A toddler’s party – the big 3 and some food stories

Toddlers

Toddler party planning: something I had never imagined I’d be doing.

This is a post that is a little bit random, but a few people told me I should share the ‘facts’ so here I am, more for my own personal musing that anything else.

A birthday

3 years. Not much in the life of an adult, but in the life of a toddler, it feels like a major milestone. As such milestone was approaching for my not so little anymore son, I happened to discover that his bestie James from nursery was born a day before him. Perfect chance then to combine energies and forces and budget and host a joint party with all their friends from nursery.

I am sure many mums out there have been through similar tasks, but as the day approached I found myself deep into the planning and setting up of the event almost as I was hosting a wedding or something of that magnitude. Not really thinking the target group would be toddlers and tired parents!

My mumsy companion was great fun, as we were bouncing off ideas with one another via Whatsapp and the party began to take shape.

The venue

Not wishing to have a relatively large number of toddlers in either of our homes, we hired Oasis Playspace in the grounds of the Imperial War Museum. Both Amanda and I were familiar with it, and I have been there many fridays or mondays while on mat leave because they host free drop in play sessions for babies and toddlers.

It is community run and a charity, so donations are welcome during these sessions and – for private hire – they charge a very reasonable fee (£90 for 4 hours in winter).

The space has an outdoor area too which has a small playground so it’s great for those lucky enough to host a party with good weather; we weren’t that lucky sadly and had everyone indoor at the same time.

Zero waste efforts

Now, how do you host a kids’ party and try to produce as little waste as possible? I have attended parties where there is an enormous amount of plastic and other, unnecessary waste and we were adamant not to have that for Oli and James’ party.

We ordered plates, cups, straws, cutlery and napkins from Vegware, a great British company based in Scotland who have been at the forefront of compostable / eco packaging for years.

Image: Vegware

While most of the products we bought is compostable commercially (eg not in your household food waste), it is still way better than using actual plastic.

As the playspace cannot provide separate bins (due to the council), we collected the food waste and the recyclables (glass, paper) and took it home with us to add to our own bins.

Party bags

Yes, you should do these, it seems. Not up for mum shaming, Amanda and I thought ‘what can we do which is not another piece of plastic?’. Again, brainstorming over whatsapp and a Peppa Pig theatre outing we decided to go for paper bags with a cute pencil and stickers as well as home made cookies in the shape of O, J and 3.

The cookies were 3 different types, and I used a recipe from the very first edition of the Great British Bake Off cookbook for my Os (vanilla biscuits by Miranda). The Js were ginger bread and the 3s were choc chip.

Baking my Os

The centerpiece- the big 3 cake

‘I don’t think we need a big cake’ – said Amanda. ‘Cupcakes will do’ – she added. ‘We can order Waitrose cakes, in case’ – I added. That’s how we started.

Not quite! We evolved from simple, shop-bought cupcakes to a full blown, hand made, custom made big cake for the two boys. Amanda saw something on Pinterest which she shared with me which – at the time – seemed a really great idea.

A big 3 shaped cake, made by two different bakes cut into shape and covered with icing to resemble a road with cars. Since both our boys love cars (which toddler doesn’t).

3 cake shape

After volunteering to bake both cakes (it did make sense), I realised immediately that I did not even have a tin to bake with, so here I go on Amazon and purchased a 28cm which was the largest I could find. Made in Italy, the tin was rubbish in quality but did the job.

Testing

The weekend before I baked not one test cake, but two – neither recipe proving good enough. Panic! I had been mainly worried about decorating the cake, but now, with a week to go, I started panicking about the actual baking.

In comes my friend Stefano – professional head pastry chef in famous London restaurants – to the rescue. He sent me two tried and tested recipes (one for the lemon drizzle and one for the choc sponge) and was available pretty much on call for any questions and tips that I had (and I had many!)

The weekend of the event approached and on the friday, I baked the first cake (the vanilla sponge). Working out the maths for the 28cm tin was tricky and I had to whip up a second batch of batter as soon as I poured the first one in, realising it wasn’t anywhere near enough.

I did better friday with the chocolate bake, which came out perfect and smelling wonderful. It was hard not to cut into the cake and have a bite!

Both cakes got tightly wrapped and ready to be assembled on sunday morning. We sent Oliver off to the Imperial War Museum with a friend and I spent an hour and half decorating the two cakes.

Work in progress

My husband had already cut out a piece of wood and clad it in strong foil and it worked perfectly. He also helped me cutting the shape, which I was terrified about for fear of getting it completely wrong.

The final result, I was pretty chuffed with – I have never really done anything like that.

The reception

So, the party started. The room looked nice, with all our compostable crockery, snacks, prosecco for the adults and a beautiful, freshly cut wedge of Grana Padano which I had been kindly sent by my pr friends Sophie and Cat.

Grana Padano, Prosecco, Party bags

Once the kids started to arrive, it was of course, chaos. We were pressed for time as the space was only ours until 4.30pm and we’d have to clean and tidy (yes, nightmare!).

Ready for the cake, we couldn’t find matches to lit the candles… more panic ensued, a quick trip to the corner shop by husband and we were ready to go!

Cake

I must admit – with a pang of disappointment – that the two birthday boys (or their friends) did not seem that impressed with the masterpiece I had created over 3 days of hard work. Ungrateful!

Kidding aside, the cake fed everyone and was actually really good. The vanilla sponge was drizzled in lemon and orange juice and I had filled the chocolate sponge with cocoa whipped cream which worked really well with little ones.

Amanda and I patted ourselves on the back as we said our goodbyes, handing out the party bags to kids and parents.

Exhausted, but happy. And that’s it for another year.

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