The foundation of a great kid’s party in my youth was the party games.
Personal favourites included taking turns to eat a bar of chocolate with a knife and fork while wearing a hat, scarf and gloves, and a harder-than-you’d-think contest where you had to guess how a long a minute was by counting to sixty in your head (oh, the jeopardy).
Anyone in the prime of their childhood in the 80s and 90s will remember a certain, seasoned entertainment team who would let the child who’d given the most spirited performance of Black Lace’s ‘Superman’ choose their prize from a selection of individually wrapped Weetabix, promotional sachets of PG Tips or Brillo Pads. And we lived for it.
I’m not suggesting that younger generations don’t enjoy party games; from what I’ve seen they most definitely do. It’s just that party venues and themes were more limited in years gone by whereas now the options seem endless.
As ‘Does anyone have any ideas for an X year old’s birthday party’ is one of the most popular threads in some social media groups, here’s a handy collection of ideas, which will ensure your little one’s big day is legendary.
LET’S GET ACTIVE
Most children like nothing better than an hour of sweaty, feral fun. The Isle of Man has an abundance of indoor and outdoor facilities to choose from, although some are more suitable for older children. They could have a high time in the treetops at Ape Mann or prowl through the forest playing laser-tag in South Barrule Plantation. If climbing is their thing there’s Hot Rocks, bouncy types will love trampolining at the Jump Zone or for the all-round gadabout, Ellan Vannin Gymnastics Club hosts parties where kids (and enthusiastic parents) can run amok on the gym equipment. There’s also a number of sports halls available for hire for a good old fashioned kickabout.
If you’re north-based or can bear a drive ‘all the way’ to Ramsey the bowling alley has plenty to offer. Just down the road (I think it is anyway, the roads up there are a mystery to me) is one of the Island’s public swimming pools, all of which host pool parties. They’re enormous fun but aren’t quite as cool as the ones you see held in backyards on Home and Away.
Some parents are sniffy about softplay and worry about hygiene. I’m not one of them. As my Nan used to say, ‘you need a few germs’. There are a few facilities to choose from each with pros and cons depending on the age of the birthday boy/girl.
It seems deeply unjust that this wasn’t a thing when I was growing up because I know the ten-year-old me would have been living her best life at a pamper party. Lots of beauty salons and mobile therapists offer packages, which include treatments, glitter, nails, chocolate fountains, make-up and other stuff I would totally get involved in. I wonder if my sports mad five-year-old might prefer a pamper party for his next birthday? I’ll suggest it….
If you can’t party on a farm in the Isle of Man, where can you? Knockaloe Beg hosts birthday bashes as does Isle of Man Goats during kidding season.
The Wildlife Park offers an all-round experience featuring a range of weird and wonderful animals, (like the sitatunga… anyone?) the opportunity to get up-close to some of the park’s residents (although you can avoid the frankly terrifying pelicans by going the long way), some really good quality play areas and – thief of many an hour or three – the bouncy pillow.
Smaller groups can saddle up and enjoy a spot of pony trekking at some of the Island’s stables; Ballawhetstone in Ballabeg is one of them.
Decorating (and eating) cupcakes? Yes please. Or how about an expert led group sewing class or pottery painting? Rock painting is hugely popular at the moment. Collect a load of rocks from the beach, buy a decent set of felt pens, some cheap varnish from Dealz and let your guests produce their own works of art to take home. Just don’t do a Monica and insist they push the pen lids on until they hear a click.
ORIGINAL AND BEST?
Finally, you can’t overlook the joy of a good, old fashioned party. Hire a church hall, if you’re prepared to deal with a few injuries, book a bouncy castle, throw in face-painting, some games and a few crates of sweets. Then serve up a good old-fashioned party tea with crustless sandwiches, fluorescent orange and prawn scented crisps and some more sweets. Moveit offers a variety of party packages – they can arrange games, karaoke, discos and much more – so you can sit and have a coffee.
Hopefully that’s given you a few ideas and it’s fair to say most children are easily pleased, especially with the promise of some party bag tat and a slice of cake that they’ll drop all over the car on the way home.
Above all, enjoy it or at the very least, enjoy watching your kids enjoy it.