When Carol Neshevich’s son turned three, the Beaches mom decided on a home party for Hudson. “We only had six or seven kids there. It was just three-year-olds so we kept it cost efficient and simple — they played for an hour, had pizza and cake, opened gifts and went home,” she says. “I took a day off work to get the house ready and had to tidy up afterward, but the kids had a great time.”
The following year, she opted to hold Hudson’s fourth birthday party at the local Bizzy Bee Playcentre. It was a greater expense but more children would be attending and it offered activities such as face painting and climbing structures to keep the busy group entertained — and Neshevich’s house tidy.
Depending on your budget, time constraints and vision, there are plenty of party ideas for the under five set to choose from both in and out of the home. Read on for some options from parents like you.
Out with it!
Rather not clean your house and host a handful of preschoolers and their parents? Then take it outside…as in outsource your party. That’s what Heather Makin, a Toronto parent of two, did for her son’s fifth and sixth birthday parties — the fifth was a cooking party at Loblaw’s grocery store, and the sixth a clay painting party at Toronto’s The Clay Room. These parties tapped into the fun and creative interests that Ryan had in common with many children his age—loving cooking and crafts.
“These days, most parents stay at the parties. Growing up, you just dumped the kids off,” says Makin, who also makes and sells character birthday cakes for parties. “And with the number of kids and their parents in your house, it gets crowded. Also, Ryan’s birthday is in February and you can’t necessarily play outside because you don’t know what the weather will be like.”
While indoor playgrounds offer an easy party — play on equipment, eat and head out — Toronto also offers a number of unique settings for preschool parties including the National Film Board where children make their own animated films, the Hockey Hall of Fame where party goers get a free HHOF t-shirt and photo with the Stanley Cup, or even Fantasy Fair at Woodbine Shopping Centre where guests can ride the indoor antique carousel, ride on a tea cup and get their faces painted.
Or, if all you need is space, think about renting a room at your nearby Parks & Recreation facility.. Add some games, food and fun and you’re set. Do note that the public facilities such as Parks & Recreation centres and city-run playgrounds such as Playground Paradise fill quickly, so if you can, give yourself up to six months ahead to book the space.
While outsourcing works well, especially for little ones with lots of energy, Trisha Gaskin found that bringing the party and its accompanying entertainment home makes for a different event. The Toronto mom of two hired Ariel, the Little Mermaid character, to help celebrate her daughter, Emma’s, fifth birthday with eight of her friends.
“It was a slightly tough decision to do the party here because I wanted to invite more girls,” says Gaskin. “But if there were more than 10 girls, the cost increased and the girls wouldn’t get as much time with Ariel. This way they all got to have a little moment with her and talk to her and get their make up done. With more kids, that magic would have worn off.”
While Gaskin searched online for Ariel, there are a number of ways to locate in-home entertainment. Ontario Early Years Centres offer brochures for local resources, as do paediatrician’s offices and school bulletin boards. (And so does the mom-to-mom network…ask around for recommendations.) You can also ask your daughter’s ballet teacher, or your son’s music class teacher, if they conduct private parties.
A few options
Arty Party (artyparty.ca)
Have a budding Picasso on your hands? Arty Party offers an art-based party in your home in themes ranging from face painting and glitter tattoos to working with plasticine. Ask about customizing.
Musical Munchkins (musicalmunchkins.ca)
If your child loves to sing, dance and play instruments, Toronto-based Musical Munchkins will come in and help them find their musical rhythms.
Fiesta 4 Kids (http://fiesta4kids.com)
Want a python at your party? A magician? Have a look through the many options from this Toronto-based company.
Fantasy Fables (fantasyfables.com)
Does your little princess dream of Cinderella or Ariel at her next party? Find Disney princess, superheroes and more here.
“There’s a sense of familiarity if you throw the party at your house. It’s a bit more of a personal touch,” she says. “It’s your girl in her home and it’s her birthday.”
Make it special
Looking for ways to make any birthday party a little more special? Check out these options:
The Party Kit (thepartykit.com)
This Ayr, Ont.-based mom of four has put her party-planning skills to use to package parties in a box, complete with invitations, party planner, party organizational tools and more.
Party at Your Place (partyatyourplace.ca)
This mom and former childcare teacher offers personalized planning party services for GTA families.
2 Creative Monkeys (2creativemonkeys.com)
Forget store-bought invitations — add a personal touch with your child’s photo on both the invitations and thank you cards from this mompreneur.
Toronto-based Muffymade features a charming set of both birthday cards and gift tags to top future gifts.
Sandy Lion Sticker Designs (sandylion.com)
Prefer to skip stuffing loot bags with treats? Order stickers for a variety of holidays from Sandy Lion. (Or better yet, visit the Markham, Ont.-based outlet store and save 20 to 80 percent off sticker prices.)
Don’t have time to do loot bags? Order them from Toronto-based Lootlady.com and you can choose from a number of themes geared to little (and big!) kids.
Simply Sweet Confectionaries (simplysweets.ca)
In search of a Dora cake? How about Elmo’s face gracing a dozen cupcakes? You can find it at this Mississauga, Ont.-based cake service. By appointment only.
Cakes by Robert (cakesbyrobert.com)
Where can you find an Angelina Ballerina nut-free cake? Here at Cakes by Robert in Thornhill, Ont., a variety of hard to find characters can sit on the top of a birthday cake. Bonus: CBR also sells a number of eye-popping licensed and unlicensed loot bags.
Cake Days (cakedays.com)
Is your son crazy about jungle animals? How about a two-tier jungle cake from Cake Days? Layer options, finishes and sizes are multiple for this company, which has locations throughout the GTA.
The Cupcake Shoppe (thecupcakeshoppe.ca)
Choose hand-frosted and hand-designed cupcakes in a variety of themes at The Cupcake Shoppe — a peanut free facility, located in downtown Toronto.
Schelle Sweets (schellesweets.com)
Find organically-made treats at this Toronto-based bakery, which features a variety of cupcakes and cakes.