Planning a child’s birthday party is no easy feat, considering in affluent Singapore, some children’s birthday parties have become so extravagant that it can chalk up a bomb. For David and I, our intent is always to celebrate our children’s birthday milestones with a close circle of family and friends so it need not be elaborate. We also try to keep to a pre-set budget that both of us have agreed on. Having planned no less than 10 major birthday parties in the past decade as a Mom, I thought I’ll share the process I go through when putting together my children’s birthday parties.
1. Decide on The Date and Time
We usually pick the weekend before the actual birth-date, Saturdays are preferred so that guests can still have their Sundays free. If your party falls within meal times (i.e. lunch or dinner), you do have to plan for proper catering, not just finger food and snacks. Most children below 5 years old still takes at least 1 afternoon nap from 12-2pm so we generally avoid that window period. Sometimes the date of the party is dependent on the venue you have in mind, so the first step is to start planning early, do your due diligence to ensure the venue is available for your booking.
2. Draft the Guest-list
We have typically invited relatives and close friends and the guest list will exceed 50 pax (adults and kids included). This year, for a change, we decided that we wanted a smaller scale party for us to get to know Buddy childcare classmates so we took the bold step of faith to invite their parents (most of whom we have never met before)! We wonder if anyone would accept our invitation but boy, we were so happy they did! What we did was we obtained a contact list from Buddy’s form teacher and what-sapped the invite to each parent individually, one by one. Out of 20 classmates, 15 actually RSVPed YES! The birthday boy was so pleased to see so many familiar faces. I realised that keeping the party small and intimate (max 15-20 kids) has its merits – the hosts get more time to interact with everyone and the mood is more relaxed, cosy and personal.
3. Book The Venue (MyGym@Buona Vista)
Considering that all the guests will be Buddy’s age – 3 years old, we wanted a party venue that can keep 15 toddlers safely and happily engaged. Naturally, an indoor play gym came to mind. Dana and Buddy had attended Liam’s fantastic 5th Birthday Party at MyGym (AMK) last year and loved the activities so much they never stopped talking about it. So we made a site recce to a MyGym branch nearer our home and was immediately taken in by its large, full-length windows that allow generous sunlight and greenery to stream through.
Later, when its owner Max showed us around, we were even more impressed that the Max and his wife Janice are both certified early childhood educators, majoring in special needs education. Hence, MyGym@Buona Vista has regular programmes catered to this group of children. The gym is very well-kept, colourful, inviting. For birthday party bookings, Max and his team of dedicated staff will customise a 2-hour programme based on the birthday child’s preferences. We knew instantly, this would be a awesome party venue for our pre-schooler. With their expertise, I would recommend MyGym parties for young children ranging from 1 year old to 6 year olds.
4. Consult Your Child on the Theme
Buddy’s 3rd Birthday Party was inspired by Buddy’s fav bedtime story – Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site (a #1 New York Times Bestseller, first gifted to us by Mommy Adeline of Growing With The Tans). As a Mom of a little boy, I knew one day I would have to throw a construction party and was glad that the internet had no lack of ideas on construction parties! I found an invitation card I like on www.etsy.com (Just google ‘Etsy Construction Invites‘). It cost me about SGD10 to purchase the design, then I downloaded the softcopy, personalised it and emailed/whatsapped to my guests. If you want a physical invitation card, you can bring the design to a printer at Bras Basah Complex and have it printed onto postcard size for about SGD1 per piece. Once a theme is chosen, coordinate it with all other aspects of the party, from decoration to the cake and birthday favors.
5. Order The Cake (and Dessert Table, if desired)
With so many bakeries (and home bakers) in Singapore, parents are spoiled for choice when it comes to birthday cakes. For us, we started this simple tradition few years ago of ordering birthday cakes corresponding to their age. We sourced around and discovered v few bakeries are willing (or able) to bake cakes in the shape of Number 3. We then approached Singapore’s Number 1 Durian cake maker – Emicakes. Now, not many people know that apart of baking excellent durian cakes, Emicakes is able to customise birthday cakes! Simply email them your preferred design (or your concept) and the designers will work with you to bake that cake for your party!
For this construction-themed cake, I had given them these simple requirements: it must be in a shape of Number 3, it must be in dark choc colour (with chocolate fudge filling – a real crowd-pleaser) and I will supply the toppers, construction trucks and other embellishments. To be honest, I was anxious to see how the cake will turn out but it exceeded my expectations. It felt really good to hear our guests complimenting how tasty the cake was! A presentable and delicious birthday cake really makes a good talking point for any party so you know who to go to! Here’s another beautiful customised cake done by Emicakes for Coen’s 1st Birthday.
6. Order The Birthday Favors
I shared on my Instagram account that I put a lot of thought and emphasis into the birthday favors as it’s my way of thanking the guests for taking time to celebrate the occasion with us. Therefore, unhealthy snacks and useless toys/stationeries are no-no. I would rather splurge a little on birthday favors which would be a useful memento for guests. For Dana’s party, we’ve given books, name-labels and stationeries. For Buddy’s party, we reckon most parents would still pack treats or snacks for their toddlers so I ordered personalised lunch-boxes in the construction theme from Bright Star Kids.
