Planning a birthday party for a 3 year old in Cardiff (or wherever you are!)

We recently hosted a birthday party for our 3 year old and, having not organised a children’s party before, I found the run-up quite stressful! So thought I’d share my tips so your preparations can be as stress-free as possible 🙂

Numbers

I guess you start with how many children you want to invite. W doesn’t have a huge amount of playmates, so we had a list of about 10 but then it quickly grew once we added some of his cousins, family friends etc. Before we knew it we had 25 children confirmed (but it soon went down, and on the day it was 18 – which seemed like a perfect number!)

Venue

This is one of the things that stressed me out most – where to host it!!?

Home: Nobody seems to host parties at their home any more but I definitely would have considered it if we had a bigger house! A garden party would be lovely, if only you could guarantee the British weather!

Village hall: If your house isn’t big enough, you could always hire out your local church hall/ scout hall/ village hall. From what I understand these are really cheap to hire (£20-£40 ish e.g. Rhiwbina Baptist church hall is £40, Maes-y-coed community centre is £50) some of them have lots of toys to play with, and most will have kitchen facilities. You could hire a bouncy castle and softplay equipment to go in the hall from local companies like Cardiff Event Hire for about £100. Some halls have an outdoor area which would be fab!

Softplay: We thought about a softplay party – for example toddler-friendly WamBam Boomerang’s has party options starting at £6.50 per head including food (so would have cost us about £130) and you can pay extra to have exclusive use. We were close to booking this as W loves WamBam’s, but then we thought he loves it a bit too much and it might be a bit overwhelming for him! Great value though – most of the other play places have party packages e.g. Zone on Penarth Road and Mambo’s . Actually a play area we love is Play loft in Whitchurch which is REALLY toddler-friendly and only costs £80 for exclusive use, but the parking there isn’t great. (involves crossing a couple of roads).

Leisure centre softplay: After debating the local hall in Danescourt, and WamBam options, we ended up going down the council leisure centre route – Fairwater leisure centre is just down the road from us so very handy. We paid £130 (I think!) for 2 hours in the hall with a brilliant bouncy castle and soft play equipment, and a table and chairs. I worried that the kids might get bored. They didn’t – the bouncy castle had a steps and slide too, and we really struggled to get the children off it! I would add the staff were all really friendly and helpful too. Other similar options are Llanishen leisure centre, Canton community Hall and Western leisure centre in Ely – visit the Cardiff council website for more info and be aware that all the places have different time slots etc

If you fancy this but it sounds a bit expensive, similar venues in neighbouring Rhondda Cynon Taff (e.g. Hawthorn, Church Village) have a similar set-up but think they’re closer to the £100 mark.

Other options: the only other ‘different’ thing we found, which we might consider for next year is Mountain view ranch do a Gruffalo party for £10 per head which would be fab!

When to host it

We decided on the Saturday afternoon after his birthday. Lots of people do weekday late afternoon but I think some people (e.g. working parents) might struggle to attend those. Either way, just go with what suits your toddler and his/her nap times!

Entertainment

So with the venue booked, numbers confirmed – do you want/need any additional entertainment? If we’d have gone down the church hall route we might have booked Hartbeeps to come in and do a fun creative play session – I take the boys to these classes quite often and they love them! Think it costs £100, so probably only works if your other costs like venue are low! We went to a 4th birthday party who had Little Fizz (or Party Fizz) as the party entertainment – they were great too (although my son was 2.5 at the time and just wanted to do his own thing!)

The one thing we did book was his favourite Paw Patrol characters to come and pay him a visit! We booked this through Hancocks – I thought it was great value at £25 for a 15 minute visit, including a card and present. They got really involved with the children, including jumping on the bouncy castle with them! I highly recommend them 🙂

Marshall on bouncy castle

Theme and Decorations

Talking of Paw Patrol, that was our sort of theme for the party. I didn’t want all the tableware to be Paw patrol (plus the cost adds up!) so we just got a Paw patrol table runner but the plates and cups we went for something a bit plainer! If you are planning a party with a theme, then Little Party People Supplies in Barry come highly recommended from other Cardiff mums – they can source the most unusual of themes for you!

paw patrol napkins
Food, food, food

The other stressful part of the party was working out what food, and how much to make!

