Children's party ideas London
Children's birthday parties can be complicated affairs, fraught with emotion (for kids and parents alike). Here are the best children's party venues and ideas for a stress-free party.
The good bit? Partying like a child again, stuffing yourself with cake and taking pleasures from the little things, like the thrilled look your child gets in their eyes when they get to unwrap a layer and eat a sweet during Pass the Parcel.
The not-so-great part? Hosting a classful of 20-30-odd hysterical children - including yours, who spends the whole party crying because they're not allowed to open presents yet - while trying to save your six-month-old from being crushed in a ball pit. Sound familiar?
Looking for children's birthday party ideas in London to suit kids of all ages? Here's how to throw a kid's birthday party without losing your mind...
Children's party ideas for kids age 0-2
For your darling baby's earliest birthdays, we'd recommend keeping it simple. Remember, this is the only time when you'll have the freedom to design the birthday party you dream of and, yes, it totally counts as another celebration for you. Which means you can turn your baby's party into a sustainable, plastic-free affair and decorate it to your own tastes. We'll be using Meri Meri's new Simply Eco range, from £8.25 for a pack of eight plates, to evoke those dreamy Rococo pastel hues (with macarons to match). In gorgeous weather, take it outside for a low-key alfresco picnic party.
Meri Meri's Simply Eco tableware range
If you're christening baby or doing a naming ceremony in those early months, don't feel you have to do something over-the-top: a local gastro pub or child-friendly restaurant works beautifully. Roast in Borough Market is brilliant for accommodating large, kid-heavy groups, and the food is hearty enough to appease a still-breastfeeding mum.
Children's party ideas for kids age 3-5
When children enter nursery, you suddenly have an entire class of kids to invite to your child's birthday (if you want to). Many parents choose the soft play route - we'd recommend it so long as you don't have to be there to watch your child crash into 500 others at Gambados. Another popular option? The entertainer-style party: Sharky & George do themed or classic parties with crafting, dancing and other activities, Bertie & Boo team magic and dancing with soft play and you can find superheroes and Frozen princesses through Lucy Sparkles. Typically, the entertainer comes to a local church, library or leisure centre you hire out, so you pay for the venue hire per hour and the entertainer per hour, too.
KidZania's dance party
Children's party ideas for kids age 6+
Once your child has been in school for a couple of years, party options get more interesting as they coincide with what your child enjoys doing. Kids start to have pretty strong opinions about what kind of party they'd like to have at this age, and you tend to go from whole-class invites to more exclusive groups once you reach Year 2.
The kids' activity party is big at this age, with destinations like Go Ape, Clip n Climb and Flip Out often met with excitement (and some trepidation). They challenge kids to try new things like flipping on a trampoline or zip-lining. Sporty parties, like a football game afternoon with friends, are another good-value, popular choice.
Scientifically minded? Try a Mother Nature science party with plenty of experiments for kids to get stuck into, like slime and elephant toothpaste making. This is also a great age for a cooking-themed party: the DeeLight bakery in Balham, for example, hosts cupcake piping and pizza parties from £25 a head (bonus: you don't have to sort out any food for the party as it's all done for you). Or you can prove you're the hippest parent ever with a party at the Cereal Killer Cafe. Just think: your child will finally know the taste of sugary cereal, when all they've ever had was Weetabix...
Children's party ideas for kids age 9+
We think of this age as all about the "experience" birthday - it's not enough to do something run-of-the-mill anymore. Sleepovers are common and you can turn them into a themed affair with The Dreamy Den Company, who create sleepover packages for indoors and out (catering to mermaid-lovers, comic book fans and everyone in between, from £35 a head). Another popular home-based birthday for this age group is a VR or gaming party, from £189 with Pop Up Arcade.
If you're looking to be parent of the year, you can't go wrong with KidZania. Their parties, from £475 for four hours, are the stuff of kids' dreams: they get to run around spending and earning kidZos (Kidzania's currency) and trying out different professions like working in a bank, supermarket or hospital. Parties also include hot food, snack bags, decorations, cupcakes and room hire (you can also hire out The Dance Club with Just Dance or the Stadium with Middlesex Cricket for a cricket match or dance party to finish off the day).
As kids get older, the invite list tends to get smaller, so you can do something a bit more intimate that you might even enjoy, like a themed afternoon tea for your child and a couple of friends or tickets to a really special show. We know a few Harry Potter fans who would love to see The Cursed Child, or go on the Harry Potter WB Studio tour.