How to plan a birthday party.

In the twenty-four years, I have been parenting my six children and fourteen years of working with children—twelve years as a childminder and 2 managing my after-school club. I have probably lost count of the number of parties I have planned! Over the years, I have learned quite a few ideas and tips on how to host a fantastic birthday party for children without having to spend a fortune. Things like keeping the guest list tight and making your own food can make a big difference to the cost. Decorations don’t have to break the bank either; if you don’t want to purchase decorations, you can make your own or even borrow décor from friends and family. If you tie balloons, hang some string lights, and a happy birthday banner, you can make a venue look very effective.  Invitations can be handmade or sent by text message or via social media.

Here is my essential party planning checklist to help you save money and plan a successful party for your special occasions.

The first thing to think of when party planning is that you need to decide on a party venue; if you want to keep costs down, I would suggest hosting your party at home or in a local community center or church hall depending on how many guests you are inviting. I have often found that not only is this option cheaper but that it is a much more personal party venue. The best birthday parties that we have held have been the ones that we have been able to personalize to the child. Although picking a local soft play to host your child’s birthday party will take a lot less organization as they have their own party planners, their parties can often feel like you are on a production line!

After your venue, the next step would be to pick a theme. Your theme will depend on the age of the birthday person and the size of the guest list.

To help you decide I have listed for you a few of my favourite kids’ birthday party ideas for themes that we have used over the years.

Party themes.

life-size teddy bears sat at a round a table outside

For very young children, a teddy bears picnic is a favourite theme of mine. Your Teddy Bears picnic would work equally well for an indoor venue and as an outdoor party. Send invitations to each child on the guest list to bring along their favourite teddy bear.  There would be Teddy bear-themed games such as pin the bow tie on the teddy bear, and we had a dress-up your teddy bear booth where you could get a photo with your bear alongside our giant Teddy. You don’t need a professional photographer just someone with a decent camera. At our teddy bear’s picnic, our children and their bears went on a bear hunt around the garden.

The Bear Hunt consisted of me leading the children around the garden while reading “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.” by Michael Rosen while we all did the actions. The children found this very entertaining! All food eaten by the children and teddies is eaten on a picnic blanket. You could also have teddy bear-themed food. We made bear-themed chocolate spread or cream cheese sandwiches, teddy bear crisps, gingerbread bears, and the birthday cake was also in the shape of a bear. We packed each child’s picnic into a paper bag with a teddy bear on it ahead of time.

We had several friends with food allergies at this party so we had to spend time putting all the guests’ names on the bags so we knew we were serving food that was appropriate to each child, this ensured that everyone was safe, but it worked very well with the theme.

Princess and superhero party.

Children posing in masks and capes

 A princess and superhero party for an infant school-aged child (age four to eight) is a great idea and takes very little real planning and the kids get to enjoy dressing up as a character from their favourite movie. This is likely to be a hit with the parents as most children will already have a suitable costume or can easily put one together. This theme would work well in any venue and you can have fun with the decorations. We decided to get crafty and make superhero capes and princess crowns with the children. We set up a table with cards, glue, biodegradable glitter, and gems for the princess crowns, and we made the capes out of recycled t-shirts (one t-shirt makes two capes!)  and decorated them with felt pens and stick-on gems. The children really enjoyed this activity and had fun wearing them after. We had a princess and superhero-themed food (I will talk later about my party food ideas.). We played pass the parcel and musical statues, both of which are favourites of ours.

Mad hatters tea party.

Cake stand with assorted cakes on and a card saying eat me.

For your junior school-aged child (age eight o eleven.), how about having a mad hatters tea party? This is basically afternoon tea with a twist. With a bit of party planning, you can really go to town with the decorations on this one, the brighter and wackier, the better! Set the dining table up for afternoon tea or in a larger venue set up a big long table with the birthday person at the head of the table. Serve juice in teapots and little sandwiches and cakes. This party works well with or without dressing up though I would definitely have a mad hatters hat for the birthday girl or boy to wear. We didn’t bother with party games for this one, but we did set up a photo booth with props for the children to pose with. If you have access to a printer there are some really nice free printable invitations on Pinterest.

Murder mystery party

sharp knife on plate with drips of blood

For your teen or pre-teen, I would highly recommend hosting a murder mystery party. We had a great party for my daughter’s sixteenth birthday. She invited a small group of her best friends around for a candle-lit dinner party; I had printed off a full whodunnit game from the internet. Each person was given a character to play, and only the murderer knew who they were! We found this a highly entertaining evening and the birthday girl had a really great party.

