Birthdays

On this page, I have collected various things from ideas on what to do for certain ages, venues, entertainers and cake makers. Please scroll down the page.

IMG_1794Cake made by Fairy Godmother's Cakery

Some General Thoughts

Throwing your little ones birthday party is usually both exciting and exhausting. For my daughter’s first two birthdays, we had the parties at home. After all, the first one in particular really is for the parents. After the second one during which one of my friends told me she had rescued my playroom wall from one child who was hitting it with a bus and making dents, I thought it would be time to do something outside of the house for the next few parties. I am sure it gets to a point when you feel it is fine to do it at home again, but till then, here are some tips.

One general thought: many children become overwhelmed at their own parties and while they might be having an absolute ball at other parties, they might not enjoy their own. This can also happen when everyone sings Happy Birthday to them. Our nanny always used to practice singing it with our daughter when she was really little. Funnily enough, my daughter who is an absolute social butterfly, who has loved all her birthday parties and never had a bad reaction, suddenly got very self-conscious when presented with the cake and being sung happy birthday to for her fourth birthday party. For some reason she didn’t like it.

DSC_0070

Cake from Carluccio’s.

Birthday Party Tips for Various Ages – some ideas from my own children and their friends

1st Birthday

This is definitely the birthday party for the parents! We had ours at home and invited our friends as well as our daughter’s little ones.

2nd Birthday

We had School of Rock-a-bye Babies (SRBB) come to entertain the little ones at home and we were lucky with the weather too and could use our garden.

3rd Birthday

For our third, and for MANY of my daughter’s friends, the 3rd one was celebrated at Rascals in Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre followed by food and cake in Del Aziz Cafe across the reception area. We have also been to some parties at Talacre Sports Centre in Kentish Town. Doing soft play at this age is nice as they need to run around and are mostly big enough that they can cope with climbing etc themselves. Talacre has a much nicer soft play centre than Rascals, but the eating options are better at Del Aziz. You can get some really lovely food and drinks for the children and adults! Having been to enough parties at the two different places, I would opt for Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre as you can turn up not needing to organise anything apart from the cake!

Please note they book up MONTHS in advance and that you need to book the soft play and cafe separately!!! Make your child a member of Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre and you will get a discount on hiring Rascals. It works out cheaper that way.

I have also been to birthday parties given by Creative Movements and Will at Amanda’s Action Club and was mighty impressed with both of them! I even tried booking Will for one of my daughter’s parties, but he was booked up more than three months in advance and in the end I gave up as I couldn’t find a venue for when he was available.

4th Birthday 

For my daughter’s 4th birthday party we had SRBB come again. I have mentioned it before, but she is their biggest fan and it was them or nobody! We held it in the upstairs function room at Cafe Med on Loudoun Road. Sadly, the owner of Cafe Med doesn’t like to do birthday parties anymore. It is a great shame as they did a fantastic job and I think they are losing out big time!

5th Birthday

3 House Club offers great parties. I have attended a few, and also had my daughter’s 5th birthday party there, and they have been lovely. The great thing about them is that you can literally just turn up not having to organise anything. I was heavily pregnant when we held her party here and it was such a relief to just turn up and not have to do anything. If you are busy (or pregnant), this can be an invaluable option! I can’t recommend them enough!

6th Birthday

For my daughter’s 6th birthday party, it was all about bowling. We hired the King Pin Suite at Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes and everyone loved it! It was so fantastic that my husband and I threw a big adult party there ourselves.

7th Birthday

Pizza making party at Pizza Express on Langham Place close to Oxford Circus. This is a very popular thing to do. Other popular things to do are football parties, karaoke parties, cooking parties and ice skating parties.

DSC_0781

Mini cupcakes from Crumbs & Doilies.

Venues

There are quite a few church halls you can hire. I know St Mark’s Church and Church of Our Lady do, but I also know from experience having attended parties there that the noise levels become almost unbearable with just a few children and adults there (and this is before any potential entertainment has started). It is worth bearing this in mind as some children really don’t do well with noisy environments. There is also the Bowls Pavilion in Paddington Recreation Ground, but that has exactly the same problems as the church halls mentioned.

Some pubs/restaurants have upstairs function rooms you can hire. Below are some other venues:

Pizza Express on Abbey Road and on Thayer Street (it is the same street that changes names into Marylebone High Street a block later) both offer private rooms upstairs and are popular venues. I have attended parties in both venues and they are lovely.

Cafe Richoux in St John’s Wood has an upstairs room that often is used for birthday parties.

3 House Club (behind St John’s Wood High Street) has various options for parties. You can either rent a room or they can put it on for you doing it all including the entertainment. We held our daughter’s fifth birthday party there and it was fantastic. I was heavily pregnant at the time and it was such a relief not having to worry about anything.

The Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre and Rascals Soft Play is a great place for three and four year olds to have their parties. At this age they love running around. We threw our daughter’s third birthday party there and all the children loved it. I have since been there more times than I can count for birthday parties, so it is a very popular venue. If this is appealing, book it several months in advance! For food and cake, head straight across to Del Aziz Cafe. Just make sure, you do the soft play first. A couple of parties we attended couldn’t get the eating afterwards and the children didn’t pay much attention to the food or cake even. All they wanted to do was run across the hall to Rascals and those parties ended up being stressful for everyone because of that.

I know the Everyman Cinema in Maida Vale throws children’s birthday parties where the children watch a film and then have pizza afterwards. I haven’t attended any myself, but have heard good things from others.

There is the pottery venue in West Hampstead called Art 4 Fun and their parties are truly lovely! For something different and memorable.

Speaking of arts and craft, Sarah of Mini Picassos in Kensal Rise also organises birthday parties and they are wonderful. Kensal Rise is actually quite close to St John’s Wood, so definitely worth checking out!

The Seymour Leisure Centre in Marylebone also has birthday party options, so well worth checking with them too.

The O2 Centre on Finchley Road also rents rooms.

There is a place called Poem Parties situated downstairs from the restaurant Poem Bar & Grill at the corner of Abbey Road/Boundary Road. They can take care of all your party needs including food and entertainment. It is quite a large room and can cater for many children, and easily for 30+ which I have found is almost impossible to find nearby.

You can do football and climbing wall parties too to name but a few, so plenty of opportunities for everyone and all ages.

A tip: make your child a member of the leisure centre (e.g. Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre) as you will get a reduction on the cost of hire, and they then get to attend other things for a lower price too. It saves you some money which is always nice.

DSC_0188

Entertainment

I am ONLY recommending the companies below. After my daughter went to 16+ birthday parties during one year, I feel I have become a bit of a party expert. My actual job is in music (opera), and as many companies offer various music things I must say it takes a lot for me to be impressed. Pretty much everything I have seen and heard has been terrible, and of bad quality. Almost anyone can put on a Snow White dress-up costume, bring an iPod on a docking station, press play, sing along to nursery rhymes and wiggle their hips which is what so many do. Knowing how much money we spend on entertainment for our children’s parties, at least spend it wisely and on good quality!

Please note, the order has nothing to do with the quality. I rate these equally high.

Creative Movements did a wonderful party for a friend of mine. It was great; calm, but still with lots of energy and the children loved it. Ginnie (the founder and creator) did it with one of her teachers, and I had a long chat with her afterwards. She even asked if I would consider becoming a franchisee, but it is not my thing nor would I have time with doing my actual job. She has an absolute passion for what she does and is wonderful.

School of Rock-a-bye Babies has done several birthday parties for us, and a Christmas party too when puppet Sven-the-Reindeer came along and made us laugh like mad. All parties have been great! As my daughter is their biggest fan (and one of the original SRBB babies from when they started in 2009 when she was born), although she is getting tough competition from my little boy now, we have had all their teachers entertaining us and they are all of an incredibly high standard. They often have an offer for NW8-mums, so it is worth enquiring with them if you are interested in booking them for a party.

The amazing Will of Amanda’s Action Club blew me away! He is so nice and just wonderful with the children. They loved him. It was nice having a man do a party too for a change. I tried booking him for my daughter’s third birthday, but never managed to as he is quite popular. I once met Amanda herself at a fair I was part of organising and raved to her about him. He made such an impression!

The party put on by 3 House Club was lovely. Similar to Creative Movements in that it was calm, but still with lots of energy. More additional information, see above under ‘venues’.

I recently took my daughter to the most lovely birthday party at Art 4 Fun in West Hampstead. It was a gorgeous party; quiet, concentrated and very creative (even for us adults who stayed and created our own pottery). I would highly recommend that for a birthday party, and I think it is perfect from ages five and up. You can also go there for fun if you are looking for something different to do on a weekend or on a rainy afternoon.

Mad Science is a group that do science related things and they also do awesome parties!

Mother Nature Science also do birthday parties. Science Birthday Party: 10% off our science parties for any NW8-mums bookings. Quote code MNSNW8PARTY10 when booking.

Food & Cakes

The Cake Creationz

Ayesha is a professional cake decorator residing in St John’s Wood. She does all kinds of custom cakes, 3D theme based cartoon cakes, cupcakes and all kinds of special occasions treats like cake pops, tarts and cookies.

IMG_2896.jpg

Pippi Longstocking by Fairy Godmother’s Cakery.

Fairy Godmother’s Cakery: Csilla who runs Fairy Godmother’s Cakery is a busy lady. She is my family’s dedicated baker and she has baked for my children and also for our adult birthdays and special occasions. Always yummy! The froggy at the top of the page is one of her creations made for my son’s first birthday.