By Janine Mergler, Families Magazine

Park parties are a brilliant way to celebrate a child’s birthday without breaking the bank or getting into an awkward battle of one upmanship of pricey party venues, with other parents. And we all know that kids love going to the park, so it is an easy solution that suits all budgets and families.

Parks offer a range of facilities including BBQs, playground equipment, toilets blocks and lots of space to run off all the additional energy they are about to eat with all the sweet treats at the party. Parks usually have ample parking and shade too, so they make a perfect family friendly venue.

However, before you commit to a party in your local park, here are our 10 tips for making sure you have everything in place to make your party pop!

Do you need to book your park?

If you are looking to hold a party in a local council park, you may need to book the space ahead of time. All the best parks (and all the best locations within the park) often get booked up ahead of time, so check your local council website for your park of choice to ensure your park space is available for your event.

No booking? No problem!

If you don’t need to book your park, and you plan on going to a popular park on a weekend, you are going to need to send an advance party to secure your preferred location. In most families, this means sending Grandad ahead of time to sit at the gazebo/BBQ table/picnic area reading the newspaper until the main party arrive. It is his job to fend off any potential usurpers to the party HQ.

You may need to book the space ahead of time.

Will your party have a theme?

Whether it is dinosaurs, fairy princesses, Frozen, Star Wars or something else, if you want to have a themed party you will need to do some planning ahead. Decorations will need to be secured, party favours packed and the cake baked (or ordered).

Again, the key to success here is all in the planning ahead. You will need to pack them carefully to be transported to the park of choice on the morning of the party.

Facilities at the park

You may find that the park of choice lends itself greatly to your theme or you may choose a theme and then find a park that suits. Many parks will have facilities that help your creative juices flow. Look for dragons, castles, planes and rocket-ships at your local park.

Other great themes for a park party are ‘Adventures’, ‘Fairies’, ‘Water Play’ or ‘Pirates’. Make sure your chosen park has working BBQs (you may want to check these beforehand to ensure they are in working order), and water fountains, suitable toilets (you may need to BYO toilet paper just in case), seating and shade.

The key to park party success is all in the planning!

Decorating a park party

Once the theme has been decided, decorating gets easier. There are many places where you can buy decorations themed to match your party. Remember to grab some banners, signs, paper plates and cups as well as party favour bags and a tablecloth.

As you are outside, you may get gusts of wind playing havoc with your decorations, so consider what you can use as weights to keep items in their places for the duration. Pack a ‘tool-box’ with string, zip ties, take, scissors etc to help you put up your decorations. Remember anything you put up, must be taken down again.

Don’t forget to take rubbish bags with you to stash your trash.

Catering for your park party

Due to transportation, park party food needs to be either pre-made at home or easily cooked on a BBQ. Cold finger foods such as mini sandwiches, slices, cupcakes, savoury muffins and pikelets are all great choices. For hot foods nothing beats BBQ sausages, chicken kebabs and mini meat patties with sauce. It’s also a good idea to organise someone other than yourself to do the BBQing, it’s impossible to cook and entertain party guests simultaneously.

Party games for outdoor parties

There is no end to the kinds of games you can play with kids during the party in the park. You just need to bear the potential of wind in mind.

We love these:

  • 3 legged races
  • Potato sack races
  • Limbo
  • Tug-o-war
  • Hide and Go Seek
  • Tiggy

Or just let them loose to play in the playground and make up their own games!

Remember anything you put up, must be taken down again.

Do a reconnaissance drive-by a week prior

Just like checking to ensure the BBQs are working prior to the party, you should do a drive-by and walk through on the same day of the week beforehand to see how busy the park is. Is there adequate parking? Is there enough shade? Is the playground fenced and/or close to the road? Is there anything else happening that you will need to be aware of in advance. This should give you some ideas about bringing (or asking your guests to bring) additional seating, picnic rugs, perhaps a pop up shade tent and warning your guests about potential traffic issues.

Wet weather plan

Should the worst happen, and it rains on the day of your party, you will need to have a wet weather plan to enact. You have two choices 1) call off the party and reschedule for a different day or 2) relocate to a new indoor venue. It is a good idea to have this alternate information on the invitation and have everyone’s mobile phone numbers in your own phone just in case. Once the decision is made, let everyone know as soon as possible and hopefully there will be little disruption.

Try to enjoy yourself

Hosting a party of any type can be stressful but if you make a plan in advance, follow our tips and ask for help from family and friends you may find that a park party will be one of the most cost effective, enjoyable celebrations that you can have to celebrate your child’s birthday!