Gone, it seems, are the days when children are content with just a birthday cake, balloons and presents.
Even a magician or a clown is considered run-of-the-mill these days, as more parents pull out all the stops to throw parties with a twist, a few even spending five-figure sums on a bash.
Party planners believe the trend started about three years ago and there are now at least 15 companies here organising creative bashes.
Ms Tanya Quinn, 30, who owns entertainment company Fizazzle, which specialises in dance, pool and princess parties, says this could be because children are going to so many parties that some are starting to look the same and parents want something different.
She adds: "Some older kids are also eager to impress their peers."
A standard birthday party includes activities such as face-painting, balloonsculpting and musical chairs.
Mr Jericho Tan, 27, supervisor at laser tag event company Combat Skirmish Live, agrees. He thinks some parents are looking for interesting activities for their children and will spare no expense to expose them to different experiences.
He says: "As word spreads, parents are more receptive to creative activities. Plus, Singaporeans have more spending power now."
Ms Quinn says party packages start at about $500 for a basic party, where two entertainers will come dressed as characters from a show and organise game and dance activities for 15 kids.
Parents with deep pockets can splurge up to $10,000 for a fancy bash for 100 kids, where everything is taken care of, including decorations, food catering, stage shows as well as photography and videography packages.
Life!Weekend checks out some of the creative themed bashes available here.
Fairy tale come true
Almost every girl dreams of being a princess. Eight-year-old Deon Liew's fantasy came true last October when her mother threw her a lavish birthday party with a prince-and-princess theme at two ballrooms in Carlton Hotel in Bras Basah Road.
Ms Mak Huey Fen, 35, took her daughter to get her hair done at a hair salon and dressed her in a white gown with a pink belt, complete with a tiara.
Party planner Tanya Quinn, 30, who owns entertainment company Fizazzle, decorated the hotel ballroom with a large canvas painting of a castle, used cardboard shields as table centrepieces and came up with activities such as crown- and sword-making, glitter tattoo and face-painting.
There was also a circus show, which involved fire-breathing and knife-throwing.
Ms Quinn and five helpers ran the event and managed the 50 children.
Deon says: "It was the most fun birthday party. I enjoyed myself."
The party was a combined birthday celebration for Deon and her three siblings - Jevies, six, Nigel, four, and Nathan, two. All four were born in September or October.
Held from 5 to 9pm, the bash included a buffet dinner for about 110 guests, who included the children's classmates, teachers, private tutors and paediatrician.
Ms Mak spent about $12,000 in total, but she says she does not consider it a splurge.
She used to hold smaller, separate birthday parties at other venues such as Downtown East, which cost $2,000 to $3,000 each and included the hiring of a clown or magician, 3-D character birthday cakes, a buffet and goodie bags.
"When you think about it, $12,000 is not very expensive considering that this was a four-in-one party," she says.
It was also a farewell party of sorts for the two girls.
"Jevies, who was then in Kindergarten 2, wanted to say goodbye to her kindergarten friends. Deon was also moving to a different class for Primary 3.
"I wanted them to end the school year with nice memories," says Ms Mak, who helps out with her husband's business which makes aluminium sandwich panels. Both girls are studying at Raffles Girls Primary School.
She picked the theme because the girls like to watch Disney princess movies, such as Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, and wanted a chance to dress up as princesses.
Their bags, clothes, shoes and even bedsheets all sport the princess theme.
But they did not get to dress up in princess costumes at the party as their mother thought it would be more practical to get them frocks that they can wear on other occasions.
Ms Mak has promised to throw a similar party if Deon does well in her examinations and it will have a Frozen theme, based on the Disney animated film, because it is the "in" thing among kids now.
She does not think these bashes are extravagant as she says a birthday happens only once a year.
"In Singapore, parents are always working and do not spend as much time with their kids as they should. I want to do something special for them on their special day," she says.
What: Bespoke prince and princess party
Ages: 0 to 12 years old
Price: $6,600 for decorations with balloons and table centrepieces, art and craft workshop, tattoo and face-painting, invitation cards, two emcees, audio equipment for emcees, circus performer, videographer and photographer, game prizes and 55 party bags, for about 50 kids for four hours
Info: Go to www.fizazzle.com or call 8121-4922
Give it your best shot
Bang. Bang. Hiding behind a barrel in a dark tunnel and holding onto his laser tag gun, 12-year-old Mukund Rangaraj fired two shots at his "enemy". His mission? Eliminate all six "soldiers" from the other team.
The shoot-out was part of the birthday celebration that Mrs Veena Rangaraj, 46, had planned for her son. It took place in a tunnel about 100m long that was used during World War II at Fort Siloso in Sentosa on April 27.
