Sunday 29 October 2017

Throwing a Halloween party for 4 and 5 year olds with Party Pieces

I have a Halloween obsessed four year old, so when the people over at Party Pieces asked if we'd like to feature some of their amazing Halloween range here on the blog, we jumped at the chance and decided to throw Bert his first ever Halloween party! 

Bert's birthday falls in late August, so he never gets to celebrate his birthday at school with his friends and because most people are usually on their summer holiday at that time of year, we've never thrown him a traditional kids birthday party - usually opting for a family/friends picnic or barbecue or a family day out at a zoo or farm.

We thought it would be lovely for Bert to experience his own special party, especially as he has just started full time school and now has a lovely little group of school friends. We hoped this party would be a great way to get to know each other better and for the parents to socialise too!

When we told Bert we were throwing him his very own Halloween party he was SO EXCITED! His little smiley face when we gave out the invitations to his friends was priceless. 

Now anyone who knows me well, will know I love a "theme" ... hosting is one of my favourite things to do - in another life I think I must have been an events or wedding planner - because I love nothing more than diving in full steam ahead and running with a theme. Bert's Halloween party was to be no exception. 

When planning the party I was acutely aware that I was dealing with a small group of 4 and 5 year olds, who, however much they might say they love Halloween, are probably not ready for an absolute scare-fest, so I wanted to create a fun party atmosphere that was Halloweeny without scaring the bejeezus out of them.

Firstly, (as always) I turned to Pinterest to get lots of ideas before selecting a range of products from Party Pieces. Here's the Pinterest board I created to collect and hone my ideas and inspiration:

I loved the Pumpkin Party collection from the Party Pieces range, as they were orange, black and white in theme and concentrated (as the name suggests) on pumpkins rather than anything too spooky! So I decided to opt for lots of this collection for our party. 

Obviously, the best way to showcase the way I styled the products from Party Pieces is to show you them in situ, so I took plenty of photos on the day which I'll share below. I've broken down this post into the following categories:
  • Decorations
  • Food, Drink & Tableware
  • Games and Activities
  • Party Bags 
I hope I can provide you with some inspiration for creating a halloween party for smaller children - obviously you can go the whole hog and throw a full on Halloween party like us, but even just a Halloween tea/dinner using some of the buffet ideas would go down a treat with your little ones, I'm sure!


The main 'party room' for us was our kitchen-diner, so we re-arranged the furniture creating a big space for the kids to play games and have a picnic style lunch, moved our large dining table up against the patio doors for the buffet, and arranged seating throughout the kitchen/diner for the adults. 

Our living room became the 'safe space' for the babies and toddler siblings of the party guests, along with our Connie too - we made sure all the toys in the living room were baby and toddler friendly, had CBeebies playing on the TV and added a few decorations, some balloons and some inflatable Halloween items to boot. 

In the dining room and kitchen we hung 'SPOOKY' bunting, placed honeycomb tissue paper pumpkins throughout and added an inflatable bat to the dresser. The main form of decoration and the centre piece to the room was the buffet table full of Halloween themed food and of course, lots of pumpkins! We also added some Halloween balloons which we added to Party Pieces decorations, we found the balloons in Poundland. 

Halloween Party ideas with Party Pieces

honeycomb pumpkins from Party Pieces

Spooky banner from Party Pieces

Halloween Party decor from Party Pieces

Spooky bunting from Party Pieces

Spooky bunting from Party Pieces

Honeycomb pumpkins everywhere

honeycomb pumpkin from Party Pieces

We tried to keep the decorations simple, non-scary, and easy to put up and bring down, because this party needed to be practical as well as effective. It fell on the last day of half term and as a mum of two, who runs my own business from home, I needed to be realistic about how much time I could actually spend on creating this party. In fact, that's the reason I love Party Pieces so much - the quality, price and effectiveness of their party ranges are so good - it's a case of maximum effect for minimum effort, which is a major win for busy parents, eh? 


As a self-confessed foodie, the buffet element of the party was particularly important to me. I like to make sure there's plenty of food and drink for everyone, and I also like to think about the ages I'm catering for and the types of food they're likely to enjoy. I worked hard at putting together the buffet menu, trying to theme the foods as much as possible. All parents know that you can get kids to eat pretty much anything if it looks fun - all hail the cookie cutter for making sandwiches interesting! 

