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How to host a party for a seven year old and her 12 friends

Zozo’s Seventh Birthday Party


Zozo’s Seventh Birthday

Zozo came in at 5.45a.m.

She told us her clock radio said 6.00 a.m. we doubted that this was possible, ours said 5.45 a.m. She cried when Darlingest told her to go back to her room, so instead she cuddled up and waited. We learnt that she had been awake for a hour waiting for the time to change. We got up a few minutes later. A couple of hours later I look at the clock radio in her bedroom, it doesn’t tally with my watch which is at least an hour behind, by now presents have been opened, we are trying to have breakfast and get down to the playground. We check the correct time on the computer; my watch was accurate too, it looked as if Zozo had put the clocks forward.

N.B. No pony, puppy or small fury animals. We got her a new bike, her grandparents bought her a piano. She is thrilled to be having her first lesson in a couple of days time.

TBT had a present too, in the hope that this will satisfy his greed/ desire to be the centre of attention/getting something too. His gift is a child sized cricket bat; he hates it.

It promised to be the hottest day of the year, low 70s

It reached 75 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade (24 degrees Centigrade) a. A light breeze blows from the north. When Zozo was born at 3.50 a.m. seven years ago we had already enjoyed a week of similar temperatures. Being Britain the Maternity Ward had no air conditioning; we had to rely on a bank of electric fans, some brought in by my in-laws, other pilfered from various corners of the hospital.

I make the children eggy bread to fill them up

I still haven’t much of an idea of what time it is. My natural clock suggests it is as early as my watch says. I wonder if the battery that was put in at the jeweller’s only a week ago has gone flat. As I’m at the stove I press on with cooking for the party: two dozen little sausages first, followed by what we call ‘Bang bang chicken,’ pieces of chicken breast bashed flat then dipped in flour, egg yolk and bread crumbs, then fried in olive oil and butter. Yum.

Down to the Salt’s Playground

It was as we set off on bikes to the playground and I heard the church bells chiming 8 O’clock that I suspected that Zozo had duped us. According to the clocks in the house it was closer to 9.

As we set off, both on bikes that they must ‘grow into’ I warn that I don’t want any broken bones. On thte playground we play cricket. TBT’s knowledge surprises me and a passing Dad. A few minutes later he is even showing Zozo how to hold the bat, unfortunately I toss a ball in Zoë’s direction while TBT is still close, she raises the bat sharply to intercept the ball and catches TBT on the side of the head. He crumples in pain. It doesn’t draw blood, but promises to produce a blackened eye. I comfort then distract him. Somehow we still cycle ‘up the hill’ home. Zozo that tumbles off her bike and bashes her knee; fortunately neither injury is worthy of a visit to the Emergency Ward.

Half an hour later Darlingest takes Zozo and TBT off to the Stanley Turner Cricket ground in Lewes to ‘play’ cricket with a handful of other children. Last week it was so cold and potentially wet we had almost cancelled; this week they need caps and sun cream.

My role is to get food prepared, rearrange the furniture in the sitting room and add finishing touches to ‘Fagin’s Lair’ in the garden (back yard)

When a Mum calls about getting to our house I mention that roles have been reversed, usually it’s the Dad who takes the kids off to play on a Sunday morning while Mum gets all the food ready. I find a clean pan and cook some vegetarian sausages; Zozo likes them for the taste. I’d be surprised if there aren’t at least three vegetarians amongst the children, it turns out there is only one.

A friends calls worried that her son hasn’t been invited. I try to say that Zozo hadn’t asked him, that she could only have 12 friends. The Mum wanted to know if there was ‘trouble’ between the children. I feel rotten about this. I did tell Darlingest that I thought the boy should have come to both the birthday parties, TBT’s last Monday and Zozo’s as he had been to their parties each year since we came to East Sussex just over three years ago. Darlingest sorts it out with remarkable diplomacy and by the end of the day we are best friends again.

The sitting room is transformed into a refectory

One of the sofas goes out on the balcony

Having got the cat-scratched thing outside I determined that it should not come back into the house. It makes a luxurious sunlounger facing the South Downs and Seaford Head towards the South East. I use the desks I made for the children and computer and set them out in a higgledy piggledy line with the round kitchen table at one end. Darlingest had criticised me for buying four table cloths but all four are needed. Seating might be a problem, but given the theme of the party sitting on boxes, different sized assorted chairs and a bench is in keeping. We had called the Leisure Centre and could have had trestle tables and chairs for a small fee.

