It’s party central here at the moment. We went to a 4th birthday party last weekend: my daughter (4) and son (5) were both invited. The birthday girl had chosen a pink dress, a pink bow in her hair, and she got a pink castle cake. But, what was refreshing, is that she also chose the theme Bugs and Creepy Crawlies, with the table decked out with The Hungry Caterpillar napkins, tablecloth, etc. Party games were a bug hunt, and there was a craft activity where the children made a butterfly and later a bug. Knowing this girl and her parents, I know that the guests (slightly more boys than girls), but also the theme, activities, cake and outfit will have been the birthday girl’s own choice. I just love that it wasn’t one or the other, and the parents didn’t insist on 1 theme that covered cake, party theme and party outfit, but that it could be a fun mixture of all the things this 4-year-old loves.
The day before we’d been to a 5th birthday Pirate’s party, where the pirate theme had been worked into a few jokey decorations and party games. It was fun (I love the pirate theme in itself) but the girls that were invited were not up for getting their faces painted as pirates, but chose to be cats instead… I take my (pirate) hat off to the parents in charge who quickly adapted and incorporated the cat idea in the games, but I felt it was a real shame that these girls, at 5 years old, were already opposing the pirates idea as being for boys, not for them!
Party bags are standard now, and so often, these are done along gender lines as well. So at the end of the party, a boy guest will get different things (football pencil and pad) to a girl guest (pink swirly lines on glittery pencil and pad). Why are these parents making extra work for themselves, while limiting the children in the process?
But it’s surprisingly difficult to find party themes, party bag fillers, birthday cards, even wrapping paper that is not blue or pinkish, football or fairy-related, but just simply suitable for all children.
Try good old IKEA for wrapping paper and small gift packs (finger puppets etc) for splitting up into party bags.
In terms of themes, animals are pretty genderneutral (usually it’s a farm or jungle theme), but I feel that simply sticking to plain blocks of colours gets the party message across just as well! For my daughter’s 4th birthday, we bought party bags with smilies on
and rings (very popular! I heard one 3-year-old boy say to his mum he now had a ring to match hers).
(Whenever we’ve used the Where’s Wally party pack for present wrapping, it’s always been a hit with the birthday boy or girl: sometimes it gets more attention than the present itself.)
Birthday cards are pretty much all divided along gender lines, even if the number is the main feature on the card. I bulk buy these in advance, as I get frustrated with the limited choice when I have to buy in a hurry. What I’d love to see is a range of cards with an initial on: young kids like to recognise their own letter, and you can decorate it with things that start with the same letter, avoiding the stereotypical items for each gender. You can of course make these yourself: just buy plain cards and get creative with your children!