Make sure your kids’ birthday party is one to remember with our top tips on organising a fun and stress-free bash all within your own home
While we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to kids’ party venues in Dubai, staging a party at home adds a personal touch. Plus, it’s easier than you may think.
Whether your child has a guest list as long as your arm and you want to keep your budget in check, you need to cater to a variety of age groups, or simply want to make happy memories on home turf, staging the celebration at home offers you the flexibility you need to make it work.
We spoke to some of the UAE’s leading kids’ party experts for some top tips on throwing the get-together of your little one’s dreams.
Picking a party theme
So you have a date in the diary, the invites are out and the RSVPs are rolling in – the first thing to decide upon is the theme.
“Hosting your child’s birthday party at home is a great way for them to have fun with their friends in their element and choosing a theme for the party automatically makes the planning process so much easier,” says Fatima Hamou, co-owner and operations director of event management company The Big Moo Events (+971 4 341 9935).
“For younger kids, having a unicorn theme is hugely popular at the moment while, for tweens and teens, glo (glow-in-the-dark) discos with neon decorations and glow sticks are becoming increasingly popular.”
If you’ve quizzed your child for ideas and are still none the wiser, think about the size of your group.
“If you’re only inviting a few close friends, for instance, hone in on something that’s suited to smaller gatherings, such as a teddy bear’s picnic,” says Fatima. “With that in mind, we find that kids can become overwhelmed when parties are too over the top. So although we have so many options at our fingertips, which makes it tempting to organise a big celebration, try to avoid getting carried away.”
Kids’ entertainment inspiration
Next comes the activities and the entertainment. “If your budget is limited, entertainment and activities are the biggest areas to focus on, as kids will get the most enjoyment from them,” says Fatima.
Of course, what you choose will depend on the time of year, the size of your group and the space you have available.
“For smaller apartments and villas, select activities that are more ‘on the spot’ and require less moving around, such as dance competitions, circle-based games and stationed activities, such as a face painting or having a glam station,” says Natalie Goodson of Kiducation Parties (+971 56 138 5357).
The most popular party entertainers in Dubai can get booked up quickly, so be sure to make contact with those at the top of your list at least four weeks in advance.
“Arrange an activity that engages kids one by one as soon as they arrive, then select something else that encourages all the guests to come together mid-party,” says Natalie.
“For the former, a balloon artist, face painter or arts and crafts station will do the trick nicely, distracting the kids for just enough time for parents to catch up with each other. For the mid-party show, aim for a high-energy entertainer, with a lot of interaction. For kids who are shy, a comedy magic show is often a hit as they can watch a series of tricks, with lots of laughs along the way.”
If you have a garden, a bouncy castle or slip and slide never fails to impress. Among the places you can hire them is Tumble Time (+971 4 348 8542), which has everything from a fire engine themed bouncy house to a baby bug slide for little ones.
“The most important thing to consider when booking a bouncy castle or slide is to ask if it holds a safety certificate,” says Nory Ann, senior events coordinator, Tumble Time. “European-made inflatables should hold the PIPA Safety Certificate. The material is strong, and it can cope with the force of air from the British-made Gibbons fans. This means that it does not collapse with the weight of a lot of children jumping at the same time. All our inflatables hold the PIPA certification.”
If you have different age groups at your party, consider hiring separate bouncers, or only allowing similar age groups on at one time.
“Having 12-year-olds and three-year-olds bouncing at the same time is not a good idea,” says Nory. “Plus, in the Dubai climate, bouncy castles can get hot so always book one with a sun cover. Safety is common sense but make sure you follow any additional guidelines given to you by the hire company.”
Got a swimming pool? Splash n Bounce (+971 4 813 5785) is known for its cool pool parties has a great selection of inflatables, such as the Shark Attached Slide (from Dhs750 for two hours, to the Aqua Slide with Pool, Dhs1,650). If you’re nervous about having too many kids in the pool, you can even hire a qualified lifeguard through them.
Stocking up on party food
If you want to keep costs down, there’s nothing like a spread of home-cooked nibbles to please a crowd. There are lots of blogs that offer suggestions, as well as plenty of ideas on Pinterest and you can cut down on prep time by picking up some pre-made fresh fruit and vegetable platters offered by supermarkets such as Spinneys.
If you need some extra support, we rate The Lime Tree Café & Kitchen (+971 4 325 6325) which offers curated kids’ party menus featuring tasty little nibbles such as crumbed mac ‘n’ cheese bites, New Zealand beef sausage rolls and miniature pineapple and strawberry fruit skewers. Plus, they don’t shy away from last-minute orders. You can order online up until 6pm the night before simply click and collect.
Reinventing your space
On the big day, making sure your guests have enough space to enjoy themselves may require a bit of creative thinking. “Turn the largest area in your home into the dining area,” advises Natalie. “For most people, the living room works best, so you may need to consider shuffling some furniture around in order to make space.”
Easytruck’s (+971 4 321 8532) mobile storage pods are ideal if you need to make large pieces of furniture disappear for just a short time. Of course, if you have valuable art, or sentimental ornaments, then best move them somewhere safe to avoid any damage.
“If you haven’t the space for a sit-down meal, go buffet style and set up one large table for food with stacked plates and cutlery so people can simply help themselves,” says Natalie.
Alternatively, there are many companies that rent children’s furniture and dress it up to suit your chosen theme. Polka Dot Party Hire’s (+971 55 437 4000) cute furniture, for instance, costs from Dhs10 per table or stool. Parents of older children will like their dreamy canopy tent beds for sleepovers. From Dhs900 for four beds (requiring self set-up).
If you’re decorating yourself, we rate Party Camel (+971 4 321 5156) , for its extensive range of party goodies, from balloons and bunting to tableware, party bags and favours.
When setting up activity stations, you can draw upon some handy strategies to help direct the flow of guests. Place a colouring station just outside the garden doors to encourage children outside, for instance, and stack gifts at the bottom of the stairs to discourage little ones from scampering up. Close doors to any rooms that aren’t part of the party space. Lastly, set up a separate drinks station to avoid a bottleneck around the food station.
Post-party clean up
If the party has drained you of all your energy, there are lots of cleaning companies out there that can do a post-party sweep and restore your home to its former glory. Spectrum Services (+971 4 431 0113) offers a before and after party cleaning services, including making sure the kitchen is spotless, all dishes and glasses are put away, the rubbish is taken out and the furniture is back in order. Freshly Maids (+971 4 368 1199) has a similar, dedicated service so you can steal a few moments of calm to enjoy a well-earned second helping of cake.
Birthday cakes for every budget
Blow out the candles on these beauties…
From the bakery
Magnolia Bakery (+971 4 350 5440) has a delicious range of birthday cakes starting form Dhs134. Available at Bloomingdales, The Dubai Mall; and The Galleria on Maryah Island.
Off the shelf
Marks & Spencer’s (800 62637) Colin the caterpillar cake has arrived in Dubai! The popular chocolate sponge roll is a guaranteed crowd pleaser (if it’s good enough for David Beckham’s 41st birthday…) for just Dhs79.
House of Cakes (+971 4 420 6973) can whip you up an on-trend design, from a vibrant unicorn sponge to an angry birds or paw patrol themed delight. Prices starting at Dhs200 for an eight portion cake, while more elaborate designs cost from 25-35 per person/portion. It best to place your order 4-5 days in advance.