The changing face of children’s birthday parties over the years

Trish's own birthday party  aged six. ANL-150213-175637001
Trish's own birthday party aged six. ANL-150213-175637001
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TRISH TAKES FIVE: By blogger Trish Burgess

Children’s birthday parties – a hot topic in the news lately. A few weeks ago a couple invoiced the parents of their son’s friend the sum of £15 for not turning up when he had originally confirmed his attendance.

They had booked the party at an indoor ski centre and felt they shouldn’t be left out of pocket for the child who was a no-show.

Although most people felt the invoice was taking things too far, this incident did highlight how kids’ parties have changed over the years. A few friends coming home for tea, with jelly and ice cream and a round of musical chairs, doesn’t cut the mustard anymore.

I have wonderful memories of my own childhood parties. My mum and my auntie would make cakes, scones and sausages on sticks. Games were traditional: pass the parcel and musical chairs usually sufficed, with a round of dead lions introduced as a way of getting girls high on sugar to lie on the floor and not move for ten minutes.

My brother, on the other hand, only had one party, aged six. His little friends came to ours for the afternoon but once they started gathering handfuls of soil from the garden and throwing them into the living room, the party ended prematurely and my brother was in disgrace.

We should have remembered this when we held a party for our son’s fifth birthday. It was such hard work preparing all the food and organising the games beforehand but nothing like the effort 
involved in keeping 20 kids under control. Leaving balloons scattered on the floor wasn’t one of our best ideas.

From then on, it was a relief to go to the Fun Farm or arrange an afternoon bowling: paying someone else to feed and entertain them was well worth it. We had some memorable parties: a visit to the ice hockey in Peterborough was a hit and the boys loved an afternoon pretending to be spies at a centre near Cambridge.

The issue of presents has also reared its head in the news. Do you ask for money from your guests so your child can put it towards something of their choosing? I can see why some parents might prefer this but to ask outright for cash, and even specify the amount, is not something I would favour.

There can be distinct advantages to having presents rather than money. When I was a little girl there was a phase where my friends and I all bought each other Pendelfin rabbits: little stoneware characters which were very popular in the 1960s and 70s. I recently found my collection in the loft and learned that they have become quite collectable. I suspect my bunnies, without the boxes and a little chipped, might not reach the three figures that some have managed, but it was a thrill to discover that they are now sought after. But even if they were worthless, just looking at them has brought back a flood of memories of my childhood and my old friends... and that’s priceless.

n You can follow Trish on Twitter @mumsgoneto and read her blog at