In the end I think we used 3 loaves of bread – used 2 for ham, 1 for cream cheese sandwiches. We bought some packs of sausage rolls, cocktail sausages, quavers, pom bears and babybel cheese. And as a healthy option, I prepared carrot and cucumber sticks. It all went down a treat and there was plenty to go around. Other options could be fruit, cheese and pineapple on sticks, pizza slices?

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We’ve been to a few parties where the children’s food has already been put in little boxes for them – I did like this idea, the boxes are cute and it probably helps with organisation but I didn’t like the idea of the waste as they’d all go straight in the bin after! (Also, this can mean no food for the adults, but I like the idea of the adults being able to eat too!)

For drinks we took some jugs which we filled with water and squash.

We did, as most people seem to do, served the food about halfway through the party. The leisure centre staff kindly deflated the bouncy castle so that all the kids would sit down, and put it back up for us when we were ready – the kids literally couldn’t wait!

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W’s aunty had got a Paw Patrol cake made for him which he was very excited about – plus cupcakes. The children all had a cupcake each, and we cut the main cake up for the adults 🙂

Party Bags

These can be a contentious issue for many parents who might not like a) junk food/sweets etc b) plastic tat in party bags. Now I don’t mind plastic tat, and W loves it but I thought I’d be mindful that lots of people don’t like it… so we just bought Paw patrol bubbles for the Paw patrol party bags and put a slice of cake in there (which we had prepared before the party!)

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We also bought a load of Quentin Blake-illustrated books from The Book People, wrapped them in tissue paper (to avoid any fights!) and gave one to each child. The book people is great for deals – these books came in at under a pound each but the RRP is £7! We’d borrowed the idea from another party we’d been to – I think a book is a lovely gift – figured you can’t go wrong with a book and bubbles!

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You Things to remember to take

  • food, jugs for drinks, plates and cups
  • knife, candles and matches for the cake
  • party bags
  • rubbish and recycling bags for tidying up after
  • kitchen roll and wet wipes for any accidents
  • balloons – you can’t go wrong with balloons and it’s something else the kids can take home with them

Things I learnt

Everything went smoothly in the end, all the kids including W behaved really well and even W didn’t get overwhelmed or anything. So as with most things, the anticipation was far more stressful than the event itself!

There are a couple of things that are tough about being the host/hostess – you have to split your time between all the guests, so you’ll feel guilty for not chatting to everyone properly! Also, I didn’t take as many photos as I would have liked as I was so busy chatting etc. so – in future I think I’ll ask everyone to take photos, and it’s something I’ll be mindful of at other parties we go to!

And finally….

Don’t forget the ‘thank you’ cards – not everyone does these, but I do for the boys as I want them to write their own when they’re old enough. It’s an excuse for me to use websites like Vistaprint to create photo cards 🙂

Did I miss anything? Can you think of other options/tips that would be useful? If so, please leave a comment so that other parents see it! And if you found this useful I’d love it if you could share it with your friends, thank you!

W turns 3!

2 weeks ago our beautiful, lively, fun-loving, clever first-born turned 3!

It may be one of the biggest years he will ever have in terms of development – since he turned 2, his language and vocabulary have progressed like a dream, he was potty trained at about 2 and a half… but the biggest milestone he’s hit is becoming a big brother! Continue reading “W turns 3!”

A life update – lots of changes!

It feels like it’s been/still is the busiest few months of my life! I have about a month left of my maternity leave and…

Time on my own

A month ago I went to Marrakesh for 4 nights with my sister and her friend. It was SO lovely to have a child-free break, and just time by myself to relax, wander round etc. I really managed to switch off and relax, and I don’t feel guilty about it at all – I am definitely not the clingy mum type, I’m more than happy to have time away from them!


It was actually really hard coming back (a nightflight didn’t help!) and then was thrown straight into….. Continue reading “A life update – lots of changes!”

REVIEW: Bristol airport parking – is parking on-site better than off-site?!

Years ago, when booking airport parking I’d happily book the cheapest deal available – which meant parking miles away from Heathrow and Birmingham and getting bussed in, all adding quite a bit of time to our journey. The funniest off-site parking we did was when a friend booked us parking at a mushroom packing factory near Bristol airport – their minibus was running late so they dropped us off at the airport in a pick-up truck!!

For my recent child-free break to Marrakesh, I wanted everything to be as stress-free as possible, so wanted to park on-site at Bristol airport….

