Sure seems like everyone is having a big birthday party at some fun place, inviting a ton of people, and spending way more money than they need to. So many families now are choosing to go to a trampoline park, or a zoo, or a water park, or simply renting out a big hall so they can hold all those people they are inviting. And I don’t know about you, but I feel like it’s become the “norm” to do this, making it feel like we mommas have to have these kinds of parties. Like if we don’t, we are somehow doing a dis-service to our kids. Really? Is our 2 year old going to be scarred and need therapy because they didn’t have a huge party? If you want to have a big party, and have the means to do it, by all means go ahead. Parties are super fun! There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a big party. But not everyone can put on a big party. So for those of us that don’t have the money, and just feel pressured into having a party we can’t afford, read on my dear mommas, read on…
I recently read a question a mom had posted to her fellow moms for suggestions…where could she throw a party for her two year old. Lots of ideas came pouring in, including the zoo, a bounce house place, a toddler gym, and a party house. All fun places to go! And many said their own kids’ parties were great at these places. So I looked up the pricing for these parties. Hmmmm yeah. Prices seemed to average around $300 for a relatively basic party for ten kids for two hours. Some included minimal food like pizza and soda, and a party favor for each child. Again, this is for a basic, no frills or extras kind of party. And let’s be honest, we all tend to go for more ‘middle-of-the-road’ pricing, so cost will be closer to $400 or more, and that’s assuming you only have 10 kids there.
What about the parties for a ton of adults? Renting out a space, having it catered, and renting a bounce house or a face painter, or characters…yeah, that all adds up pretty fast too. Costs can reach several hundred dollars without even realizing it!
So who are these parties for, anyway? Our kids? Well, yes and no. I mean, clearly we want our kids to have a great time. But you know how babies will be so happy to play with a box, sometimes even more so than the toy that came in it? Well, kids can be like that with parties, too. So having some elaborate party so our kids can have fun…well, kids can have a lot of fun doing some pretty simple, and cheap, activities.
Throwing a big, fancy party is also a way to keep up with everyone else. I mean, do you really want to be the mom that has a party at home instead of some cool place? You can’t help but feel the pressure from other families, and kids, who have these birthday parties at the all the fun places. And you may feel like you need to invite lots of kids, or everyone in your family, in order for it to be a great party.
Consequences of a Big Party
Let’s consider what having a big party means, just for a moment:
- Spending a lot of money
- Lots and lots of presents…you now have to find a place for all those new toys
- So many toys also means more clutter, and more to pick up
- Possibly creating a sense of entitlement in your child
- Having to out-do the party from the previous year, every year
We all want our kids to feel special, especially on their big day. So is there a way to make them feel special, and celebrate them, without throwing them a huge party?
Of course there is!
How to Celebrate the Day of Your Child’s Birthday
First of all, we want our child to feel special, so let’s start with some basics on how to do that that do not include the actual birthday party:
- Surprise your child with a breakfast treat! I’ve gone to get donuts and written a birthday message on the inside of the box, taken my child out for breakfast before school, or had a big, yummy muffin with a toothpick holding a message waiting on a plate for when they came down to the kitchen.
- If your child takes the bus, drive him to school that day.
- Does your child have daily chores to do? Give her the day off!
- Pack a special lunch or throw in an extra treat. Be sure to include a note!
- Have a balloon tied to their chair at the kitchen table.
- Make them the birthday dinner of their choice. Even my grown-up kids still get to pick a birthday dinner, and they love it! Seriously, we’ve had some interesting combinations, especially when they were little, but it’s about letting them choose their favorites.
- Always have a few gifts for them on their actual birthday, even if you are having a party on different day.
How to Plan a Family Get-Together on That Special Day
You have two options here; you can either have some family members over on your child’s actual birthday, or plan a separate day to celebrate. Let’s start with celebrating on the actual day.
- Invite just the closest family members and have something simple like pizza and salad. Super easy, pretty cheap. Have them come for dinner and dessert and presents. Be sure to decorate and have candles and balloons or whatever you can think of! A special cup or plate for the birthday child, a chair with ribbons, they get served first…you get the idea. You are not down-playing their birthday, in fact just the opposite! But the party itself is simple and inexpensive.
