For the past two weeks I’ve been stressed out over finding the perfect venue, booking talented entertainment, loading up on exotic decorations, choosing the menu and deciding what will go in each special guest’s gift bag. No, this isn’t for some big shindig for wealthy VIPs or gala event tied to my job. It’s all been over a birthday party for a bunch of five-year olds!
It seems to me that birthdays have become the new “event” for children. I’ve seen some parents go totally overboard, pulling out all the stops to throw “the best party ever” for their kid. Of course some parents compete with each other to see who can throw the “biggest” and “most elaborate” party for their kids – spending outrageous amounts of money for things like fireworks, elaborate cakes or the latest teeny-bobber to sing “Happy Birthday.” Frankly, it’s pretty ridiculous. If you’ve ever watched MTV’s “Super Sweet 16” or Wealth TV’s “Party Mamas” some of the parties featured on those shows make my wedding seem like a cheap backyard tea party!
When I was a little birthday parties were all very similar and simple. Most were held at home, filled with Kool Aid, candy and cupcakes. But I do remember a few times my summer birthday celebration got “fancy.” One year we held it at our local town pool and my mom had pizza delivered, and instead of cake we all got to get a treat from the ice cream truck. Another year we all went bowling, and I also remember having a few at a local McDonald’s restaurant (and shockingly, one without a Playplace).
It wasn’t until my son turned three that he hit the birthday party circuit. In the two years since then, he’s been invited to more than two dozen parties and only one of them was actually held at someone’s house. He’s been to places where you can jump around on bouncies, stuff-a-doll, pet exotic animals, ride amusements, play full-sized arcade games and even make pottery. I have to admit, I don’t always think that the parties he goes to are age-appropriate. In those cases I try to steer him away from activities that I feel are a little too advanced for him. He doesn’t seem to mind, he’s perfectly happy to play with his friends, have some cake, and leave with a goody bag.
My son’s had a total of three birthday parties of his own. Two were low-key home parties with friends and family when he turned one and three (right before his sister was born). They were both fun and intimate, but it took a lot of time and work not only to prepare for, but to clean up afterward.
Our son’s first birthday party at our first home, a home thrown luau, complete with tikis, Hawaiian shirt cake and blow up palm tree!
The other was just last year when he turned four. We held it at local indoor entertainment play place. It was age-appropriate with an animal/safari theme. It had a funhouse-jungle gym, pedal go-kart racing and a cannon airball blasting range. I think some of the parents had as much fun as the kids! The best part aside from leaving all the set up & clean up to the staff was that the party didn’t break the bank. See, I’d much rather have my boy go to college than have one blowout party to remember.
I want to make this year’s party special, but again age-appropriate and within our budget. This is the last party he’ll have with most of his pre-school classmates since they all live in different towns and will be going to separate schools come fall. I opted to go to a location again this year instead of having a party at home (my time, sanity and a clean home are worth something!).
It took some time and lots of searching but I found a great place. It’s a local art spot where the kids will do a bunch of crafts like spin-art, foam painting and make their own tie-dye shirts which doubles as their goody bag gift. His friends will all help to paint a big “Happy Birthday” paper mural which my son will get keep and remember all his pre-school friends by. We’ll do all that, have some pizza and cake and be cleared out in 90 minutes. And again, we’re not breaking the bank on this party at all, we’re just having some simple fun with art and hopefully, lots of laughs.
Isn’t that what birthday’s are really all about anyway – having a good time with your friends, getting some presents and having some treats to celebrate having made it through another year? I think my son would agree, but I guess that may also depend on what he gets as gifts 😉
Now it’s your turn to share. What are your ideas for kids’ birthday parties?
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