Parties in Dorset
A birthday is a momentous time in a child’s year.
After all it’s the day when they are likely to be showered with gifts, attention, cards and a pile of treats.
Unlike Christmas, a birthday is unique to them, when they become centre-stage, which depending on your child’s nature, may overwhelm them or they may absorb all the attention with glee.
Nevertheless, we all want to make our children feel special on their big day, and this heightens the importance of the birthday party.
As a result, many parents adopt a multi-faceted role where they become party planner, supreme cook, lively entertainer, room decorator, present giver and childcare supervisor. That’s quite a list, which, unsurprisingly, can seem a little daunting.
Yet, there are many alternative options that will help to lighten the load.
Outside caterers can be used, charismatic children’s entertainers can engage a room full of children for a couple of hours, and party bags can be supplied by an outside provider.
Local attractions also offer party packages and take care of all the arrangements making it an appealing option for many time-constrained families.
Currently, there are strong trends in pamper and makeover parties; Nerf, Laser Quest and science parties; and action related parties such as trampolining, go karting, outdoor pursuits, dancing, climbing – even assault courses.
Yet, parties are as individual as each child, so to assist you in the decision-making process, we’ve included a mass of ideas and tips on this party page.
Remember to keep returning to this page for when it’s your turn to arrange a party…
Party Check List
Sending invitations - Don’t leave it to the last minute to issue invitations. Send out invites approximately three weeks before the date of your party. The invite should contain all the information the guest’s parents need to know.
A Piñata - A relatively recent addition to the party circuit but these days no party is complete without one. The Piñata is a papier mache shape (often a donkey as they originate in Mexico) containing sweets.
The Piñata is hung up and the children take turns at bashing it while blindfolded. It’s a lot of fun, but be warned, stand back once it splits and the sweets come out. Piñatas are available from many supermarkets. You can also order them online.
Entertainment - If you hire someone, be sure to call them a day or two before the event to confirm they are coming.
Party Bags - The contents of an individual party bag may seem relatively cheap at first but by the time you multiply it by a classroom of children, the sum quickly adds up.
Finding an affordable alternative suddenly becomes a desirable option. Sweet tables, where jars of confectionary are lined up, similar to a candy cart, enable the children to fill their party bag with a small treat before returning home.
Alternatively, sweet cones are a popular option. These are cheap and easy to make, and look like a piping bag filled with sweets.
Sorting Food - Keep it simple and non-fussy. Just make sure there’s plenty of crisps and enough birthday cake for everyone. Provide your guests with plenty of water, you can get individual small water bottles from supermarkets for little expense.
Making a keepsake of the occasion
Make the party extra memorable for your child by making a keepsake that can be etched with the names of the party guests. Get a Teddy Bear, a canvas, or a group photo signed by the children attending the party. In years to come this will be a cherished gift and remind your son or daughter of their childhood friends.
Five Pound Gift Ideas
Does it seem like your child is attending a different birthday party each week? Needing suggestions for generic party gifts that won’t break the bank? If you are super-savvy you will have already stocked up on a number of general items in the Sales, if not, here are some ideas for a fiver:
- Colouring-in sets and basic craft kits
- Travel and Pocket games
- Top Trumps
- Books, jotters or notepads
- Pamper packages filled with hair bands, bobbles and snazzy hairclips
- Nail art kits
- Superhero action figures
Quick and Easy Chocolate Hedgehog Cake
- Buy or bake a round sponge cake.
- Divide the cake into three parts, the middle should be slightly bigger than the two sides, which should be the same size as each other.
- Cut a V-shape at the end of the middle piece of cake (this is the hedgehog’s nose). Discard the two smaller pieces. Or eat them.
- Cover the middle piece of cake with thick chocolate icing.
- Place the two remaining pieces of cake on top of the iced piece, round side up, for the Hedgehog’s hump.
- Liberally cover the entire sponge with thick chocolate icing.
- Use chocolate buttons or flakes for the Hedgehog’s spines.
