Birthday parties. Just a simple email subject reading “e-vite” can signal a stress response in a parent. It seems like such a huge ordeal these days. Kids are doing all kinds of amazing things to celebrate their annual occasion: pottery parties, pony rides, full spa treatments for them and 20 of their 2nd grade friends and jewelry-making parties. Lately it has become litigious if one R.S.V.P.’s and their kid is a no-show, which has had someone running their freshly showered, wet headed child to a birthday party across town when they remembered at the last minute that they said they would be there. I won’t mention any names.
I get it. People want their kids to have great experiences. I’m no different. It’s just subject to opinion what constitutes a great experience. Having 20 eight year olds carry home treat bags filled with tootsie rolls and plastic whistles with stickered images of Elsa or Spider-Man doesn’t seem to cover it. Especially when I know those whistles, if they even make it home, may be trashed or forgotten by the next day.
Please don’t think I’m being condescending or judgmental. I don’t care if you want to hire the Beebs himself to jump out of your child’s six foot ganache cake; more power to you. I’m sure that won’t be forgotten. But how will you top that the rest of their lives? If we are constantly trying to one-up the events at the last birthday, won’t the simple things in life like sharing a cake with the grandparents or taking a fishing trip with Dad seem trivial and disappointing? Also, if you have multiple children, doesn’t that get hectic and expensive?
We are very thankful when our child is invited to their friends birthday shin-dig. I love the moms who go all out to “put on the dog” for their kids. It all comes from a place of love and desire to give their child the world. My kids always have fun at these events. However, for most of their birthdays, we keep it simple.
Some families do not wish to budget 500 dollars or more on their child’s birthday every year. Maybe they aren’t able to, financially. Maybe they steer away from the traditional parties with gourmet cupcakes and treat sacks because they are really imaginative and take their kids to pan for gems instead. Maybe they have 6 children and the thought of planning another big party at the town’s most popular venue makes them want to stab their iris. With a pencil.
Once in a while we will do something expensive for our daughters’ birthdays. Their thirteenth is promised to be a big occasion where they can do something very special and invite three or four friends. Our first child to turn 13 chose a carriage ride around our town plaza and a meal at a fancy-ish restaurant where she and her friends had their own table. It was a big deal for all of them. At thirteen they were old enough to want to do something more “adult” but still young enough to think it was extremely cool even though we tagged along.
For most birthdays, we purchase a custom cake and have several members of the family over. Occasionally, our daughter may invite a friend for movies and pizza. Honestly, we are always going to birthday parties and taking a gift for the honored child but our kids have SO much. They all have way more than they need or use. It’s just a personal thing. I feel that inviting the whole class to a party is also obligating those 20 kids to bring a gift. Some kids may get the majority of their gifts from their friends who attend their party. Our kids have a lot of family who buy for them, and I don’t want to have to start a Beanie Boo consignment shop out of my home.
So, for those families that just can’t do another Chuck-E-Cheese, Disney Princess themed party complete with treat bags for 28 six year olds: I have some ideas that will provide lifetime memories but won’t break the bank.
This is probably some of the most fun I have seen kids have. Whether your child invites two friends or fifteen, this can be done without spending a ton of cash. Ask parents to bring any tents they have and set them up in the yard. Have hot dogs, chips and smores on deck to make it seem official. If it’s a summer birthday, this just naturally unfolds to being super cool and the party can start with some runs through a sprinkler or on a slip and slide. Get some tiki torches at the dollar store and place them around the tents. Tell creepy stories while eating smores by the light of the tiki torch. You can do camp outs well into the fall months in many places around the country. If your child has a winter birthday, pitch your tents inside or make blanket forts. Oh and flashlights. Lots of them!
My little ladies love art. The second to youngest, in particular, has asked for art supplies many times for her birthday presents. There were times when we lived on a tight budget and had to get imaginative with our kids birthday celebrations. One of the best times they had was when we had an art party. This was done outdoors on a nice fall day. It’s probably one that is best experienced outside. We had a total of around 10 children. We purchased small, inexpesive canvases with paints at a discount store. Their aunt hung some fabric from a tree, making a little bohemian “hut” and added some colorful throw pillows from the house. There, each girl took turns doing a mini photo shoot. I had a professional grade camera to add effect but a camera phone would work just as well.
The kids had almost as much fun with the photos as they did painting their masterpieces. Parents were emailed their child’s pictures after the party and everyone took home a canvas. I am pretty certain this party cost under $50 and that was with a birthday cake from a bakery rather than a grocery store.
Field Day Birthday
What kid doesn’t love a good field day? Well, except for me, because I was never of a competitive spirit (okay I was lazy.) But most kids do, and if you have nice weather you can create your own field day in your backyard.
You will be surprised at the field day you can create using items from around the house coupled with spending a few dollars at a dollar store. “Medals” can be created with ribbon and construction paper. Just a few activities that can be done are hula hoop contests, tug of war, potato sack races (king sized pillow cases are good for this), long jump contests, egg races, sprint contests across the yard, I could go on for days. Inexpensive prizes for the winners will really get kids in the team spirit. Grill food or picnic food is perfect for this event.
In short, some parents can’t spend a grip on kids’ birthday parties every year. But just because they don’t want to drop hundreds on paintball parties doesn’t mean they can’t pull off an occasion to remember. I think we will have a big camp out for the next birthday around here. I may even go rogue and send my first e-vite but if you don’t show up, I promise not to sue.