His team emerged victorious one hour later.
"I felt like I was in a movie. I didn't expect it to be so much fun," recalls the Secondary 1 student at Global Indian International School.
His mother, a Singapore permanent resident, says Mukund is not very outdoorsy and usually prefers to play computer games or watch YouTube videos in his room. Mukund's father is Singaporean and an operations manager at an international bank.
"Holding the party outdoors was my way of getting him out of his room and interacting with his friends," says the stay-at-home mother.
She hosted 17 children aged six to 12, who are schoolmates of Mukund and his younger brother, Jayant, seven, a Primary 2 pupil at the same school.
While Sentosa is considered out of the way for most people, Mrs Rangaraj says what drew her to the place was the fact that the tunnel in Fort Siloso is sheltered and the game can be played rain or shine. Laser tag can also be played by children of different ages.
"My boys are six years apart. What appeals to Mukund might not appeal to Jayant. But a game of laser tag is a fun activity that everybody can enjoy," she says.
The party was organised by Combat Skirmish Live and the $600 package included equipment, vests and face-painting. The company provided tentage and drinks at an extra charge of about $250. Three facilitators took care of the kids, which freed her to chat with other parents.
The company has a mobile team that can go to any location to hold the game. It organises about 20 to 30 children's birthday parties a month, usually for boys.
Mrs Rangaraj spent an additional $200 on food for 30 guests in all, which she catered. She took along a cake she ordered from an online bakery with a Beyblade design, which cost $100.
What: Combat Skirmish Live birthday party package for kids
Where: Fort Siloso, Sentosa
Ages: Six to 12 years old, adults are welcome to play
Price: $600 for exclusive use of tunnel for up to 18 children for one hour
Info: Go to www.combatskirmish live.com or call 6272-4649
Make mine crafty
Ariel Goh, eight, loves to play computer game Minecraft. So for her birthday last month, she asked for a party centring on the game, which involves building structures to protect against nocturnal monsters.
Her father rose to the challenge. Mr Philip Goh, a consultant in a local petroleum trading company, bought a customised 3-D cake decorated with the game's characters and printed T-shirts with an illustration of Creeper, one of the monsters in the game. The 42-year-old also gave out Minecraft stuffed toys.
Ariel says: "I had a lot of fun. The best part was getting to cut the cake and keep the stuffed toy."
Twenty children, who are mostly Ariel's classmates from River Valley Primary School, aged seven and eight, were invited. The party was held at The Art Room, an art studio in Commonwealth Lane.
Mr Goh, who also has a four-year-old son, Ethan, says: "Ariel takes private art lessons every Sunday so I suggested doing crafts for her birthday and she agreed."
He got The Art Room to prepare a craft activity for the children. Each of them chose a piece of ceramic - moulded to look like an animal or an inanimate object such as a car - to paint.
Ariel chose a plate and painted something Minecraft-related that Mr Goh jokes is too abstract to decipher.
The Art Room now hosts about eight children's birthday parties a month, up from four when the company was set up in 2010.
Founder Neena Ali, 42, believes parents are drawn to craft parties because they realise that art helps kids to think outside the box and stretch their imagination. She adds: "Drawing and painting also help them to be patient, learn to take ownership of their projects and increase their confidence."
Mr Goh paid about $800 for the package, which included the use of the premises for three hours, an instructor, ceramics and rental of brushes and aprons. He spent another $50 on pizzas and $520 on the cake, T-shirts and stuffed toys.
He says: "It was hard work planning the party but it was all worth it, seeing how happy and excited the kids were. Some of them even told Ariel that it was the best party they had ever attended."
What: The Art Room pottery painting package
Where: 1 Commonwealth Lane, 08-14
Ages: Four to 12 years old, adults are welcome
Price: $40 to $50 a person, minimum of 10 kids for two hours; bespoke decorations, which cost $100 to $1,000, depending on the project, are available upon request
Info: Go to www.theartroom.asia or facebook.com/theartroom.sg or call 9645-6612 (SMS is preferred)
Some children find the idea of walking along a suspension bridge built 4m above the ground daunting. Not Cameron Liechti. The eight- year-old liked it so much, she wants to hold another birthday party at Forest Adventure, an outdoor obstacle course provider at Bedok Reservoir Park.
Last weekend, she made her way through a series of 16 aerial obstacles made up of ladders, bridges and nets, and ended with a 67m zipline, also known as the flying fox.
Cameron, who has a Chinese Singaporean mother and a Swiss-German father, says: "I felt scared when I fell but I managed to stand up and continue. My favourite activity is the flying fox. I went four times." Her older brother Sidney, 10, is a fan too.
