I love a children’s party. Actually rewind, I love coming up with a theme, styling and baking for a children’s party and seeing it all come together, but like many parents I am not so keen on the ‘on the day’ stress when it is my own children’s birthday!

My introduction to full scale children’s parties was when my eldest daughter was around 3 and had just started at a new nursery school. I remember vividly walking into one of her friend’s ‘Tinkerbell’ themed parties in a rural village hall, the door opening and being met by a gorgeous, doe-eyed, Disney Tinkerbell lookalike wearing little more than a green swimsuit and sheer chiffon skirt, and thinking with horror that in this age of competitive parenting the mothers as well as the children had dressed up!! To my relief, it was the party entertainer.

My love of styling parties is not borne from competitive parenting, but rather from being able to unleash my creative side in a way that you just cannot with grown up events. That and my huge dislike of spending money on tat, which it seems when it comes to children’s parties, there is plenty around (albeit to be fair, the availability of stylish party supplies has increased greatly in the last few years). No longer, much to Mr SITS relief, do I have to order stylish tableware and accessories from France. It is also the case that much of the party decor that I use in the form of materials and ribbons is re-useable in different ways for different party themes, rather than wasting money on throw away decorations that have a one-party lifespan!

Over the years I have turned village halls and barns into theatres, fairylands and discos. One of my favourites though has to be a ballet party that was so popular with my youngest, I have now done it for two of her birthdays, with the aid of a wonderful professional ballet dancer, Sophie Adams, who comes in full stage costume to perform and entertain the children.

For me, planning a children’s party falls into four elements:

(1) Coming up with a theme, and if necessary, finding a quality entertainer that can deliver that theme.

(2) Coming up with a decor scheme to transform the venue in accordance with the theme.

(3) The party food, with some elements (in particular the birthday cake) tying in with the theme.

(4) The party favours (albeit that having battled with myself on the party bag front for the last few years, I no longer feel compelled to provide these).

In this case, having decided on a ballet theme and booked the entertainer, I then had to come up with a decor scheme. As the party was going to be held in a large barn, I concentrated on decorating a few key areas – in particular the ‘stage’  end of the barn, where the dancer would perform and hold the ballet class/games, and the eating area. I like to start off thinking of a colour scheme, was in this case comprised a little pink (of course) tempered with aqua and silver.

For the ‘stage’ end, I needed something quick and easy to put up but that would still have some impact in such a large space. I therefore bought several metres of cheap white chiffon from Fabric Land and swagged it around a length of cord that I had pinned to the wall (see photos above), and then echoed the same shaping with fake flower garlands.  I also put heart shaped mats (from Ikea) in a semi-circle facing the stage end so that each child had a place to sit while watching the dancer’s performance and playing the games, which seemed to bring some order to proceedings! It may seem like an expense to buy a set of mats, but I have more than got my money’s worth out of them – I have used them at parties for both my own and others’ children over the last five years and they are still going strong. Ikea are no longer stocking the same mats that I bought, but they have some brightly coloured small round mats in several colour ways suitable for boys and girls, and which could be used in a variety of themes here .

At the eating end of the barn, the focal point was the food table. Above this I hung a silver rope onto which I tied with strips of pink and aqua material and silver ribbons. The main photo at the top of this post, shows the material decoration at the first ballet party, while the photo immediately above shows it re-used in the same setting a few years’ later, with the addition of oversized balloons tied with co-ordinating ribbons. Having knotted strips of material onto the rope and fixing the rope at each end to the wall, I then cut the material so that there were longer strips on the outside, which gradually got shorter towards the centre.

In terms of the food, aside from the usual sandwiches and savoury bits, I did have a pink thing going on with the sweet treats – ranging from pink jellies and raspberry swirled meringues to pink iced biscuits. For the first party I made a four layer sponge cake with ombre icing (and ombre sponge inside too!) which you can just about spot in the main photo at the top of this post, but having less time to bake for the second party, it was a hurried one-colour icing piped in swirls (see above), which despite being a little messy, was still effective.

The party itself was a wonderful mix of an en pointe performance by the ballet dancer, an age appropriate ‘ballet makeover’ while the waiting children coloured and than a ballet class itself. The first of the two parties that I did was featured by Alexa & Alexa on their blog.

Fed up with the usual party bag tat that more often than not ends up discarded in the back of the car on the way home from a party, I instead made (very basic!) tie waist tutus and headbands. Disliking the gaudy pink net on offer at my local fabric shop, I opted for muted grey and silver for the tutus. I used a sewing machine to attach several layers of grey net onto some binding, gathering the net as I went, and then attached this to a long (1m or so) piece of silver ribbon so that when tied around the waist, the ribbon would hang down over the top of the netting. For the headband, I simply took a length of silver sequinned elastic and joined the ends together before sewing on a teardrop piece of felt and adhesive diamante decoration (similar available at Paperchase) together with some contrasting coloured feathers. During the party, the tutus and headbands were displayed ‘washing line style’, pegged onto silver cord and so formed part of the venue decoration as well as being party favours!

In Part II of this series of posts on Children’s Parties, I will feature a pamper party which I have just thrown for my youngest daughter.

I am always on the lookout for party inspiration and so if you have any photos or ideas for styling children’s parties, the food or the dreaded party bags, do share!

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