These lunch-boxes are made of very sturdy, BPA-free material (safe for use) and comes in very attractive designs. What is impressive is that these lunch-boxes are deep enough to hold an entire apple (or a cupcake). Even after I packed in a sandwich, a Milo drink, a fruit, a pack of raisins, it still has room to spare! This makes it ideal for school lunches and picnics. One advice though: In order for the personalised birthday favors to arrive in time, you need to have a confirmed guest list rather early as time is needed for production and shipping. For guests who RSVPed late or last minute, you might need to prepare a separate non-personalised birthday favor for them. That being said, these lunch boxes from Bright Star Kids took only about a week to arrive from Australia, talk about efficiency!
7. Source for The Decor
As the party date draws near, I started zooming in on the finer details. First up, the decor. MyGym@Buona Vista has very kindly told me for party bookings, they will decorate the playgym with balloons but I wanted the balloons to be in very specific shades of yellow and black so I turned to my regular balloon supplier, BalloonBlasters at The Grandstand. The balloons would first be hung up as decor but later stuck to a balloon stick for every child to bring home as a parting gift. I paid for a construction themed DIY printable banner and water-bottle label design from www.etsy.com. These added some consistency to the party theme. I also made a mental note to pack along some of Buddy’s fav construction storybooks and toys to jazz up the gift table. I was touched when MyGym@Buona Vista took the initiative to request for a photo of the birthday boy to design a backdrop poster for the projection screen.
8. Book The Catering (and the Photographer)
Apart from birthday favors, another way we thank our guests is through the food. We’re happy that MyGym@Buona Vista is very flexible and allowed us to bring in our own caterer. When I pick caterers, I like working with those who allow me to customise the menu (to a small extent), who pay attention to their food presentation and one who serve environmentally-friendly corn-ware plates and utensils. Having tried the major caterers in the past, I’ve decided to engage Mum’s Kitchen this year. I was unconventional and went ahead to book their Baby’s Full Month Menu (SGD18/pax, Minimum 30 pax) because I simply love their red eggs, red ang-ku-kuehs and glutinous rice. The buffet set-up was one of the most beautiful we’ve seen (think fairy lights in matt gold lanterns, black skirting accentuated with fresh orange blooms that match the party theme!). Service was prompt, friendly and the guests relished the food. We received many many compliments from our guests on the food. It’s worthwhile mentioning that Mum’s Kitchen is halal-certified too.
Especially for milestone birthdays, we recommend hiring a professional photographer to document it properly for keepsake. If you need a recommendation, try contacting our family’s fav photog, Natsuki Photography. We are blessed that Daddy is a photographer himself so he can personally capture these beautiful memories for Buddy.
9. Plan Age-Appropriate Activities
One of the major advantage of holding a birthday party at MyGym@Buona Vista is that the party programme will be totally handled by their capable teaching team. Having won the ‘Best of the Best Children Gym‘ in Singapore for 6 consecutive years since 2009 and awarded the ‘Best Children Development Play Program‘ by USA Parenting magazine, we are confident the kids would be in for great time and we were right! Max and his team of teachers proposed the programme, ran it past me on party day, I proposed one quick swop (from a puppet show to a parachute game) and the rest just ran like clockwork. For the first time ever, I was even able to join in the fun because everything else was taken care of. Looking at the photos, you can visualise the amount of laughter and fun everyone had that day. Kudos to the MyGym@Buona Vista team for keeping a bunch of active, inquisitive pre-schoolers meaningfully engaged for 2 whole hours!
The games were fast-paced, interesting and promoted parent-child bonding. The kids enjoyed exploring the gym facilities in between games, especially the finale activity – The Flying Fox. We were so proud of Buddy’s willingness to give it a go, given his cautious nature. The teachers then hosted the birthday song and cake cutting segment, and proceeded to divide up the cake to serve the guests, leaving me totally hands-free to enjoy the party. Really thoughtful of them!
For older kids, here are some other themed parties you can consider:
10. Send The Thank Yous
After the cake-cutting and buffet dinner, we took some group photos before we bade each kid with a fond farewell with the birthday favor and a handheld balloon. The next morning, I personally texted all parents who came and thanked them again. It was so good to finally put faces to the names of classmates whom he spends a large part of his weekdays with. Both David and I agreed this must be one of the most relaxed parties we’ve hosted and we attribute its success entirely to our guests and vendors.
There you have it, planning a kids’ birthday party in 10 steps. Hope you find the tips useful. Here’s to many more happy birthday parties you’ll host.
Good Party Contacts:
Venue: MyGym@Buona Vista
SPECIAL PROMO FOR READERS: Quote ‘WeLoveMyGym‘ to enjoy a 1-for-1 trial at S$55 and 20% off birthday party bookings, exclusively at MyGym@Buona Vista branch.
Caterer: Mum’s Kitchen Catering
Birthday Favors: Bright Star Kids
Birthday Balloons: Balloon Blasters
DIY Printable Invites, Birthday Banners, Waterbottle Labels: Etsy