The Menu:

Bat and star shaped sandwiches: ham, cream cheese, marmite or jam
Carrot pumpkins
Cheesy pumpkins (Cheese balls)
Bat and star shaped cheese
Bat shaped melon
Satsuma pumpkins
Witches Fingers marshmallow sweets (from Tesco)
Monster Claws (Aldi's version of Monster Munch)
Casper Marshmallows (found in Poundland)
Raspberries (innards!)
Skeleton gingerbread biscuits 
Puking Guacamole pumpkin with tortilla chips
Nacho cheese 'pumpkin' dip

Blood, guts and bones chocolate cake

I used the Party Pieces bat shaped cookie cutter to make the bat shaped items, which at £1.49 (now reduced to £1) per cutter, was a brilliant find > perfect for theming all sorts of buffet foods. 

Halloween Party Buffet Plate for Kids

I used shop-bought gingerbread men biscuits (a whole tub of 30 from Tesco) and decorated them using a Cake Decor White Chocolate Writing Pen to ice skeletons onto each one, then added chalky sweet eyes (also from Cake Decor) and I was absolutely CHUFFED with the end-result. A really good life-hack to make your life simpler when it comes to children buffets is to buy pre-made whenever you can and then pimp it up yourself using simple decorations. This principle also works with fairy cakes, whole cakes, biscuits, tarts etc. 

Skeleton Gingerbread Biscuits

The puking guacamole pumpkin was a huge hit, and again such a simple element to put together - the boys carved the pumpkin, we sat him on a throw-away silver tray* and then scooped on four tubs of shop-bought guacamole. We used a plastic black Witches cauldron to hold the tortilla chips for dipping, and drew a pumpkin face on a pre-bought jar of nacho cheese dip too, as a second dipping option. 

*these are my saviour at kids parties - buy them in bulk, put all the food out on them, then throw it all away at the end, hugely reducing the amount of washing up/dishwasher loads you need to do. 
Puking Guacamole Pumpkin
The Puking Pumpkin

Puking Guacamole Pumpkin with tortilla chips
Puking Guacamole Pumpkin with tortilla chips

I got the idea for the cake from Pinterest and I just loved the concept. I wanted to create a big party cake (mainly for the adults to enjoy) and Bert (as always) requested a chocolate cake. 

Now after many years of trying to perfect a squidgy/fudgey chocolate cake recipe, I'm still yet to 'crack it' - my homemade chocolate cakes are always a little disappointing, not chocolatey enough, a little to dry in texture - so this time I opted for using the Betty Crocker Devil's Food Cake mixture, to which you just add oil, eggs and water. It makes by far the best chocolate sponge you will ever eat, and again just takes some of the hassle out of it, meaning you can spend more time on decoration. 

The decoration for this cake is red buttercream, seedless raspberry jam (to sandwich the sponges together) followed by a generous outer coating of red buttercream (the messier the better, it's meant to be blood & guts!), the finishing touch to the cake is covering it in homemade meringue 'bones' stuck on with more butter icing. 

Although this part of the cake making process took a little more work, it was absolutely worth it as the end result was super! The kids and the adults all loved it and the whole cake was pretty much demolished by the end of the party. 

Blood, Guts and Bones Halloween Chocolate Cake
The finished Blood, Guts & Bones Halloween Chocolate Cake

Blood, Guts and Bones Halloween Chocolate Cake
The demolished Blood, Guts & Bones Halloween Chocolate Cake

Giving the overall effect of the buffet a massive helping hand was all the amazing tableware from Party Pieces which included: black table cover, Pumpkin Party striped plates, Halloween emoji plates, orange foil and black bat napkins plus green and purple plastic pumpkin buckets which we used to house crisps and the Casper marshmallows.

