As a little girl growing up in California, I have fond memories of my 10th birthday, when my parents spread out snow (Halloween spider webs) and draped little pieces of “icicle” (I think they were “beads by the roll”) for friends to collect as part of a winter themed party. With just a few simple touches, our home was transformed into a winter wonderland in my eyes. We hope these tips help you to make your daughter or son’s birthday one s/he will never forget—all without going over budget.
- Invitations: Evites.
Invitations can be substituted with evites. Many websites offer free invitation designing and sending like evite.com, smilebox.com, and punchbowl.com. The invitations look great and often include a built-in RSVP function so you can keep track of who is coming. However, if you choose to send thank-you notes after the party, it’s a good idea to use real paper notes.
- Theme: Get creative.
When choosing a theme, don’t be afraid to keep it simple (winter, water, etc.) or to be creative (slime, or backwards-day). If your kid loves Moana, opt for a generic but still fabulous luau or island theme to avoid buying the expensive napkins and plates printed with the character. Instead, try to choose solid colors that go with the theme.
- Decorations: DIY and reusable.
Keeping a roll (or two) of crepe paper streamers and a generic but festive “Happy Birthday” banner in the pantry makes it easy to given even a low-key family birthday dinner festive flair. Streamers make great backdrops or table skirts, and they can also be used for activities like a mummy wrap or a streamer fashion show. Solid color balloons can become fireworks when filled with confetti and then popped, or be transformed into puffer fishes, watermelons, or ghosts with some stickers or marker/paint.
- Entertainment that doubles as a party favor.
In one blow, you can knock out both the question of entertainment and fulfill the general population’s expectation of birthday party favors. Maybe it’s putting out sticks and glitter for wand-crafting, or sending kids looking for “gold” (painted rocks) around the yard for a pirate party. Homemade photo booths are a fun activity that you can throw together with a phone/camera and old Halloween costumes. Photos last a whole lot longer than the average party favor, and kids and parents alike will treasure them.
- Skip the meal; stick to cake and ice cream.
If you plan your party for a time that no one will be expecting a meal (mid-afternoon), then you save all the money you would otherwise spend on feeding the crowd of hungry children. Instead, put out standard salty party snacks like chips and maybe some themed snacks (e.g. gummy sharks for a pirate/mermaid party). It’s a good idea to avoid peanuts for the sake of young children with allergies. The birthday cake doesn’t have to cost more than a box or two of cake mix if you make your own. Food can become part of the entertainment if you have the kids make the ice cream at the party (check out this ice cream maker disguised as a ball!) or if you give the kids cupcakes to decorate themselves.
At the end of it all, the birthday party is a celebration of your child. Regardless of how the party goes, if s/he feels celebrated and loved, the birthday is a success. We hope these tips help make the big day a little less stressful and a little more focused on achieving that goal. 🙂
By Annemarie Arnold