Plan the Ultimate Children’s Fancy Dress Party in 11 Easy Steps By Ayshea Elliott

Posted on February 12 2014

  1. Choose a Theme (or no theme!)
  2. Write a Guest List
  3. Set a Budget
  4. Select a Venue
  5. Decide on Entertainment
  6. Decide on Games
  7. Create the Invites
  8. Decide on Food
  9. Decorate the Venue
  10. Come up with your WOW moment
  11. Don’t forget the party bags
  1. Choose a Theme (or no theme!)

A few things to consider when deciding on the fancy dress theme:

  • What is your child into?
  • How easy would the theme be for the guests you invite to achieve? You don’t want people to be having to spend a fortune if they can’t afford to do so.
  • Is the theme suitable for the age group that will be attending the party?
  • How easy will it be to extend the theme to decorating the party?

If you’re short of ideas, Pinterest is a fantastic place to start. Set up a board and add in inspirational photos to get your creative juices flowing.

Here are a few great fancy dress party themes I have seen executed well:

  • Pirate Party
  • Peppa Pig Party
  • Superhero Party
  • Disney Party
  • Army Party
  • Spy Party
  • Princess Party
  • Animal Party

I will write more blogs going through each of these in more detail but a quick Pinterest search will bring up loads of ideas to support each dress up theme.

Your fancy dress theme should be followed through to every aspect of the party for maximum impact so choose a theme that is flexible enough to do this.

  1. Write a Guest List

If your child is of school age, it’s easy to be tempted into inviting the whole class to your fancy dress party. I’ve been to those parties and hectic doesn’t even come close. Also, remember, the more children you invite, the less likely they are to win a game (cue tantrums) and the further your budget will have to stretch for food/party bags etc. My advice – keep it as small as you can. Don’t worry about inviting every child that has ever invited your child to a party, just invite those friends that your child is closest to.

If at all possible, also try and keep the age bracket as narrow as possible. The closer in age the children are, the more likely they are to enjoy the same type of games and food. If the age group is varied, the older children are likely to win lots of games and cause you headaches with the younger ones!

  1. Set a Budget

This is the part I’ve always struggled with, I always spend more than I mean to on parties, but you should definitely have a budget in mind and make sure you stick to it. A simple spreadsheet will help you keep track of your costs, make sure you record everything and you shouldn’t go far wrong. If money’s tight, always consider whether DIY is an option and hunt around pound shops for bargains.

  1. Select a Venue

Here are a few key points to consider when deciding on venue for your kids dress up party:

  • How many children are you inviting?
  • What is your budget? Will it stretch to a play area/hired venue?
  • How big is your house?
  • When is the party? This will determine whether you can extend the party into the garden and give you more space (but don’t forget to consider the ‘changeable’ British weather!).
  • How house proud are you? If sticky marks on your walls will cause you sleepless nights then don’t even consider hosting at home :-)

There are many great venues available now for parties if you do decide to host your dress up party away from home. At the top end of the market are specialist party venues that can provide fully-themed rooms to tie in with your fancy dress theme as well as entertainment. These often offer a fantastic service and make your day really easy but you do pay the price. Search on google for ‘hire party themed room in <town name>’ to see what’s available in your area.

Play areas are another easy choice offering active play to burn off the kids’ energy before feeding them and playing a few games. Again, this doesn’t come cheap but is usually a slightly more affordable option than the themed party rooms.

Other options include children’s farms, sports centres, sports clubs and function rooms. Costs will vary for each of these.

At the cheapest end of the scale try local church halls, scout huts, schools and other council buildings which are often available for hire for a low hourly rate and offer you kitchen facilities so you can prepare your own food and drinks.

For me, a party at home will always be my first choice, but I am lucky to have had my son in May and to have decent outdoor space to use to extend the house outwards a bit. Plus, I’m not fussed about a sticky finger here or there and choosing home over a venue means my ‘budget’ can stretch to a few more decorations/prizes.

  1. Decide on Entertainment

Are you going to run the party yourself or get someone else to entertain the kids for a bit? Kids entertainers can be worth their weight in gold but can also be an expensive, cringeworthy disaster so pick very carefully. My advice is to ask around at school, toddler groups, play areas etc and get recommendations, don’t just choose someone randomly online.

To tie in with a fancy dress theme, adults dressed up can add a real sense of excitement for the children, but beware that anything even remotely scary can be petrifying for a child. I saw children screaming in fear at one 4 year old’s party where a dad dressed as a baddie!!