I think this would be better if you keep the guest list small, at home, or in a more intimate venue, you could always order food in to make it simpler. I think this would work just as well for an adult birthday party or any number of special occasions. To add some extra fun, you could add a dress code for your guests but make sure you put all the party details on the invitations! I would recommend using There are several games to choose from. Games cost $19.95, and if you buy two, then you get a third free.

You will need the use of a printer to set this up.

More children’s party themes.

Little girl dressed as a fairy in the garden

A Mermaid party.

Picture of Ariel from the little mermaid sitting on a rock

A disco party

children dancing in a disco

A Roblox party.

Roblox characters on a mobile phone with games controllers around it.

A sleepover party

three children in a sleepover

A Dinosaur party

toy dinosaurs

A Circus party.

little girl dressed as a clown


A Gruffalo party.

Side on picture of the Gruffalo pointing.

Among us party.

Harry Potter party.

Child dressed in Hogwarts uniform with a wand in hand in front of a cauldron making a spell.

Kid’s party games.

Children watching little girl in a pink dress try to hit a piñata horse hanging from a tree with a brightly coloured stick.

An important part of party planning is organizing the entertainment and no kid’s birthday party is complete without some fun games. If you don’t want to hire party entertainers you can always organize your own.  Here I have listed a few of our favourite games to play that come out at many of our family parties that are suitable for any venue.

1.   Pass the parcel. (an oldie but a goodie!)

Young children, in particular, will enjoy a game of passing the parcel. To save children from feeling left out, you could put a sweetie in between each layer of paper. A cheaper and more eco-friendly version of this game is to pass the Teddy; when the music stops, whoever is holding Teddy gets a sweet. Ensure that whoever is in charge of the music ensures that every child gets a sweet and that the last person to open the parcel or hold the Teddy wins the prize!

2.  Musical statues or musical bumps.

This is lots of fun, and all it requires is some music and a prize. All of the children dance until the music stops, and then they have to stand still or sit down. The last one to do it is out; continue until there is only one child left and you have your winner.

3.  Pinata.

If you fancy a creative project with your child, you can go to make one out of paper mache and paint it, but if you don’t have time, you can buy them from most supermarkets and party shops. Fill with sweets and hang from something just high enough to be a stretch for the children. Get the children to whack it with a stick! Everyone takes turns until it breaks, and then all the sweeties fall out. This works great in outdoor events or in a larger venue such as a hall.

4.  Pin the tail on the donkey or the bowtie on the Teddy

or whatever suits your theme. Draw a picture of your donkey on a large piece of paper and cut out a tail/bowtie. I usually use backing paper; you can roll it out nice and big as it is pretty cheap. If you don’t want to draw it yourself, you can buy lots of different variations on Amazon. The children will be blindfolded one by one, and they have to guess where the tail would go. The child that is closest to the tail area is the winner.

5.  Bobbing for doughnuts.

This one is a lot of fun and is something that my children ask me to do for every birthday. Set up a washing line between two chairs and tie some strings at intervals along the line. You can then tie

your doughnuts to the strings. Make sure you have one doughnut per child. The children then kneel in front of the doughnuts with their hands behind their backs.

The aim of the game is to eat the doughnut without touching it with your hands!

Whoever eats their doughnut first wins, but there is lots of fun cheering everyone

on, and it looks pretty funny! If you are going to do this in the house, or in a smaller venue you

might have to play this in two rounds depending on how many children play and

how big the space is. Don’t forget to check for food allergies!

6.   Simon says.

I remember playing this as a child, but my children still have lots of fun playing it. Everyone faces the

adult, and they have to copy what the adult does, but when the adult says, Simon says to do something, you are not supposed to do it. If you do, you are out! The winner is the last child standing.

7.  Keep ups with a balloon.

You can do this to music. The child who can keep the balloon in the air the longest is the winner.

8.  Duck duck goose.

This one is better when played in a hall or an outside venue where there is more room to move. The children sit in a circle, and one child is on. The child that is on touches each child’s head, saying duck, duck, duck until they say goose. The person who gets goose has to try and catch the person that is on before they sit back in their seat. The goose is then on. Start with the birthday person and repeat until everyone has had a go or you have had enough!

9.  Chinese whispers.

This game can be pretty funny although not suitable for young children. The children all sit in a circle, and one person is given a phrase that they then have to whisper to the next person, who then has to whisper it to the person next to them. Continue this until everyone has had a turn. The last person then has to tell everyone what they have heard. Often this is nothing like the original phrase.

10. The post-it note game.

A popular game with all ages in our house. Invite people to pick a post-it note out of a hat, each post-it note will have a person, an animal, or a thing on, and you have to take turns to ask questions until you work out who or what you are. Usually, this can be pretty funny! The original idea is very cheap, but the children need to be able to read; you can get a game called Headbandz, which is the same principle, but everyone wears a headband with a picture on it so young children can play this game too.

