'Tis the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, along with raging torrents, force 10 gales, thick fog, hail, snow and freezing temperatures. Keats clearly had a rose tinted view of Autumn. A pool party is certainly not likely to be top of the list for party ideas if your pool is an outdoor one, but that doesn't have to stop your children having a great time at a swimming pool, whether that's your own indoor one (should you be so lucky!) or a public pool.
Many sports centres, gyms and public baths offer either the option to have a pool party there, or hire the pool out for a session and have exclusive access. Opportunities vary, but whether the swimming pool offers certain features and options or not, it's a good think to have a think through the following points well before making any firm bookings.
1. The first thing to decide is whether to host your child's pool party at home or at a public pool. Obviously this decision is made slightly easier if you don't have your own pool, but even so it's worth thinking about the different pools in the area. Some private sports centres actually provide a pool party facility for non members, and so it's worth giving these a call as the facilities can often be very good.
2. The next thing to think about is exclusivity. If you're having a pool party at a public swimming pool, or just hiring it out for a session, find out whether access to the pool will be exclusive. For some people this might not be a problem, but if you have fairly young children or weaker swimmers then having exclusive access is usually a better option, even if it is more expensive.
3. Find out whether the parents of the children will be able to join their kids in the pool, and whether this will cost extra or not. Of course, the more children you have, and the more parents, the more full the pool will be, so keep an eye on numbers.
4. Find out whether there will be a lifeguard available the whole time, and whether there are any restrictions on the number of people a lifeguard can supervise at any one time. Some pools will require a second lifeguard to be on duty if the number of people in the pool exceeds a certain capacity, and this can put the price up.
5. Work out where the children will all meet up, and make sure this is clearly stated on the invitations. Will everyone meet up outside, or in reception? Will there be a party room, or will everyone just meet up in the pool? Will children need to show their invitations at the front desk to be allowed in?
6. Where will the presents be stored for safe keeping? Some presents may not fit in the lockers provided, and you won't want the wrapping paper to get wet. Some places will look after them in reception, or have them taken to a party room. Again, find out first, and then make sure people know what to do by including full details on the invitations.
7. An important question to think about these days is photography. Does the swimming pool or sports centre permit the use of cameras, even if it's a private party? What about the other parents? If you know the other parents well then you may not feel there's an issue, but if you're not sure, perhaps because your child has started a new school, it's probably something to think about. The chances are that there will be plenty of opportunities for photographs afterwards when the children are having their food.
8. Something often overlooked with a pool party is the chance for organised games. If you're having a party in your front room or at a village hall then organised games are almost an inevitable part of the whole party deal. But when the child's party gets transferred to a swimming pool the idea of games sinks from sight. Are there games the children can play? Well, yes there are. For example, you can have all the children in lines from one side of the pool to the other, and then each team is given a ball. Without using their arms they must get the ball from one person to the next down the line, all the way to the back. Or you could have a 'basketball hoop' (improvise with a large bucket if you like) and see who can get the ball into the hoop/bucket. You can even simply have a game of water football. If the children enjoy swimming under the water then you could have some treats/prizes which are heavy enough to sink the bottom scattered across the pool for them to find. 9. What about music? If you're lucky enough to be able to use your own pool then you'll probably be able to have some music playing at the same time - but what about at a public pool or sports centre? Most will probably say no, but it's worth asking about because in some cases you may be allowed to have music playing, and in some centres they will, if requested, play music through their own sound system.
10. Don't forget the decorations! Now whilst you can't really decorate water, you might be able to put a banner or two close by the pool (ask for permission first), but don't forget that afterwards the children will be having their food, and you might want to decorate this area. Some centres will do this for you, but if not you may want to bring along things such as tablecovers, banners, balloons and even special party cups, plates and hats.
11. Think about inflatables! If you're having the pool party at a public pool then you may find that they have special inflatables available, including large ones people can climb over. But you may need to check on this first, as well as checking to see if you'll be able to take your own inflatables along. If you are, then you might even think about things such as inflatable sharks, boats, rings and balls. Don't forget those inflatables you take to the seaside.
12. Food! You'll almost certainly be providing food afterwards, as the children will very likely be hungry after their swim. Make sure that plenty of drink is available straight away as pool water can dehydrate you. Think about the logistics again. If you're going to be in the pool with your child you'll need to supervise them getting dried and changed - how will you also make sure that the food is all sorted so that when the children are ready they're not all milling about aimlessly? You also don't want those children extra fast at changing heading over to the food and hoovering up half of the stuff on the table before the birthday child has even got dried! It is usually helpful to have two people, one to look after the child and the other to hover by the food.
13. Party themes. If you're having a party at home or at a village hall you'll probably have a theme in mind, but this can be ignored when the concept of a pool party splashes into view. But why shouldn't a pool party be themed? You might think about themes such as sealife, sharks, Jaws or even Pirates of the Caribbean! With a few well chosen props you can easily work this in to your advantage. For example, you could have a couple of inflatable sharks in the pool, and even have rubber ducks floating around! For a pirates theme you may get an inflatable palm tree into the pool! It doesn't have to include much, but then you can carry this theme through from the invitations to the food and goodie bags as well.
14. Insurance. This is probably worth thinking about, especially if you're hosting the party in your own pool. If your party is being held at a sports centre or public swimming pool then it's important to make sure that things such as using your own inflatables, and the number of children allowed at one time is all agreed beforehand to comply with their own insurance requirements. If you're hosting your own pool party then it is not okay to simply put a clause on the invitation which says that the responsibility for safety lies with the parents of each child. Your home insurance may cover you, but it's best to call them and check to see if there are any particular requirements necessary.