I recall the first birthday party I attended with my daughter with a little bit of awe – and shock.
The theme? Princesses. I imagined pink paper plates and some balloons, maybe girls in big dresses wearing clippity clops, as my daughter calls them.
Instead, a real live princess entertained the children, who sat at elegantly decorated tables drinking tea and eating small, delicious cookies that probably cost more than the gift I brought. Which, by the way, was nowhere near as elaborate as some of the other gifts on the table. In fact, I believe the party favors handed out at the end of the day were more expensive than the gift I bought the birthday girl.
Okay, maybe not – but the extreme to which this party went shocked me.
I called my best friend on the way back to my house and gushed about everything. Then I panicked, because of course we all know what this means – now we have to throw a big fancy party or everyone will think we shortchanged our daughter.
Fast forward a few years. A few more elegant and expensive parties with hyped up games and overly done gift bags. The recession hits, and we attend our first post-recession party. Held at a home. In the somewhat overgrown backyard. With a bounce house and cake.
Ah. My kind of party.
You see, I never understood the reasoning behind throwing a one or two or five year old an expensive get together. They don’t understand it, and in all seriousness the kids just want to play.
I enjoy the creativity that can go into the parties, but smaller, in my opinion, is better. So if there is one thing I can say thank you about to this recession, it is the fact that we can now throw a fun party that seems like, well, a fun five year old’s birthday party rather than a trip to Disney.
Having a birthday party for your child soon? Want to save some bucks? Since planning my daughter’s fifth birthday party, I’ve really found some great tips and techniques and ideas to shave a few dollars off the tab while still throwing one heck of a to-do.
- Pick a theme, any theme. This year – flower fairies. They are missing, and we are going to find them. We are doing the party in white, pink, and green – white tablecloths, green plates, pink balloons.
- Shop around, especially at the Dollar Tree. I bought the party bubbles there, a box of 12 for $1. For an additional $1 I got a bag of netting to wrap around each bubble container, and for another dollar a spool of ribbon with which I used to tie a bow around the top of the bubble container. $3 and a great centerpiece for the table. In addition I bought great silver ‘platters’ (dollar store) on which the bubbles and a vase of pretty flowers (10 for $5 at Walmart) will sit.
- Make the invitations. I bought cardstock at Michael’s, used a coupon, and got it all for a pretty penny or two. Using my creative juices I made up a poem. Then I clipped two of the cardstock’s together – poem on front, information about the party’s date and time on the back, and I fastened them with a brad and a pretty daisy flower.
- Play games. We will be doing a scavenger hunt at this party, looking for the lost fairies (which are some of my daughter’s doll that will be tied to the trees outside our home). On a piece of cardstock I’ve written directions the children must follow to find the fairies; and when they have been found, the girls earn their own fairy wings (guess how much I got them for at the dollar stores?!)
- Last year we held a field day and played a variety of field day type games, such as sack races and three legged races. The kids loved it, and it really helped the time go by quickly.
- Make your own cake. By going through Michael’s craft store, with a coupon of course, you are bound to find great cake ideas that are easy to make. Cupcakes are a great idea, too, because when it comes time to serve you don’t need any extra utensils – just pull them apart and hand them out. We did this last year and will do it again this year.
- Want a princess or a pony or a clown at the party? Find someone who has one of these things and barter. Offer to do something for their child’s party, or for them, for free, and in return have them come to your party. Or have a relative dress up in costume if you are looking for someone to do something entertaining with the kids.
- Keep it short. I’ve been to three hour parties and honestly found, at least for younger children, they are too long. Two hours is perfect, because it allows for an hour and a few minutes of play, and then time to eat and do the cake and open gifts. If time is left over, you can always play a game or have a race.
- Look online. I found this website recently and used it in making up what we would do with our daughter’s party. Great ideas!
- Keep it small. This year we invited ten of my daughter’s friends – 8 came, so we had ten girls total. Perfect size for food, gifts and games.
- Reduce the stress. Whenever you can, make it easy rather than complicated. And remember, it’s a child’s birthday party. Chances are whatever you do will be a lot of fun, regardless of what you spend!