By Yvonne Kerr with thanks to the Irish Play Centre Association


  1. Avoid preparation involved in making food for 10-15 hungry kids
  2. Adult supervision so less pressure on parents to keep watch over kids
  3. No planning required
  4. Time boundaries are set – parents know when to pick their kids up
  5. No messy clean-up afterwards – it’s all taken care of!
  6. Entertainment is taken care of at the play centre
  7. Time to relax and chat to other parents
  8. Much less time consuming – especially for working parents
  9. Great value for money
  10. Kids are showered with all the attention
Still reeling your child’s crazy birthday party....
Why not go for a stress-free party at your local play centre instead?

Your child’s birthday party comes but once a year – thankfully say parents everywhere. This occasion has the potential to send the most relaxed mum and dad into balls of stress as they frantically scour shops for party hats and balloons and supermarkets for cup cake icing and chocolate sprinkles. As well as the expense and time of the whole exercise, there’s the ugly clean up to deal with afterwards and your carpet has never quite recovered from that hot marsh mallow attack last year.

Well, there’s an alternative out there. Local play centres under the umbrella of the Irish Play Centre Association are springing up around the country offering a safe, affordable and hassle-free birthday party option that could save you and your loved ones quite a few grey hairs this year.

Testimonial 1

Mum of three, Ger Keely from Newbridge, Kildare couldn’t agree more.

Ger has held six parties at her local play centre, including her eldest son Mark’s eighth birthday, and she couldn’t rate the experience highly enough.

“It ticks all the boxes for me,” Ger says.

“It’s brilliant because the kids experience is so much better. There’s so much preparation and pressure involved in having parties at home. You’re always trying to make sure that everything is ok and you’re planning weeks in advance.”

Ger would have invited up to 15 kids to her children’s birthday parties at home and says she felt “huge pressure” minding those kids whose parents she may not have known that well.

“The minding involved with a child is very stressful,” she says.

Ger remembers one children’s birthday party at her house a few years ago. One set of parents dropped their kid off, only to tell Ger they were going sailing for the day. “All I could think was, how do I contact you if anything happens?” she looks back. This is typical of home parties Ger says, as parents leave kids at your house for much longer than they would at an event or play centre.

“Parties in a play centre are usually two hours long. Parents know the boundaries and there’s a definite pick-up time,” Ger explains. “If other kids stay longer at your house, the responsibility lies on your shoulders to mind them. You’re worried if they’re running out into the back garden that they’ll trip or hurt themselves. I always had savlon, plasters and calpol at the ready just in case.”

Adult supervision in play centres means parents can relax and enjoy a chat while their kids run around. “You’d feel negligent if you did that at a party in your house,” Ger says. “It’s very relaxing. You can be sure your kids are happy and you’re not living in fear. “

In comparison, Ger says play centre parties are safe, clean, there’s no planning or clean-up (“it’s great because your toilet isn’t really messy afterwards!”) and there’s no entertaining required on your part. Home parties require leadership, Ger tells, as kids expect you to be involved.

Then there’s the cost. Ger believes a lot of parents are in denial about the costs attached to hosting children’s birthday parties at home. “It’s like Christmas,” she tells. “You’re prepping for two weeks beforehand.”

While some people baulk that play centres charge an average of €15-17 per child for a party, Ger says that if you sat down and added up all the hidden extras like plates, party bags, hats, toys, gifts, cakes, buns and sandwiches – you’d be surprised at the total amount spent.

“In my opinion, the cost is more or less the same,” Ger says. “You don’t save much having a party at home, if at all. I probably spent €200-250 for my son’s Marks party at home. It would have cost €200 in a play centre.”

Aside from keeping the parents happy, play centre parties are also fun for the kids. Ger’s son Mark was delighted with his day out in the play centre, and still talks about it to his Mum. There were no tears from him and no hard work for her.

“Mark felt like a king that day,” Ger explains. “The focus was all on him.”

Testimonial 2

Mairead Magee is a mother of three young kids. She lives in Shankill, near Bray in Wicklow.

“I love the idea of getting the kids into two cars and making a day out of it,” Mairead says of play centre parties. “When we get there, we can sit down and have food and the kids can go mad.”

She’s also a fan of taking the kids to the play centre at weekends when she takes her family and her own parents on a Sunday drive. “We can relax and we’re not watching the kids all the time.”

A full-time company director, Mairead had one kids’ party at home and swore she’d never do it again. She remembers the terrible clean-up after the party, and also the worry involved as her family have dogs at home. The kids all ended up sitting in front of the v playing Nintendo Wii.

“At least at a play centre, there’s a climbing frame and wall and other games and costumes...we also spent a fortune on food,” continues Mairead who estimates she forked out about €130-140 on food for 10-12 kids. “And that’s not including the time involved.”

To help out with the preparation, her husband took a half day off work so combined with the full day off work for her – time away from work for both parents was considerable.

“At the play centre, the cost is about €165 for 10 kids and that includes party bags,” Mairead tells. “There’s no stress or hassle involved. There’s no clean-up. We can just make a whole day of it. By way of value for money, I couldn’t complain.”

For the kids themselves, there’s great ‘street cred’ attached to having a party away from home, Mairead explains. “My daughter’s friends told her it was the best party ever.”