Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Happy Birthday to You!

True confession - I am a sucker for reality shows! The other night I happened upon a show that  featured outrageous childrens' birthday parties. This mom was throwing a "circus" party for her 7 and 9 year old - cute I thought, we've done circus parties before with little carnival games in the basement - boy was I completely wrong! This was a full blown circus at a rented gymnasium, complete with acrobats, clowns and live animals. Cam has no patience for these shows. As he walked into the room he took one look and said, turn that off. I couldn't, it was like a car wreck that I couldn't look away from!

So he left the room and I continued to watch in disgust! By the end of the show this Mom had spent over $50,000, totally alienated her two children that were appalled at the fact that they had to share a birthday party, and bribed her son as he entered the gym riding a camel to "smile and wave and I will pay you a dollar" - the way she was shelling out money, he could have held out for a hundred!

Most of our birthday parties have been thrown at home, with food and entertainment provided by mom and dad. I loved planing those parties. I would start with what the birthday child was into that year - maybe trains, cowboys, Ernie and Bert or camping. Then I would think of how to make every detail of that party revolve around that theme.

The invitation would usually be handmade with the help of the kids maybe using a copy machine or a stencil  - the fun of it is making it match your theme so the kids you are inviting know what is coming.

Side note - I would take that invitation and save one for their baby book - on the back I would interview the child and record their answers -  as to what they were into that year, their accomplishments, likes, dislikes and then tuck it into their baby book - at a glance they can now look back and see what that year for them was all about.

Back to the party - after we have the invites, then we would work on games - any basic game can be tweaked to make it fit a theme. For example - pin the tail on the donkey can become pin the badge on the cowboy. Just be creative. I will tell you from teaching school - kids don't play games like they used to - meaning without electricity - so if you introduce some retro games they will think you are a genius. We played "Who stole the Cookie from the cookie jar" the other day in school and the kids were rolling with laughter!

Food - again make everything fit the theme - a little tip for cake making is to cut the cake into the shape you want and then place it into the freezer - once it is frozen go ahead and put on the icing - the raw edges are easier to ice when they are frozen. With the food, you don't need to buy expensive party themed food, again, just rename classic kids food - the Internet is a great resource for creating themed food with fruit roll ups, popcorn or fruit.

If the theme warranted it, we would have little costumes the kids could wear - at the "sheriff" party we had badges and vests made out of brown grocery bags. At a princess party we decorated crowns and strung fruit loop necklaces that the girls wore. It is great to have a little craft for the kids to do during the party. Plan what you will do during the party - just letting the kids play is a recipe for disaster!

Party bags - yes, we did this! - I would take a brown lunch bag and decorate it according to the theme - usually with a stencil and then fill it with little treats - sometimes from the dollar store or handmade treats.

Last but not least - the thank you note! When making the invitations I would make extra cards for thank yous. After the party they would write - When they were little, I'd write and they would sign their names. As they got older they wrote a basic thank you and now it is a full fledged gratuitous note - some of their letters bring tears to my eyes because of  their sincerity. I am not saying this step is easy but it is a lost art - a hand written note is a gift to those we love and who have taken the time to buy us a gift - don't lose it! Set a time limit for writing - within 1 week is acceptable and if necessary keep the gifts until the notes are written, this may sound harsh, but it is a great motivator!

So don't be afraid to throw a party at home - keep the kids active, have plenty of healthy food, don't over invite (2-3 more children than the b-day child's age is a good rule of thumb for the number of guests - for example if it is the 8th birthday party invite 10 children) and most important - set a time limit - 2 hours is plenty of time for a good party.

Having a home party makes cents and sensibility!


  1. This post brought back great memories of the kids parties we did, like the "Where's Waldo" party when we asked a friend Waldo look alike to come and be Waldo, and the huge cardboard maze we made out of refrigerator boxes for the kids to go through...sigh those days are now gone.
    Denise H.

  2. And use your resources. Many of us have resources and friends that are available. For my son's 3rd birthday we did a train or Thomas party. A good friend had a hand crank train that rode on tracks at his church. (Like the kind at Dutch Wonderland) He offered to bring it up and be the conductor for the day. The wee one's loved it! I made train cookies. We played in the backyard, had a picnic and I put a few baby pools out with toys. It was a lovely day.

  3. I love this post...throwing a home party is a bit of a lost art and I would single handedly like to bring it back! Our Tinker Bell party this year was a hit, Sarah offering to be Tinker Bell really kicked it up a notch! I think the teacher in me really loves planning all this fun stuff...maybe I could start a business...

  4. Thank you for the idea on saving an invitation with the interview on the back-great idea!!!

  5. This is a great post! One of my favorites so far for sure!! I just have one question..... Megan had a PRINCESS PARTY???!?!!!!!!!

  6. Love this post! I am one who personally hates children's birthday parties, but maybe it's because my kids have always been invited to overpriced & over-the-top affairs (for kids who never sent thank yous!). Although, given your circus lady story, I may have to rethink my definition, lol. I love the idea of a fun party at home. Maybe I'll hire Janet for the next one & save myself the trouble!


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