My daughters want blow torches and feminist badges for their birthday

Are We There Yet: Birthday parties with a difference

Girls enjoying their experiments at the Real Party Kids Science party in Dundrum, Co Dublin.

Good weather is forecast and cherry blossoms are blooming, both sure signs that my twin daughters are celebrating their birthday this week. They are nine on Saturday. How did that happen? It seems like only yesterday I was over-sharing in this newspaper about how in a pathetic pregnancy cliché I had a brief but intense crush on the man who delivered them in Holles Street. (Cheers, Steve!)

Now my daughters are turning nine and they want blow torches and feminist badges for their birthday. “Where did it all go wrong?” some people might reasonably ask. Or as I’ve been busy asking myself this week: “Where did it all go right?”

Luckily, they only want the blow torches to make crème brulee. They are currently obsessed with Zumbo's Just Desserts. Zumbo is this very charming Australian dessert chef who has a show streaming on Netflix.

It's like the Great British Bake Off set in a Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory and filled with highly competitive Australian people with disturbing panacotta/macaron fetishes. When I was eight going on nine I thought gelatine was something they chopped people's heads off with in France. But, thanks to Zumbo, my daughters know better.

Woodland adventures in the Castlecomer Discovery Park, Co Kilkenny.

I am a big fan of birthday parties at home but in the past couple of years the girls have wanted to get out of the house so we’ve had a science party with Real Party Kids and a safari-themed celebration at Dublin Zoo. This year it’s a climbing shindig at Trinity College Sports Centre complete with a chocolate fountain I bought online for €35 after being quoted a rental price of €400. (I feel Zumbo would approve because it means we have more money to spend on marshmallows.)

Taking the birthday party out of the house is more costly but on the upside you don’t have to spend quite so long lying down in a darkened room afterwards. Researching birthday parties we came across some great options. Here are a few to choose from . . .

Trinity College Sports Centre

What: The sports centre has lots of different party packages for children who like to get stuck in. We went for the climbing party, but they also have a swimming pool option, a trampoline party, multi-sports, dancing and even a fencing-themed birthday party. And the staff – special shout-out to Michelle – couldn't be more helpful.

Where: Trinity College Sports Centre, Dublin

Cost: From €10 a head

Food/extras: No food provided but there is a room where food can be ordered in from a local pizza place or brought from home

Contact: 01-8961812 or

Real Party Kids

We went for this option last year, and it got the “best birthday party ever” thumbs up, which is music to every parent’s ears. What I loved about it was that it wasn’t a passive party where children sit around watching a magician or a puppet show – everyone gets involved. Choose from these highly interactive themes: science, disco, bricks, crafts or the classic, which includes all the retro birthday games you could hope for. Very cool invites and top-notch party bags are also included in the price.

Where: There are two Dublin venues: Malahide Castle and Dundrum Town Centre. Real Party Kids will also bring the party to your home or community centre.

Cost: Prices start from €150 for parties at home

Extras: Homemade sandwiches, small treats and high-quality party bags provided

Contact: or

Owls Survival Party

My daughters' friends are twin girls who were born on the same day as them in Holles Street. Their birthday party is going to be this "survival experience" with Owls, the children's nature charity. From a quick read of the website this party may involve the eating of mealworms. Other things they'll be getting up to include survival-themed games and making shelters using natural materials before building fires and toasting marshmallows. The survival experience is led by a team of first-aid trained Owl leaders and we've heard really excellent reports about this crowd.

Where: Turvey Park, Donabate, Co Dublin or Fitzsimons Wood, Dundrum, both Dublin

Cost: From €180 for 15 children

Extras: You bring the food, drinks and snacks; they provide the mealworms

Contact: Mouse (or Andrew) on 087-3299936

Castlecomer Discovery Park

Birthday parties in the stunning surroundings of this Co Kilkenny park sounded so good I had to include them. Under-sevens can have a Fairy or Elf party, over-sevens can go for the Canopy Crawlers option or for over-12s there is a Zip a dee do da! party. Depending on their age, the children get a go in the Junior Woodland Adventure Course, the Tree Top Adventure Walk and for the older children there’s the Octagon High Ropes Course with a 300m zipline across the lakes.

Where: Castlecomer Discovery Park, Co Kilkenny

Cost: From €15 per person (some activities are extra)

Food/extras: Price includes hot meal, drink and ice-cream (must be a minimum of 10 children)

Contact: or 056-4440707