Long gone are the days of a simple pass the parcel and a plate of fairy bread to celebrate a child’s birthday.
Today’s kids’ parties can include anything from live entertainment and pop corn vendors to Ferris wheels and photo booths.
But this extravagant party craze has got some experts concerned that we’re too focused on the way a party looks, rather than the meaning of the day.
Capital Kids Parties operates in Sydney and Canberra.
Owner Ashley Sohier has seen first hand the extreme lengths parents will go to in an attempt to create the perfect birthday party.
“At one party the mother had turned her entire home into a circus themed carnival complete with roving entertainers, caterers, a jumping castle and even a petting zoo,” Mr Sohier said.
He said it’s clear when the parents are out to make an impression.
“Although the parents won’t openly admit it, we do see a fair bit of competitiveness,” he said.
“They often want to outdo each other, particularly in more affluent suburbs.
“Some parents do care a lot about how the party looks and how it’s talked about afterwards because they seem to think it’s a reflection on how they’re perceived as a family.”
But a lavish children’s party comes at a cost.
“Most of the parties we get hired to do are just a few hundred dollars but we are getting more requests for parties up around the $1000 mark,” Mr Sohier said.
“These parties often include very specific requests about what our entertainers are required to do.”
University of Western Australia honorary research fellow, and social psychologist, Helen Street said parents were increasingly focused on the way their kids’ party looked.
“There is a lot of focus on the photos that are taken at an event and posted on social media and parents are worried about how the party looks from the outside rather than whether it’s actually fun for the kids,” Dr Street said.
She is adamant there is nothing wrong with having a nice party.
“It’s how we define the idea of a nice party which needs addressing,” she said.
“If the kids are running around with each other and laughing then they might be having a lot more fun than a structured activity which might look better in pictures.”
She’s reminded parents that kids are not mini adults and are not necessarily fussed by how much money is spent.
“Kids are generally pretty happy when they’ve got a birthday cake, a few games and can run around and have fun with their friends,” she said.
Dr Street said it was up to parents to set a good example for their children.
“Children learn from modelling what we do more than what we say, so if they see parents competing and being caught up in the way it looks, they’ll learn that those things matter and that’s not a good thing,” she said.
“In later life they’ll be more likely to be caught up in their own presentation rather than building sustainable methods in life.”
She’s urged parents not to succumb to pressure.
“Parents need to feel confident in telling their friends they’re having a simple party for their child and shouldn’t feel a need to explain themselves,” she said.
“You’ll often find many of the parents will be very happy to have a simpler party, because it means they in turn don’t feel pressure to compete.”
While competition can be a big factor, Mr Sohier said some parents were simply time poor.
“Many parents are just busy and don’t have time to plan a birthday but they want something special for the day so they hire children’s entertainers to take the stress out of it,” he said.
“Parents want to have a celebration that they can look back on with fond memories and it’s great when you receive positive feedback from parents who say their kids have had an amazing day.
“We offer a service and if that’s what someone wants, then we’re there to meet their demands.”