Should we banish party bags ?
I love birthdays I think they are utterly magic and can make the birthday girl or boy feel absolutely special. Not much fun for mum and dad though if it leaves them feeling utterly skint. Here are some
of my top ideas for a birthday on a budget :
The Present: Get them what they want if you can afford it but then absolutely nothing else. They will get tons of presents from various people, just one from you is fine. If you can’t afford the trampoline, etc. then ask Grandma and Aunty Mo to go in with you,. Have a clear idea of what your child wants/needs as others will ask you. It’s far better they don’t get jigsaws if they hate them and that they do get armbands if this is what they need. Be clear and precise. Remember a course of activities or clothes are also really useful gifts and it is okay that they benefit you too. It all impacts.
The Party: Make your own invites. A sticker or two of your child’s favourite thing, such as a fairy, pirate, rocket or animal on a plain postcard looks so cute, is easy for your child to do and very cheap. Just fill in the details on the back. They will be so proud that they have done their invitations themselves. Always hand deliver where possible and keep the party times shortish, no more than 1-2 hours. After lunchtime naps and before they are too tired is often best.
Food: If you organise the party 2-3.30 p.m you can avoid the need to provide food at all and you could just write ‘Please come to x’s party for Games and Cake on ….’ and that would really cut down your cost (and effort). If you do want to provide food then I would strongly suggest that less is more and simple little sandwiches, a few crisps, apples, raisins, cheeses slices would be fine. Don’t go mad with little cakes and choccy biccies as no one wants their kids wired but do get few treats (always look for offers on chocolate fingers, cookies etc.) Don’t stress about food allergies. Tell parents to help themselves and ask if they aren’t sure. It’s a good idea to keep all boxes in case they need to check ingredients.
Consider having a theme: themes are fun but can be expensive. One year my little boy was really into Thomas the Tank Engine and I ended up buying Thomas cups, tablecloth and napkins all to only be used once then thrown away. A better idea for a theme is fancy dress (encourage home made outfits so no one spends too much!) or a beach party with the sandpit out and some funky sunglasses to make out of card. You could throw a hat party where everyone comes in a silly hat. Fancy dress spreads the effort and can make for lots of giggles and fun preparation even with the littlest kids.
Games: Do away with PRIZES! They are an unnecessary expense that cause upset at almost every party. Kids want that or this and you get ‘it’s not fair and I didn’t move,’ etc. Not fun at all and just brings out diddy greediness in children too unsophisticated to hide their disappointment. It can also cost you a packet. I tried to do cheap pass the parcel gifts once only to have them looked at with derision by 2 year olds and left behind at the end of the party. These little crayon packs and bouncy balls had cost about £5 in total. Complete waste.
I always say if you can’t compete don’t try. Do something completely different instead. I have a cousin who works at a Steiner school (creative, natural and anti-plastic) and she taught me a variation on pass the parcel that I always use now and it works a treat with little kids. After each layer of paper rather than chocolate or a little gift you have a song title and the group (with parents helping) have to sing the song. Action songs work really well and the kiddies love it. You do need to make sure you know the words though and sing up! An alternative to this is to have a little challenge in each paper layer, e.g. spin round three times or jump on one foot for one minute or shake our neighbours hand. Nothing too hard just simple and fun.
Team obstacle courses are always fun, you could have 3 legged races, and egg and spoon relays (I like relays as no one person wins or loses and they are often more jolly) You could organise a mass treasure hunt with cut out cake pictures hidden round the garden and the prize is everyone gets cake. If you can borrow a huge parachute that you waft about, hide underneath and bounce balls on, that is a lovely thing to play with. You could get some music on and have a bit of a disco. A penalty shoot out is a great fun too. If there has to be a winner a big clap and cheer is good enough. Use your imagination and let the fun unfold.
Party bags: You don’t have to go down the party bag route – it’s an extra expense. You can just give the children a slice of cake and maybe a balloon, say thanks and bye-bye. I have often found unlooked at party bags still in my car a week later.
Cake: If someone you know can bake and will make you a cake as a gift then rope them in quick! Alternately you could always make your own. Cakes can cost a packet to have professionally made and the lovely effect of a gorgeous cake only lasts a few moments. Is it really worth a big expense? If you can’t face making it yourself and can’t find a friend to bake hit the supermarket and ask Grandpa to pay for it as a gift if he will. These cakes are usually quite reasonably priced and large and supermarkets do all the favourite themes.
Have fun, don’t stress and don’t put too much prep in or your child’s special day gets lost in you making a party. Lighten up and smile, they always work out, and really don’t need to cost too much.