I have a love-hate relationship with birthday parties! I adore my children, and yet, when they ask for a party, I start to feel instantly stressed. It seems like parties have turned into a culture where the child’s expectations are SO LARGE, that they believe taking a rocket to the moon is a realistic expectation with all their friends!

So with this in mind, how we do navigate the birthday culture with staying in the budget, all the while making sure the children have fun and feel special? I learned a few lessons while raising my seven children, worth sharing after years of birthday success and mishaps!

  • Stay in your budget- Know what you can spend and decided if what you can spend is worth spending on the “Birthday Excessive Culture.” Having seven children has kept my budget for birthday fun ranging in, “moderate to low.” With this being said, I had to learn how to create fun on a budget!
  • State when the party begins and ends on the invite– There were a few years that I invited every child, their siblings, parents and never posted end time. I felt like I was pushy declaring when the party would end because I love these people so much! However, the reality is being clear about your start and end allows your guest to decide if they have time to meet a friend for coffee, run the grocery store or even go for a run. I recommend no more than three hours for a party.
  • Use Evite or text to communicate to the guests – These communication tools are a great way to send out messages and always send reminders a few days in advance. You would be surprised how many people’s schedules change at the last minute to allow them to attend. Every kid loves a great party!
  • Great Party Ideas- Choose a simple theme for younger children and work around that. Start with a theme that is doable-
    •  Carnival Craze (boy or girl under the age of 10) -is a fun way to create backyard games such as donuts on a string, fishing behind a blanket, relay races and more! I have done this party theme using a cycle of rotations from one station to the next much, and the kids loved it! I even included face painting and a magic show from a big brother!
    • Pool Party– A fun way to reach out to a large group of kids with the help of lifeguards. I even brought our parachute to play with during the break.
    • Nature Party Theme– (typically boy under the age of 11) One year we had a “froggy theme” party and even caught some local frogs and snakes for the children to look at!
    • Water Bash– (five to teenagers) water balloons, slip-and-slide, squirt gun war, or a wild game of capture the flag!
    • Fire Pit Fun – I have a lot of fun with this theme over the years! Who doesn’t want hot chocolate, smores, and a big fire!
    • Seasonal Sports– Football them- we have taken kids to local high school games and even college events that are affordable and fun!
    • Crafty theme- make necklaces, decorate frames, and provide a place where the children can express themselves!
    • Tea Party Theme– Bring a doll and share in the fun! Get out your best china and allow the girls to eat tea sandwiches, candy, and fun!
    • The Perfect Over Night- I am not a big fan of over-nights, but they sure can be fun!
    • Seasonal Fun– (Fall) Pumpkin carving, (Winter) sledding, snowball fights & campfire, (Spring) and (Summer). Buy fun items to do at the end of each season. This can include squirt guns, ball toss, water balloons and more.

  • What food to serve at the party? 
    1. Make Your Pizza- (typically dinner fun)
    2. Hot dog bar (overlap with lunch and dinner)
    3. Ice Cream bar (host between 2-5 ( anytime)
    4. Snacks and Floats! (anytime always include chips and salsa, fruit, veggie, and a protein)
    5. Take and Bake Pizza- (dinner or lunch)
    6. Ice Cream Cake – (dinner or lunch)
    7. Treats that are special! Lemonade Squares, bars, smores, and root beer floats- (anytime)
    8. Pigs and A Blanket (great appetizer)
    9. Fruit Salad- Yummy, yummy!
    10. Veggies and ranch- always a winner!

  •  Gifts- As a parent of seven children, I have found that I need to start the birthday shopping off-season as a way to keep in the budget! I find items they enjoy- sports socks, sweatshirts, athletic wear, and candy, nice lotion, and clothes from Old Navy and other stores never go out of style! If you have a truck or place to place these items to store them, it makes it easy to keep your birthday stash! Check out the sale racks at REI, Patagonia and other stores that provide your teens with the brands they like but the price you can afford!
  • The Cake– We make an ice cream cake before the party and it sure is a nice treat that everyone loves! I typically have some candy and a small treat for those who don’t like ice cream.
  • Thank You Gifts- I typically only do this for small children who come. I like to do some candy and a bouncy ball or something fun.
  • Who Should You Invite- Remember, a birthday party is meant to help foster friendships and provide a fun celebration not break hearts! Be careful not hurt other children who could feel left out! Consider setting a small number or open it up for two hours of fun for the entire class of boys or girls.
  • Clean Up-Make sure you prepare the “Birthday girl or boy” to know that part of having a party is cleaning up before the guests arrive and afterward!
  • Thank You Notes- Consider filling these out right after the party! I have learned the hard way, where we haven’t properly thanked friends after the party and I still feel guilty! My sister-in-law had a basket of “thank you notes” done and handed out at the end of the party with the thank you gift! Easy and a nice way to teach the children to say “thank you.”
  • Take lots of pictures! 

Birthday Parties can brighten a day and bring friends together for happy memories! May your next party not be stressful but full of happy memories and lots of smiles!