Just in time for Halloween, we caught up with queen of children’s parties, Joanne Kay, who founded bespoke party supplies store www.thehumblehostess.com and bombarded her with party-related questions….
How did you get into children’s parties?
I found that it was so time consuming to plan a party, all the Pinterest board creating, searching online for suitable things, ordering printables and then finding the right paper (and then finding they were designed for US size paper rather than A4) and then receiving endless boxes and discovering that some things were different sizes or colours than I was looking for and of course some ended up arriving too late due to long delivery times.
I thought that there had to be a market for somewhere that you could buy everything in one place, just get one box delivered and know that everything was the right colours to coordinate and would be with you within a few days. I did some research and set up very quickly.
It’s been a huge learning curve and is very different to my previous career in International Development for Higher Education but I am learning so many new skills and can fit it around the schedules of my children.
Your top three tips for a panicking hostess?
Think of it as a play date just with a few more people. The kids will be happy just to see each other and probably need far less entertaining than you think.
If you have other parents staying for the party then get in some drinks and a few nibbles and remember that they will be happy just to have a drink in peace.
Do as much as possible in advance. Make up the party bags, get the decorations ready to hang, pack up any food you can prepare in advance and if in doubt outsource as much as possible to willing volunteers!
If you could have any props at a party what would they be?
Balloons. Super cheap and easy to make anywhere look festive plus smaller kids seem to adore them.
What do you think makes a good party from a children’s perspective?
If you ask my 3 year old son the best thing about any party his answer will always be “cake”!
I think it is just the element of a ‘treat’ that they enjoy, whether that be seeing going to a particular venue like soft play or a farm, having fun with an entertainer, playing with someone else’s toys at their house or just a far bigger slice of cake than he’d usually be allowed at home.
Most common things that go wrong at a kids party?
The ‘horror story’ I hear most often is about numbers and rsvps. Either people who have paid for a certain number of attendees and then fewer turn up than expected or those who don’t rsvp and then turn up or unexpectedly bring along siblings.
It’s such a tricky one and I’m not sure what the answer is other than to always over cater and have a few extra party bags and something suitable like colouring sheets on hand for younger siblings.
Anything you can have on standby in case of emergencies?
I always advocate packing up a box before the party with scissors, tape, blue tack, pen and paper, wet wipes, a first aid kit and kitchen roll for any last minute decoration hanging, clearing up or little accidents.
Most importantly of all do make sure you have a takeaway planned for after the party and put a bottle of something nice in the fridge to open afterwards and toast yourself on not having to do it again for a while!
What are your thoughts on Halloween-style parties….any tips?
I have ‘rebranded’ our Halloween party this year as a ‘play date’ as I think it gives far less expectation in terms of entertainment and means that everyone else might help out a bit more! I’m making Halloween biscuits and getting the children to decorate them which I might regret…
I also think it’s wise to serve a filling tea, something like pasta that most children will eat, to counteract the effects of all the Trick or Treat sugar.