11. Wink assassin.

This game is perfect for teens and tweens. Get everyone to sit in a circle, and then everyone has to take a piece of paper out of a hat.

Most will say player, and only one will say assassin. Whoever picks the assassin out will discreetly wink at one of the other players. After a couple of seconds, the person who has been winked at will play dead. It is then up to the rest of the group to work out who the assassin is. If they guess right, the group win, and you can have another go. If they get it wrong, then the game continues. This game causes a lot of hilarity, seeing who can come up with the most dramatic death!

12. Digital escape room.

You will need access to a colour printer, paper (card is even better), and scissors.  An escape room game is a series of puzzles that you have to work on together to move on to the next one. If you complete them all, then you win! Escape rooms are great for communication skills and teamwork. Several companies will charge you for a ready-made escape room game that you can print off and place the different puzzles around the house. See; however, there are loads of free alternatives on the internet. Check out Pinterest for ideas.

13. Create a craft table.

Not only does this take some time, but it also can double up as a party favour to take away. Your craft could complement the theme you have picked. Earlier I mentioned that I had done a craft table for a princess and superhero party and that we made crowns and capes, but your craft table could be anything you want. You can pick up some simple craft kits from Baker Ross who sell really nice party supplies or make up your own ideas. We had lots of fun making wands at a Harry Potter party that I hosted for my son. You can get lots of ideas from Pinterest when deciding what to make.

Party food

Table full of party treats

Probably one of the most important things on the party planning checklist! My experience with serving food for kids is don’t bother putting out loads of sandwiches; they simply won’t get eaten! I have learned to stick to small sandwiches that you can cut into a shape to suit your theme with chocolate spread, jam, or cream cheese. Yes, I know this isn’t the healthiest, but it’s a party!  Aside from the usual sausage rolls, cocktail sausages, cheese, and crisps, I have compiled a list of some of the best party food ideas I have used over the years.

1.  Hot dogs.

A hot dog bar is a cheap alternative to buffet food that I have used many times before. There is little to no mess, and you don’t even have to use plates as a napkin will suffice. Most children like hot dogs, and it means that you only have to concentrate on the desert!

2.  Mini pizzas.

You can prepare these in advance, and it might be a fun and easy activity that you could do with your children.

There are two ways to make mini pizzas; the first and quickest way is to take a white baguette, cut it in half, and slice it into small sections. Brush on some garlic butter. Yo You can also make your own pizza dough, roll it into small balls, and flatten it to create miniature pizzas with your thumb. I tend to follow the BBC Good Food recipe mainly because I find it easy to follow.

3.  Homemade chicken nuggets.

These are a tasty alternative to shop-bought chicken nuggets and really couldn’t be simpler to make. Just dice some chicken breasts, dip them into a batter mix, and deep fry. This easy batter mix is light and not too greasy.

1 cup of plain flour

1 tsp of baking powder

½ tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

½ cup of milk

½ cup of water

Mix it all together, dip your chicken pieces in, and deep fry.

Top tip your chicken nuggets will come out nice and crispy. If you space them out on a plate rather than on top of each other in a bowl, they will keep their crisp texture. Serve with little pots of tomato sauce and garlic mayonnaise to make a tasty addition to the party table.

4.  Homemade onion rings.

Use the same batter recipe as for your chicken nuggets. Cut your onions into disks removing the centres to create a ring, dip them into your batter, and fry. These are a much lighter and delicious alternative to shop-bought onion rings, definitely worth the effort.

5.  Nachos.

This sharing dish is a perfect accompaniment to any table and is so simple to make. You will need,

 Three bags of tortilla crisps

Grated cheese

Soured cream


Guacamole (optional)

Chopped jalapenos (optional)

Layer your crisps, dotting around tiny bits of salsa, sour cream, and guacamole, and then sprinkle a layer of cheese. Add more crisps and repeat. When you have run out of crisps, dot the toppings about and finish with a final layer of grated cheese. Put in the oven just long enough to melt the cheese, and it’s ready to serve.

6.  Parmesan cheese straws.

 A really quick and easy one so long as you are not making the puff pastry yourself! Roll out some shop-bought puff pastry and cut it into strips. Sprinkle on some parmesan cheese and twist the pastry around to make pretty little twists. Cook in the oven at 200 c for about ten minutes, and then add more parmesan and a little bit of parsley or basil if you want. Once cool, they are ready for the table.

7.  Fairy bread pinwheels.

Fairy bread is very easy to make and looks effective and colourful. Roll out flat a slice of white bread with a rolling pin and cut into about two inches wide strips. Butter or margarine the strips and then sprinkle with hundreds and thousands. Roll up the strips and place them on their sides to create little pinwheels. They should stay together on their own, but if not, you can hold them together with cocktail sticks.

