Children’s Birthday Party Ideas – Creative, Cheap & FUN!

Welcome, Parents!  You have found your way here because you’re looking for assistance with your child’s upcoming birthday party.  If you’re asking yourself, “HELP!  My kid’s party is coming up, WHAT DO I DO?!” I am here to help.

First, let me reassure you.  Unless you have groomed your child to believe the sky’s the limit, most kids are very satisfied with a modest party.  I’m not talking NADA, but there’s no need to break the bank financing a party for a bunch of 7 years olds.  As we just celebrated another successful birthday at home, I thought I’d share some helpful hints with others.  After all, it takes a village to raise a child, and two heads are better than one, and.. well. You get the picture.

Party Invitations. Ideas & The All-Important Wording.  We all know the invitation says far more than what’s simply stated.  It’s all about READING BETWEEN THE LINES.  Right?  Right!  To save on stress and hassle, I offer these suggestions.

  • If this party is to be KIDS ONLY, write Drop Off Time: and Pick Up Time: on the invitation, rather than the standard 11-2 PM.  This important information conveys to parents that they are not expected nor encouraged to remain at the party (something very few parents relish anyway).
  • If this is to be a KIDS & PARENTS affair, write on the invitation “Parents welcome!”  “Parents may stay or drop off” or “Look forward to seeing you all” – something along those lines will get the point across.
  • Some parents may ask whether a sibling may also attend the party.  Or  a parent may show up at the party with the expectation of leaving a sibling.  How do you handle this?  You can: 1) Say fine, and plan accordingly.  2) Explain that due to the number of invitees, the party is being restricted to immediate friends only. or 3) Give them “The Look.” (Kidding! Try 1 or 2.)
  • Don’t forget to remind parents to RSVP.  You can specify “RSVP Regrets Only” or the like, anything to make it easier for the parents.  It’s very hard to prepare for a child’s party without knowing how many guests you will have.  Unlike adult parties, where all you need is food & drink, kids parties require more STUFF.  Especially if you’re giving out party bags at the end, it’s super helpful to know how many you need to provide.  Having a firm count saves time and money, but always have an extra or two just in case (remember those siblings..?)

The invitations themselves can be anything – so get creative!  We’ve done hand-drawn party invites, computer print-outs on festive paper, store-bought packaged jobs; it’s all good.  The important thing is allowing your child to help in the decision making, if not the actual making of the invitations.  Unless they’re too young to care, or completely disinterested, most kids like being in charge of their party to a certain degree.  Let their individuality shine though the invites.

FOOD.  I am all for healthfulness, but bear in mind – this is a child’s birthday party.  It’s supposed to be fun.  All things in moderation, remember?  You don’t want these kids so sugared up they’re flowing from both ends (sorry) but neither do you want them eyeballing the food with mistrust.  This is not really the place for Uncle Iggie’s homemade tofu-garlic dip, unless your kid and their friends think that’s everyday fare.  Stick to normal, kid-friendly foods.  Like the perennial favorite: PIZZA!  To keep costs down, buy it frozen from the grocery store, or better yet, a big box discounter like BJs.  I spent $7.49 (with a coupon) for a 12 pack of Red Baron mini pizzas – both cheese & pepperoni – and the kids couldn’t have been happier.  BONUS: because of the small size, there was less waste, the kids found them incredibly easy to eat, and Oh yeah, I cut them into quarters to speed cooling.  No burned mouths at this party!

FAVORS. I bought candy, party favors and prizes inexpensively at Target and the Dollar Store.  Oh! And BJs too.  Check the ends of aisles for clearance items.  For instance, I found a bunch of plastic slinkies on sale for 48 cents a piece.  That’s HALF PRICE or less.  And I bought a big 100-piece bag of mini chocolate bars for half the cost at BJs (versus Target).  But remember, there’s a difference between being economical, cutting corners in a way no one will notice, and just being CHEAP.  People notice CHEAPNESS.  They admire you when you are creatively thrifty.  Think about it.  The latter will earn you respect and imitation, the former costs more than it saves.

