Any parent who has ever organised a bash knows that there's so much to consider - the invitations, the venue, the food, the decorations, the party bags - and that's before you've even thought about how to keep the crowds amused.
If you're looking for kids party entertainment ideas and don't have a clue where to start, don't panic: we've done some research, and come up with a list of the types of kids' party entertainers that have been the biggest hits with our lot - from real life Elsa and Annas, to puppeteers worthy of a much bigger stage.
There's something to match every party theme and budget, as well as options that will suit a variety of age groups. Now your only task will be whittling it down to just one!
We'll start with an oldie but a goodie. No one (not even the adults) is not wowed by an animated performer pulling doves out of their pockets. Little ones will appreciate simpler tricks and a shorter show, as their attention spans tend to wane, where as older groups will love anything from card tricks to close-up magic. When you call, ask if they'll include the birthday boy or girl in their big finale - they'll love being the star of the show.
Got an animal-mad bunch on your hands? There are services across the country that will bring mammals, birds and reptiles to your bash for the kids to meet and greet. Typical animals include rabbits and guinea pigs, chinchillas, parrots, owls, and lizards, but do some research and see if there's anything more unusual in your vicinity.
You've probably seen the influx of Elsa and Anna characters floating around the party circuit recently, but they're still a big hit in our houses, and you don't have to limit yourself to just another rousing chorus of 'Love is an Open Door'. There are entertainers who can take on all sorts of princess characters, from Cinderella to Thumbelina, and hopefully they'll teach the kids manners worthy of royalty too.
Clowns or circus performers
Clowns have come a long way from the slightly sinister models of our childhoods. These days, they're bright and fun, although they're still pulling the same old tricks (hankies up the sleeve, anyone?). If you want a more modern take, see whether there are any circus performers that offer party deals in your area - firebreathers, unicyclists and gymnasts all go down well, and some of them will even teach the guests some of their skills too.
Balloons often come as part of a clown package, but if you're not keen on clowns or just want something a bit more grown up, there are independent balloon artists that will make animals, flowers and more in front of a captive audience. It's still well worth the money, as balloon making is actually deceptively hard (the only animal we've managed to master is a snake... )
Perhaps one for a 5+ audience, as we can't imagine anyone younger sitting still for longer than a number of minutes greater than their age! Caricaturists are great for any party theme, and the resulting pictures, when stuck into a cheap frame and paired with a slice of cake, make for a fab alternative to a conventional party bag.
Another one that works with almost any type of party, face painters can transform your child's classmates into any animal, character or object their heart desires. It's worth trying to find face painters that work in a team, rather than a solo artist, because the less patient partygoers can get frustrated if they have to wait their turn for too long.
They're not just for bedtime! A good party storyteller will hold the attention of even the most fickle minds for as long as you're funding them (they're generally paid by the hour). Many of them use props, voices and actions to bring the story to life - you might find yourself wanting to hear the ending rather than tidying the wrapping paper too...
Well, it's not a party if no one throws shapes to the Macarena, is it? The type of DJ you'll want depends on the age of the child in attendance - smaller kids are often happy with some flashing lights, a Disney soundtrack and a round of pass the parcel, but pre-teens will find the ability to make their own requests and dance without the supervision of mum and dad much more amenable.
Whether your kid is obsessed with Batman, Spiderman, Wonderwoman or just simply looks smashing in a cape, a superhero party is never going to disappoint. Bonus points if your chosen entertainer has an actual Batmobile, or can throw realistic Spiderman webs from their wrists.
Puppet shows are mostly aimed at younger parties, and for those, they work like a dream - there won't be a peep for the assigned time slot, leaving you free to set up the buffet or wrap the pass the parcel. Punch and Judy is a classic, but there's plenty of other, really creative versions on offer, so a unique idea that they've never seen before might be the way to go!
Temporary tattoos are popular with boys and girls, and airbrush artists can generally accomodate all tastes, whether they want a bold tribal armband or a sparkly shoulder butterfly. You could also ask them whether they can come up with designs that tie in to your party theme - for instance, every good pirate needs a mean-looking skull...
This only really works if your assembled group has relatively long hair (sorry, boys with buzzcuts), but we've found that although it's time consuming, teenage girls in particular love the results. Warning: only book if you're prepared to be asked to recreate the elaborate weavings on a school morning, because it. Will. Happen.
Dancers and cheerleaders
Dance or cheer parties are lively, tire the kids out nicely and also give them their daily exercise without them even realising! They can learn a routine and perform it at the end - you could even record their final show (with all of the other parents permission, of course) and email it round to the other mums and dads to enjoy. Just remember to edit the shot of yourself bopping in the background well and truly out...