Kids’ birthday parties: it’s all got too much

The standard “church hall and pass-the-parcel” affair has fallen out of favour

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Invoicing a parent for £15.95 when her five-year-old son failed to show up at a party at a dry ski slope? Bonkers? Or a sign of the times? Maybe a bit of both, but what this episode in Cornwall mainly goes to show is that, as any parent of young children will know, kids’ birthday parties are getting out of hand. The standard “church hall and pass-the-parcel” affair has fallen out of favour. Children’s parties these days are big. And they only seem to be getting bigger.

For starters, parents feel compelled to invite every child in their offspring’s class (usually 30ish) plus adult friends for moral support (because heaven knows all mothers need moral support at events like this). Then it’s all about the THEME. Think hiring out soft play palaces, party packages at children’s farms or of course – this year’s obvious favourite – the Frozen themed party. Or just call in a party organiser who can do the work for you. For a price.

So if parties are so costly to put on, is it reasonable to charge kids if they don’t turn up? The poor boy in question only agreed verbally to going. He didn’t sign anything. He didn’t RSVP in blood. He’s FIVE for goodness sake.

A friend recently booked a party at a soft-play centre for her daughter’s fifth birthday party. Over a glass of wine she relayed the angst of planning this event, unsure who was actually going, with the centre demanding £15 per person up front. Nobody wants to be out of pocket, but at the same time, if you plan such a big affair, surely you’re the one who has to shoulder the cost if kids don’t show? The thought of parents taking other parents credit card details, or a deposit before a party does sound a little far-fetched.

Who are kids’ parties for anyway? Them? Or are they a way for parents to impress other parents? Perhaps we should go retro – church halls, party games and a sugar-laden cake? My 12th birthday party featured a Back to the Future video, some popcorn and a sleepover – and it’s stayed in my mind as one of the best ever. Come to think of it... I always relished an invite to a Burger King party, where we got to eat junk food and wear cardboard crowns. Maybe if we lowered our party expectations, parents wouldn’t be left with a hefty no-show bill.

Molly Gunn is Editor of