Making Memorable Birthdays, Inexpensively

alex birthday
Castle cake

My children have celebrated 32 combined birthdays. This wasn’t always easy for me as I don’t celebrate my own birthday. In fact if you wish me a Happy Birthday you will likely be black listed for the rest of the year. In retrospect they were not always the big crazy birthdays party as they are today. In fact our birthday parties started out simple. only including family, table clothes and a few balloons. After my son was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor we truly started celebrating their lives. That year we invited his whole class to a bouncy castle place and spent the whole day having a good time. He talked about this day for the next 12 months and when he was feeling sick he would plan his next big day. It is around this time that I realized just how short life was. Short for you and for me. But childhood is shorter even with a healthy child it is gone in a blink of an eye. And so the shenanigans began.  We now begin planning their birthdays months in advance. Usually based on a theme chosen by the birthday child. We have done everything from Halloween to spa parties. Here are some tips to make your next birthday magical. 

  1. Start with a theme chosen by the birthday kid. When my kids were babies themes included favorite characters and fire trucks but as they grew they included cool age appropriate activities like, garden tea party, spa party and this spring we are hosting a glow in the dark sleep over. While we have had parties out side of our house, my kids have learned that party venues often have a size limit making them choose who to invite and who to leave out. This never sits well with them, so often our parties are at home, or a park where we can be all inclusive.
  2. Invitations, preferably ones that match the theme. When requesting RSVPs I prefer to have them texted (easier to keep record) and I always ask parents to include vital information like allergies. 
  3. Photo Booth, with a printer if  you have one. For many years I used a simple set up with a mobile printer and cheap digital camera. The printed pictures will replace goodie bags. The silly portraits will long outlast cheap treat bag trinkets.
  4. Piñatas are good for children of any age. Pull stings are best for kids under 6. When filling your piñata keep in mind age of guests and allergies. Piñata fillers typically contain hard candy and gum both choking hazards not appropriate for younger guests but they are allergy friendly. Having paper lunch bags or empty treat bags with the child’s name prewritten on them will help make this activity go smoothly.
  5. Activities, I usually chose one or two additional activities besides piñata and photo booth that really pulls the theme together. For the garden tea party we planted flowers, for the spa party we painted nails and for the glow party we will be playing glow in the dark capture the flag. 
  6. Food, while it is easier to order pizza or boil hotdogs. I prefer tying snacks to the theme. Often this is cheaper and healthier than the easier options. For our Halloween party we made ghost bananas, gelatin brain, and mummy pizza  Its important to plan items that not only look cool but taste good. As well as ones that are also kid friendly. 
  7. Cake, this is usually chosen by the birthday kid, most often handmade. Making your own cake from scratch will allow kids with allergies to participate in that special moment. 
  8. In addition, our parties are always presents optional and we make sure to list this directly on the invitation this way not being able to afford a gift will not leave anyone out. 

Not big party person, when I was little (and did celebrate) my favorite ways to celebrate were to have a small playdate with my bestie or have mom make my favorite meal. Birthdays don’t always have to be big to be memorable. How do you celebrate your littles?