8.  Fruit kebabs.

 A nice colourful one and is straightforward to make. Cut out different kinds of melon into shapes, slice kiwi, strawberry, and banana, and then thread onto a skewer. It is a lovely healthy dessert, and the kids will enjoy eating it from the skewer but make sure to keep an eye on young children as you wouldn’t want anyone getting injured!

9.  Mini meringues.

 A tasty little dessert and an absolute favourite in our house. To make meringue you will need,

Four large egg whites

200 grams of castor sugar

A pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 150c

Whip up the egg whites and salt with a whisk or a food

mixer until fluffy, and then slowly add the sugar. Whisk until all the sugar is

absorbed. You can tell when it is ready by rubbing a bit of the mixture between

your fingers. You shouldn’t be able to feel any gritty texture at all.

Put the mixture into a piping bag and pipe out little

peaks onto some baking paper on a tray.

Cook in the oven until crisp on the outside.

Once cooled, you can decorate with melted chocolate

and sprinkles.

I have adapted this for Halloween by making them into

little ghosts with writing chocolate for eyes and a mouth.

10.  Marsbar cakes.

It is a family favourite in our house and is a tasty variation on rice crispy cakes that guests of all ages will enjoy.

Melt six Mars bars or the supermarket equivalent in a bowl over a pan of hot water, stirring regularly. Once they’ve melted into a hot sticky, gloopy puddle, quickly add some rice crispies. Mix them together

until you are happy with the ratio of rice crispies to mars bar. Pour into a cake tin or tray and flatten down into a layer about two inches deep. Cool in the fridge for half an hour, and then add a layer of melted chocolate over the top.

Put in the refrigerator again until the chocolate is hard and then cut into


11.  Churros.

Churros are long thin deep-fried donuts coated in sugar and cinnamon that you can dip in chocolate sauce. Homemade churros are quick and straightforward to make and are delicious hot or cold, making them excellent party food.

For churros, you will need,

240 ml of water

6 tbsp of butter

2 tbsp of castor sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

125g plain flour

1 tsp sea salt

Two large eggs

½ litre of vegetable oil

In a large pan, bring the water, butter, and sugar to a boil over medium heat. Add the vanilla and wait until cool. Once cooled, mix in the flour and salt, and once thoroughly mixed, whisk the eggs into the mixture. Put the mix into a piping bag with a star tip. Put the vegetable oil in a pan, bring it up to a boil, and then carefully pipe in long strips of the mixture into the boiling oil, cutting it with scissors. You can fry three or four at a time, and they only take about four minutes to cook. Once they are golden brown, remove the oil with a slotted spoon and roll in sugar and cinnamon.

This recipe makes about 15 churros, depending on how big you want them; however, if you’re going to make more, I would recommend making the mix again rather than doubling up as it doesn’t seem to work. Churros are delicious eaten warm and just as they are, but are lovely when you dip in chocolate sauce. You can make a simple chocolate dipping sauce by mixing melted dark chocolate and double cream. Serve in a small bowl alongside your homemade churros.

12.  Chocolate cupcakes.

These simple to make cakes look effective and taste great.

To make 12 cakes you will need,

4 oz of sugar

4 oz of margarine

4 oz of self-raising flour

2 tbsp of cocoa powder

Two eggs

First, beat the sugar and margarine together and then mix in the flour and cocoa powder. Lastly, mix in the eggs. Spoon your mix into cake cases and bake in the oven at 180c for about 20 minutes.

Once your cupcakes are cool, you can melt some chocolate on top and finish off with a chocolate button.

13.  Shortbread stars.

These little shortbread biscuits can take any shape you want and can be adapted to suit your party theme. I make shortbread in the form of Christmas trees, bells, and elves!

For this recipe, you will need,

150g plain flour

100g butter

50g castor sugar

Preheat the oven to 170c,

Put the ingredients in a bowl, rub the butter in with the flour and sugar until it has the consistency of breadcrumbs, and then squeeze it together until it makes a dough. Roll out the dough and cut out your stars. Place on a tray with some baking paper. Put in the oven to cook for about 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool and then decorate with icing and sprinkles or leave just as they are.

14.  Marshmallow pops.

These are worth mentioning as they are so quick and easy to make, and you can get the kids to help make them.

You will need,


Kebab sticks

Melted chocolate


Put your marshmallow on a stick and dip it in the melted chocolate, and then cover in sprinkles. You can use milk chocolate, white chocolate, or any other colour you want. Put in the fridge to cool.

15.  Buttercream icing fairy cakes.

Just about everyone’s favourite in our house and always makes an appearance on our party tables.

