What can grown-ups learn from children’s parties?

Grown-up parties can always be improved by the presence of jelly.

There are lots of things which are a big deal when you’re five: conkers, gold stars on your work, the teacher wheeling in the TV in a lesson, and snow (topical!) to name but a few. Imagine the scene, you’re a carefree individual, you’ve just gone back to school after your Christmas holidays and the only worry that’s in your mind is remembering the list of Christmas presents you received so your answer can be immediate when anyone asks. But somehow this is all changed in an instant when you’re handed a brown-enveloped bill you didn’t expect. Unfortunately this is the scene that faced Alex Nash, who was invoiced £15.95 this week for failure to attend his friend’s birthday party.

The birthday boy’s mother invoiced Alex after he visited his grandparents instead of going to the dry ski slope party before Christmas. With both sets of parents clearly taking different viewpoints on the situation, the issue has also divided my household with opinions ranging from “It’s their fault for being rude and not telling them they weren’t going” to “Surely it’s just wrong to invoice a 5-year old” to “How is this even news?” (One of my housemates objects to being told pointless information, even though he frequently spouts it).

However, whatever your view on this ‘news’ story, you have to admit: parties when you were younger were pretty amazing. This got me thinking; why don’t we incorporate all the best parts of kids’ parties with all the best part of the parties we have now. I’ve handily come up with a few things I thought would be some good starting points:

  • · Party bags: The best part of any party for me when I was younger was the party bags. Birthday cake wrapped in kitchen roll, balloons, bubbles, bouncy balls and any other assortment of items beginning with ‘b’ (a total coincidence I promise!) Party bags meant you never left a party empty-handed and the thrill was even greater if they were themed to match the party. Just for the record, I have no time for the ‘luxury’ party bags you sometimes hear about these days. iPads are not on the list of acceptable items for party bags!
  • · Indoor play areas: I would just like to state now before I get all nostalgic about past birthday parties, that I don’t think a mix of alcohol and indoor play areas would be the perfect combination (and I’m positive I don’t want to be the one cleaning up the following day!), but part of me misses the long hours spent in sweaty, colourful, old warehouses. Ball pools, huge daunting slides, and various crazy levels to explore and run along made the best parties. I can understand the issues with drunken people in an indoor play area, those places were treacherous to a sober 7-year old, and it doesn’t bear thinking about the burns the next day. I can only imagine it would go something like the attempt to open London Zoo to visitors of an evening and sell them alcohol at the same time.
  • · Face painting: Although you could be forgiven for thinking that this tradition is still alive and well with the many fancy dress parties we all frequently attend, I’m talking about the full-on face paint of ‘ye olde parties’. You know the ones, you don’t remember how you got there, but you’re sitting, breathless from all of the running, and getting your face painted by somebody’s mum and you have no idea what’s being done to you. Unfortunately, due to the artist’s lack of experience she also has no idea what she’s doing and you end up as a butterfly-princess-tiger. On the positive side you’re too excited to notice and will probably end up smudging it within 10 minutes anyway.
  • · Excessive eating: Party food isn’t like ordinary food, it’s special. The sausage rolls are tastier, the cheese and pineapple on sticks is pointier, the mystery crisps are more mysterious and the party rings just blow everything else out of the water. Getting free food at a party seems like an almost alien concept now in our student days – unless that ‘food’ consists of a potato that somehow finds its way into the microwave to part-bake it and then gets thrown around the room creating a game of literal ‘hot potato’. My suggestion for your next house party would be for everyone to bring a ‘retro’ food item that they remember from their youth, but be warned you will get that person that brings a lowly packet of Ready Salted.

So they’re a few of my ideas to improve student parties, feel free to integrate them into your next party, just don’t feel the need to bill your guests if they don’t arrive.

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