Planning a birthday party: Guest Blog from Laura Crichton (Edinburgh Life With Kids) | Step It Up Dance

Planning a birthday party: Guest Blog from Laura Crichton (Edinburgh Life With Kids)

With birthday party season well under way, we asked Laura Crichton of popular local blog Edinburgh Life With Kids to share her top tips on how to plan the perfect party for your child.

When I set about organising my child’s first birthday party, I thought it would be pretty simple. I was under the impression it was just a case of finding a venue, booking entertainment and providing a meal consisting of cake and mini sausages. Helium balloons were optional but always fun. But having now experienced the chaos that can descend, there’s a few things that I have added to that to do list:

Choosing a venue

Obviously, you need to consider choosing a venue that’s easy to get to for people (and easy to park). A country hall in the middle of nowhere could be picturesque but no one wants to spend a long time travelling. But my top tip for venue, is simply to not go too big.

Think about how daunting a small child could find a huge hall with loads of noise. Also consider whether children would then be able to even hear the person leading the entertainment. Although some of the bigger venues may look ideal – small is sometimes best!

You may also want to decorate your venue to a specific theme. Changing the look of a venue is much harder in a big hall. Even in a smaller venue, you may just want to focus on the decorating the table for food instead – but even this takes time to set up…

Think about setting up time (and clearing up)

Many venues are bookable by the hour and the temptation is to go for the minimum. But do think about time for setting up and clearing up. This needs to be scheduled in.

If your entertainer and guests are arriving at the same time, then there naturally would be a time in which the kids would just be running round like mad. If you can’t help this overlap, have something to occupy the guests in the meantime.

Without a doubt, set up a ‘gift table’ but also think about how you’re going to transport the gifts afterwards. As someone who attempted to move 30 presents in the pouring rain – I’ve learned this the hard way. Either enlist helpers or bring something to transport the presents in. You also need to factor this time in too – would you rather watch your child enjoy their party or stress about clearing up in time due to booking restrictions?

Timing of party

Parties tend to be at the weekend for good reason. Having attended a party with small children late on a Friday afternoon – I have witnessed the carnage that can occur: all the kids were just exhausted and the inevitable tears began fairly quickly. Early afternoon is ideal or even in the morning. Obviously, you need the venue to be available but the kids also need to have the energy to really enjoy themselves.

How much food do you really need?

Often we attend parties where the children are offered a huge amount of food at half two/three o’clock in the afternoon. Whilst they quite happily eat the food on offer, they don’t actually eat that much of it as they’re just not hungry! Huge amounts of food then gets thrown away and it just seems like a colossal waste.

Recently we’ve attended some parties where parents have simply provided a drink and fruit kebabs. I certainly haven’t heard any kids complaining about being hungry and it’s resulted in a lot less rubbish.

Children can get really hot running around, so it’s nice to have little bottles of water available for them during the party. But also plan for the inevitable trips to the toilet too! Make sure there’s one accessible when choosing a venue, but perhaps have a helper who is happy to guide the children in the right direction!

If you don’t want to spend too much time on food, rather than serving cake at the party itself, you can start snack time with singing and candles. The cake can then be cut whilst the kids are eating (or even if they go back to the entertainment) and it can then easily just be popped into a bag for home.

It’s also a really good idea to ask on invitations for parents to make it clear if their kids have any allergies or special dietary requirements. It’s not unusual for children to have allergies but it’s also generally not that difficult to cater for them. ‘Allergy parents’ are generally more than happy to suggest viable alternatives – or even to bring ‘safe’ food!

Party bags

I feel like party bags are a really nice way of ‘giving back’ at a birthday. But I’m also aware that lots of the plastic that often goes into bags is thrown away. At parties this year I’ve seen many parents opt for different bags by giving each child a book, or even just a helium balloon. 

Another brilliant option I’ve seen are ones supporting local charities. For example, Love Oliver - a local charity supporting children and families affected by cancer – provide sweetie cones in various sizes with personalised tags. It’s just a nice way to thank people for coming whilst also supporting a great charity.


Whilst ‘drop off’ parties are more common with older children, with younger guests parents do often stick around. Some venues may have a kettle but lack cups – so this is always worth checking. With small children running around, it might also be easier to offer soft drinks with the added bonus of having no washing up!

A plus of some of the venues I’ve been to is that they have separate areas for parents to wait. This has the benefit that the kids are more likely to focus on the party, but also means that parents can chat freely. Obviously, it’s nice for parents to be able to catch up but this really needs to not be at the expense of the kids hearing the party leader!

Finally, just try to relax and have a good time. With proper planning and preparation, there’s no need to be rushing around or panicking about things. Have your camera ready to document the event and just focus on your child and their big day!

Hopefully you found Laura's party planning tips useful and don't forget to check out her blog for more local knowledge and the inside scoop on family life in Edinburgh.

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