Growing up, a smashing birthday party equalled grandma’s chocolate cake studded with Cadbury’s Gems, layers of colourful jelly frozen in glasses, fancifully called Rainbow Jelly, deep-fried potato balls and a hefty cousin dressed up as Santa to give out pencil boxes as return presents. That hasn’t been the case for a while now.
From home parties, the trend moved to bashes at gymkhanas, fast food joints and then came the party planner. Bharti Mongia, marketing head, Air France, has been hiring party planners since her daughter Ariesa’s second birthday, though she’s resisted the five-star hotel route (most charge Rs600 to Rs1,500 per child, covering food, beverages and banquet room). In Ariesa’s princess-themed party last year, she made a grand entrance in a chariot with about 100 guests watching.
Then as adults graduated from big, impersonal bashes to cosy soirees, party-weary kids followed suit. This year, Ariesa’s party was a small, private affair arranged by her mum. But these self-managed parties often put increasing pressure on parents to be creative, causing dread as your child’s birthday rolls by. We compiled these tried-and-tested ideas to help you produce your own imaginative, original birthday party. Disclaimer: You may have to call in sick for a few days to prepare for the event.
Educational consultant Meera Khurana and partner Amrita Singh, who run The Little Company, a playschool in Mumbai, suggest this for kids aged four to 10. The idea is for children to experience the way their parents’ birthdays were celebrated. “Arrange a picnic in an open space, where they can connect with nature,” says Khurana. Recce the site in advance and plan a treasure hunt. Arrange for retro games such as Passing the Parcel and Dumb Charades.
Organize easily transportable snacks and disposable cutlery. Encourage the kids to clean up after themselves. “Grandparents love being involved in kiddie parties, so take them along. Just make sure you take folding chairs and pick a spot that’s walking distance from a bathroom,” Singh advises.
l Uran, Manori or Alibaug beaches near Mumbai: Free
l Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Borivili, Mumbai: Rs10 children, Rs20 adults
l Garden of Five Senses, near Saket, New Delhi: Rs15
l Nehru Park, Chanakya Puri, New Delhi: Free
This works for children above seven. Graphic designer and mother of two, Gitanjali Mehta, organized a craft party for her daughter’s guests. “I set up five craft stations around my home, which kept the children busy and entertained,” she says. The kids moved from station to station—making bracelets, painting paper bags, etc. “I went shopping for craft supplies and planted two friends at each table to help the kids,” Anand says.
Khurana and Singh also believe in getting the kids involved. “Start with getting the birthday boy or girl to custom-make invitations,” Khurana says. Another activity that children love is cooking. When the guests arrive, hand them an apron personalized with their name and put them to work. Get them to make eats like banana lollies—pieces of the fruit rolled in coloured coconut dust, speared with an ice-cream stick and refrigerated, or chocolate balls made with ground biscuits, condensed milk and grated chocolate.
Approximate cost of craft materials for 25 guests:Rs2,000 to Rs3,000
This is one Singh recently organized for her friend’s five-year-old. You’ll need boundless energy and a lot of help, but invite the guests over for the day. Make it a theme party where the guests dress in an outfit they hate wearing otherwise. It’s great for comic relief. Photo labs in most cities send professional photographers who can click portraits and print them out. Put them in photo frames as take-home presents.
Meals can be arranged at home or at a fast-food joint. “It’s chaotic for the parents, but always a treat for the kids,” says Khurana. Back home, you could hire a projector and screen the latest animation movie (complete with popcorn buckets). If you have an open space around your home, try organizing rides for the children. Horse rides or small merry-go-rounds are fun; you can find these services near children’s parks. “Kids like bullock cart rides best. They are more difficult to arrange, but are a novelty,” says Singh.
Instant photos: Polaroid Rs75 each and digital Rs70-80 each, at Allied, The Party Shop, Khan Market, New Delhi
Meal at McDonalds: Rs150 per child
Horse/bullock cart rides: Rs500-800 per hour
Around the world party
Anu Madgavkar, consultant with a global management consultancy, gave her daughter’s friends a geography lesson. Madgavkar made posters of different cultures and guests played six games based on each of the continents. “Devika, my daughter, wanted everyone to win a prize,” says Madgavkar. In Asia, the kids pinned the fire in the dragon’s mouth, and got badges with dragons, or Chinese silk hand mirrors and compacts. “I shopped at wholesale markets and got some unbelievable gifts,” she says. Return presents were plastic insects and outback creatures to represent Australia, clear ice-cube shaped mints for Antarctica, Statue of Liberty erasers, and key chains like French wine bottles and Swiss cow bells. “My daughter loves colouring and so for the return presents I downloaded outlines of pictures like a Buckingham Palace guard, Dutch girls with clogs and dragons, printed and bound them into a colouring book,” says Madgavkar, who’s found that planning for the party helped in her child’s development and creativity.
Cost of prizes: Rs100 per child
Cost of return gift:Rs100 per child
Payal Shahani, a fashion design student, says her kids have attended over 200 parties and are seriously bored of parties at fast food joints, so she plans innovative dos. She and her kids, Meghna and Tushar, are film buffs and have had Bollywood themes like Hum Tum and Dhoom. “For the Dhoom party, I got invitations printed with a picture of John Abraham on his bike, but superimposed my son’s face on his,” Shahani says. A leather jacket and a bandana with Dhoom spelt in Swarovski crystals made up the birthday boy’s outfit, and all guests were given bandanas. The décor was bike cutouts and film scenes. At another party themed rock stars, Shahani hired a DJ and had dance competitions for the kids.
Cost of printed invitations: Rs50 each
Cost of DJ: Rs4,500 at Allied, The Party Shop and Rs2,000 at Sona Stores, Bandra, Mumbai
Make the take-home gifts as creative as the bash:
l Get guests to make their own presents. Hand painting pots and planting a shoot is fun and make good gifts for kids to take back home. Hand each kid a watering can for future use.
l Make T-shirts with each child’s name pre-embroidered or painted on. Get them to personalize it at the party with their hand impressions.
l Burn a CD of songs that are current hits and popular with children.
l Get together 12 photos of the kids coming to the party and print a calendar for each one.
l Give out copies of popular children’s books. These don’t figure on most kids’ wish lists, so encourage them to read.