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!”

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 “

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”

Baby S’s 9 month update

It doesn’t feel like much has changed since the last update….

Baby S still loves sitting. Just sitting. Picking up things, dropping things. Putting everything in his mouth.

Still nowhere near crawling or standing although he’s just starting to get a bit more wriggly! It feels like the calm before the storm as it won’t be long before I’m chasing after him, stopping him from getting into danger etc!

9 month old baby boy
Although actually, he does bum shuffle in the bath and he did it on my neighbour’s wooden floor last week but he doesn’t get the chance on our carpeted floor!

Still enjoys his food…. avocado has now overtaken broccoli as his favourite food! He has a whole weetabix for breakfast, quite often avocado on toast for lunch, dinner is usually pasta and maybe some snacks in between. 

Despite his good appetite, he’s still small. Maybe he poos it all out, he poos 3-4times a day whereas his older brother was every few days at the same age!

He hasn’t dropped any milk feeds yet although he still sometimes just grazes at his milk, he drinks the most if I let him fall asleep on the bottle for a nap!

Bedtime routine is still the same… most nights he sleeps for 12-13 hours but every few nights he’ll wake and quickly go back to sleep with a sip of milk. He’s been teething a bit over the last month but is ok at the moment… he now has 4 teeth!

As always it’s been a busy month with play dates and coffee dates, trips to St fagans museum of Welsh life, a walk around Tredegar park and a weekend away with lots of other children and babies in Sandy balls!

He loves bath time, dinner time, playfight time with dada, baby TV (!) and babbling!

He dislikes loud noises like his big brother shouting next to him!

Baby S’s 8 month update 

If last month was the month of the jumperoo… this month has been all about sitting up!
He loves it, just sitting on the floor surrounded by toys (and of course his favourites are remote controls and mama’s phone!).


He still does his royal wave and when he’s excited he shakes his arms about! As well as sitting down (!) he loves peepo and mirrors!
So on the one hand he’s quite ‘easy’ at the moment but on the other he’s been teething the last few weeks so we’ve had some grouchy days, and a couple of times he’s coughed so hard that he’s been sick 😦

Damn those teeth! The top 2 are finally poking through.
He’s also coming out of ‘leap 6’ so more reasons to get grouchy as he learns the new skills of ‘getting’ things!


It’s mad reading his big brother’s update at 8 months – I was back in work, and W was busy trying to crawl and move! It’s nice to know I still have a few months before I go back to work… it’s going so quickly and I’m trying to make the most of it!
We’ve finished a weekly ‘totsplay’ class we were doing so I need to make an effort to take him to baby groups and drop-in classes like maybe rhyme time in the library and some musical ones. Actually I’ve taken him to messy play a few times with his older brother and he’s enjoyed that. 
Weaning is still going really well, he enjoys his food and is staring to eat more and more but hasn’t dropped any milk feeds yet. He absolutely loves munching on broccoli and cauliflower, and the only thing he doesn’t seem to like yet is pear!
His daily routine is nearly identical to W’s at this age – mad!
He’s a better sleeper than his big brother though – most night he will sleep through for 11-12 hours although we’ve had a couple of disrupted nights due to teething.
I haven’t had him weighed since his 6 month check but I do try to weigh him at home to keep on eye on him and he still seems to be around the 9th centile. He’s mostly in 6-9 month clothes but can still squeeze in to a few 3-6 month clothes. He’s in nappy size 3.

How I finally made some mummy friends!

When I blogged about whether or not to do NCT classes, I said that I’d not really made any ‘mummy friends’ first time around (although I must admit, I did strengthen some friendships I already had who had babies around the same time)
At times I felt lonely. I did loads of classes and groups but never clicked with anyone enough to ask if they fancied a coffee or play date. I was in a Facebook group for babies due/born in May 2014 but the members were dotted all around the world.

Continue reading “How I finally made some mummy friends!”