- If you have several relatives and close friends you want to invite, stick to just dessert. Make your child’s favorite dessert and maybe add a few other things like fun ice cream bars or make-your-own sundaes or cookies. Again, the focus is on the child. Do everything to make them feel special and loved and valued.
- Be sure your child is the center of attention!
How to Plan a Family Party on a Different Day
- The best place to hold the party is at your home, but if your home is not big enough to fit everyone, ask a grandparent or friend or sibling if you can hold the party at their house. Stay away from having to rent out a place.
- Keep the food simple. The fewer the guests, the more food you can serve. But if you have a close family where people are willing to help out, ask them to bring a dish. This will help with cost and most family members or friends are happy to bring something. If you’d rather not ask, then stick to the basics. Personally, I have always felt that if I am inviting people to a party, and they are bringing a gift, I should provide a meal. Remember, there are lots of easy and cheap ways to feed a crowd.
Planning a Kid Party
I didn’t throw kid parties for any of my children until they were school-age. Up until then, it was only family. Once they were in Kindergarten, I began having small (yes, SMALL) parties here at our house. So they actually got two parties, one with family and one with friends. But I kept both of these reined in as far as expense went. It required way more time on my part, but I loved that I was putting in the effort rather than just handing over cash for someone else to take care of things. I do believe my children to this day still can appreciate the effort I always made (and still do.) Keep the guest list small. Your child will have more of the attention centered on them, and there is likely to be fewer (if any) problems with a small group. Plus you can hold the party right at your house.
- Have a set of activities to do. If you plan around a theme, kids can have a lot of fun doing simple things. We had a chef party for my son when he turned 6. I got paper chef hats and the kids all stood around the kitchen table and made food and decorated treats. The food was eaten at the party and the treats were taken home in a goody bag. We played some games also centered around the theme. It was a fun party and the kids all had a great time!
- If you prefer to do something outside of the house, let your child choose two or three friends to invite. Go to the zoo and stop for ice cream cones, or go sledding and back to your house for hot chocolate, cake, and presents.
- Keep the party to two hours. That’s plenty of time for activities, food, and presents.
- So are you panicking that you have to do all this yourself??? Enlist some help! Asking a friend or two to help out will ease your mind, but even better than that is to hire a teen! You know, the ones who are all about kids and love to babysit and are outgoing! They can be a great help to not only have an extra set of hands, but can liven the party with laughter and fun, and just be silly with your crew.
Save the Big Parties for Milestone Years
So not every year has to mean your child gets a small party, although there is nothing wrong with that either! But if you feel that you would like to at least throw a bigger party once or twice, there are some ways to do this without breaking the bank. Don’t feel pressured to rent out a hotel ballroom and hire a DJ and spend a fortune on food and decorations. I know these have become quite popular, especially for a girl’s Sweet 16, but they are not necessary if you cannot afford them. So here are some alternatives to having that almost “prom-like” party…
- Keep the guest list down to how many can fit in your house. Have snacks and music and let the kids just hang out.
- Throw a theme party…a luau, a Mexican fiesta, a pool party, Olympics…whatever you want! Keep all the activities geared toward the theme.
- Have a sports party. Invite a group large enough to have two teams to play football or soccer or badminton. Or you can have several “stations” of games like Kan Jam and Ladderball set up around the yard.
- Rent out a hotel room for a girls’ night out. Hire an older teen or young adult to do makeovers and paint nails. Have the girls bring dressy outfits and have a fancy dinner in the room (think awesome take-out!) with music playing and maybe even a ‘waiter.’ Then head out, all dressed up, for ice cream cones!
*It is crucial to know your child’s friends so that you can plan accordingly. Not all parties will be a good fit for all kids. And while this seems to be a no-brainer, please be sure to supervise at all times.
So there you have it! There are so many ways to have a birthday party for your child without spending money you really should be using for something else. Trust me when I say that if you raise your children to appreciate the small things, they will be perfectly fine with having small parties. The most important thing is for your child to feel valued and special and important. You don’t ever have to spend a dime to instill that in your child.