  1. Plan the Games

Every fancy dress party needs a few party games. The old favourites always go down well.

Either buy unisex prizes or mark them up using a code to remind you what age/gender they’re most suitable for.

To fix or not to fix… I have always been an advocate of fixing party games like pass the parcel since very young children are unlikely to win a prize otherwise... anything for an easy life! Be careful not to get caught though, nothing upsets a child like a fixed party game (I speak from experience here!).

Here are a few of our old favourites.

  • Pass the Parcel
  • Musical Statues
  • Corners
  • Musical Bumps

Also use good old Pinterest to look for ideas for games to suit your theme, a pirate party might feature a ‘Walk the Plank’ themed game, a spy party would have to have a game that involved following clues… I’m sure you get the idea! Google’s also handy for ideas here.

  1. Create the Invites

If you’ve followed my advice and kept it small, then you can really get creative with the invites. If you’re hosting a Pirate fancy dress party, how about some hand written scrolls, dipped in tea and with scorched edges tied with ribbon? An invite to a Princess party could be created with beautiful stationery and made to look like it’s from a Prince inviting Princesses to a ball. Use your imagination, you’ll be amazed at how impressed a child is to receive a well-created invite personally addressed to them.

The information the invite should contain is:

  • Date
  • Start Time
  • End Time: really important for parents picking up children and to make sure people clear out and don’t hang around all day.
  • Address
  • Theme: make it clear if children should dress up or not.
  • Food: detail whether it will be provided and if you’re feeding adults or not.
  • A brief overview of the party
  • RSVP details
  1. Decide on Food

Even your food can be created to support the theme of your fancy dress party. At the Pirate Party I arranged for my son I served Dead Man’s Fingers (sausages), Cannonballs (blueberries), Gold Doubloons (Cheese Cut in Circles), Eyeballs (white grapes) and loads of other nonsense. The kids were literally shrieking with excitement as we dared them to try the food and couldn’t work out whether they had really just tried an eyeball or not!

The cake of course should follow the theme. Don’t underestimate the time/effort/cost involved in creating a themed cake and from personal experience I’ll be seeking the help of an expert from now on. Worth every penny in my opinion!!

If you are expecting some parents to stay at the party, please feed them. I’ve seen many awkward parents stood around watching their children eat and stealing a bite of their sandwich when they think no one is looking. Do everyone a favour and stick a few pizzas in the oven for the adults, they’ll love you for it!

  1. Decorate the Venue

To really make your children’s fancy dress party a WOW experience, carry the theme through to the party décor. For me, DIY decorations beat shop bought hands down and really do make the party look the part.

For example, for me, some cheap voile swags hung over the party table would make a much more impressive princess party theme than plastic banners stuck to the walls. I would rather use a pole with a sheet hung from it like a sail in the middle of the table to make a Pirate theme than buy pirate placemats and cups. These things do take a little time, but really make a party stand out in people’s minds.

  1. Come Up With Your WOW Moment

For me, it’s great if I can create a moment that the kids will be talking about the next day at school. It’s great if this can happen near the end of the party and should be something unexpected and exciting.

For example, at our pirate party we organised a treasure hunt with the children working together to find a treasure chest. My husband (dressed up in full pirate garb) then came along and pretended to steal the chest off the children. I let them get their revenge by allowing them to chase him outside and pelt him with black water bombs (cannonballs). The excitement was unbelievable, they couldn’t believe they were allowed to throw bombs at an adult and boy did they make the most of it, he was drenched!! It was all the children talked about for days afterwards and a real WOW moment for them.

  1. Don’t Forget the Party Bags

Kids love a party bag, it’s a fact. I love to make the party bags a little more personal than the plastic ones you can pick up. Again, run with your theme, make sure it is followed right through to the bag itself and the contents inside. Whatever you put in the bag doesn’t need to be expensive, let’s face it, it will probably be thrown away, but following your theme right through to the end is worthwhile after all your effort.

A final few pointers:

  • Create a vague timeline for the day so you know what time to feed the children and you can make sure the food will be ready on time.
  • Don’t forget the thank you notes. Very much appreciated by everyone who attends. I know they’re a pain, but definitely worthwhile.
  • Make sure you have wine in the fridge, you’ll deserve it after all this hardwork!
  • Enjoy it!

Good luck and please let me know how you get on.

Ayshea x




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