Moving to a new city, mundane tasks such as calling a plumber and opening a bank account can take some time to figure out. Throwing a memorable birthday party for your son or daughter—buying their favourite cake flavour, finding the perfect theme decorations and knowing proper Catalan invitation etiquette—is on a whole other level. Do not despair! With this Barcelona kids’ birthday party checklist, you’ll be sure to cover all your bases and host a terrific celebration for your child in the end.
1. Pick a location
Up until a year ago, indoor play centres, otherwise known as ‘chiqui parks’, were all the rage in Barcelona, but recently new event spaces have been popping up around town. These blank, open spaces are at your disposal. They provide all the necessities—tables, chairs, TVs, a refrigerator, etc.—and you take it from there.
The benefits of hosting kids’ birthday parties at places like these are that you rent them by the hour, you don’t have to pay per guest, you can decorate however you want and you have more freedom with the menu – meaning you can make sure your kid’s favourite snacks and fizzy drinks are available. If you don’t want to simply celebrate at home, this new concept is great for keeping costs low while still giving your kids everything they want on their big day.
2. Finalize the invite list
Who will get a much sought after invitation to your child’s birthday party? It greatly depends on how old he or she is. For example, a baby’s first and second birthdays are really more for the parents than for the child. Babies have no concept of friends, and they’re not going to remember the party anyway, so a guest list of family members and a few of your own friends will suffice. Once your child turns three and starts preschool, it’s then typical to invite their whole class.
As children grow up, birthday party sizes decrease. When they reach six or seven, the invite list starts to be based on real relationships rather than who is in their class. At this point, there are bound to be some hurt feelings when some kids aren’t invited to the party. If your children want to have a party for a specific group of friends—everyone from their swim team, all their neighbourhood pals or their entire music class—then you should encourage them not to leave out one or two kids, even if they don’t get along with them that well. However, if your kids want to have a sleepover with their three best friends, that’s ok too.
Nobody likes being left out. But at the end of the day, kids can handle not being invited to someone’s birthday party. They will overcome the initial sting of rejection and disappointment, and learn they can’t be friends with everyone. That’s not to say that other children’s feelings should be disregarded. In fact, it’s up to you as a parent to use parties as opportunities for chats about friendship, kindness, empathy and etiquette.
Remember: Before you decide on a date, check with ‘essential party guests’ to make sure they’re available. Your child won’t be happy if her best friend is going to be out of town on the day of her birthday party, no matter how many times you let her sneak a fingertip of icing from the edge of the cake.
3. Buy decorations
Children’s interests can change on a weekly, perhaps even daily, basis. Although your kid’s room may be dedicated to dinosaurs, now he might be obsessed with basketball. Discuss with your child what kind of party he or she wants. Once a theme is chosen, then you can narrow down decorations and complementary activities.
Party Fiesta has 15 shops in the Barcelona area with all the party supplies you’ll need.
4. Hire the entertainment
It’s quite common to hire entertainment for kids’ birthday parties—provided you’re hosting in a space with enough room. From face painters and magicians, to bounce houses and DJs, the right entertainment can really define the tone of the party.
If you can’t find a good fit for your youngster’s party, don’t hesitate to ask older siblings and their friends, or teenagers you know in the neighbourhood, to help out. It could make for a fun day for them as well if they get to put on a magic show, dress up as the birthday girl’s favourite Disney princess or turn toddlers into tigers, pirates and butterflies.
5. Plan the menu
Since partygoers of any age are often too wound up and excited to eat much, don’t stress over the menu or spend an exorbitant amount on food.
Finger foods, for instance, are always a crowd pleaser. They make everyone’s life easier—you don’t need to provide cutlery and your guests aren’t trying to chase a toddler while balancing a plate of pasta salad—and there are endless kid-friendly combinations. Cater to your child’s taste, but think along the lines of sandwiches cut into squares, chips and dip, pizza cupcakes, fruit skewers, veggie fries, crescent dogs, empanadas and taco egg rolls. (We’re getting hungry just thinking about that spread!)
Here, a lot of parents prepare the meal themselves (but usually have skilled family cooks on call in case they need a hand). If you don’t have the time, patience or manpower, there are a number of English-speaking catering services in Barcelona.
6. Order dessert
Yellow cake with fudge icing. Red velvet crinkle cookies. Mint chocolate cake roll. Oh my! The way your mouth is now watering expresses how important the dessert is at a birthday party.
Victoria’s Cakes, one of many scrumptious bakeries in Barcelona, offers handmade, custom design cakes, cupcakes and cookies that are guaranteed to boost the enthusiasm for any birthday party. In the past, they have created Minion cakes, monster cupcakes, a cake in the shape of a PlayStation controller, Peppa Pig-themed everything and more.
Wherever you choose to buy a cake or other desserts, we suggest ordering everything one week ahead of time.
Something else to keep in mind throughout this planning process is that kids’ birthday parties tend to be very easy-going in Barcelona. You’ll find that there isn’t much competition to make them big and fancy. Needless to say, most kids are content getting together with their friends in a plaza or at the park over juice and sandwiches.
Besides any birthday bashes you throw on your own in Barcelona, at Santa Clara we make a point of celebrating every student’s birthday, too. Students are encouraged to bring in a cake and we spend about an hour all together, singing “Happy Birthday” in as many languages as we can, eating and hanging out in honour of the birthday boy or girl. It’s inevitable that some kids will have to spend half their birthday trapped at school, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have a little fun between lessons.