- The Hedgehog’s eyes and nose can be made using Smarties or similar.
Don’t forget the candles for the cake. They are often overlooked with all the other preparations.
Needing party inspiration?
Search for the Primary Times Pinterest pages for quick and easy inspiration. Find everything from face painting designs to quick party hairstyles for the restless child.
Here are some details about party providers and entertainers close to you:
Farmer Palmer’s Farm Park
Tel: 01202 622022
Farmer Palmer’s Farm Park makes parties uncomplicated for parents and promises to offer a fabulous fun filled day for little ones. Spring is full of anticipation - beautiful baby animals are being born and it offers a wonderful chance for families to get outdoors and explore.
The dynamic team at Farmer Palmer’s is ready to help a child’s birthday go effortlessly – ensuring that your family and guests have a memorable time. Prices include child entry, free admittance for 2 adults, a tractor ride, food and drink and party bags. Party rooms are big enough to hold 32 children making joint parties possible.
Farmer Palmer’s Farm Park advert, which contains a March Free Meal Offer, is placed on the Party Page of the current issue of Primary Times magazine. To avoid any confusion, Farmer Palmer’s Farm Park Birthday party packages are already excellent value so they felt it fair and reasonable to remind you of its terms and conditions.
Farmer Palmer’s Terms and Conditions - re: Free Meal or Drink Offers
- We do not offer, or accept vouchers, for free meals or drinks within our set packages. i.e. Birthday Party Packages or Group Bookings
- No specific Free Meal or Drink Offers on Birthday Parties will result in a reduction of the price.
- Any advertised offers for free meals or drinks, in our Hen House Restaurant, apply to counter sales only and a voucher must be redeemed to qualify.
Full terms and conditions are available on the Online Birthday Booking page at www.farmerpalmers.co.uk
Tel: 07789 865934
Uniquely, That’s Ecotainment provide an ethically sourced and sustainable pop-up disco party in a wheelbarrow!
Parties are hosted by upcycling DJ Dynamo from Larmer Tree Festival Bubble Boogie, and can happen anywhere with That’s Ecotainment’s barra a bona-fide solar powered party generator, Earwig.
It’s an easy fun way to go green or as they like to say ‘Keep it Wheel’ #reduce #reuse #upcycle #boogie - that’s Ecotainment!
Tel: 01202 668681
Visit Paint a Pot at Poole Pottery to design and paint a unique masterpiece. Choose from a wide selection of pieces from plates, mugs, ornaments, money boxes and figurines.
Prices start from just £6, although this will be less with the £2 off voucher seen on the Paint a Pot advert in this issue of Primary Times.
Paint a Pot is ideal for children's parties and group bookings. Items will be glazed and fired in the Poole Pottery kilns, ready for collection after a few days. Poole Pottery can be found at The Quay in Poole, BH15 1HJ.
Tel: 01202 483444
Looking for a perfect party venue? Then take a look at the award-winning family theme park Adventure Wonderland, opposite Bournemouth Airport. A thrilling new water ride is opening in 2017 and there’s more than 30 outside rides, including Runaway train, Ghostly Galleon and Battle Boats.
There’s also Cuddle Corner farmyard, the south's largest hedge maze and the huge Aztec Wild Thing indoor adventure play centre. The kids will have a fabulous time, whatever the weather. The deal includes unlimited all-day full park play, exclusive use of a party room for one hour, a hot meal and ice lolly, plus one free adult place with every booked child.
Seashells Soft Play Centre
Tel: 07823 555970
Seashells Soft Play Centre offers soft play packages for children for any occasion, such as birthday parties, christenings, naming days, pre-schools, fetes and weddings.
The soft play is perfect for imaginative and safe play and will keep all your little ones entertained for hours. Soft play items include bouncy castles, scramble bags, a ball pit, soft play shapes, an inflatable slide, an inflatable maze and much more.
Tel: 07912 536741
Creating Colour runs jewellery making classes for all groups - from beginners to advanced – and can attend all types of events including children’s birthday parties for youngsters aged 5 years+.
