Back-to-Basics Birthdays

Back-to-Basics Birthdays

What ever happened to the “come over for a slice of cake” birthday party? Remember when it was perfectly acceptable to have a few toddlers over without an entire petting zoo in your backyard? From kids who hear “Happy Birthday” sung by the cast of a Broadway musical to sweet (or not so sweet) 16 parties that equal the cost of tuition for a year of college, kids’ birthday parties seem to us to have gone well over the top. To a lot of people, it’s not just about keeping up with the Jones’, it’s about crushing them when it comes to throwing the coolest birthday party for your perfect little Dinosaur-lover or princess fairy. And don’t even get started on the favors. That idea should have trashed (along with all of the junk) a long time ago. It’s not that we’re haters – we love parties. It’s just that we’re advocating a simpler way. You know the old story about the kid who gets piles of gifts but plays with the box instead of the shiny new toys? It’s the same philosophy. Ever notice the power of a simple water balloon or a piñata? Kids don’t need a lot to make them happy. They just need their friends, a few treats, and the permission to have fun. So when the next birthday rolls around, resist the urge to book the Kid-o-Rama and go old school. Just because it’s back-to-basics doesn’t mean it’s boring.

Five Simple Rules for A Simply Sensational Birthday Party

1. Ditch the Favors.

Please. As parents ourselves, we can attest to the fact that the kids really don’t give a hoot about these little throwaways. Nobody really ever needed another bouncy ball from the dollar store. They are a waste of your time and money and just end up in a landfill.

2. Go Simple.

Kids love simple games. Tag, duck-duck-goose, pin the tail on the donkey, or whatever
floats their boat. You don’t need to hire a magician to see the magic that is created when kids get together and are allowed to run around and have fun.

3. Give It a Theme.

Themes really do wonders. Sarah’s throwing a low-key, backyard birthday for her soon-to-be five-year-old with a “monster truck” theme. The kids will play pin the license plate on the monster truck, red light/green light, and then cool off in the monster truck carwash (aka the sprinkler). If you’ve got a princess in your house, get some glitter nail polish and paint all the little toes and fingers and you’ll have a happy group of little girls.

4. Don’t Think You Need to Be Martha.

The kids aren’t going to realize that you whipped up that icing from scratch so unless you love baking, make it easy on yourself. Get a boxed cake. Same goes for food. You don’t need to be carving flowers out of carrots to impress kids. They’re thrilled if they see a pizza delivery man.

5. Invitations.

It’s the invite that counts, not what it looks like, so don’t fret over embossed invitations. Email is easy for everyone and sites like evite.com make it foolproof to send out invites. Don’t be afraid to express yourself and be funny – one mom even skipped evite and just put the date and time of the party in the subject line. Did the kids care? Nope. They were just happy to find themselves together on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

What other basics can you think of? What easy but really fun themes have you used or seen? Let us know!

  • Ncm

    I love this post!  Now I don’t feel like a lone crabby parent who literally can’t stand goody bags and overdone birthday parties.  We have done some “big” parties for our four kids occassionally(mostly just to take the pressure of planning one off me!)  I almost always incorporate a craft into a party and that’s the “goody” they can take home with them.  It works and gives them something to do while at the party too.

  • Jaskolka5

    With three kids and a total of 26 bithday parties (so far), I have never gone over a $75 budget for a single party with 8 to 12 guests.
    After witnessing conversations among their friends, I can proudly say we have managed to make their parties the most memeorable because they were simple–let the kids run around and play–but with a theme. 
    Birthday cakes are homebaked and decorated by the birthday child.  Favors are usually appropriate to the theme and usually part of the party craft.
    One of the big things for us is that often birhtday parties have been costume events where the kids are invited to dress up as part of the theme.  Many parents love that the kids get to wear the costumes for more than Halloween and Purim.

  • Maureen

    Have the birthday girl/boy help make decorations. We still have simple paper fish hanging from our dining room table lamp. Cutting, painting, hanging — it was a lot of fun to do as a craft project a couple days before.