Toddler W’s 2 and 3/4 update

This is late, as usual, but I wanted to write a quick update for W as it’s just under 3 months til he turns 3!

Since his last update he just keeps getting better and better at talking! Very inquisitive little learner, full of questions…trying to get his head around dark, early mornings – ‘Is it morning, or is it dark?’ Food – ‘is it hot, or cold?’ ‘Where we going?’ ‘What’s mama doing?’


He uses descriptive words e.g.’Beautiful boy’ and ‘I’m going to have a big bum sleep’ (no idea what that means but he thinks it’s hilarious!) and uses words like ‘see’ at the end of sentences and ‘either’. 

He knows the alphabet and when we’re out and about likes reading out letters on signs etc!


He’s full of imagination, and memories. The other day he looked out to the garden and remembered eating lollipops out there with me and my sister which would have been many months ago!! He loves regaling us with stories from his day…. ‘mama and dada and W and S went to the beach….’ and loves playing pretend shops, trains and alien spaceships!

Behaviour wise he’s still good as gold most of the time but he has his moments. He thoroughly enjoyed Christmas but when we got back to routine in the new year, he was tetchy and slapped me, his dad, his nan on a few occasions. Thankfully that phase didn’t last long!

He loves being outdoors, running. He loves softplay, messy play… any play. He loves watching Paw Patrol, Blaze and the ‘washing machines’! and has started getting into films like Frozen, Lilo and Stitch and Minions. He won’t sit and watch for the whole duration… he doesn’t stay still for long! His favourite thing ever though is ‘play cars’ which is usually the first thing he asks to do when he wakes up!

He still LOVES his little brother, he’s far more interested in him than mama or dada! He’s good at keeping him entertained and loves making him laugh, and singing to stop him crying!

Eating is much the same as the last update. Thankfully he’s ‘going’ much more regularly and hasn’t been constipated for a few weeks now. Since the last update he finally showed the dentist his teeth! And took the nasal flu spray like a pro… he’s a good boy!

Even though at times he eats like a horse, he’s very lean! He mostly wears age 2-3 with some 3-4 tops but bottoms I find so hard to fit as 18-24 month are too short but most 2-3 too big on the waist… thank god for Zara leggings! 

See you in 3 months for the big birthday update! 

24 silly baby brain stories from mummy bloggers!

1. A few weeks ago, in a mist of sleep-deprived baby brain, I did a little food shop the other side of town. I got home and realised I had left the 2 shopping bags in the car park, right next to where my car was! A sheepish phone call to check if they’d been handed in, and an hour’s round trip later, I was reunited with them!!

Is that the silliest thing I can blame baby brain on? 

2. In another car park incident a few months prior, I went shopping for an hour not realising that I’d left one of my car doors wide open! 

It got me wondering about the silliest things other mums had done because of baby brain so I asked my fellow bloggers…. there are some corkers here!

Funny baby brain stories
3. Today I sent a pitching email to a company I was really keen to work with; it was a really good pitch, but I forgot my attachment, so had to send an email apologising profusely with a red face and told them I had re-attached (I hadn’t again). I tried again, apologising yet again and would you believe it, I’ve forgotten again. I’m too embarrassed to send a fourth email…. bloody baby brain. http://www.lifewithboys.co.uk

4. Does 4 kids and no rational thinking left count…..’cause we missed our flight home from Spain due to me not checking the tickets properly!! Never seen my kids move their arses so quick 😂 http://www.everyonesbuckstopshere.co.uk

5. I’ve tried looking for my glasses. They were on my face. My eyes were blurry because they were so tired. Http://lesbemums.com

6. I forgot my mobile number, it completely left my head. It would be understandable but I had had the same number for 14 years! http://www.winnettes.com

7. In the early baby days I put the dog bowl in the microwave and almost gave the meal I was meant to be heating up to the dog! http://www.suburban-mum.com

