When I was a kid birthday parties were at one of three places: home, the bowling alley or McDonald’s play place. That’s it.
Needless to say, things are a bit different now. Parties take many shapes and forms and can be more like competitive sports than celebrations, leading many of us to go overboard or to say “forget it!” to the whole endeavour.
But when it comes to parties, bigger isn’t always better. More elaborate celebrations don’t equal great memories. My kid won’t remember the size of her party or the extravagant touches, like a glitter-strewn table (what was I thinking?), but she will remember feeling special and loved.
If you’re determined not to fall into the trap of over-spending and over-planning this year, here are some ideas to help you and the birthday kid have a great celebration.
- Have a “yes” day. This is the day where mom and dad say“yes” to every request (within reason). Can I have a brownie for breakfast? Yes. Can I wear a my special Easter dress to school? Yes. Lay down some gentle parameters and watch your kids delight in this once-a-year yes day.
- Balloon wake up. When the birthday boy falls asleep, fill his room with balloons, or rig up a balloon waterfall to come down when he opens his door in the morning. It only takes a few minutes to put banners, streamers and balloons throughout the rest of the house for a festive morning surprise.
- Small gifts throughout the day. Surprise your little with a small gift under her pillow, in her lunch box if it’s a school day, and under her dinner plate. And while you’re at it ... candles on EVERYTHING. This is a great way to make the excitement and special feelings last throughout the day.
- Spend the night in a hotel. If your budget allows, decamp to a hotel for the night where pillow fights, room service and a swim in the heated pool can make for great memories and a fun family celebration.
The easiest substitution or evolution of the “let’s invite the entire class and everyone we’ve ever met” party is to grab a few friends and celebrate in a smaller group. Some ideas include:
- Dinner and a movie
- Escape rooms
- Cooking class
- Trip to the zoo or aquarium
Or, if you’re looking for a new theme for a home party try:
- Red carpet - with photo props, Polaroid pictures and a movie.
- Make your own slime – parents provide the ingredients and kids take home their creations
- Glow in the dark dance party– Grab some glow in the dark face paint and Dollarama light-up bracelets then turn the lights off and the music up
- Camping - everyone sits cross-legged on the floor for hot dogs, S’mores, songs and ghost stories.
- Scavenger hunt – Hide a bunch of small treasures inside the home or out in the neighbourhood and watch the kids delight in solving the clues.
Birthdays are also a good time to think about others. Many parents incorporate giving back into a birthday celebration by:
- Having the birthday child donate one toy or item of clothing for every new one she receives.
- Donate some birthday money (matched by mom and dad or grandparents) to the charity of his choice.
- Enlist a service like Echoage to help manage invitations, RSVPS and the purchase of a group gift, all with a charitable twist.
Remember, you don’t need a big top tent or a bank loan to make a birthday special. Think about the little things that matter to child, the little ways you can make memories together. And whatever you do, don’t forget the birthday questionnaire!