Having a birthday party? Here are some tips…

We've got a birthday in our house next week – thankfully we're at the stage now where the party is the easiest thing in the world: a sleepover, video games and a dvd, pizza, maybe some 'midnight feast' snacks. But it wasn't so long ago that we were having to come up with inventive ways of entertaining 20 or so kids for two hours. So here are my top tips for throwing the perfect child's birthday party – please feel free to add your own!

1. Decide on a venue. House parties are easiest for little ones, but if you're worried about the mess then your local school, sports centre or church hall can probably be hired out quite cheaply.

2. Choose a theme. Not so important when the kids are nursery/reception age, but after that a really good idea. Fancy dress, wizards and witches, Ben 10, Harry Potter, Hannah Montana – whatever your little darling and their friends are into.

3. You need some sort of entertainment, but it doesn't have to cost the earth. For little ones, traditional still works – so pass the parcel, musical chairs, pin the tail on Peppa Pig, a sweet-stuffed pinata, etc. Ignore your inner Competitive Mum – just because Lucy had pony rides, a carousel and a ride in a hot air balloon doesn't mean you have to do the same. My brother-in-law has always done homemade puppet shows – he sets them to chart hits and the kids love them. A disco will also work, karaoke if your head can take it, or you can make your own football party. If you do want to spend a bit more, soft play parties are always popular with younger ones, cinema outings can be fun from about the age of 6, or when they're a bit bigger, go karting, bowling, laser quest or paintball.

4. Don't get too stressed about the food. The honest truth is that kids don't want to spend an hour sitting down to a lavishly prepared tea. They want to get up and run around and cause havoc. So a few sandwiches, grapes, carrot sticks, and cherry tomatoes (so it seems a bit healthy), crisps, some fairy cakes and of course the birthday cake (if you want a recipe for a super easy one, click here).

5. Going home presents should be cheap and cheerful (and you don't need them past the age of 10). One simple toy, some sweets, a blower/bubbles, a slice of cake.

Finally, send out the invitations 2 weeks in advance, and if you haven't had an RSVP don't be afraid to ring up and ask. Some parents are incredibly lax about replying to invites which can be incredibly annoying if you're trying to work out numbers. If you're guilty, take note!

written by Liz Jarvis