For 12 cakes you will need,

4 oz of margarine

4 oz of castor sugar

4oz of Self-raising flour

Two eggs

1 tsp Vanilla essence

For the buttercream icing, you will need,

600g icing sugar, 300g of butter or margarine, and a teaspoon of vanilla essence.

Preheat the oven to 180c

First, beat the margarine and the castor sugar in a bowl and then add the flour. Once mixed well, beat in the eggs. Spoon your batter into cake cases and cook in the oven for twenty minutes.

While the cakes are cooking, you can make the buttercream icing. Mix the butter, icing sugar, and vanilla until a nice creamy consistency. It is much quicker with a hand whisk or food mixer but can easily be done with a spoon.

Leave the cupcakes to cool, cut a small circular shape about halfway down into the cupcake, and fill the hole with some buttercream.

Cut the top off the bit that you cut out and cut it in half, and you have two semicircles. These are your fairy wings. Stand them up in the butter icing, and you should have a beautiful fairy cake. To decorate further, you can dust with icing or add sprinkles on top of the buttercream if you want.

If you want something a bit different, you can add a little bit of jam, lemon curd, or dulce leche inside the cake before putting the buttercream on top.

16. Gingerbread bears.

These gingerbread bears are a perfect addition to your teddy bears picnic or any party table.

For this, you will need,

·       225g plain flour

·       ½ tsp salt

·       2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

·       1 heaped tsp ground ginger

·       ½ tsp cinnamon

·       50g unsalted butter

·       100g soft brown sugar

·       100g golden syrup

Preheat the oven to 180c

Sieve the flour, salt, bicarb, ginger, and cinnamon into a bowl.

Melt the butter, brown sugar, and golden syrup together and leave it to cool slightly.

Mix the dry and the wet ingredients to make a dough.

Dust the bench with flour, roll out the dough, and cut out the teddy bear shapes.

Put your teddy bears onto a baking tray and cook in the oven for about 15 minutes.

Kids birthday cakes.

Pink birthday cake with lit candles spelling out Happy Birthday with lights and a party hat in the background.

In the last twenty-four years that we have been parents to our six children, our family has celebrated a great many birthdays, and for each birthday regardless of age, I would usually at least make a birthday cake so we can sing happy birthday. Here I have listed some of my family’s favourites with a guide on how to make them.

First of all, I think that I should say that I make pretty much all of my cakes based on a years-old Bero recipe for Victoria sponge cake that my Mum taught me when I was a little girl. Fast forward a few years, now I am the Mum baking birthday cakes for my children. My cakes usually turn out light, moist and tasty, and I believe that this is largely down to sticking to the same recipe. Don’t change it if it works, right?

For a basic sponge cake, you will need,

8 oz  of castor sugar

8 oz margarine/ butter (I use margarine as it is easier to mix)

8 oz of self-raising flour

Four eggs

Preheat the oven to 180c

First, cream the sugar and margarine together, and then add the flour and eggs. Once you have got a nice batter, it is ready to put in a tin and bake for around 20-30 minutes. To check if it’s ready, put a skewer into the middle of the cake, and if it’s clean when you pull it out then it is ready. If not, put it back in for a bit longer.

This cake recipe works as long as you keep the ratio the same, so if you have 8oz of sugar, margarine, and flour, you need four eggs. (half the number) So you might use 6oz of ingredients and three eggs depending on the size of the cake you are making. As my family has grown, my cakes have too, so now I tend to make two cakes with 8oz each and layer them.

You can very quickly change the flavour of your sponge cake by adding different ingredients,

·         100g of Cocoa powder makes a lovely light chocolate cake.

·         4 tbsp of coffee makes a coffee cake.

·         Add half a cup of lemon juice and some grated rind for lemon cake.

·         Add half a cup of freshly squeezed orange juice and some rinds for the orange cake.

·         If you add three tablespoons of golden syrup, you will get a richer, more syrupy flavour.

·         2 tsp of vanilla essence.


·  Buttercream icing.

600g icing sugar and 300g of butter/margarine.

Mix until smooth; you can add a splash of milk if you want it thinner.

 Chocolate buttercream icing.

100g of milk chocolate, 200g of butter/margarine, 400g of icing sugar, 5 tbsp of cocoa powder 2 tbsp of milk.

Melt your chocolate into a bowl over a pan of boiling water. Beat your butter and icing sugar together, and then add the cocoa powder. Next, fold in the melted chocolate and milk until you have a nice creamy texture. You can make chocolate buttercream with just the cocoa powder, but the melted chocolate really adds to it.

Coffee icing.

Make your buttercream icing and then put two tsp of coffee mixed with a little bit of hot water to make a strong coffee mix in a cup, leave to cool and then add to your buttercream.