Their mother, Ms Irene Tan, who is in her late 40s, wanted to give her kids a different experience but it was hard to find an outdoor venue to hold a party.
The stay-at-home mum says: "The children are usually engrossed with electronic gadgets, so I thought it would be good for them to get some fresh air."
She paid $865 for the 11/2-hour-long course. She hosted a group of 20 children aged seven to 10 years old, who are mostly friends and classmates of Cameron and Sidney. Both are studying in Temasek Primary School. She spent an additional $400 to $500 catering food from a Chinese eatery.
The cake, decorated to look like the obstacle course with plastic miniature trees, was provided by Forest Adventure. The birthday girl also received a Forest Adventure T-shirt.
Forest Adventure sales manager Manjit Singh, 34, says it hosts about eight birthday parties a month and demand has been consistent since 2009.
Ms Tan says she used to host these birthday parties at home, but they worked out to cost about the same as she also has to cater food and prepare goodie bags. She began outsourcing them to vendors such as Forest Adventure about four to five years ago.
She says: "It's good fun. The children get to sweat it out and it's less work for the parents. We don't have to clean up."
What: Forest Adventure birthday package for kids
Where: Bedok Reservoir Park
Ages: Six to 10 years old (minimum height of 1.1m)
Price: $865 for 20 children for 11/2 hours, additional guest at $40 each, capped at a maximum of 25
Info: Go to www.forest adventure.com.sg or call 8100-7420
Guests squealed with glee at a pool party to celebrate Ian Lee's eighth birthday last weekend.
The reason? A giant inflatable float that looks like a playground with a slide for two provided endless entertainment.
There was also a performance by The Amazing ToyBox, an entertainment duo, who amused the kids with music, jokes and a puppet show at the party.
Ian's mother, private banker Elaine Chan, 41, says: "I hired them because my son has special needs and responds well to music. The water float is too unsafe for him."
She made the younger children wear life vests before going on the float. Some fathers were also stationed around the pool to keep a close watch on the kids.
Ian's sister Allison, nine, enjoyed herself at the party, which was held at a condominium in the Orchard area and was attended by about 25 children and 20 adults.
The Primary 4 pupil at CHIJ St Nicholas Girls' School says she had fun getting wet, jumping up and down the float and going down the slide.
Ms Chan, who is divorced, declines to reveal how much she spent in total on the float, entertainment and food, which she catered from Saybons French Food Factory.
She was inspired after attending a kid's birthday party and rented the float from party supplies company Bouncy Castles.
"My daughter likes to swim and play with water, and she's at the age where she is bored if I just hire a clown or magician," she explains. "Plus I happen to have a nice pool at my condo that's big enough for the float."
What: Bouncy Castles "ocean fun run" pool float
Ages: Four years old and above, teenagers and adults are welcome
Price: From $600, depending on the date, duration, time of day and location. The float can support up to 10 kids at a time
Info: Go to www.bouncy castles.com.sg or call 6465-6006/9654-3931
The magic of science
A dollar note that does not burn. Bubbles that sink instead of float.
These phenomena, which were demonstrated during Tammy Ng's eighth birthday party, not only wowed the children but also their parents.
The combustion left the note intact because it was coated with alcohol, which has a lower burning point. The bubbles were filled with carbon dioxide, which caused them to sink.
Tammy's mother, Ms Sara Tan, 37, who organised the science party for the Primary 2 pupil at Singapore Chinese Girls' School, says: "Instead of hiring a magician, which is what other parents usually do, I thought science can provide the magic. The children were all fascinated and amazed."
Ms Tan, who co-owns a bespoke jewellery business, was equally intrigued, queueing up to check out the bubbles for herself.
Twenty-five of Tammy's friends and classmates were invited to her party, which was held on May 3 at the function room of The American Club in Claymore Hill.
Ms Tan, who has a younger daughter, Natalie, five, engaged educational and entertainment company Mad Science, which provided two facilitators to perform scientific experiments and hold activities for the kids, such as making their own slime.
A glow-in-the-dark cake, which glowed under ultraviolet light, came with the package.
Tammy says: "The party was very fun and interesting. I learnt many new things. My friends enjoyed it too. They told me they have always wanted to know what slime feels like."
The science party package, which cost $1,100, included two facilitators, equipment and goodie bags containing popping candy and plastic guns.
Ms Tan spent an additional $620 on food she catered from the club and $250 for the use of the premises.
What: Mad Science birthday party
Ages: Four to 12 years old
Price: $560 for 15 children for an hour, additional guests at $18 each; novelty cakes with minimum spending of $1,000 available upon request at additional cost
Info: Go to www.singapore.madscience.org or call 9168-0366
This article was first published on May 23, 2014.
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