Party Pieces green pumpkin bucket with Casper marshmallows
Party Pieces green pumpkin bucket with Casper marshmallows

Halloween Emoji plates from Party Pieces
Halloween Emoji plates from Party Pieces

Striped pumpkin party plates from Party Pieces
Striped pumpkin party plates from Party Pieces

Orange foil bat black napkins from Party Pieces
Orange foil bat black napkins 

Party Pieces purple pumpkin bucket with cheesy ball 'pumpkins'
Party Pieces purple pumpkin bucket with cheesy ball 'pumpkins'

Halloween buffet for kids

carrot pumpkins

Marshmallow Witches Fingers from Tesco

pumpkin satsumas using a Sharpie
Pumpkin satsumas using a Sharpie

I think the overall effect of the buffet was great, we added our own carved pumpkin with cinnamon and orange scented candle burning inside, to ensure the house smelt divine for all our guests, along with some really cute smaller squashes we found in Aldi - all adding to the pumpkin theme. 

Most of all, I knew it was food that was simple enough for the babies and toddlers, fun for the 4/5 year olds, as well as being tasty enough for the adults to enjoy too. 

For drinks we also kept it simple - as it was a lunch time party we stuck to tea, coffee, water, orange squash, Diet Coke or lemonade for the adults. For the children however, we were sent these amazing glass pumpkin drinking jars - complete with black and orange stripe plastic straws. These were definitely my absolute favourite part of the partyware from Party Pieces and I still cannot believe how good value they are! They retail at only £1.99 per glass and at the moment they're reduced to just £1 each in the Halloween sale, so quick - grab some while stocks last!!

The kids absolutely adored drinking from them - we filled them with orange squash so they looked even more realistic and we let each party guest take theirs home at the end of the party as a little extra party favour. 

Glass pumpkin drinking jars with black and orange stripe straw from Party Pieces
Glass pumpkin drinking jars with black and orange stripe straw from Party Pieces


Now obviously, it's important when holding a themed party that everything looks good and people are fed and watered, but you also need to remember that you actually have to entertain everyone for the entirety of the party, and that isn't always easy, especially with 4/5 year olds who aren't yet old enough to exclusively amuse themselves and are just learning the beginnings of playing games, winning and losing, taking turns etc. 

Luckily, Party Pieces sent us some really cool extras to make sure our party has substance as well as style! 

Of course, we did the traditional party games such as pass the parcel, musical bumps and musical statues but thanks to Party Pieces we were also able to play Pin the Smile on the Skeleton, an Inflatable Witch Hat Ring Toss and do a Wicked Witch Piñata. 

Inflatable Witches Hat Ring Toss from Party Pieces

Pin the Smile on the Skeleton game from Party Pieces

Pin the Smile on the Skeleton game from Party Pieces
My little vampire having his turn at Pin the Smile on the Skeleton

The games really helped to add structure to the afternoon - we interspersed games with some disco dancing to a Halloween playlist (thanks husband!), some free play and a 'Best Costume' prize giving (as chosen by Bert). Add in the eating and drinking and before we knew it the three hours had passed in a blink of an eye!

Of course, for the children the piece de la resistance was the Piñata. This is the second time we've used a Party Pieces piñata and I think they've definitely cemented themselves as a must have part of any future party we hold. 

Not only do they look fantastic so add to the overall theme as a focal point and decoration, but there's something about whacking something as hard as you can with a wooden stick that make children SO HAPPY! Especially if said whacking results in a fabulous shower of sweets at the end. Ha. 

Our Wicked Witch Piñata from Party Pieces

Our fabulous witch piñata hanging from the doorway to my office

We saved our piñata until it was almost home-time and it made for a fabulous finale; ensuring every last bit of energy the kids had was used up during the whacking frenzy! 

They packed their mouths (and pockets) full of the sweetie innards from the Witch, relished in smacking her hanging head (all that was left of her!) and then we gave out party bags before saying farewell. 


Now then, you may not agree with me - but I have a real 'issue' with party bags. I totally get the concept and I love the idea of the kids having a little something fun to take away with them after the party, but my experience of party bags to date is that they're usually full of rubbish toys and inappropriately aged sweets (choking hazards!) - the toys are broken within minutes (cue tears from child) and usually the sweets are eaten by my husband once the kids are in bed. 

I also dislike pink or blue party bag fillers - pink bubbles and fairy wands for the girls and blue bubbles and dinosaur figures for the boys! I have a boy that enjoys dolls and fairies just as much as dinosaurs, so I wanted to have gender-neutral party bags to avoid the pink or blue stereotyping I've come across so often. 