Lemon icing.

Simply add 2 tbsp of fresh lemon juice to your buttercream icing and add some grated rind if you wish. It makes it surprisingly lemony and goes great with the lemon cake. I will talk you through it later.

Cream cheese icing.

100g butter, 1 tbsp of orange juice, (optional) 100g icing sugar, and 200g of full-fat cream cheese.

Mix the butter and icing sugar, and then gradually add the orange juice. Gently fold in the cream cheese until it is thoroughly mixed. If this mixture feels a little runny, then put it in the fridge to firm up.

Number cake.

I have made two different variations of this over the years. First is a straightforward two-layered round sponge cake with buttercream icing in the middle. You can decorate the top with any kind of icing or melted chocolate. We prefer chocolate, then create the number either with smarties or chocolate buttons.

The second version is to make the whole cake the birthday age number. Now with the invention of silicone moulds and the magic of Amazon, this is much easier than it used to be, but I will tell you how to do this without having to buy a whole set of cake moulds for just one number.

This time we are making a tray bake, so it will depend on the size of your tray and what ratio you will need. I usually work off 10 oz for sugar, margarine, flour, and five eggs, but you want your mixture to come up to halfway up your tin.

Draw out your number onto a piece of card, making sure that it has plenty of thickness as this will be the size of your cake. Cut out, and you have a stencil. Once your traybake is cooked and cooled, you are ready to cut out around your stencil with a sharp knife carefully. Decorate with icing on top and go wild with sweets.

Teddy bear cake.

This gorgeous-looking cake is a plain two-tiered round chocolate cake with chocolate icing. First, make your two chocolate cakes and leave them to cool. You will also need a smaller cake made of the same recipe to make the bear’s ears.

Cut the top off one of your chocolate cakes, so you have a flat surface and smother it in chocolate buttercream. Put your second cake on top of the buttercream so you have a two-tiered cake. If the top of your cake looks uneven, cut the top off, so it looks flat. Doing this will give your final cake a better finish. Cut your smaller cake in half and stick the two halves together with buttercream icing. Use a cup as a guide to cut out two circles and cut a thin crescent shape out of each circle. You now have your ears. Stick the ears to the head, and your bear cake is ready for its icing. I used chocolate buttercream, but your bear would be just as effective with a chocolate fudge glaze. Ice the whole head, including the ears, with the buttercream, and then use a fork to create texture. I used black modelling icing to cut out a nose, mouth, and eyes for my teddy bear cake and then finished the eyes off with a chocolate button each and a touch of white icing to add a glint to her eyes. My teddy bear cake was a girl, so I added a little pink wafer flower to one of the ears to make her look pretty. This cake went very well with the Teddy bear picnic theme for my youngest daughter’s first birthday party.

Beehive cake.

The beehive cake was a simple but very effective-looking cake that I really enjoyed making, and my daughter and her friends were really impressed by it.

For this cake, you will need,

·   a large round cake tin and two oven-proof bowls, one needs to be smaller than the other to create the three tiers of a beehive.

·         18 oz of sugar

·         18 oz of margarine

·         18 oz of flour

·         Nine eggs

·         Three lemons

·         Lemon buttercream icing

·         Yellow modelling icing

·         Chocolate writing icing

·         Black writing icing

·         White card

I made this a lemon cake with lemon buttercream icing in between the layers. The large round cake was a ratio of 8 to 4, the large bowl was 6 to 3, and the small bowl was 4 to 2, but obviously, this will depend on the size of your bowls, make sure you grease your bowls, and you want to be able to fill your bowl to about three-quarters of the way up.

Bake your cakes at 180c for around 20 minutes. You can check if they are ready with a skewer.

Once your cakes are all cooked and completely cooled, carefully take them out of the bowls, and you should have two lovely dome shapes. Cut the bottom off both bowl cakes to stand flat, and then you will need to cut the top of the larger one. Your cake should now look like a beehive when you stack them on top of each other.

Stick together with a layer of lemon curd and lemon buttercream icing, so you now have your beehive shape. You could use lemon buttercream to ice your cake, but I used a ready-to-roll yellow royal icing for mine. It was tricky to get it to look even over the different layers, but I think the final finish was worth it. Once you have your yellow beehive, it’s time to add the detail. Use some chocolate writing icing to add rings around the beehive and draw a tiny door at the bottom. Now all you need is some bees! Use some yellow modelling icings to make some little bee shapes, draw on the stripes, and face with black writing icing. Cut some little white wings out of a white card and stick them into the bee body. Your beautiful beehive is complete!

Princess cake.

