The budget birthday party (or: how my home transformed into a tacky-tastic Octonaut tribute)


Somebody get me one of those t-shirts, the ones that say: “I had a fourth birthday party IN MY OWN HOME  and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.” Or simply: “SURVIVOR” emblazoned over my chest. Because… we did it. And, whisper it, it wasn’t at all difficult. Or scary. Or ruinous.

Sure we were a bit tired after. And the house was a bit of a mess. But it took a couple of hours to clear everything away and after that, there was no sign of it. Nothing to suggest that, a short while ago, twenty four-year-olds had rampaged round the house, inhaling cake, mauling a giant cardboard robot and dancing in a hail of ripped up wrapping paper.

If anything it was a bit cleaner than before, since we’d been forced to have one of our extremely rare ‘proper spring cleans’, leaving me to think that maybe we should commit to having kids parties in the house at regular intervals simply from a health and hygiene perspective.


Here’s how it went down…

The night before, we kicked Johnny out to have a sleep over at his friend’s house. Then, two friends arrived on a promise of wine and food in exchange for help creating an Octonaut-themed paradise out of a few balloons, some old paper plates and tissue paper.

By midnight, and several bottles later, we had pushed the furniture to the edges, carried a lot of the clutter upstairs and created the following:

-       An extremely wonky chocolate cake, covered in blue icing, with a ‘coral reef’ covering of smarties and several plastic Octonauts dug out of the toy box and propped up on top. The wonkiness, we passed off as waves. It worked brilliantly, but only because four year olds don’t know that there aren’t waves at the bottom of the sea.

-       A ‘pin the patch on Kwazi’ game, composed of: a laminated print out of Kwazi’s face stuck to an art easel, several laminated eye patches with blue tac stuck to the back of them, and Tom’s handkerchief to tie round small heads and render them temporarily blind while an eyepatch was put in their hand and they tried to stick it in the right place on Kwazi’s face. This was a real winner. Less so for the hungover parents being spun around rather over-zealously by their offspring…


-       Octonaut ‘treasure’ (laminated printouts of various octonaut symbols), hidden round the garden as a treasure hunt for the kids (and then rehidden and rehidden as they handed them in… Got to make them run off that sugar…), found online for free, here, here, and here

-       An Octonaut birthday banner, found online as a free download, here

-       Octonaut posters and table decorations, found online as a free download, here

-       A kelp forest for the kids to walk through (read, ‘scrunched up, long strands of blue and green tissue paper tied to a piece of string across the sitting room)

-       Jelly fish hanging from the ceiling (read, ‘more blue and green tissue paper hanging from paper plates’)


-       Twenty gingerbread men and twenty little tubes of icing with which the kids could decorate them (bought from Iceland on the extremely cheap)

-       Jam sandwiches, hoola hoops, carrot sticks, cheese sandwiches, sweets (and tea for the adults) Because, really, why get them anything smarter when all they really want is sugar and the opportunity to run it off (see treasure hunt, above)

-       A pass the parcel with some stickers from the pound shop

-       Party bags (paper bags, yet another free downloadable octonaut symbol printed out onto white stickers and slapped on the front… inside: some Octonaut colouring sheets and puzzles – free to print out from here)

And, the piece de resistance, my afor-mentioned friend, Ellie, inside this cardboard robot, made by a friend of mine as a Halloween costume and borrowed for the occasion. We played ‘Simon says’ but using ‘Robot says’ instead. The kids loved it. There was a rugby scrum over who could hug the robot/maul the robot/push the robot over. I think we may have put Ellie off the idea of ever having babies.


In all it cost us £60, a lot of energy and a bit of a hangover (the side effect of bribing friends with wine the night before). We gained: 20 happy kids, one over-the-moon birthday boy and, unexpectedly, a slightly cleaner home full of totally wonderful happy memories. A win, I think.