Parties can be held in Creating Colour’s workshop in Broadstone, or at a venue of your choice.
Guests will be able to make a pre-arranged item of jewellery, which will be age and ability appropriate, from a wide selection of beads. Prices start from £4 per guest with a minimum of 8 children. Plus, there will be a gift for the birthday child. Find Creating Colour on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CreatingColour
Cockatoo, Make and Do
Tel: 07738 662030
Traipsing around the shops to find something suitable for party bags can be a bit of an ordeal, however, Cockatoo Make and Do have a solution to alleviate party bag worries. They offer personalised make-and-do bags, containing an age appropriate craft kit and scratch art door hanger.
Prices start from £2.50 per bag and are suitable for children aged 3 to 12 years. Cockatoo Make and Do can even theme your bags and contents, plus additional items can be added for a small additional cost. The bags are excellent as wedding favours to keep little guests amused too.
Honeybrook Family Farm and Riverside Park
Tel: 01202 881120
Honeybrook Family Farm and Riverside Park is a wonderful place to celebrate a child’s birthday. Spend the day meeting the friendly farm animals during a personal Pets’ Corner session, enjoy a VIP farm activity, and then explore the farm at leisure for the rest of the day.
Alternatively, Honeybrook also offers Wild Skills parties where children learn how to light a campfire the old-fashioned way, build a den or shelter to protect them from the elements and enjoy some natural crafts. These parties are perfect for your budding Bear Grylls’ and amateur Attenboroughs! Parties can be tailored to the interests of the birthday boy or girl and a theme of their choice.
Pop Idol for a Day
Tel: 01202 746049 or 07941 429313
If your budding starlet thinks they have what it takes to be a popstar or just loves singing, why not book a session at Pop Idol’s recording studio? Pop Idol has several packages available including a kid’s birthday party package for up to 12 children. Solo vocalist and musician sessions are also available, all set in a commercial recording studio used by many famous artists.
Tel: 07976 009825
Children's parties at Nerf Attack last two hours and include fun on the assault course, entry into the Nerf Battle zone and finish with camp fire cooking.
Parties start with a warm up on the amazing assault course, followed by time in the battle zone for army style Nerf Games. To finish, Nerf Attack offers hot dogs cooked over an open fire, where children also have the opportunity to toast marshmallows, and devour other tasty party food. Nerf Games are run all year round and are suitable for children aged 6 years+.
Outside-In Eco Arts
Tel: 07772 181 083
Looking for a children’s party that is simply inspirational? At Outside-In Eco Arts they create unique, make and take parties, that are totally bespoke to your child’s individuality.
Outside-In Eco Arts believe that anything that can be imagined can be created – using high quality recycled and natural materials too! Outside-In Eco Arts can come to your home or hired venue or you can have the party at their venue. Parties are suitable for all ages (3 years+) and abilities.
Cake Links Ltd
Tel: 01202 496249
Cake-Links in Christchurch, specialise in cake decorating tools and equipment – Icing Cutters, Sugarpaste, Cake Toppers, Modelling Paste, Modelling Tools, Cupcake decorations, Boards, Boxes and Ribbon - basically it supplies everything you would expect in a cake makers Aladdin's cave and more!
Cake-Links also hold classes and workshops where you can learn to decorate cakes, and learn techniques such as piping and modelling. Book your place online or visit Cake-Links Ltd at 95 Bargates, Christchurch, Dorset, BH23 1QQ.
Moon Studio Ceramics
Tel: Imogen 07543 165304
Create a memorable experience and get crafty at a Pottery Party. Moon Studio Ceramics in Christchurch offers bespoke parties for little artists over 4 years.
Starting with a piece of real clay, children will be able to sculpt, squidge and shape unique ceramic art from scratch before painting it with a splash of coloured underglazes. All mini-masterpieces will then be kiln fired, ready for collection around 14-21 days later. Parties are suitable for groups of up to 12 with adult supervision. Prices start from just £15 per child.
