Birthday season just ended in my house. Among my four kids, we have one birthday in January, two in April, and one in May. I love celebrating with them and making it special, but I don’t love the price tag that comes with many traditional birthday party options. If you look at the website of a company that hosts parties — places like bouncy gyms, roller skating rinks, playplaces, etc. — it’s not uncommon for parties to cost several hundred dollars, or even as much as a thousand. That’s a LOT to pay for a few hours of fun.
So I wanted to tell you some of the ways we celebrate birthdays so it can still be special, but without blowing a huge wad of cash!
1. Keep the guest list small.
Most of the time, kids only have 2 or 3 really close friends. So why do we feel the need to invite their entire class? Just because party invitations come in a pack of 8, that doesn’t mean we have to invite 8 children (or families). Just invite their nearest and dearest. I promise, they’ll have just as much fun with 2 kids as they would with 10.
I also love it when kids reach about kindergarten age, and you can invite just the kids without the parents & siblings. That’s even fewer people to entertain and feed.
2. Keep it simple.
There’s also less pressure to make the party “Pinterest-worthy” without the parents around. Because let’s face it — the parents are the ones we’re trying to impress with all the cute themed food and decorations. The kids barely even notice.
I think it’s great to make one really special thing, and really play that up. For me, it’s the cake. I just love making beautiful themed cakes for my kids’ birthdays.
For everything else, just cheat. Get regular chips and goldfish. Make (gasp!) peanut butter and jelly sandwiches instead of princess-themed crown shaped pinwheels. Don’t worry about following the theme through every little detail.
3. Do something free.
There are so many things to do out in the world that are totally free and super fun too. Go geocaching. Play with Legos. Do a craft. Have a fancy tea party. Have a movie theater party in your living room. Go to the park. Fly kites. Paint pictures. There are endless possibilities!
4. Go crazy with balloons.
Like I said before, the decorations are more for the grown-ups than the kids. The only decorations my kids ever notice are the balloons. Kids go crazy for balloons. Pick up a pack or two at the dollar store, and that’s plenty!! You can even hang them upside down from the ceiling and cover the whole room — super festive for under $2!
5. Use things you already own.
If you’re doing a theme party, chances are you already own several toys from that theme. Gather your own belongings and place them around.
6. Use your library’s resources.
Libraries are an often-underutilized resource! Get a CD to go along with your theme (either the soundtrack to the movie, or a children’s CD of birthday songs). You can also check out books along your theme and place them on tables/mantles to decorate.
7. Simplify party favors.
I love the idea of passing out an adorably decorated sugar cookie in a bag as favors. It’s something that is consumed so it doesn’t clutter my house with junk. You can also assemble a cute coloring book along your theme to hand out to guests — the only cost is the ink & paper! (Check out this site and this site for free coloring pages, or just google your theme + “coloring page”!)
If passing out goody bags is a must for you, you can also collect trinkets from kids’ meals, festivals/fairs, and Easter/Halloween/Christmas leftovers.
When your kids are adults, they aren’t going to remember the hundreds (or thousands) of dollars you spent on a fancy party. They WILL remember how much you made them feel loved and special, and how much time you spent with them!