This cake looks effective and couldn’t be simpler. To make this cake, you will need,

·         A barbie sized doll

·         six-inch cake tin

·         six-inch oven-proof bowl

·         Buttercream icing

·         Modelling icing in two colours.

For your six-inch cake, you will need,

·         Six oz of margarine

·         Six oz of castor sugar

·         Six oz of self-raising flour

·         Three eggs

For your six-inch bowl cake, you will need the same ratio again. Once your cakes are cool, cut the top off the flat cake, smother it in buttercream, and put the bowl cake on top. You now have the shape of your princess dress. Cut a hole in the middle of the cake, just wide enough and deep enough to stand your doll inside. Roll out your modelling icing and smooth it over the top of your cake. Cut a small slit in the top of the icing, and then you are ready to put your doll inside. Stand her up inside the cake and smooth the icing around the doll’s waist. Roll out the second coloured modelling icing and cut out an inch wide waistband.

 Cut out some flowers and stick them onto the doll’s dress. You can finish it off with some writing icing and some edible gems.

Sweetie train.

This cute little train is perfect for a toddler’s birthday party. I made this for my son’s third birthday, and it went down a treat.

For this cake, you will need,

A shop-bought chocolate swiss roll

A ten-inch square cake tin

Two loaf tins

200g of milk cooking chocolate

Chocolate buttercream icing

For your six-inch cake, you will need,

8 oz of margarine

8 oz of castor sugar

8 oz of self-raising flour

Four eggs

5tbsp of cocoa powder

Round biscuits and sweets to decorate.

Chocolate fingers.

For your loaf tins, you will need a 6 – 3 ratio.

Cut the six-inch cake in half once your cakes are nicely cooled, and then stick the two halves together with the buttercream. Put it on its side and stick it to the swiss roll with the buttercream. Next, cut the loaf cakes in half, spread chocolate buttercream on the bottom, and then stick the tops back on.

Break all of the chocolate into a bowl then melt over a pan of hot water and spread it all over the cakes. Now it is time to go wild with the decoration! Use the round biscuits as wheels for your train and carriages. You can join the carriages together with the chocolate fingers and put them between the wheels. Decorate with sweeties.

Chocolate extravaganza.

A chocoholic’s dream! It is an eight-inch two-tiered chocolate cake with chocolate fudge icing. I use ready-made Betty Crocker’s chocolate fudge icing for this one as it is lovely and rich and chocolaty.

For this cake, you will need,

16 oz of margarine

16 oz of castor sugar

16 oz of self-raising flour

10 tbsp of cocoa powder

Eight eggs

Two tubs of Betty Crocker’s chocolate fudge icing

Three packs of orange-flavoured matchmakers

Betty Crocker’s chocolate fudge brownie mix

As many sweets as you dare to add!

Bake your Betty Crocker chocolate fudge brownies, leave to cool, and then cut into squares.

Once your two 8 inch cakes are cool, cut the top off one, cover it in chocolate fudge icing, and place the other cake on top.

Cover the top and the sides of your cake in the chocolate fudge icing, and then start placing the matchmakers vertically around the sides of the cake until fully covered. To decorate the top, I piled five chocolate fudge brownies up and then put sweets around them. You can use your artistic license to decorate the rest, but it looks best when you have some tall sweets sticking up. I finished this off by sprinkling some smarties on the top.

Party Traybake.

A quick and simple cake that is ideal for parties or to take into school on your child’s birthday. Always check with the school that they allow homemade cakes; this one is nut-free and dairy-free.

For this cake, you will need,

A large deep tray

10 oz of margarine

10 oz of castor sugar

10 oz flour

Five eggs

Tsp vanilla

Vanilla Buttercream icing

Hundreds and thousands

Jelly beans

Rainbow drops

Grease your tray and bake your cake for about 25 minutes at 180c. Once cooled, cover your traybake in your vanilla buttercream icing and sprinkle the hundreds and thousands and sweets on top. Cut into squares, and your cake is ready.

Goody bags

goody bags

Your party has been a success, and there is just one last thing left to give out, and that’s the goody bag, but what do you put in?

Years ago, party favours would be a small plastic bag with a piece of cake, a balloon, maybe a plastic toy, and a few sweets but these days, party planning and goody bags seem to have gotten more complicated and more competitive.

Let’s be honest; most parents hate goody bags! They can be a pain and too expensive to put together, and they are generally full of sugar and plastic toys that often don’t last a day. Wouldn’t it would be great if we could all agree never to do goody bags ever again?

Let’s face it that this will probably not happen any time soon, and our kids do love them if you decide not to give out a goody bag for whatever reason, then good for you! It really shouldn’t be expected and can put pressure on a tight budget.