When I got there, it was pretty busy but I did find a space after a few minutes…. after that, what a bloomin’ treat – I could literally see the terminal and walk to it within minutes! (there’s even a bus if you’re at the far end/don’t want to walk)

 

Bristol airport
How close the terminal is to the car park!
Bristol airport car park
Lovely blossom tree overlooking the car park

Continue reading “REVIEW: Bristol airport parking – is parking on-site better than off-site?!”

Baby S’s 10 month update 

Baby S has spent most of the last month in wonder weeks leap 7…. and you can tell. We’re a bit all over the place with routine, milk and sleep, and he’s been a bit up and down grouchy wise!


At the start of the month he was teething quite bad too and we had a couple of bad nights where nothing would settle him and we were awake for hours! Overall he’s been ok though… leap 7 is all about them learning sequences and we can see that in action now… he’ll drop something over the side of his high chair and then look down to see what’s happened to it!

Continue reading “Baby S’s 10 month update “

REVIEW: Sensimar Medina Gardens hotel, Marrakech

On my 4 night break in Marrakesh, I stayed in the lovely Medina Gardens hotel…

Lobby, indoor public areas etc

It has a nice feel to it from arrival, the outside is full of plants and flowers and as you walk into the lobby you see beautiful Moroccan details like light fittings, tiles etc.

Moroccan light
Moroccan light

Continue reading “REVIEW: Sensimar Medina Gardens hotel, Marrakech”

4 days and nights in Marrakesh (child-free!)

I’m not long back from a wonderful few days away in the amazing Marrakesh – I had to share it with you, it was such a nice break! I’d visited once before, for a night, about 10 years ago and it was great to go back and explore it some more… and do a lot of chilling….

Continue reading “4 days and nights in Marrakesh (child-free!)”

Why I love travelling solo 

I’m sitting on a plane in my way to 4 child-free days in Marrakesh with my sister and her friend… can not wait!


I love travelling alone. 8 years ago I went backpacking by myself around South East Asia and Australia. It was such a big adventure. It seemed like a huge challenge at the time.
Nowadays as most of our travel is with the boys, and UK-based, a trip on a plane is a real treat… 
It’s the sense of anticipation. For your own journey… but also for everyone else’s. Where’s everyone going? What are their stories?
Always such a mix of people, I love wondering where the journey is taking them. For me, a plane ride usually involves a holiday… ideally a different culture to try out… delicious foods, thirst-quenching beers, amazing architecture, a chance to chill, take it all in…. breathe.
I feel like travel is a huge privilege that everyone should want to try. I’m always a bit baffled by people who don’t want to travel. Or who can’t travel on their own. 
But likewise plenty of people think I’m strange for having travelled by myself!


I love the feeling of independence that comes with flying/travelling on my own. I had some lonely days on my backpacking days but I also made some friends for life.
I love the excitement of new places, new cities to explore. 
I love airports, even when they’re rubbish and I hate them… I still love them…. again, it’s the people, the journeys. Oh the nights I’ve spent sleeping in airports… Kuala Lumpur… staying up all night drinking in airports waiting for early morning flights… Hong Kong… Bangkok.
I’m excited to have quality time with sis when I get to morocco but I’m enjoying these precious hours on the flight – very rarely do I have time to myself like this. Time for my book and a glass of prosecco 🙂

And now I’ve landed… and in the world’s longest queue… happy days 🙂

How to get a 6 month old baby to sleep through at night

Our first-born, W, wasn’t a great sleeper. I was hopeful that S would be a better sleeper (you can’t have bad luck twice right?!) and so before he arrived we had:

  • bought a Snuzpod co-sleeper cot (c£200) – seemingly an absolute essential according to parenting bloggers!
  • bought a Sleepyhead bed nest thing (c£120) – I had heard of these when W was a few months old – hadn’t read one bad review – this was THE thing to get babies to sleep through!
  • bought a sheepskin liner (£50) to sleep on
  • dug out W’s sleeping aids – Ewan the dream sheep (c£30) and the tranquil turtle (C£40) and of course spent a fortune on batteries for them!

The first 6 months of (no) sleep

Continue reading “How to get a 6 month old baby to sleep through at night”

Bluestone: what’s new for families with toddlers for 2017?

We just had an AMAZING weekend in Bluestone. It was our fourth holiday there, and our first holiday with another family….. and the sun shone all weekend…. we couldn’t have picked a better weekend weather-wise!

Bluestone lake
I just wanted to share some new things with you….

A new outdoor play area Continue reading “Bluestone: what’s new for families with toddlers for 2017?”