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.
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.
I would also like to tell you about KinderGifts. It is a great initiative that helps you get presents for your child and raise money for charities at the same time.
Since my daughter was 5 years old, we have always asked for a donation to a chosen charity instead of presents. It started when one of my daughter’s friends at school needed to raise money towards a very specific treatment for neuroblastoma cancer. My daughter wanted to help ‘buy her medicine’ – it was her idea. I was so proud of her and ever since then we have continued doing that and are now doing the same with our son.
I felt it was a good way of introducing my children to the concept of giving back.
Birthday Party Tips for Various Ages – Some Ideas from My Own Children and Their Friends
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.
We had the lovely and energetic Anita of Caterpillar Music come to entertain the little ones at home and we were lucky with the weather too and could use our garden.
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.
4th & 5th Birthday
For my daughter’s 4th birthday party we had Anita of Caterpillar Music come again. 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!
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.
From 8+ it seems the children mostly want to do small parties like sleepover ones or taking their closest friends to the cinema.
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 offers private rooms upstairs and is a popular venue. I have both held and attended parties there and they have been fun. The children seem to love the pizza making parties.
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.
The lovely Crocker’s Folly here in St John’s Wood is a hidden gem. Their food is amazing and they also do wonderful birthday parties. You would have to get your own entertainer and if you want a specific cake, you have to organise that too, but that is easy. Everything else, they can do for you.
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.
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.
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.
Amanda’s Action Club blew me away! They were so nice and just wonderful with the children.
My daughter has been to most lovely birthday parties 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.
Latino Bambino are also great and my son loved them!
Food & Cakes
The Belsize Cake Shop is run by one of our mums. She makes not just beautiful cakes – they are works of art – but also delicious ones.
Fairy Cake is a mum turned baker. Her creations are delicious, creative and beautiful.
Jeanette Rauch Photography does a wide array of shoots including birthdays. She has done work for me.