How to throw a smashing disco party for pre-teens – on a budget

Photograph of a young girl in a garden

The party girl – for once quite impressed with her mum.

After 3 kids, you would think that I’d be like a walking Google search results page for How to throw a successful children’s party.  But in this instance you’d be well advised to click on by and consult a different source for inspiration.

Previous party mistakes

It’s not through lack of trying – I should add. It’s just that I’m not very practical and I’m quite shy (OK, you can stop laughing now).

So, this usually means that my parties are either at least one parcel short for the pass-the-parcel game or a cake slice missing in a party bag or both (I kid you not).

My shyness (I said stop laughing!) means I get stage fright when confronted with 10 expectant four-year-olds all wanting to pin-the-tail-on-the donkey at exactly the same moment or 10 tweens aggressively demanding a fair winner for their X-factor performances.

My palms go sweaty, my throat gets dry and I usually dodge into the kitchen at this point to fetch yet another plate of over-catered, often inappropriate food, leaving my husband or some other more competent parent to pick up the pieces. I also usually top up my glass of  Chardonnay at this point.

Food no-no’s

When it comes to food, I’ve made a few mistakes in my time. When I first arrived in the UK from South Africa, I’d never heard of e-numbers and the idea of presenting children at a party with carrot sticks and cocktail tomatoes (which to this day I haven’t seen a single child eat at a party) would never have occurred to me. It’s a party for @£$!! sake!

For my eldest’s second birthday party I invited all the kids in the street and laid on the children’s party with the highest sugar content ever held in the history of the UK.We had cupcake-decoration, Easter egg hunts, chocolate treasure trails, fizzy drinks in every flavour – and not a cocktail tomato in sight.

The children – bless them – were high as kites as they bounced and raged around the garden, but the mums couldn’t wait to bundle their kids out the door to force-feed them vegetable smoothies at home.

Success at last! And some handy tips for hosting a disco party

But all this is in the past. I am delighted to report that after 11 years, I’ve just hosted a summer disco party for my daughter – which was raving success and really raised my stakes in the mummy department (long may it last) I thought I’d share this achievement with you – and maybe boost my reputation as a talented entertainer and my Google ranking for children’s parties in the process.

The music:

My daughter luckily sits next to a young man in class who hires himself out as a DJ and lighting expert for parties at £35/evening  (Take note – Sir Alan Sugar). Despite their proximity in class, I was instructed to ask the boy’s mother in the playground if he would be available for our party.The youngster also has a very cute dad (more about that later)

The venue:

Our sound and lighting expert came for a pre-party consultation and together we decided to use the conservatory and outdoor areas (his mum had a gazebo we could borrow) for dancing, thus saving my wooden floor from complete destruction. He drew a plan of where the lights and music system would go. Sorted. (Or so I thought)

The decorations:

I’ve got one word for you: Poundland – our decorations consisted of:

  • 8 small mirror disco balls (£1 each)
  • plastic, champagne flutes with the cutest summer cocktail straws
  • fairylights (borrowed) for the gazebo.
  • Oh and a few balloons – also Poundland, though don’t expect them to outlast the night.

The food:

Needless to say, I over-catered – and again there was not a cocktail tomato in sight – but in keeping with the summer theme we had coloured jellybeans, popcorn and marshmallows.

I dodged to the kitchen a few times at inopportune moments to fetch mountains of sausage rolls, chicken nuggets and crisps and to top up the fizzy drinks.

Instead of party bags, we had colourful ice suckers that we handed out on the way out and they went down a treat.

The games:

I found this relatively stress-free – a few dance-offs – my husband was the judge and a limbo dancing competition, which they loved so much, they asked for a rerun.

A microphone – which led to several impromptu performances on the dance floor and thankfully I wasn’t drunk enough to go near the mike – I do love a good Karaoke.

The weather:

Because it happened to be the hottest day of the year – the children loved being able to play on the trampoline and be outside in-between dancing. The boys even managed a rugby game.  Thank you God.

The stress levels:

Because of my shyness (Oh shut up!) I will never experience a stress-free party, but considering we had 26 children and that the DJ actually came down with a nasty stomach virus on the morning of the party and had to pull out – I did pretty well. This is where the cute dad comes in – he offered to be the DJ in his son’s place, stuck around for the whole night and even took photographs, which naturally I didn’t even think of.

The result:

One very happy 11-year-old girl and loads of leftover sausage rolls and fizzy drinks.Success! I may even consider starting a children’s party event management business in partnership with the young lad’s dad – what do you think

Do you have some children’s party tips to share?

14 thoughts on “How to throw a smashing disco party for pre-teens – on a budget

  1. The limbo dancing seems to go down well with children of this age and I am so pleased to not be the only one that champions Poundland for decorations. Great post. And a hot dad is always a bonus!

  2. Being American, I too went for sugar overload at my first kids party. As my friends joked around, I probably dropped several rungs on the social ladder by the time the last of the happy-but-sugar-high children had left with their mothers. It was also left by my friend to explain to me that the middle-class yummy mummies probably were appalled but, being English, good manners prevented them from saying so. ooops.

    • Hi there! Good to hear someone else had same experience. No-one said anything at my daughter’s 2nd birthday party either, but I could tell from the frowns and horrified looks that I’d made some serious faux pas. Still do sometimes! I’m also very direct and come across like a bull in a china shop – even after 9 years in the country.

  3. OOoh I didn’t know you could get disco balls at Poundland – how funky would that be! This post made me chuckle, I was imagining the kids bouncing off your sofas :)

  4. Love this post! It made me laugh and smile – keeping 26 10 year olds happy is no mean feat. We’ve had some good parties over the years, but also some awful ones involving fighting and, most shamefully of all, an ambulance.
    I edit the Britmums teen and tween round-up, could I use this post? You can contact me on Twitter @sarahMo3W or I’ve got a post about pudding on PoCoLo!

    • HI – your comment went into spam for some reason, but so glad I found it. Thanks for stopping and finding it funny. Would LOVE to read about your ambulance episode – will make me feel all smug.
      Will go look you up on #PoCoLo. Love pudding!

  5. Fabulous post :) Well done on it all being a success – I don’t care what anyone says, disco parties are the best..and sunshine helps matters too. Thanks for linking to PoCoLo xx

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