Roisin Ingle on ... party planning


I spend a lot of time thinking how rubbish I am at things. Doing the washing up. Trying on clothes before I buy them. Backgammon. Remembering important dates. Roller blading. The list is long and eclectic and if I thought about it too much I’d go into a decline. Maybe that’s why when I actually do something well the mere thought of it can sustain me for days and I start to believe that not only am I quite good at it, I might possibly be better at it than anybody else in the known universe. Swing Ball is one obvious example. And on a good day Scrabble.

This week I am busy firmly believing that I am the best in the world at organising small children’s birthday parties. I am so good I am thinking of hiring myself out by the hour. I so genius at it that I am pining for the days of the Celtic Tiger when if I had set myself up as a Children’s Birthday Party Consultant my billable hours could have bought me a beachside apartment in, I don’t know, Caracas.

The whole thing just seems to come naturally to me and I’m feeling so good about myself that I’ve decided to share my knowledge with the world. (I know my trademark schtick in this space is self-deprecation so I thought I’d mix it up a bit with some good, old fashioned boasting).

Some background first. My children turned four last weekend. This meant that people came to my house and said “do you mind if I leave the children here and go watch the hurling match?”

“Not at all!” I replied, struggling to hide the hysteria in my voice. This was before I knew I was the gold medal Birthday Party Olympic champion. In the event the house was an hysteria-free zone because of my six-step party plan. Here it is:

1, Organisation. Roy Keane is my mentor here. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. I’d say he came up with it when organising one of his children’s parties. Thanks Roy!

During preparatory brainstorming sessions I came up with my KISS party method. Keep It Simple Simon. This mantra should be your guide in all things party-related to be repeated if you find yourself fretting about the paper cups matching the paper plates. (Top tip: Nobody cares!) Keep It Simple Simon and write a Running Order with no more than four activities. You are now ready to party.

2, Welcome To The Party Activity. I bought 10 sticker books in the two euro store (the two euro store is your party planning friend) and had them ready on the table for when the children arrived. This could be any activity (Fuzzy felt? Kerplunk?) that has them all sitting around a table allowing for a sort of calm to descend. Containment is key.

3, A Seemingly Pointless Task That Small Children Can Get Excited About. During one of the brainstorming sessions I blew up 50 balloons and after the sticker scenario I told the guests to take every one from the kitchen to the sitting room as quickly as they could. This was the equivalent of giving them lifetime membership to Euro Disney. Balloon fun ensued for at least 4½ minutes which is a very long time in partyland.

4, Contain Them In One Room While You Organise The Birthday Tea In Another. Balloon fun turned into Pass The Parcel supervised by the co-party planner, who chose Tainted Love as the soundtrack (not on the Running Order but I let that slide) while I went and laid out the tea.

5, A Big Bowl of Berries. Food. They are going to want some. But less is more. And cocktail sausages are an overpriced swizz. I cut up six regular sausages into child-size pieces, made homemade chicken nuggets, a couple of plates of sandwiches and brought out A Big Bowl of Berries. They fell on them like hyenas and they proved way more popular than the crispie buns which ended up trodden underfoot.

6, Simple Simon: Between the food and the birthday cake we played this and it got the biggest laughs of the day. The KISS strategy is foolproof.

7, Pinata: Hang a pinata, stuff it with random plastic paraphernalia, give them a stick and let them at it. (Employ a strictly enforced queuing system for health and safety reasons). Give them empty goody bags and let them stuff them with the plastic trinkets from the pinata.

8, Pour wine. The End. The whole thing was cheap not to mention stress-free. I have a lot more wisdom to impart but this is as much as I’m willing to offer gratis. That random plastic crap won’t purchase itself. Cheques, cash or two euro shop vouchers to the usual address.