With this in mind, I was careful to choose party bag fillers that I'd happily receive myself as a parent. I think I was lucky that A) Party Pieces have an amazing array of affordable but good quality party bags and fillers and B) that also I had a clear theme to work with: namely Halloween. 

Each child had a purple ghost cello bag with sealed top (no spills) containing:

  • a metal bat cookie cutter
  • a halloween finger puppet 
  • a pair of bloodshot eye glasses
  • a plastic halloween figurine toy (called 'woolies') or a stretchy Skeleton 
  • a witch or spider theme chocolate
  • a ghost chocolate
For the toddlers/babies (siblings of Bert's friends) instead of party bags I gave them a bag of Milkybar Buttons and a Milkyway bar each, so they had some sweeties to enjoy after the party. 

Halloween party bags from Party Pieces

I used the finished party bags as part of the party decoration by displaying them in a glass trifle dish atop my dresser in the main party space, along with the baby/toddler sweets and a prize for the best adult dressing up costume: a super fun misfortune cookie by pech-kek

Halloween party bags from Party Pieces

Along with the party bags, as mentioned earlier each child also took home their glass pumpkin drinking jar, any prizes they'd won during the party games, sweets from the Piñata and we also shared out some of the honeycomb paper pumpkin decorations (as we really didn't need 12 of them after the party had finished!) for the children to take home to decorate their own houses.

We also gave out prizes for the best child and adult fancy dress costume as chosen by Bert. Of course, I relished in dressing the kids up in cute outfits: Bert chose to be a vampire, and we chose a cute dumpy light-up pumpkin costume for Connie (she'll hate me for this when she's older, but oh the laughs we had seeing her in this!)

Bert the Vampire, Halloween Fancy Dress costume
Bert the Vampire

Connie the Pumpkin, Halloween Fancy Dress costume
Connie the Pumpkin

I'm pleased to say that the party was an absolute triumph - the kids were amazingly well-behaved, they all played together so nicely for the whole 3 hours. Most of the food was eaten, the cake demolished, the games were all played properly and enjoyed by all. All of our guests had gone to so much effort with their costumes, which was much appreciated and helped to get us all into the spooky spirit. We all enjoyed a jolly and not too scary afternoon of fun and everyone went home with full tummies and plenty of goodies to enjoy long after the party ended. 

Halloween party fun at Chez Bishop
Halloween party fun at Chez Bishop 

It was lovely to get to know some of Bert's sweet new friends and their lovely parents in a relaxed environment, where we actually had time to say more than just 'good morning' unlike at the school gates. 

As usual, I cannot fault the amazing products sent to us by Party Pieces, they made our party go off with a bang, meant it was a dream to plan and put together and added lots of extra-fun elements for the little people. 

If you're looking for party supplies, banners, tableware and even personalised party stuff then Party Pieces is definitely the place to go! 

I have also found some really fun FREE online Halloween printables which would be perfect for those trying to do Halloween celebrations on a tight budget - look at these cool printable Halloween glowing eyes and these printable Halloween cake toppers, cool huh?


Liam, Bert, Connie and I hope you have a spooktacular time, whatever you do to celebrate! 

Mrs B


We were sent a selection of Halloween themed party supplies in return for this honest review. 

Saturday 28 October 2017

JCB Zone at Gulliver's Land, Milton Keynes - Review

This half term we headed 30 mins down the road to visit family theme park Gulliver's Land, in Milton Keynes. I used to visit Gulliver's Land regularly when I was a teacher at a school in Luton before having children, so I was excited to see how it had changed and to experience going back, this time with my own children. 

The lovely people at Gulliver's kindly invited us along to visit the theme park and Dinosaur/Farm park, to honour the opening of the brand new JCB Zone, part of Toy Land in the main park. 

Before our visit JCB Kids sent Bert an Connie and uber-exciting package to whet their appetite for all things JCB... 

JCB Kids Goodie Bag
JCB joy for Bert and Connie, lucky pups!

playing with JCB Kids toys range
Bert dived straight in, he loved making the construction scene - very timely too, as our road has been resurfaced recently and he's been taking a great interest in all the diggers etc. 

Our day at Gulliver's Land was absolutely brilliant - we were blessed with the weather - the sun shone all day and it was warm enough to go without coats, and we even enjoyed an ice cream - you'd never have guessed it was late October! Hurrah! 