Tel 01202 983983
For a fun packed party to remember, RockReef has the answer! RockReef offers fun and adventure with 28 climbing activities, an aerial obstacle course, a pier cave, vertical slide and a leap of faith jumping challenge.
Party packages start from just £13.50pp including 1 ½ hours activity time followed by a choice of hot or cold party food in the RockReef café. The party host will receive a free vertical slide and a voucher to return as a birthday present from RockReef.
Laser Quest, Bournemouth
Tel: 01202 556888
It’s always party time at Laser Quest Bournemouth! Party packages include 2 or 3 games of Laser Quest and a refreshing soft drink.
Dedicated party hosts look after the party guests in a reserved party area where they will be served delicious hot food, unlimited soft drinks, ice cream and the birthday cake. Laser Quest birthday parties are fun for everyone. They’re hassle free for parents and offer loads of fun for kids who leave with a party bag full of goodies. Other party options include the popular ‘Kids Club’ session.
Tel: 01202 499155
For children who love thrilling and action-packed parties, Snowtrax near Bournemouth Airport is the ideal party venue. Set amongst 6 acres of glorious alpine woodland, the atmosphere is ideal for an exhilarating ride down one of the ski slopes on either a ski-bob or a ringo.
Snowtrax is an affordable choice and can cater for parties from 8 children up to 25. After an hour of either ski-bobbing or ringo-ing the party guests move into the pine-clad party room for a sit-down meal and soft drink. Look out for the £2 off voucher in their advert in this magazine.
Pavilion Dance South West
Tel: 01202 203630
Build your perfect dance party extravaganza with Pavilion Dance! Tailor your children’s party with a package that includes a birthday cake, 1 hour dance class in any style, a professional dance teacher, and a branded t-shirt and water bottle for the birthday boy or girl. Options to upgrade are also available to make sure that special day is one to remember for everyone.
Children’s Chocolate Parties
Tel: 01202 556857
‘Children’s Chocolate Parties’ is now in its fourth year of trading and is continuing to grow rapidly.
Covering all counties positioned between Bournemouth and London, business owner Leoni is able to visit your home or venue of your choice to run a fantastic chocolate party for your children. In Bournemouth, parties can also be held at Children’s Chocolate Parties’ own venue.
An additional service, new this year, are cookery parties which can be held at home. Everything is provided (except the tables) and all party goers are able to take home what they have made, apart from pizza making – where they sit and eat their creation. Suitable for all children aged from 6 to 13. There are different options to suit different ages.
Little Peeps Parties
Tel: 07766 545364
Little Peeps Parties can assist with as much or as little as you require, to ensure your little one’s next birthday is a memorable one.
Little Peeps Parties supply Dorset with children’s-height table and chair packages for children up to 8 years old, on a hire basis, at your chosen venue.
They add an extra special touch to any party, and perfectly complement the good old bouncy castle, disco or entertainer. Little Peeps Parties are available for any children’s event.
Peeks Party Store
Tel: 01202 489489
Whatever the occasion look no further than Peeks Party Store in Christchurch as they have it all! They sell fancy dress costumes, balloons, party novelties, themed party packs, personalised sashes, a balloon delivery service and much more.
Peeks have been in business for over 65 years helping people celebrate special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, Halloween, Christmas, New Year and much, much more.
Visit them at their massive 8,200sq ft store in Reid Street, Christchurch, BH23 2BT or view their full range online.
Tel: 01305 780343
Jo, Faith and George look forward to hosting your child’s party at Bella Ceramics. They offer a choice of Bronze, Silver and Gold party packages, with prices starting at £12 per person.
Aside from the ceramic painting, Bella Ceramics can also supply hot or cold party food should you wish.
The Bella Ceramics studio in Weymouth has a fresh and contemporary feel that creates a relaxed environment that is child friendly and welcoming, however should you want to host the party at a venue of your choice, Bella Ceramics can supply a ‘Painting Party in a Box’.
