Monday, April 19, 2010

Children's Parties: Birthdays

guest post by Monica at The Homespun Heart

Birthday Parties - you either love to plan them or you stress about planning them!

I happen to be one of those who really enjoys planning all the details! I find it so fun to think of a great theme and then run with it. Creating a special day and lasting memories for the one we are honoring!

But, where to start? We are moms and we are busy. Time is short and getting creative takes time, doesn't it? Here are a few thoughts about planning a fun (and thrifty) party for that special little person in your life!

* Keep an idea journal or book: I have an idea journal that I keep handy for jotting down ideas for family celebrations. I jot down theme ideas and then sublist ideas under them including food ideas, decorating thoughts or favor possibilities. This is a great way to keep the ideas in one spot and revise them periodically as the party approaches. If you'd prefer - just tear out ideas from magazines you like or print out ideas you see online to save in one central spot. Coming up with the theme can sometimes be the hardest task and when you've got a theme, you can begin searching out ideas. Keep your eyes open to see what interests your children and even request their input in choosing a theme.

* Set a budget: Admittedly, I've been shocked at what others are willing to spend on parties while I thrive on seeing how little I can do a party for! I try to set a limit of $50 for our parties. This includes food, any favors, decorations and a gift for the birthday child. Think ahead of time about what a realistic budget might be for you and your family situation. One girl mentioned to me that she had a hard time keeping parties on a budget because when they invited the children - the whole families came and they fed all of them. In this case, try a non-meal time party or just mention cake and ice cream will be served on the invitation.

* Keep your eyes open: Once I have a theme, I find that I start seeing ideas all around me. Just sort of keep your theme in the back of your mind. You might find a great item at a thrift store (like the Strawberry Shortcake curtain valance I found that made a great table runner) or a clearance rack! Or, you may see an idea you could recreate at home for free. Jot all of these things in your idea book or keep a list with your clippings.

* Search online: there are lots of mamas who really enjoy the party planning and have super creative ideas. Let them do the work for you! Getting the ideas is half of the job! Add these to your idea journal as well.

* Work ahead: This is probably the thing that serves me the best. Once I've collected ideas and have jotted things in my Idea Book for a while - I can go through that list and narrow it down to what will actually work at our party. I might actually work on a party for months and months before it happens - just a few minutes here and a few minutes there can really add up and the earlier you have a theme, the more likely you'll see other ideas around to add to it!

* Get resourceful: When you see an idea you like online and find that you don't have all the supplies - try to challenge yourself to think of a way you could make something similar for cheaper or with things you already have on hand. For example, when my little guy turned two - I wanted to do a car themed party. I found a great post online with tons of ideas and she obviously had a color printer and everything looked so professional. I don't have a color printer, but realized I could print out a free clip art of a car and use it as a template to trace out cars on scrapbook paper. I used what I had and it looked great for FREE!

* It's the little things: Children just love all the little details! Fun shaped food and cheerful decorations are noticed and enjoyed by them! Try to see how fun you can make the party. But, they also don't see how much things cost or how fancy they are. Just do what you can and know that it will be special and meaningful to them!

* Be realistic: Have an idea for a perfect party game? Make sure to consider how many guests you are going to have, their ages, the weather, where you will do the game or if it requires pricey supplies. Don't overplan - children just love to play and be together and don't really need tons of activities or games planned!

* Keep it small: So far, we've had just family parties until our children turn three. When they turn three - they are allowed to invite three guests not including siblings (to prevent resentment!) and at four - four guests. I'm not sure how long we'll continue this trend - but it has worked great so far. Consider what would suit your family and home and then plan accordingly. More guests might be reserved for milestone birthdays or once every few years if you choose.

* Limit gifts: To this point, we've only had one birthday party where all the guests brought gifts. I like to take the emphasis off of gifts and do that part with family later. On all but this one party, I've written on the invitation that their presence will be our gift and no gifts were necessary. If you do have children bring gifts - I love the idea of putting two chairs in the front of a circle and having the recipient sit with the honored birthday child up front while they open the gift from them.

* Favors: To give favors or not to give favors - there are two camps on this! Since I like all the extra details - I love to do favors, but I do try to keep them consumable or practical when possible. For example, when my Rachel turned three she wanted a pink elephant party and I made little skirts for the favors. We gave them to the girls in advance so they could wear them to the party! It was so fun! And, both my girls have worn theirs multiple times since.

* Have fun!: I admit that all of this sounds really fun to me - but I know not everyone will feel the same way about it. I pour myself into the details because I enjoy it. If you don't enjoy this kind of thing - it may add more stress to the celebration than you'd like and your children would rather have fun than a stressed out mommy! If it starts not being fun anymore, step back and try to look at what you can cut out, delegate or substitute with a simpler solution.

Here are a few parties I've planned for my children on a budget:


First Birthday


Ellie the Elephant
Princess Tea Party


  1. I've always been so inspired reading your party posts on such a frugal budget ~ creativity *pays* in more way than one! :-) All the special touches that may *cost* nothing are *worth* so very much. Thanks for your ideas, Monica!

  2. I've been inspired by the thought that goes into your parties and everyday celebrations. On the 100th day of school, I cut my daughter's breakfast toast into the numbers
    1-0-0. Our immediate family should be the main benefactors of our special touches, tangible reminders of how much we love them. Thank you for reminding me that it only takes a few extra moments to make it special!

  3. Monica always has great kid party ideas! : )

  4. Monica, am I the one you were talking about concerning the food and whole families?? :)
    Hahaha!! I will be posting about Fisher's ant party this week. Fun stuff!!

  5. Thanks Monica,
    I have really been enjoying your posts!

  6. Monica,

    Your parties are always amazing. Glad you could share them in a combined post here!

  7. I'm like Monica in loving planning birthday parties!! It's such a thrill!

    I don't live near my family anymore. However, eating was not an option. Every get together, especially b-days, involved (and still does) food. So I would recommend to anyone who can't get around that to ask family members and close friends to bring a side or drink. I have found most people feel special if they are the ones asked to bring something... I'm not sure why LoL. But that really helps the budget to only pay for the main dish and whatever supplies/decorations your using.

    Also Family Fun's website is a great resource in theme's and ideas! I've made 2 of their cakes and people have commented both times about my "skill" and all i do is follow the directions!