8. I recently turned up to a baby group half an hour after it had finished before going to the opticians on the wrong day for my appointment! I’m now back at work as a teacher and my class even say “is it baby brain again?” When I mess things up/can’t remember! https://littlebigandme.wordpress.com

9. Today almost 15 months after having Freddie I left my house keys at my mums after staying with her. Not so bad but I only realised when we were five minutes drive from my house! Lucky mum had her key otherwise it would have been a 60 mile round trip to get mine! http://mummytomylittlecheekymonkey.blogspot.co.uk

10. I threw dog food into the washing machine. Not sure if I was trying to feed the dog or put the washing on, I couldn’t remember which needed doing! http://www.fizzypeaches.com

11. I set my phone alarm for pm instead of am and missed my early morning train to London for an important work conference. Fortunately my employer saw the funny side! The taxi driver who was sat outside my house at 5am however did not. http://www.nomipalony.com

12. At work I exchanged on a property purchase without getting a new mortgage offer so we were £180k down on the day of completion, luckily we managed to get it sorted in the end! http://www.hellobeautifulbear.com

13. Put a bunch of cards in the post without any stamps, including a Mother’s Day card which I had written Happy Birthday in … It was a bad day when everyone started receiving their cards! http://emmaandfamily.co.uk

14. Took our dog for a walk to the woodland park at the end of the street. Only when I got there I’d picked up the lead and forgot the dog Www.beingmumbeingme.co.uk

15. I tried turning my husband down with the TV remote not long after having my first baby. He looked at me like I was absolutely crackers and I still couldn’t work out why he was laughing at me! http://www.belledubrighton.co.uk

16. 34 weeks pregnant I drove to the shop because I had crippling spd and could barely walk but NEEDED MINTS, bought my much needed extra strong mints (craving) and walked home bemoaning my painful hips… Put the key in the door and realised I’d left the car at the shop! Spent the next 6 weeks worrying I was going to leave my baby somewhere after she arrived! Blog.monkey-feet.com

17. I put a new packet of frozen veg in the cupboard rather than the freezer.. unfortunately didn’t realise until the next day 🤢 I couldn’t even blame my husband for it as it was me who unpacked the shopping!! http://www.mamawilkos.com

18. I flew to see my brother for the weekend. Went to the airport to fly home and couldn’t work out why my boarding card wouldn’t let me through to security. When I checked it I had booked my return flight for the day before! To be fair I had an 18 month old who didn’t sleep and was 5 months pregnant at the time. I managed to get home but it was a very expensive mistake 😂 http://tobygoesbananas.co.uk/

19. I took my new daughter downstairs, after my c-section, in the pram. 48 stairs, no lift and no-one to help. Anyway, I kept feeling like something was wrong. Got to the bottom and realised… I’m wearing no shoes. The long climb back up for my shoes was horrendous. http://www.katykicker.com 🙂 

20. £80 of petrol in my diesel car was probably my most expensive baby brain incident, and the £150 it cost to have it drained. 😬 http://www.fivelittledoves.com

21. Just a couple of days ago whilst driving to a play date I worried there was something very wrong with my car.. it was losing power and slowing down. Then I realised my foot was on the brake and not the accelerator 🙈 http://www.thesparklenest.com

22. I spent 15 minutes trying to get my contact lenses out of my eyes….I’d already done it a few minutes prior to this. http://www.clareslittletots.co.uk/blog

23. I lost my car keys when I was pregnant with my first. We didn’t have a spare set so had to order them from VW and I had to drive my husbands car (who had to get a lift to work). It was a total pain. I found the keys a month later – in the freezer!! I wasn’t in Ells good books for a while. Www.Somewhereaftertherainbow.Co.Uk

24. I lost my baby, panicked I couldn’t find her. She was on my back on the sling and I was shhhsing her at the time 😂Www.mummieswaiting.com

These made me smile! What’s the silliest thing you’ve done because of baby brain?!! Please do leave your funny stories in the comments section!