Why do we put pressure on ourselves? There is nothing wrong with simply sending each child home with a piece of birthday cake, however, if you want to go down the goody bag route, here are a few ideas that might help.

In this day and age, we are all much more aware of possible allergies. Many of us are becoming more concerned about the amount of plastic we are using and are trying to be mindful of the amount of waste we are sending into landfills.

It might put us in a quandary about what to put into our children’s party bags. Here are a few party bag ideas that are more environmentally friendly and won’t break the bank.

Some sweets and a piece of cake.

It’s very similar to the old party bags but without the plastic, and let’s face it, the kids are really only interested in the sweets, aren’t they? (Remember to check if any of your guests have allergies when you send your invitations out.)You can buy paper sandwich bags or paper bags with handles from Amazon or eBay very cheaply, and you can always decorate them to suit your party theme.

The gift of reading.

Instead of a goody bag, give each child a book.

This sounds like it could be expensive, but if you shop around in places like The Works, you can pick up  10 books for £10 making this a cost-effective and thoughtful favour for your child to give at the end of their party.

Baking jars.

I think this is an excellent idea because not only is it an ideal activity for a parent and child to do together, but you can put this together with recycled jars, so it is very cheap to make.

Save up your glass jars you will need one for each of your guests you can always get friends and family to help; I particularly like the Douwe Egbert’s jars as they look pretty and come with an airtight lid, but any good size jar with a screw-top lid will work for this.

I am going to show you how to make some bake your own chocolate chip cookie jars.

Measure out your ingredients and layer them in your pot so you can see the different layers.

Ingredients you will need,

80g granulated sugar

225g plain flour

½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

¼ tsp salt

200g plain chocolate chips or chunks

Put a recipe card together with instructions and let them know that they will also need,

150g butter

One large egg

2 tsp of vanilla extract

Write or print out each child’s name on a square of paper and glue it to the front of the jar and attach your recipe to the pot with a pretty ribbon.

Personalized reusable cups.

This one could add up a bit if you have an entire class party, but if your child is having a birthday sleepover or a limited number of friends, this could be a lovely thoughtful gift. Look out for cheap reusable cups (I found some £12.99 for five on Amazon) with straws or water bottles (Wilkos have water bottles starting from £2.50) and order some vinyl name decals to personalize them. I found some you can get custom-made on Amazon for £1.95. You can give them as a cute gift on their own, or you can fill them with sweets for the children to take home.

Green-fingered gift.

My son brought one home from a friend’s birthday party, and I thought it was a lovely idea to share. You will need,

Some seeds, something like sunflower seeds, are easy to grow in pots.

Small pots, you can get 50 biodegradable ones on Amazon for £5.99.

Some compost

Some small envelopes

Paper bags

This party favour was a simple idea that captivated my son, and he got to enjoy it for months!

You can decorate your paper bags to suit your party theme or simply put each child’s name on the front. Put one seed in each envelope and seal it up. You might want to label it, so the children know what it is they will be growing. Fill each pot two-thirds of the way up with compost and stand it upright inside the paper bag. If you want to seal the top, you could cover it with a square of material or baking paper and tie it on with some ribbon. Put your envelope in the paper bag along with some simple instructions, and your party favours are ready to give out.

Busy goody bag.

This goody bag can be customized to match your party theme and is likely to be a hit with both children and parents as it should keep the little ones occupied for a while. These work well on their own or add a few sweets and a piece of cake. Here are a few ideas of what to put in your activity goody bags.

·       Small Lego set.

You can pick up the small Lego creator packs up for around £3.50.


Playdough and cutters.

You can get playdough sets with 18 colours and 16 cutters and tools for £11 or 2 sets for £15 at Argos. Split up the sets into two different colours and a couple of cutters. You can personalize your paper bags to suit your party theme and the individual child.


Wooden craft kit.

Check out Baker Ross for some good value sets.

A colouring book and pens/crayons.

Have a look in the pound shop. You can often pick up two colouring books for £1, making this a big impact but cost-effective party gift.

Sticker book or a dress-up doll book.

My children absolutely love a sticker book.

Paint your own mug or money box.

You can make up your own set pretty cheaply, or you can often pick up a kit online. Check out The Works, Baker Ross, Hobby craft, and the pound shop for cheap deals.

Scraperfoil art sets.

Check out Amazon or Baker Ross for cheap deals.

Decorate your own biscuit.

Bake some large biscuits, either shortbread or gingerbread

men would be good, and provide some sweets and writing icing to decorate it.

More ideas.

Here are a few more ideas of fun and useful things that you could put into a goody bag.


(perfect for an all-girls birthday party)

Temporary tattoos


(you can’t go wrong!)

Personalized cookie

Bath toys



Playing Cards

Bath bombs (ask about allergies)

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