We are fairly new to the world of Children’s Birthday’s. My toddlers, Miss 2 and Mr nearly 4 ask me every day … “whose birthday is it today?”. Then we go through the routine of singing “Happy Birthday” and dedicating it to the cat, next door neighbours dog, our grandparents, friends, and basically anybody we can think of. This is most, most exciting for them. Birthday’s are a major highlight in any child’s year, and we as parents usually want to make the day special for them.
So let’s get the party started, without the stress, worry and financial burden of trying to put together something that rivals Kate and Wills wedding.
Write up the guest list of who you would like to invite. Are you going to combine family and friends, or just have your child’s closest friends in attendance? Are you obliged to invite Sam next door, because he invited you to his party earlier this year? The more people in attendance, the less extravagant the party can be if you are restricted to a budget.
Next item on the list is to determine your venue. Free venues include your own home, grandparents house and the local park. I tend to steer towards venues away from home, not so much to reduce the budget, but to reduce your stress levels. For a minimal fee, there are plenty of places where you could hold children’s parties that provide in-house entertainment like indoor play centres, fast food restaurants, your local pool, ten pin bowling and your local skate bowl. If you only have a couple of friends, you could attend a go-kart venue, rock climbing venue, see a sporting event, or eat at a nice restaurant.
Invitations need not cost anything. The kids could make their own, or you could print invitations on the back of some of their artwork and post. Facebook, email and other social media are wonderful free options. There are also websites available that offer a free invitation and rsvp service like www.evite.com.
Now for the entertainment. Have some planned entertainment in mind, but children are very good at playing together, so only step in if they look like they need it. You could start with some age-appropriate games like tunnel ball, egg and spoon race, a game of backyard cricket, bobbing for apples, celebrity heads, twister, supervised spin the bottle, trivia quiz, hold your own hair and nail pamper sessions, or even hold a dance competition … and depending on their age, they may love it all the more when the adults join in. If at home, have the kids help you arrange some music beforehand, so you’re not scrounging around your old CD collection. Themed birthday parties with fancy dress can be great fun, but can also add to your budget (unless you make your own costume) and also add to your list of things to do and raise stress levels. Keep it simple.
Inexpensive decorations can include streamers and balloons, and homemade banners. Chinese lanterns or balls look great and are affordable from discount stores. Fairy lights and candles create a lovely ambiance, and for a real party you can hang a glitter ball near the spotlight for a disco. Print photos of the kids on paper and post to the walls, leaving some blank space on the paper for guests to write comments or do drawings.
Depending on your options, you may have not spent anything yet. Food, drink and birthday cake is where it can get tricky. For birthday cakes, you can make your own from scratch but allow one hour for baking and another two hours for cooling and decorating. You can buy slabs from the supermarket for under ten dollars and decorate yourself. Alternatively, you can buy an inexpensive ready-made cake from the supermarket, or lash out and have one made for you.
Food and drink
To ensure there are not crazed sugar-high kids running around, supply a mix of both healthy and naughty foods. If the budget is tight, arrange for the party to fall over a morning or afternoon tea. If you can get away with it, ask everyone to bring a plate. A sausage sizzle is another cheap and easy option. Put together a list in advance of what foods you would like, and aim to have them made in advance or purchased in bulk, so you can save on costs and save on time as well. Set up a table with a tea/coffee stand so the adults can make their own.
If you wish, you can organise gift bags for the kids to take home, however I don’t believe these are expected, and can possibly fall outside your budget. One suggestion would be to glue a printed photo of the birthday child on some paper bags, and fill them with leftover lollies and treats from the day as they leave (if there are any!)
And remember, it is your child’s special day. Too much stimulation can send any child into a spin and before you know it, there are tears and tantrums. Keep the day simple and relaxed and everyone should have a really lovely time.
So before you budget for the party extravaganza of the year, see if you can do it for Undertendollars (per person) first!
Alison Parks for www.undertendollarsblog.com.au
Undertendollars have a printable gift register template for you to use … plan in advance how much you need to put aside for those birthday gifts every year!