With the arrival of spring comes the onslaught of birthdays in our house. In the past, I’ve been the crazy mom who goes overboard trying to throw the best birthday bash ever, but I always wind up feeling guilty afterwards because of the cost. Any mom who has thrown a party involving entertainment, rental of a play structure or hosting it at a venue that specializes in kid’s parties knows it can get ridiculously expensive. Then there are the gifts that end up abandoned after a day and a half (that’s the norm in our house, but maybe other families just choose better gifts). Not to mention the cost of the loot bags, the specialty cake, and the food and drinks for 20. Who has 20 friends at the age of five anyway?
This year I’m determined to scale back and stop buying into the myth that bigger is better when it comes to kids’ birthdays. When I was young we had our birthday parties in our backyard (I have a summer birthday so we could swim or play outside), we would have a homemade cake and I would get one present from my parents. I remember feeling like these were great birthdays. My mom would make me a birthday cake shaped like a caterpillar or a butterfly, and inside she’d hide coins wrapped in wax paper for the kids to find. That would definitely not be PC today, but somehow we always avoided anyone choking.
So, this year I’m going retro. I’m getting back to the basics for each of my sons’ birthdays. And in these economic times I think it makes even more sense to scale back. The key will be making each of them feel they had a day that was "special". For my oldest son it might be a basketball tournament in the driveway with his friends and family, then a sleepover that night and the chance to stay up really, really late. For my other son, who loves movies and video games and building Lego structures, we might take him and his best friend to one of the summer blockbusters and then come home for cake (maybe I could make one shaped like a piece of Lego, that sounds doable). I’m still thinking about what would be "special" for my very active, soon-to-be five-year-old son.
I’d love to hear about any ideas you have for at home or budget-friendly birthday parties for kids, or great inexpensive loot bag ideas would be great too!