18 May 2011

Thoughts on making things for children's birthday parties

In theory I love children's parties.  They are crafty mother nirvana, full, as they are, of making and baking, collaborating with children on decorations and invitations, sewing costumes and devising games.  And, best of all, a public  forum in which to show off, because us crafty types, we do like an audience. 

But in reality I have often enjoyed them rather less than I expected.  And  I've noticed my children usually have the most fun when nearly everyone has gone and they are playing hide and seek with their cousins.

Invitations to 'Magic Party'

Jelly fish decorations 'Under the Sea' party

So, my thoughts on this subject have evolved over time.  If you go to a lot of trouble to handmake decorations and invitations and all the food and a spectacular cake and costumes and party bags, do it only because you love to.  Do not expect that the attendees will notice your attention to detail . They will be just as happy with shop bought stuff, as will your own children.

Paper Plate Turtles - Under the sea

'Bugs and Butterflies' party
And if you decide to make cupcakes, make them very very small, because, as the beautiful Bridget pointed out to me, most kids will lick the icing off and leave the cake and you will be annoyed at the waste. 
Magic birthday party

Spectacular cakes from the Women's Weekly Cookbook will get you massive 'effort' credits from other parents, and kids will think it looks amazing and will be thrilled.  But all the icing required to cover it makes for a not particularly delicious tasting cake.  You will inevitably have to make more icing than the recipe suggests, or alternatively you will have a large bowl full left over and no purpose for it.  The decorating will take way longer than you think.  You won't be able to get the icing to be red, because the icing sugar is white and everyone knows it'll go pink.  Similarly you wont be able to get black - it will be grey.  And this will be pointed out to you by several small children.  And because it takes so damn long to decorate you'll have to bake it at least the day before so it won't be fresh.   And don't decorate it with lollipops!

Ruby's 8th birthday icecream cake

On the other hand, if you decant  a tub of Sara Lee 'Mango and Passionfruit Swirl" icecream, cut it in half, put the pieces side by side* and decorate with smarties and maltesers,
it will take you about 10 minutes, it will be met with universal delight, it will be eaten by children and adults with equal relish, you'll have no left overs and you'll wish you did. 

*works best if your child is turning 8

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