Party Bags, Plates & Cups.  You can buy these everywhere, and unless your child is wedded to an overarching “theme” – Elmo, Dora, etc. – save money by mixing & matching and looking for sales.  I know some people swear by party stores, but I’ve yet to find one with better pricing than a big box discounter, unless you’re shopping for a massive group.  And remember, these items are going to be consumed, recycled or thrown away.  Don’t waste your money going overboard.  Another hint: Get Creative.  For both of my daughters parties this year, instead of purchasing commercial party bags, I used brown paper lunch sacks.  Total Cost: $1 for 40.  To fancy them up, I used a vintage stamp kit I found at a yard sale for $3 bucks.  For my older daughter’s party – where I had all the children’s names beforehand, I made a personalized bag for each guest.

For my younger daughter’s recent party, which had a Halloween / harvest theme, I made them a little different.

I offer these purely to spark your own creativity.  Use your imagination & go wild!

Piñatas, Treasure Hunts, & Party Crafts. OH MY! Let’s talk party extras.  Things that cost a little more, but truly make for an extra special occasion.  We’ve done one or more of these at our parties and they’re always a big hit.

Piñatas. This year we found a fabulous piñata at Target on (you guessed it) CLEARANCE.  It cost dollars less simply b/c one of the streamers was missing.  Umm. Who cares?  The thing’s going to get torn apart anyway.  But just for show, I carefully trimmed an extra off another end of the piñata and shazam.  Perfect-o.  To fill it, DON’T WASTE YOUR MONEY BUYING THE PRE-BAGGED STASH.  It’s expensive, the candy is stale, and it’s boringly standard.  Instead buy candy in bulk (it’s cheaper and it’s fresh) – either from a place like BJs or the dollar store.  To this add some dollar store trinkets, bead necklaces, erasers, etc.  A WORD OF CAUTION: remember this stuff is going to come flying out at a group of children.  Don’t buy things that could poke or cause harm, such as lollipops or pencils, and stay away from things that could otherwise break or get damaged in the process.

Treasure Hunts. In a similar vein to the annual Easter egg hunt, try a Treasure Hunt at your next party.  It can be as simple or elaborate as you wish, from opening the backdoor and saying Okay Kids, go find the treats, to creating fancy pirate type maps with clues, to..??  Let your mind wander.  Just remember weather conditions.  DUH?  Yes, I know, but it’s less appealing to hunt in the cold and rain.  Think ahead and you’ll always be prepared (and look great in the process – *wink*).

Party Crafts. This is a great way to “break” up the time, especially if you’ve opted for a lengthier party.  The craft could be anything really – we’ve done “Paint Your Own T-Shirts” and recently “Paint Your Own Mini Pumpkins” –

neither was a huge investment, but provided something very fun and memorable for the kids to do at the party AND take home.  You could do a craft that incorporates several things – like food and fun.  Make your own sundaes are always popular.  You can have them draw pictures, or paint, or make something with dough.  Even if it’s just decorating blown up balloons with markers, the kids will have fun.  And you will too.  There is nothing better than spending quality time with your child, especially on their birthday.  And you do not need to spend a lot of money; just be creative.

Games with PRIZES.  I don’t care what mamby-pamby parents have to say – Kids like Prizes.  I am not steel-jawing these kids into believing YOU MUST PERFORM!!!! to earn a prize.  No way.  But I’m also not depriving them of the good feeling a win can inspire, either.  Keep the games simple and fun, make sure you have enough prizes so that every child has a chance to win, and afterward, give the kids who didn’t win anything a prize for trying.  Everyone leaves happy.  Sure, some kids might have won more than their peers, but frankly, that’s life.  And no one goes home empty handed.  Keep the games age appropriate, or you risk dismay (huhhh??) – or worse, boredom.  Here is a BIG FAT LIST of suggestions (you are welcome).  Good news?  The party will be over before you can try them all.  And there’s no need to buy much if anything to play these.  Make your own Pin the Tail on the (Whatever).  Use a pair of rolled up socks or a stuffed animal if you don’t have a bean bag.  Any questions about game rules, leave a comment below and I’ll be happy to elaborate.  Or have I missed one?  Comment & leave your own suggestions as well.