I then finish off the awning over the patio at the back door. We’ve recreated Fagin’s Lair by stringing a cat’s cradle of washing lines from one side of the patio to the backdoor. Over the lines I have pegged blankets, towels and drapes. Ties, silk scarves and coloured paper-napkins hang from the lines too. Several 8ft long garden stakes prop up the lines. Spread around the perimeter of this ‘room’ there are blankets and cushions. I bought 40 wooden pegs and dyed them a couple of days ago, have red, half blue. The intention had been to create a ‘bunting’ effect instead we look like a bizarre laundry.

I drink Kronenbourg 1664 diluted with lemonade

Sounds whimpish, but it halves the amount of units I down in a day while keeping my fluids up. The alternative is to make spritzers out of sparkling water and Sauvignon.

After lunch I snooze for half an hour on the sofa I’ve put out on the balcony. I am full of dread. I’ve never had to control such a large group of children before. The last time I did something like this with a group of people was at Oxford when I ran film-making workshops.

Zozo’s friends arrive from 2.30.

There are eight girls and four boys; most have dressed up. TBT is the Artful Dodger, Jack Hawkins. Zozo, as Oliver. Most of the children dressed up in flat caps and neckerchiefs with raggedy shirts and trousers cut off below the knees, one of the girls in a pretty white and pink Victorian style gown, others in cobbled together pieces from the mother’s drawers.

I have a list of games in my desk, a school desk I picked up for £3 from the Local Council dump.

Warm Up Ball Game

I use this to get to know who is who; they react to it as a challenge to through a ball, never mind to know the name of the child in their class to whom the ball is being passed.

I made a list of games from a book on ‘Victorian Parlour Games.’

To offer some order to the event I typed them all up and printed off sheets in 16 pt. The list was as follows:

Party Games

Rather than having them screaming out, ‘Me ! Me ! Me ! Me ! ‘ every time it came to choosing who would do what in the game I decided that we’d draw straws. The prize for the winner/top scorer was a lucky dip filled with sweet miniatures.

Hunt the Ring

Chose FOUR players then sit everyone else in a circle. A ring (curtain ring) on a string (rope) is put behind everyone’s back. As the music plays the ring is passed behind everyone’s back. The person in the middle must guess who has the ring. The person who guesses in the least goes gets a prize. Worked brilliantly after a couple of goes: those in the circle loved the skulduggery involved while the person in the middle, could by concentrating, usually identify the ‘ring holder’ in a few goes.

Hot or cold

One person goes out. An object is hidden. Everyone shouts hot/cold until the object is found. Time who long it takes to find. The fastest gets a prize. Never got round to it. More of an indoor winter game I suspect.


Stand in a circle, try to keep the feather or balloon in the air. Probably needs more space than we have. On the beach? Never got round to it, no need. I was worried about heads being bashed together, there were too many.

Obstacle Race

Four people are chosen. They leave. They are brought back and shown an obstacle course. They are told that the game is to get from one end of the course to the other without touching the obstacles. While they are out all the obstacles are removed. They are brought in blind folded and undertake the race one at a time as everyone shouts ‘watch out!’ etc: Never got round to it. I tried this with five year olds in the Leisure Centre and it hadn’t worked, better to make adults look foolish rather than kids.

The Princess of the Whistle

Four people are chosen and all go out. The Prince/Princess is called in and puts on a blindfold. As they are reminded of the rules a whistle tied to a piece of string is pinned to their back. The game is to grab the person who ‘has’ the whistle. Everyone else runs up, grabs the whistle, blows it and runs off. We tried this with the four who drew a short straw; it didn’t work because they quickly gathered that the whistle had been attached to their backs.


Everyone sits in a circle. (Or two circles). A box of objects has been prepared. The rules are explained. The object that is passed into the circle must be passed in one direction or the other. Everyone time the whistle is blown the direction is reversed. One by one more objects are added and the tempo is increased. If something is dropped or passed in the wrong direction that person is out. When there are only four people left they are the winners and get a prize. Never got round to it. I suspect it would have been difficult to police. I learnt quickly that children are poor at policing each other fairly, instead they pick on one child, take no interest, or work in cahoots.

Moving Statues

All but two people go out. One by one someone is called in. They must joined the ‘living statute.’ This keeps going until everyone is attached to the statue. Coincidently we concluded with this game – it worked well to have all the children sedate and lying down as parents began to arrive to collect them.

Feeding the Baby

Two people wear blindfolds. They sit on the floor knees touching, a bowl of jelly in front of them. They must feed each other. Decided against it due to the likely mess.

