Kids' birthday parties are now lavish celebrations with families and friends

Children's birthday parties have evolved from simple celebrations with blowing candles as the highlight, to full-fledged celebrations that may even involve party planners. —

LAVISH children’s birthday parties are nothing new, but social media has made them much more visible.

From renting ice staking rinks and cinema halls to thematic parties with face painting and other interactive booths, a child’s annual party to mark his or her new age has moved from a small-scale family affair with cake and food to a full-fledged celebration.

These parties are sometimes executed by party planners, complete with drinks and desserts to match the theme.

But for parents, how big the party is doesn’t matter, as long as the young family member gets to celebrate it with families and friends. It’s also an excuse for family and friends to get together, and this is why some parents will go to great lengths to plan and prepare for a child’s birthday party.

Housewife Crystal Chhang, 32, says almost all birthday parties for her twins, Jin Yan and Jin Chen, 3, are done at her home in Kuala Lumpur.

“Birthday parties are regular events in our family, and I love organising them myself at home because I feel that it is more comfortable and cosy,” she says.

Chhang (seated, left) with husband Jayden Chia with their children Jin Yan and Jin Chen, and their guests at one of the parties held at home. — CRYSTAL CHHANGChhang (seated, left) with husband Jayden Chia with their children Jin Yan and Jin Chen, and their guests at one of the parties held at home. — CRYSTAL CHHANG

Where the party’s at

Depending on the complexity and number on invitees, planning and preparing for a birthday party can be as easy as making a few phone calls or laborious, especially if it involves cleaning up after, which is why sometimes, families opt to have it at an external venue.

Chhang says they celebrated their sons’ third birthday at an indoor play centre near their home. “Choosing a convenient location that’s close to our house made it easier for us to oversee the preparations and for our guests to go to the venue since they are familiar with the area where we live. It was a good change; the kids had a fantastic time playing throughout the day while the adults got to chat,” she adds.

Entrepreneur Siti Sabira Azman, 32, also favours an out-of-home location for convenience. She chose a kid’s indoor playground to celebrate her daughter’s fifth birthday.

“Organising and throwing a birthday party has been a family tradition for us, and for Samira Aleesya’s birthday, we went a little extra by organising it at an indoor playground in Mont Kiara,” she adds.

For the party, Siti Sabira opted for a birthday party package that included food and entertainment. As for decoration, she did it herself with the help of her family and friends.

“It was quite an experience and everyone, from kids to adults, enjoyed it,” she says.

The Little Gym marketing manager Nurul Nadia Othmarani says many parents choose an indoor kids activity centre as their party location mainly for the convenience, cost-effectiveness and fuss-free factors it offers.

“A location like a kid’s gym saves them the effort of setting and cleaning up, as these will be taken care of by the centre’s team. On top of these, there are activities arranged for the children and this takes off the load from the parents who are organising the party. They can just relax and talk with fellow adults,” she says.

Samira (seated, fourth from left) with her cousins and friends during her recent fifth birthday celebration. — Photos: SITI SABIRA AZMANSamira (seated, fourth from left) with her cousins and friends during her recent fifth birthday celebration. — Photos: SITI SABIRA AZMAN

Small and intimate

Chhang says the birthday parties at her home are usually small and private, with family members and close friends, and just about 10 guests. “It’s more intimate that way and that is why I like organising everything from scratch,” she says.

She adds that once the theme of the party is chosen, she would go online to shop for party decorations and decorate the party floor herself.

“Every birthday party will have its own theme, and the decoration and our outfits will also match it. I will also encourage my family members come to the party in clothes that match the theme. It’s cute and fun and guests usually oblige,” she says.

To make sure that they don’t overspend, Siti Sabira and husband have a pre-set budget for each party and the family will plan accordingly, including deciding on the theme, according to Samira’s interest and preference.

“We plan as a family and we will get her involved in selecting a theme which is usually based on her favourite character, movie, hobby or colour scheme,” she says.

Even though most of the celebrations are carried out at an external venue, Siti Sabira takes pride in executing the whole planning process from pre-party works like choosing the menu, creating a guest list, planning activities and managing the event.

“Our party usually has 70 guests, made up of family members and close friends,” she adds. “Although the amount spent is quite hefty, I feel that it’s worth it because the kids could play in the indoor playground all day. We had the party area for two hours but I feel that’s sufficient for adults to eat and chat,” she says.

The convenience

While Chhang still takes pride in her home parties, she agrees that parents nowadays prefer to rent a venue and get an event planner to organise a birthday party if they don’t have time to do so.

“When I was a kid, my parents celebrated my birthday either at home or at a fast food outlet, but things have changed. There are so many options for children’s birthday parties now,” she adds.

Siti Sabira says the current trend of children’s birthday parties often involve more elaborate themes, decorations and activities compared to past generation’s celebrations. “But there are also parents who prefer simpler, more traditional birthday parties, often held at home or in local parks, without elaborate themes or extensive planning,” she says.

“Whether it is a small or big celebration, what’s important is to make the child happy and feel special on that day,” she says.

She also believes that birthday parties are opportunities for children to socialise and strengthen relationships with family and friends, meeting their cousins, aunts and uncles whom they don’t regularly see.

She says while birthday celebrations on social media can look lavish or financially out-of-reach by normal wage earners, what’s important is the birthday child’s happiness and the family spirit. “There’s always the potluck option for food. What’s important is the cooperation, gathering and celebration. That’s what a birthday party is all about,” she says.

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