  1. Musical Chairs
  2. Hot Potato
  3. Pin the Tail on the Donkey
  4. Freeze Dance
  5. Guess How Many in a Jar
  6. Draw a Lucky Winner From a Hat
  7. Balloon Push over the Finish Line
  8. Kangaroo Hop with Balloon Between Knees
  9. Toss Bean Bag into Bucket
  10. Shoe Race – Put everyone’s shoes in central pile, race to get them on
  11. Duck Duck Goose
  12. Hide and Seek
  13. Simon Says
  14. Red Light Green Light
  15. Freeze Tag
  16. Keep Balloon Up in the Air
  17. Four Corners
  18. Basketball – who can make the most baskets
  19. Basketball – who can make the farthest shot
  20. Race to see who’s fastest

A Friendly Reminder.  Your kid’s birthday comes but once a year, don’t waste it stressing over the party.  A bunch of kids couldn’t care less that you haven’t finished installing (insert whatever mindless item that’s bothering you).  Neither do they care if your silver is spotless.  Run the vacuum over Foofie’s furry mess on the carpet, wipe down the counters they’ll be eating on, and relax.  If you feel overwhelmed being on your own with all the kids, ask other parents to help.  A parenting pro?  Invite kids only and 1) your fellow parents get a break, 2) you only need to shell out for children, and 3) you can spend time focusing on making your child happy – rather than entertaining a bunch of adults and worrying what they’re thinking.  YOUR CHILD’S BIRTHDAY COMES BUT ONCE A YEAR.  This party is for your kid, NOT YOU.  Don’t forget that.  And don’t sweat the small stuff, b/c really – it’s all small stuff.

JUST SAY NO! to BRATZ

For this week’s JUST SAY NO!, I would like to address a commonplace children’s toy which irks me beyond measure.

For those of you w/out daughters or who are otherwise happily living in oblivion, BRATZ are the scourge of wholesome mothers everywhere. These plastic pint-sized dolls, a little like Barbie but even less cerebral, are the certified tramps of the toy aisle. All sass, no class. These “little girl” dolls wear more makeup and less clothing than many of the hookers regularly using my block as a meet-up.

Don’t get me wrong, I am no big fan of ANY of these sexed-up trollop dolls sold to little girls as fantasy material. But at least Mattel’s Baby Doctor Barbie looks vaguely realistic, wearing scrubs instead of a go-go dress.

Behold Cloe (Like CHLOE but w/out the confusing H), one of the Bratz clique.

You can see that Cloe is all dolled up and ready to go, hanging out w/ her cat. I also am an animal lover, so you might think I would like sweet little Cloe and want to buy her for my daughters. But I am not sure about Cloe’s outfit, which brings to mind transvestite street walker – or (let’s not mince words) CHEAP WHORE. I think if I came out of the house in this get-up to feed my cats, my neighbors would stand open-mouthed in shock, wondering whether I’d lost my mind.

It’s great to have your own sense of style. Go crazy. But when you’re spackling on makeup like Bozo the clown and sporting a sequined dress a size too small for a toddler, let’s face facts. You look bad. Not sexy. Not alluring. Just plain floozy. That’s not good. No one should aspire to look like a stripper. Even classy strippers don’t like looking that way. Neither should you. And you reaallllllllllyy reeeaaaaaallllllllllllllyyy shouldn’t be promoting this kind of thing to your minor children. Handing them a BRATZ doll is as good as saying HEY PUMPKIN, SHAKE IT.

We need to inspire our future women to be leaders, to be intelligent and scholarly, creative, inspiring. NOT JUST SULTRY. SURE, you can be sexy. There are PLENTY of attractive, vivacious executives, artists, business tycoons. They have brains AND beauty. The two are not mutually exclusive. Some of these women are also other things. Like Humble. Decent. Modest. Virtues I hope to inculcate in my daughters – things I do NOT SEE IN THE BRATZ CLAN.

It’s the presumptive attitude of entitlement put forth in Bratz that makes me want to retch. The Diva Mentality.  Women do not need to flaunt themselves to be fulfilled. They do not need to be eye candy to Be Someone. When we set this sort of example for our girls, they come to believe that the sexualization of children is not just normal, but indeed acceptable. Much like the Ass Shorts I spoke about recently, these dolls are just plain WRONG.

Makeup is fine. Clothes are great. But our daughters need some real role models. Marie Curie. Mother Theresa. J.K. Rowling. Feed the minds of future women. Inspire them to have substance. Aspire to greatness yourself.

JUST SAY NO! to Bratz.