FOR BOY Wonder’s recent 4th birthday, I wanted to do something special to reflect the energetic, thoughtful and creative boy that he has become. He’s currently obsessed with superheroes and one Caped Crusader in particular: Batman (or ‘Mat-man!’ as Little Buddha likes to shout every time a cape comes into view).
Play centres are appealing locations for birthday parties because the staff provide your celebratory entourage with entertainment, libation and insurance should anything go wrong. However, researching a few places near to us I found too many limitations: minimum numbers, rules and regulations as long as your arm and extra costs if you dare introduce a theme. So, it was back to the drawing board.
Our house isn’t particularly big (a young estate agent recently described it as ‘comfortable’ – he won’t be getting any business from us in future!) but we do have a big garden that could accommodate a bouncy castle (or ‘bounceline’ as Boy Wonder affectionately calls them) and enough space to play, eat and congregate.
So that was how it all started. A birthday party in our back garden. In late September. Involving 15 kids aged under 5. Was I mad, or should that be batty? Absolutely.
A week on, I’m just about recovered so here are my tips for organising a successful superhero party:
1. Make your own superhero party kit
There’s a lot of superhero merchandise out there at the moment but most of it’s aimed at the adult market. For instance, Batman is all about the Dark Knight. Boy Wonder only really likes the ‘Kaboom, Kapow’ version but not a lot of that style is available on a budget. We bought him an old school costume from Amazon but I decided to make nearly everything else I needed, with a little help from Hobbycraft.
Invites: I took inspiration from a craft blog called Cuttin’ It, creating similar invites although with less detail. Instead, I focused on the wording inside the card. They were relatively easy to make and visually stunning.
Masks: I thought it’d be a good activity to provide every guest (adults included!) with a superhero mask of their choice that they could decorate on the day. I found this amazing website with downloadable superhero mask templates. I made the masks using soft, coloured foam and provided glitter, googly eyes, feathers and all sorts of bits and bobs for the children to use. (I actually hoovered our decking after the party but it’s still colourfully adorned with sequins, glitter and globules of glue!)
Superhero sidekick costume: Boy Wonder insisted on his sister Little Buddha attending his superhero party as… well Boy Wonder. I trawled websites to buy a Robin costume for a 2-year-old but the few I found had really lame reviews citing poor quality for such an expensive item. In the end, I decided I’d have a go myself. Using one of my son’s many Robin figurines on which to base my ‘design’, I dug out Little Buddha’s green leggings and found an old red t-shirt to decorate. I used felt to make the various elements of Robin’s garb such as the belt and badge. I then cut a cape out of some green felt and added a press stud fastener. And with a green mask taken from the collection she was all set. On the day, she looked great. For at least the first five minutes.
2. Don’t plan too many activities
I researched ‘children’s parties’ to garner any top tips as I was a novice. One great piece of advice that I stuck to was not to plan too many activities. Ultimately, children want to play and have fun and not be continually interrupted by adults with things to do! The focus of our party was a bouncy castle but I planned 3 other activities for the day:
- Mask decorating: This wasn’t set, children could participate if they wanted and at any time during the party
- Pass the parcel: Always a winner, especially if every child gets a treat
- Pinata: The kids loved this, although there was a bit of a bun fight when all the treats emerged (we bought a Spiderman-branded one to honour our theme and filled it with cheap gifts and sweets)!
3. Hire a superhero bouncy castle
I didn’t plan too many activities because kids will go crazy for a bouncy castle, especially when they usually get only 10 minutes of bouncing at summer fayres. The Joker (aka Daddyfool) kept things lively by challenging the superhero mob to take him down or setting competitions such as who could jump the highest.
I used a local outfit that had a superhero castle that matched the party theme perfectly. Measurements are obviously important but having a clear space of 2-3 feet around the castle is also vital. Also, bear in mind that you can’t put a castle under trees. We went for an all-weather castle so the kids wouldn’t be disappointed if it rained.
4. Don’t forget the parents
My tight, miserable husband (!) thought I was a fool to worry about providing food for the adults (‘I never get fed at a kid’s party’ was his choice opinion) but I couldn’t help myself! I scaled it down from chilli, jackpots etc to a cheeseboard, nibbles and a rhubarb crumble cake. We also had a taster of Ghanaian food brought along by one of the mums, which went down a treat. The parents didn’t expect it but they were really grateful. It helped to make it an event for everyone and added to the relaxed atmosphere.
5. Be lucky (but have a contingency plan)!
September is always a tricky month with the weather and the beginning of the week suggested we’d have to contend with gale force winds and torrential downpours. But on the day we were lucky. Very lucky. A late spurt of summer sun turned the day into a scorcher and everything took place outside, including a birthday picnic meal under a gazebo. This proved great when it came to clearing up and meant the wild two hours of fun created some very tired and sleepy kids upon departure. We got lucky but we took the risk and had a contingency plan. If the sun hadn’t appeared one last time for the summer, we would have had the party inside and sent the kids out to the bouncy castle.
All in all, Boy Wonder and his superhero friends had a wail of a time. Would I do it again? Well, it’s hard work and takes up a lot of time if you do things yourself and I didn’t stop on the day. So, probably not for a few years. Next year I think we’ll go bowling…