Jules the Entertainer
Tel: 01202 510013
Jules the Entertainer provides amazing magic and balloon shows, fun filled circus workshops and is known as one of the best balloon artists and children’s entertainers in the area.
Your child becomes the star of the show with lots of comedy and audience participation, from blindfold ballooning to escapology and more. With professional backdrops, equipment and speakers it is a show not to be missed. Take a look at his amazing 5 star reviews on www.facebook.com/julestheentertainer
Party Checklist: For parties at home
- Decide on the timings and date of the party
- Decide on how many children you can comfortably accommodate in your house
- Send out the invitations
- Sort out the entertainment if it’s required. Book the entertainer, face painter, bouncy castle
- Plan in the fun factor or create a theme
- Sort out a music playing device
- Select party games for the children to play
- Source decorations, party tableware, balloons and party hats
- Purchase the food and drink
- Get the birthday cake
Party Checklist: For parties at a venue
- Sort out party numbers
- Create a small list of your child’s favourite party venues in preferential order
- Check the availability of the venues and if there are any special deals
- Book a date and time with the venue. Pay the deposit
- Get the name and telephone number of the main party organiser at the venue
- Get the party invitations from the venue and send them out
- Sort out the food with the venue and establish whether a birthday cake is supplied
- Confirm numbers with the venue prior to the day
Party game ideas
Traditional party games always go down a treat. Here’s a list of some of the most classic children’s games:
- Pass the Parcel
- Musical Statues
- Musical Bumps
- Musical Chairs
- Chinese Whispers
- Blind Man’s Donkey
- Animal Charades
- Treasure Hunt
And here are a few new party game ideas –
- The Tray Game
- Dead Ants
- Doughnuts on a String
- Marsh-mallow Bobbing
- Piñata Games
Remember to stock up on prizes to award to the winning children.
Party food ideas
- The birthday cake!
- A choice of sandwiches with simple fillings such as plain ham, cheese and tuna. Mix some salad leaves into some of the sandwiches – if the children don’t like it they can always take out the salad! Think about supplying some healthy options which are visually appealing and tasty.
- Chopped up vegetables such as carrots, mangetout, peppers, cucumber with cream cheese or houmous for dips
- Cheese straws
- Potato wedges
- Pizza slices
- Mini sausages and sausage rolls
- Cheese and pineapple on sticks (or uncooked sticks of spaghetti)
- Crisps and popcorn
- Chopped fruit
- Mini-sponge cakes
- Jelly Boats made from scooped out and quartered oranges. (Halve an orange, scoop out the fruit, fill it with jelly. Once set, cut into quarters)
- Drinks: Either orange and blackcurrant squash, fruit water, fruit juice, milkshakes or plain water
Party bag ideas
- Books or small colouring-in books
- Glitter Tattoos
- Small packs of pencils
- Small bag of sweets
- Finger puppets
- A paper glider
- Decorate your own paper party bag
- Cake Pops
- A piece of birthday cake or a cup cake
Party politics - Invitation RSVP etiquette
For the party hosts
- Hand out the invites in plenty of time, ideally about 3 weeks before the party date.
- Include detailed information on the invitation such as the date, the start and finish times, the venue’s full address and postcode, and the name, email address and number for them to RSVP.
- Include a RSVP date to help you confirm final numbers prior to the day. You may wish to use words to the effect of: ‘As the venue requires final numbers prior to the party we would appreciate confirmation of your child’s attendance by (add RSVP date). If we do not hear from you by this date we will assume that your child is unable to attend’.
- As a second measure, about a week beforehand, you may wish to politely chase up parents who have not as yet RSVP’d.
For the guests
- RSVP as soon as you can, whether your child can make it or not.
- If something happens on the day of the party, and your child can no longer attend, let your hosts know ASAP.
- If you are running late, or need to leave early then let the hosts know in advance.
- If you have not RSVP’d then don’t just turn up uninvited.
Don't Forget Items!
- Candles for the cake
- Candle holders
- Cake knife
- You may wish to include party bags for unexpected additional guests or young siblings
- Printable directions, including the postcode of the party venue