We made this after Sophia watched a YouTube video about DIY home decor where this teenage girl showed multiple ideas of how to spruce up her room. The ideas range from full blown reprint your furniture to simple sand art in a jar. Sophia must have determined she has the most complete materials for this project, remembering the sticks and stones she picked up from our trips to the beach. The wool is from her Grandmother and she asked me for a jar. The fact that I can pull a mason jar from under my bed is testimony to how much junk we have at home.
I’m totally giving out my secrets here, and the number 1 tip to organising a fun party is to outsource outsource outsource, unless you (1) are able to commit to the party virtually full time for at least 3 days leading up to the party, (2) have a commercial kitchen with 2 helpers and (3) are really good with kids (many kids at the same time), like you if are a preschool teacher.
If you are an ordinary full time working mum like myself, there are service providers out there to make life easy.
For Sophia’s 5th party we chose a condo function room, which is essentially a blank canvas which allows you to do anything but also means you have to plan everything else, in Sophia’s words, “all my friends will sit in an empty room and watch tv?”
If you want to save trouble, a venue like an indoor playground would mean that you really only need to get the cake and everything else is settled for you by the venue, and for an all in price that is quite attractive as long as you do not require exclusive use of the playground. The rest of this post assumes a venue like a function room since the other services aren’t applicable for a venue that takes care of all the catering and entertainment.
My go-to mode of decoration is to head to Etsy and purchase a set of party printables according to theme. I’ll print 1.5 inch circles on card stock and stick them on toothpicks to be placed on cupcakes and other desserts. Food labels are either made as food tents (a long rectangle folded into triangle that can stand) or mounted on binder clips tied with ribbons. This year I also cut out pony figurines printed on card stock, mounted them on triangular stands made of card stock and scattered them all over the food and dessert tables. Finally, a string of happy birthday flags in the party theme is a must.
A very important party decoration is balloons. Just regular helium balloons released on the ceiling with streaming ribbons can make a big impact. I also got a cluster of my little pony themed balloons this year but its the first time I got these cluster balloons and I must say in previous years they have never been missed so I may not get them again. I also got a set of my little pony table cloths and were going to get the backdrop pieces because the photo on the website was misleading. The tablecloth that was delivered looked nothing like the picture on the website and was completely unsuitable as a backdrop but on hindsight it may not be a bad thing because it protected the table from the clay paints. The aforementioned decoration materials were procured from Ministry of Party which delivered them promptly on the party day. I’ve already mentioned that the tablecloth delivered did not quite match the picture on their website and my request for balloon colours were not complied with but at the end of the day, they were functional and none of the kids knew that they were not what I had in mind, so not a huge disaster. The quality was decent.
I wanted food that adults will enjoy and also did not really want the children to be eating junk food like chips. So I picked a just a regular caterer. Most caterers are quite bad but I feel Stamford Catering Service (under the Select Group) has good food at a reasonable price. I received many compliments for the food and usually do
I also typically organise some sort of dessert table whenever I can. Previously, I used to bake my own dessert table, killing myself for 2-3 days prior to the party and especially on the party day itself. It also restricts my party timing as I need most of the days to cook so the party needs to be later in the day rather than noon which is better for children once they drop their naps.
This year, I decided to outsource the dessert table too, but not completely to those service providers that design the entire dessert table as they usually fill up the table with useless candy items rather than baked goods and even then the table tends to be quite empty and gaudy. What I did was to order a variety of items from bakerhaven.com.sg. Best decision I’ve made ever. The price was very reasonable. I believe they are a wholesaler hence the affordable prices. They were very professional, calling to confirm my order and to ask whether I wanted the pies cut, how many slices etc. The leftovers that I brought to office received lots of compliments and for a few days thereafter, all the secretaries were browsing their website and ordering for Chinese New Year. I therefore only needed to make some caramel popcorn and mini cupcakes to add to the table and also added a large glass bowl of chips and bottles of water with the labels changed to that of the party theme. The one tip I have for creating dessert tables is to remember to get arrange things in different heights. The items at the front can be in plates, after that on cake stands or plates propped up with nicely wrapped up boxes, and behind that 3 tier stands, glass jars, large bowls, or tall birthday cakes. This will really make the table pop. Without this arrangement, however much decor you place on the table, it will still look flat and unimpressive. I didn’t do a very good job of the layering this year but you can see how, even with just a half hearted attempt, the tall parts at the back made a big difference. If I had gotten the pony backdrop to put behind the table and some cake stands or boxes to prop up some plates, it would have been even better.
Disneyland of course.
When a friend invited me to Hong Kong for her wedding, I immediately thought we’ll bring the girls there for Disneyland. The grandpa was initially not convinced that the husband and I will be able to take good care of his precious granddaughters so he persuaded Sophia to stay in Singapore saying he’ll bring her to an indoor playground and she actually agreed to that notwithstanding the photos of Disneyland I showed her! She didn’t know what she was missing out on at that time of course. After being there there’s no way she would make that decision again.
We stayed at the Disneyland hotel and got 2 day park tickets. We got the magic access membership for Sophia on recommendations that it will pay for itself in discounts. I think for us we broke even or made a slight loss because none of us are interested in character dining and we are not crazy about the merchandise either.
Among all the fascinating rides and attractions, Sophia’s favourite was the blast lightyear astro blasters (or “the shooting game”) which we adults enjoyed as well. I especially enjoyed it because by a fluke I achieved a level 5 score when Sophia was with me and she proudly showed off to the daddy that mummy had a higher score than him.
Overall Sophia had the most fun of course while Sandra and I did a lot of waiting around for her to be back from rides but there are a surprisingly large number of rides suitable for babies.
1. If you go on a weekday that does not coincide with a special China holiday like the golden week, queues are actually very manageable. Apart from a new Stitch Encounter which we gave up on because the queue didn’t even appear to move for forever, average wait time was something like 15 minutes, or less.
2. If you like Asian food, food at the park is actually quite good. Unlike most theme parks I’ve been to that only offers greasy fried food, Hong Kong Disneyland has things like has Cantonese roasts and noodles that taste quite decent. Of course they can’t be compared to the best Hong Kong has to offer but is well above the average Singaporean food court standard.
3. Go during winter. Even though it was early December that we went, the weather was perfect, not at all cold. I imagine summer will be quite uncomfortable.
4. Most visitors are from the PRC. The cast members are clearly more proficient in Mandarin than English although most know enough English to get the job done. Although the PRC visitors got a bad rep for queue cutting and other uncultured behaviour when the park first opened, and indeed we got the brunt of when we visited back the , during this trip, most that I encountered were well mannered and rules abiding.
5. Hong Kong Disneyland seems to be in the no man’s land between being a one day park and a two day park. It is possible to complete it in a day if you dash in at rope drop and follow a completely type A schedule, which I am totally capable of doing. With young kids in tow though, I would recommend slowing down and accounting for naps and long meals.
6. It’s a great park for younger kids. Most rides have no height limits or a height limit that is very manageable (they’ll hit it almost once they are able to walk kind)
7. Stickers! All the cast members have stashes of stickers to give out. Other than maybe the characters since they have no pockets. But seriously even the Cleaners give out stickers if you ask for them. It’s sticker paradise and which kid doesn’t love stickers?
One of the great things about living in multi-racial, multi-cultural Singapore is the wide myriad of experiences we can give to our children. A big thank you to my great friend Priyanka for allowing us to be part of your Diwali celebrations for the third year now, and the first time Sophia got to play with rangoli which she totally enjoyed.