Walking the plank

Everyone takes it in turns to walk a line looking through binoculars made of toilet rolls. Whenever a person steps off the line there position is marked. The winners are those who get furthest along the line. Never got round to it.

Pillow Fight

Six people go out, maybe more. Two at a time they are brought into the ‘ring’ wearing blindfolds and clutching their pillow. Unknown to them a third person, not wearing a blindfold is in the ring also. We decided against this as a stray whack with a pillow could have brought our ‘stage set’ down on our heads.

Donkey’s Tail

Pin the tail on the donkey. The three tails closest to the right spot get a prize. Instead I copied the Oliver Twist the Musical ‘Logo’ of Fagin and turned the game into ‘pin Fagin’s beard.’ It was understandable that everyone should wish to play, but hard to control them as only one or two were prepared to wait for their go. Somehow I managed to do four at a time spread across the afternoon.

Pass the parcel

One parcel, one prize. Many layers. When the music stops a layer is removed. The person operating the music cannot see where the parcel is stopping. None of this trick of having a sweet in every layer, or of deliberating setting it up so that each child gets to open a layer. The first time we do this after a couple of rounds we toss in a second parcel. The second time we do this we play with three parcels so that there is more activity.

Who am I? (or 20 Questions)

One person goes out (unable to hear). A name of a person is given to the group. The person is called back. They ask a series of closed questions (yes/no) until they work out who they are. The number of questions asked is put down to create a league. Those four who guess who they are in the least number of questions get a prize. We don’t get round to doing this, though Zozo and I have played it a few times in the car on the way to school. I had a dozen names on cards that would have been shown to the group before a child came in. I look forward to trying more of these games on holiday and at Christmas.

Hunt the Thimble

Everyone goes out. A thimble is hidden, but put someone it can be seen. Everyone hunts it down, standing stock still as soon as they locate it (but not looking at the thimble) We never got round to it, even though Darlingest had been on a hunt of her own to buy a thimble. I’m unsure if it would have worked, TBT would have got bored, probably told everyone where it was hidden and then had a strop if he hadn’t been given a prize.

Hunt the Ring

This was by far and away the best game of the afternoon. Those playing go out while we set up a thin rope on which I have attached a curtain ring. One player at a time then sits in the circle. As the music plays (Oliver Twist, operated in turn by TBT, Freya, Rosie and others) the person in the middle must guess who has the ring. The scores never get higher than five, and a few times they get it in one: everyone wants to do it.

TBT loses it half way through. He isn’t prepared to wait his turn to ‘do the music’ or play the games by the rules. He says, ‘No one is letting me be the winner or go first.’ He tries to get our attention by blocking the back door with a garden chair just as everyone is called in to eat. Unfortunately two large containers of rabbit and guinea-pig food are knocked from a shelf. I have no choice but to find a brush and pan, the last thing I do is get upset with anyone. What I don’t at first notice that having failed to get over how upset he is with me by blocking the backdoor TBT, now out of his Artful Dodger outfit, pulls all the poles out that support the awning. Luckily the lines are well secured. As I said to Darlingest it would have been better if he had been at a friend’s house; children who are two or three years apart in age are hard to manage consistently; I don’t want to favour TBT nor have to say all the time, ‘but he is only five and you are nearly eight.’

Birthday tea with the video of Oliver playing

At some stage as four potential players were dispatched to wait their turn they were joined by a few others seeking out a drink. Darlingest soon found that they wanted to eat. A party feast we had expected to give at 4.30 begins an hour early. Oh well. It transpires that no one had fed their child. They hadn’t had lunch. Just as well. They have a feast and it is a relief to see them asking for ‘more’ then eating it.

We end the games with ‘Moving Statues’

For the first time, with a modicum of control, I am able to take a few pictures as they lie on cushions in a jelly-fish like statue as the first parents arrive. Party bags are handed out, children wave ‘good-bye’ and the thing is over, but for the clean up.

We end the day 125 yards away down on the beach

I fall asleep. The sun is warm into the early evening even after it has crossed Seaford Bay and starts to disappear behind the South Downs to the North West. The sun doesn’t not set until after 9.15 p.m. I felt wrecked: I desperately wanted to return home but find instead that I supervise Zozo, TBT and a friend as they skate and cycle along the promenade. When I do get home I am faced with a party mess to clear which is what I do, racing to get enough done so that I can get my weekly fix of BBC Political Drama Series ‘State of Play’ followed by the ridiculous, though entertaining ’


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