By Suzanne Baum

There’s no way of getting away from it – but once your child nears their third birthday, your little one is sure to want a celebration to mark their special day.

While they may not have been aware of their first and second milestones, celebrated no doubt with a simple family tea, it is unlikely the third can be marked in the same way!

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After all, kids at this age- particularly if they are at a nursery or play group where they will be more aware of others having birthdays-like nothing more than to have a party and who can blame them?

All they have to do is turn up, be entertained, eat to their heart’s content and then go home with a bundle of gifts all to themselves.

Once you’ve started on the children’s birthday circuit, you will discover there is so much diversity when it comes to parties.

For the next six or seven years – until they prefer to hang out with their friends, rather than a cheesy entertainer (or parent!) – you will come across a huge variety of party entertainment.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t come cheap, but there are ways of working to a small budget if you have the space to host the party at home and provide the entertainment yourself.

Like many families, we’ve covered everything from football and cinema parties to soft play and paintballing.

The only thing I’ve refused to do is allow a mass sleepover -the thought of having a dozen boys up all night certainly fills me with dread!

For mum-of-three Sara Boxer, one of the most memorable parties she has thrown was for her daughter Phoebe, who had a cookery-themed party run by The Loaf Cake Company.

“After doing so many sports parties for my two boys, it was nice to have a cookery party for Phoebe’s eighth birthday,” explains Sara.

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“The party was run by a lovely girl who organises tailor-made parties for children and Phoebe’s birthday falls before Bonfire Night, so she did a theme around this.

The children made cookies on sticks and decorated them to look like fireworks.

“I dread to think how many thousands of pounds I’ve spent on my kids’ parties over the years, but at £200 this one was quite reasonable.”

For parents willing to spend a lot more money on their child’s birthday, there are plenty of professional party planners to choose from.

One of the best I have come across is Magical Quests, a business set up in 2006 by mum-of-one Jessica Kingsley.

“I realised there was a gap in the market for high-end themed parties and I always wanted to do more than the standard entertainer dressed as a pirate,” says Jessica.

“I wanted to transport the children to a different world, create exciting stories and most importantly make them believe.  The parties have since grown and we now have more than 40 different themes, offer original scripts and adventures and use professional actors rather than children’s entertainers.”

Her most popular party package is the Jedi Training parties, based on Star Wars, which start at £300 for two professional actors with costumes, lights, sets and music.

She adds: “I am so lucky that my job enables me to be a mum for my three-year-old Otto.  I get to write my scripts from home and have a great team of actors and designers to rely on. He is also a great inspiration, as he already tells me all I need to know about Superheroes and what kids want from a party.”

Having recently booked a Magical Quests party for his daughter Isabel’s fourth birthday party, Jonathan Woolf says he was extremely happy with the outcome.

“We were looking to create an unusual and individual party for our daughter with a magical and theatrical feel to it.  Magical Quests provided us with an underwater theme where they entranced the children with the artistry of their performance, the drama of their characters and the quality of their costumes, scenery and lighting.”

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With the party setting him back around £1,500, Jonathan believes it was money well spent.

“They used the space we had with real imagination and had the children following them around from one part to another in joyous attention”.

Meanwhile Shoshi Davis wanted to hold her son Dillon’s sixthbirthday party at home, but was slightly wary of agreeing to the science-themed party he so desperately wanted. Fortunately Mad Science was on hand to grant his wish.

“I was a bit uneasy about having a bunch of boys performing science experiments in my best room but it went amazingly well!

“Playing with slime and bubble potions is a boys dream and they were all thoroughly entertained.

“At £400 it was quite expensive, but it helped that the kids made their own going home gifts – at least that was one less expense!”

If you don’t want to spend too much on party gifts, it’s certainly worth trying to make your own or checking out your local pound store or supermarket, which always have great items.

There are of course plenty of online suppliers, or better still pay a visit to Oscar’s Den in St John’s Wood. As well as hiring out helium gas to inflate balloons, tables and chairs, the shop sells inflatable equipment and has a fancy dress showroom for adults and children.

Oscar’s Den is also one of very few stores in London selling fireworks all year round. For more details, visit www.oscarsden.com or call 020 7328 6683.

As for catering, you can make your own food or, if your budget allows, hire a caterer. Let’s Meat, based in Shenley Road, Borehamwood, will even let you bring the party to them and offer a package that includes a full meal and entertainer in their private room. For more details, visit www.letsmeat.co.uk or call020 8207 4007.