We found Gulliver's Land to be so quaint and traditional in a nostalgic rather than tired way: visiting felt like stepping back in time. The rides are pitched perfectly at young children, I think children over 12 would find the rides a little too tame, but they're just right for little ones, or those who don't like the fast, thrill seeking rides of bigger theme parks. 

On arrival, we headed straight to the brand-new JCB Zone (on the right just as you enter the park) to explore the exciting new arrival. Aside from how fun the kids found it, I absolutely loved the design of this area. I'm a big fan of a theme, and my goodness have Gulliver's gone to town with theming every last detail of this zone. From the iconic yellow and black colours and logos, to the awesome lights and even a digger bucket seat! 

JCB Zone Gulliver's Land Milton Keynes
Welcome to the JCB Zone! 

JCB Zone Gulliver's Land Milton Keynes
Iconic colours! 

JCB Zone Gulliver's Land Milton Keynes
On pointe branding.

JCB Zone Gulliver's Land Milton Keynes
Every digger fan's dream! 

JCB Zone Gulliver's Land Milton Keynes
Awesome digger bucket bench. Loved this so much. 

JCB Zone Gulliver's Land Milton Keynes
A happy Bert working the digger

JCB Zone Gulliver's Land Milton Keynes
What's more exciting as a kid than using a "real life digger" to pick up ball pool balls :-)

JCB Zone Gulliver's Land Milton Keynes
Burning off some energy in the Driver Zone

I love how all-out they've gone with the JCB branding!

JCB Zone Construction lantern lights
Loved these construction lantern lights - running with the theme, I like it Gulliver's Land!

There's lots of options for things to do within the JCB Zone - obviously, all digger related. From the Big Dig and Driver's Zone, the Demolition Dodgems to the Crazy Crane ride there's plenty of diggers to go round, so we didn't have to wait or queue for any of them. Bert loved picking up the ball pool balls, and dropping them down in a different part of the pit. Daddy loved "helping" Bert too - I think his inner-4 year old was rejoicing at the chance to play demolition. The boys drove the dodgems together, and both Bert and Connie enjoyed riding round on the ride-on digger toys in the Drivers Zone. 

There was plenty of open space in this zone too, which was great for letting the kids run off some steam, before heading into the rest of the main park to go on some rides. More on the rest of the park later. 

JCB Themed Cabins

The JCB Zone is also open as part of the Gulliver's Christmas operation. In summer 2017, two uniquely designed JCB Construction Cabins (sleeps 4) opened in the brilliant accommodation area and these will be available for special Santa Sleepover packages from as little as £149 per cabin per night (full price rate £345). Your Santa Sleepover includes park tickets for day of arrival and day of checkout, Santa visit, evening meal, overnight stay and breakfast - a perfect Christmas treat for little JCB lovers! 

Santa Sleepover

Day One
  • Check in from 16:00
  • Splash Zone session
  • A two course festive meal served between 17:30 and 19:30
  • Enjoy the evening entertainment which includes toasting marshmallows at the firepit, character meets and greets, family games and milk & cookies at bedtime for the children
Day Two
  • Enjoy Gully’s Big Breakfast in the Raptor Restaurant between 8:30 and 9:30
  • Early park entry to enjoy your exclusive Santa visit at 10:00 in his winter wonderland
  • Then onto the park to enjoy all the festive rides, attractions, shows and special Christmas entertainment
  • At 15:15 sit back relax and enjoy our Live Christmas show before taking up your places on the main street to enjoy our end of day Christmas Parade
I honestly had no idea you could stay overnight at Gulliver's Land and I couldn't believe it when we got to look round all the beautifully themed cabins during out visit this week. They're fabulous! From the JCB cabins, to the Jungle Safari Tents and Lodges, Dino Dens, Lost World Cabins, Prospector's Deluxe Lodge and Gully's Beach Den - there's somewhere suitable for so many tastes and party sizes from 4-6.

We were lucky enough to tour the JCB cabins while visiting Gulliver's and boy did they go down a treat! In fact, Bert loved them so much that he proclaimed "I could live here!" - haha, bless him. High praise indeed! We thought they were such a fun and quirky overnight option - perfect for a special occasion or holiday treat. I snapped lots of photos to share with you - I'm sure you'll agree what a great job Gulliver's have done with creating the ultimate in themed accommodation. 

