughter attends this class and staff are highly qualified and first aid trained too, so you know that the children will be well supported.
We are reaching the age where our children might only want a few friends for a sleepover, or to go bowling or to the cinema. The days of 40 reception aged children in a church hall are long behind us.
Hopefully, our experience might be useful to those of you about to venture out into the land of children’s birthday parties. It can be very expensive but doesn’t need to be. It can be calm and relaxing, as involved as you want it to be, and as active as the children can take.
Best of luck! Courage!
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