If your child is getting older, a birthday party at an activity centre is a great idea. These parties may seem hassle-free but there are usually several different options to choose from and if you’ve not made a booking like this before it’s worth reading our top tips!
- As with any party, it’s best to avoid date clashes with other events. Chat to parents to check the date you’re planning is free before you make your booking.
- Most activity centres offer downloadable branded invites. These are a great idea as they include all the essential information regarding the activity. It’s also worth setting up a WhatsApp/Facebook group so you can easily send updates in the run-up to the party and you can share the venue website.
- Allow parents to let you know about any special requirements their children may have e.g. dietary requirements, allergies, medical conditions. As you will be paying for the activity per person and activity centres cannot guarantee extra places on the day, make it clear who the invite includes. It’s also worth noting if parents are expected to stay as spectators.
Choosing your activity
- Your child may enjoy rock climbing, as an example, but if none of their friends do and they’re not interested in trying it, it may not be the best choice of activity. Again, it goes back to keeping it simple. Choose something that everyone can get involved with regardless of their ability and likes/dislikes.
- Visit the venue before you make your booking. They may have a good website but if you turn up and you’re not impressed it’s not worth booking it. Other things to consider when choosing a venue are its location, parking facilities, viewing area for spectators, and independent reviews (see next point).
Check independent review sites
- In addition to your impression, independent review sites are a great way to judge a venue, check out TripAdvisor before confirming a booking. Asking for recommendations in local discussion groups on Facebook is another great source of information.
- It depends on the activity, but most will include approx. 1 hour of activity with 30-40 mins for food at the end. Prices vary but expect to pay around £15-£20 per child for the activity with food an additional cost, usually around £8.50 per person for hot food. As the time allowed for food is usually limited, we recommend booking an early morning or mid-afternoon session. That way you will not need to provide a meal for the party guests, instead, you can use the 30 mins post activity for blowing out the candles on the cake, cake cutting, and eating and handing out party bags
- Read the booking form carefully and check exactly what is included. Is your post-party area shared or private? How long do you get for setting up/clearing away? Are there any extra costs you had not budgeted e.g. will children be expected to wear special gloves for the activity that come at an extra cost? Some venues allow one free adult per child so make sure you check this out, it should be detailed in the terms and conditions.
- Read the terms and conditions fully, paying particular attention to the cancellation policy.
- Make sure you advise the venue of any special requirements any of the group may have including dietary requirements and medical conditions.
Health and Safety
- You are placing your children’s safety in the hand of others so due diligence is always advisable and will give you peace of mind. Most activity centres detail their health and safety guidelines on their website, if not ask to see a copy. A short safety briefing should take place before the activity commences with instructors present throughout the activity.
- Disclaimer forms will be required to be completed for most activities. For under 18’s these need to be completed by a parent or guardian so check if your venue provides a downloadable copy that parents can complete in advance and hand in when they drop their child off. Some activity centres will expect you as the booker to sign for the group. If this is the case, make sure you make the other parents aware of this and ensure they are happy with it. For some venues this information may be included on the downloadable invite.
Set up considerations
- If you have a private room for food and you decide to set it up yourselves check that you have at least the time of the activity for set up and time after the allocated food time to clear away. Remember, if you are setting up the room you will not be able to watch the activity. Most activity centres can set the room up for you however it’s usually only included in the cost if you choose the food package otherwise it may come at an additional cost. Local party planners also provide set up and clear away options.
- Keep food and drink simple; birthday cake, cupcakes, and/or dry snacks are easy to transport, don’t need refrigeration, and are quick to set up.
- Check what you need to take with you, if you are setting up the room yourself you may well need to take the following items with you: bin bags for rubbish, recycle bags for items that can be recycled, white tack or drawing pins for attaching decorations, paper cups, plates and napkins, cups and drinks for parents, jugs for juice, bowls/platters for snacks/food, tablecloths, food and drink, a present table/area for people to deposit their gifts, balloons and banners, party bags! Even if the venue is setting up the room you will need to remember the birthday cake, candles for the cake, matches or a lighter for the candles and a knife for cutting the cake
- Finally, music always helps to create atmosphere so check if the room you are using has a music system you can connect your phone to so your child can enjoy their favourite tunes while eating their birthday cake!
- If providing your own, keep it simple; remember set up and clear up times are limited. Choose a theme and reflect that theme in your tableware, banners, and balloons – sometimes it can be as simple as napkins branded with your child’s favourite them accompanied by colour-coordinated cups, plates, and tablecloths. Balloons are a simple and cost-effective way of adding colour and creating a wow factor and you can take them home after the party to decorate your house. You can do the balloons yourself (invest in a good hand pump to save your breath!) or work with your local party shop who can help suggest designs within your budget. They can also provide helium-filled options.
On the day
- Make sure you arrive early to meet your party host so you can run through the details for the session with them. The person you made the booking may not be the person there on the day so a quick recap of what you are expecting is always advisable.
- Most venues offer these at an additional cost but if you have time it’s worth doing them yourself as you can probably do them for the same cost, if not cheaper, you can include exactly what you want and you can personalise them. We like to try to avoid unnecessary plastic contents in party bags; seeds, colouring pencils, and pads, craft items, and books can all make good alternatives. We also suggest using a smaller pre-cut cake or cupcakes to save time.
- If these are permitted by the venue, take photos of the activity so you can send them out via your WhatsApp/Facebook group after the party. It’s also worth nominating someone to take photos of special moments like blowing the candles on the cake out, as it would be nice for you to be in these photos too.
- When it’s time to open the presents, probably when you’re back at home, try to make a list of who gifted what so you can personalise your Thank You cards.
- Have fun making some great memories!