Now the children are back at school the birthday party invitations will soon start to stack up. But what do you do when it's your child's turn to throw a bash? You could, of course, go down the no party route and we've done that occasionally.
You could also hire an entertainer or visit a soft play place but to me they lack soul and, more importantly, are mighty expensive.
There comes a point in every child's life when they need to run around screaming with twelve friends in a draughty village hall playing pass the parcel and musical bumps.
I'm a veteran birthday-party thrower. There have been more than 30 (I've lost count) and I have the scars to prove it. Here's my light hearted look at the lessons I learned about throwing a traditional, thrifty party.1. Under the age of.....hmm...probably seven, two hours is too long. In my experience it never used to be but I'm finding now it is (although this could be due to my advancing age). Our birthday person even found it a bit long, wanting to go home and unwrap that tempting pile of presents NOW.
2. Don't worry about inviting the whole class. I know some people do but there lies the way to madness (and expense). It gets too overwhelming. Most parents understand money sometimes limits numbers. And if they don't? Tough. Any child not invited can always come round after school for a "special" tea and play.
3. Remember there will be at least two children who do not want to do the game, join in at all, take home any cake or speak. Quite why their parents decide they are suitable candidates to be left alone with a bunch of people they barely know or are interested in is beyond me.
4. There will always be the child who pinches, pokes and upsets others, including the birthday girl. Watch them like a hawk.
5. Two hours will feel like four. You will feel utterly exhausted at the end of it. Actually, the whole weekend will probably be a write off. Don't plan anything else. The similarities between throwing a traditional party and childbirth are uncanny. Except you won't have a cuddly newborn at the end of it, just an overwrought child on a sugar high.
6. How ever many games you have planned, they will not be enough. Double your list. Search the internet, ask friends, dredge your memory for those old fashioned favourites. If that fails see number seven.
7. Invest in a bubble machine. When you don't know what to do with them, switch it on. Make sure you have enough batteries and bubble mixture so you don't frighten the kids when you turn into a blubbering mess because it won't work.
8. They love What's the Time Mr Wolf. Play it loads. But have a colouring in or face painting station set up for the more timid children. Lucky dip instead of party bags is good too (takes longer to do) and balloon drops are a hit but do that last. Little ones also like bigger ones so beg or borrow one.
9. You will have one guest, or more if you're lucky, who is a Gem. Happy, smiley and always eager to join in. Cherish them and give them a bigger slice of chocolate birthday cake.
10. If parents offer to stay refuse. If you're wise you will have a team of helpers on hand already and really, do you really want the Yummy Mummies see you make a complete fool of yourself as you hop round pretending to be a large rabbit? No, thought not.
There are plenty more tips but these are just a selection. Although they are hard work, traditional parties are fun and, in these economic times, more realistic. Forget competitive parenting, embrace simple parenting. Do you have any tips to share?