5 things I have learnt about organising a party for a four year old

1. Have a theme
For his fourth birthday Quibble wants a dinosaur party. I have no idea where this request has come from as he has no dinosaur toys or books – I would even struggle to think of any TV programmes he’s seen with dinosaurs in. He spends far more time playing with cars, pretending to be a knight or a superhero. But he is adamant. And so here I am; organising a dinosaur-themed party, sending out dinosaur invitations and buying dinosaur stickers, dinosaur name badges, dinosaur napkins, cups, plates, tablecloth…

2. Invite people
Quibble spends four days a week at nursery. I recognise many of the children in his class and I even know some of their names, but there seems very little consistency in which ones Quibble refers to as his friends. When asked who he wanted to invite, he would happily give me five names, but these names changed every time. After two days of pulling my hair out, I asked his key worker who he played with most who laughed and said, ‘Everybody, he’s a very sociable boy.’. Luckily, by the following day she had narrowed it down to manageable number.

3. Organise some games
Some party games never go out of fashion. A quick internet search reveals the essentials; pass-the-parcel, musical statues, colouring on stand-by. It also revealed the golden-rule for four year olds: kids don’t like being out – give them stickers or sweets to stop the tears. Of course the best thing about having a theme is ‘theming’ the games, which is why we will be having dinosaur books out (for emergency quiet time), dinosaur pictures to colour, little plastic dinosaurs to excavate in the sandpit and be playing ‘Pin the horn on the triceratops’, ‘Feed the T-Rex’, ‘What’s the time Mr Dinosaur?’ and ‘Musical dinosaurs’. Sometimes, I suspect I am the one who enjoys themed games most of all.

4. Feed the guests (not to the dinosaurs)
I have been to quite a few parties now and there’s really only a few things that kids actually eat: simple sandwiches (ham/jam/cheese), crisps, biscuits and cake. I think I’ll do some sticks of carrot and cucumber so the parents can put them on the plate and we’ll pretend it’s a balanced meal. Enough so grown-ups can pick at the leftovers (even though I will be making sure they have drinks and biscuits). The cake, Quibble tells me, must be a dinosaur cake. Really, it’s all about how it looks as he doesn’t eat cake. Buying one seems too expensive and a quick internet search suggests I should be able to make a stegosaurus by making round cakes, cutting them up, sticking them together in a dino-shape with jam, covering the whole thing in dyed-green buttercream and adding toblerone spikes and chocolate button spots. Just a few easy hours of slaving ahead…

5. Be enthusiastic
At this point I am grateful I am a teacher, because it has taught me that kids of any age respond to energy and enthusiasm. You need to be exciting, on their level and ever-so-slightly unpredictable. Then they will follow you, play the games, line up for the party games and enjoy the organised fun. Especially if you keep encouraging (bribing) them with stickers.

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Drinking Humble Champagne

A Mum Friend turned forty at the weekend.

There was much discussion on Ways to Turn Forty, but in the end she invited us all to a Champagne Breakfast in a tiny, local restaurant. I knew I should be very excited – it sounds such a decadent treat – but instead I found myself thinking of it as a hassle. I have a bad habit of viewing things like this as More Difficult Because I Have Children, meaning that I just focus on how much would need sorting or organising and end up asking ‘is it really worth it?’. In this case my mental list of difficulties would probably be summed up like this:

Number 1: I’ve just booked swimming lessons for Quibble on Saturday mornings, which we need to cancel if we can’t find a babysitter for Squeak. Babysitter will really have to be family because Squeak is a little High Maintenance. Family do not live very close, so will have to be invited to stay for the day.

Number 2: I’ll still have to have breakfast anyway, because Squeak will be up at six. And I’ll still have to get lunch for everyone when I get back, even though I’ve just eaten.

Number 3: I have no nice clothes to wear because in the past year I have been either pregnant or knee deep in children (I doubted the dress code would be slightly stained jeans and a crumpled old t-shirt). What do you even wear for a champagne breakfast anyway?

In the end I could also have added that getting two children up and breakfasted in the morning does not leave much time for getting ready and so I was late. It also turned out to be raining and I forgot my umbrella. When it came to it I had to take a deep breath and force my grumpy self out of the door.

Of course, you know what happened next. The food was lovely, nobody cared what I wore, I got to spend time relaxing in great company. Those few hours restored me a little and reminded me what it felt like to be calm and happy.

But more than all of that, I had a moment that forced me to see how self-pitying my grumpiness really was: one of my Mum friends turned up a little late apologising for her clothes as her toddler had had a nasty fall the day before and spent the night in hospital. He was fine now, just awaiting discharge, but she’d come straight here and not had a chance to change.

See, went that little voice in my head, it really wasn’t too difficult for you to get here, was it?