JCB Cabin at Gulliver's Land, MK
JCB cabin in all its glory!

JCB Cabin at Gulliver's Land, MK
Cute bunk beds! 

JCB Cabin at Gulliver's Land, MK
Tyre lights

JCB Cabin at Gulliver's Land, MK
Sofa seating area come double bed (fold out sofa bed)

JCB Cabin at Gulliver's Land, MK
Veranda/balcony on the cabin, complete with digger bucket bench, wooden reel table and seats - plus a roof making it all-weather. 

JCB Cabin at Gulliver's Land, MK
Tea/Coffee making facilities, basic crockery, sink, microwave, mini fridge, TV and desk area. 

JCB Cabin at Gulliver's Land, MK
Modern shower room with basin and toilet. 

JCB Cabin at Gulliver's Land, MK
TV/Desk area with stool seating

JCB Cabin at Gulliver's Land, MK
Such a fun theme! 

There's even an all-weather outdoor ball pool complete with JCB's (naturally) right outside the cabin's front door, which both the kids adored. In fact, they'd have happily played in there all day if we'd let them. Their happy faces speak volumes I think...

Ball Pool fun at JCB cabins Gulliver's Land, Milton Keynes

Ball Pool fun at JCB cabins Gulliver's Land, Milton Keynes

Bert is desperate to stay in the JCB cabin, so it's definitely on the 'to-do' list for the next holiday or special occasion treat, especially as it's only half an hour down the road for us, perfect! 

Exploring Gulliver's Land 

After our JCB adventure we spent the rest of the day exploring everything else Gulliver's Land has to offer - from the rides in the main park to the animatronic dinosaurs, rides and farm animals in the Dinosaur Farm Park. 

Bert went on the Crazy Mouse Rollercoaster, Jungle River, Gulliver's Travels, Jungle Falls and The Lost World River Tour, he also explored Gully Town, a cute miniature town - we were amazed how many rides we were able to fit into the day - despite visiting the accommodation site, stopping for lunch and spending over an hour in the JCB Zone. The longest queue we stood in was 15-20 minutes for the Jungle Falls slides, but apart from that the queues were quick and pain free - amazing considering it was a sunny day in half term. 

Connie enjoyed going on the Carousel best - she was a little small for the other rides but enjoyed her day - toddling around taking in the sites, jumping in the ball pits, and she loved the soft play and role play rooms too! 

Gulliver's Land, Milton Keynes
A super family day out at Gulliver's Land, Milton Keynes

We stopped for a speedy fast food treat lunch inside the Castle Food Court, in the Gully's Grill section - the food was really good - fast, freshly cooked (you could see the kitchen staff making up the burgers to order), lovely and hot and super-tasty! The kids both had beef burger meals with chips and a bottle of water, and Liam chose a bacon double cheeseburger, chips and diet Pepsi, I opted for the Chicken Tower meal, with chips and Pepsi. What a treat! 

Lunch at Gulliver's Land, Milton Keynes

After lunch we headed over to the Dinosaur Farm Park - which was Bert's favourite part of the day. He's at his happiest when he's surrounded by animals, and he's also a huge dino-fan so the animatronic dinosaurs were a HUGE hit! On arrival we all hopped on the Sky Tours Observation Tower and enjoyed amazing views across The Lost World, then the boys went on the Lost World River Tour, while Connie had a quiet nap in the her buggy, and Mummy had twenty minutes peace! 

Views across The Lost World at Gulliver's Land

Dinosaur Farm Park, Gulliver's Land, Milton Keynes
Exploring The Lost World at the Dinosaur Farm park

Best of all, there's still plenty of parts of Gulliver's Land left for us to explore on our next visit, and there will definitely be a next visit. A fabulously fun family-day for the whole family.

Have you had any fun days out this half term?

Mrs B

You can find out more about JCB Kids and their toys and attractions @JCBKids across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

For more info on Gulliver's Land theme parks visit:

Facebook: @gullymouse (group account) @gulliverslandmiltonkeynes (MK account)
Twitter: @GullyMouse
Instagram: @gulliversfun

We were given free family entry into Gulliver's Lane Milton Keynes, plus lunch for 4 in return for this honest review.