As the years have gone by, it seems like kid’s birthday parties have gotten more and more elaborate. With having 6 kids, I had to set some boundaries fairly early for attending and having birthday parties:
How many birthday parties should my child attend?
When my older kids were young, money was pretty tight and our school had a policy of everyone in the class had to be invited to birthday parties so no one would feel left out. Needless to say, they got a lot of invites. Our budget wasn’t very flexible, and honestly, allowing the kids pick out a $10 gift for their friend meant that other things in the monthly budget had to be juggled and it caused a fair amount of stress.
I had to set some limits. After thinking long and hard, I decided that I would let them attend one birthday party per year. Even after our finances eased up (Thanks to Dave Ramsey!) we still kept with the one birthday party a year rule. Limiting the attendance of parties freed up our schedule. That said, I didn’t limit extended family birthday parties, but our family is huge (I’m the middle child of 10 siblings) and spread out across the country, so we rarely attended family parties anyway.
Our kids did well with choosing one party to attend and they never complained. They had their close friends and knew when their birthday was. They were excited as they looked forward to it. It also meant that they took more time in planning their gift and thinking about what their friend would enjoy.
How much time/energy/money should I put into my own child’s birthday party?
I always felt a bit deprived, not having an extravagant birthday party as a child. But then when I had children of my own, I found out how overwhelming big birthday parties were to children. A 3 year old just wants to be celebrated, they don’t want to open 28 presents and thank each person.
With so much excess, can we blame the child for tearing off the wrapping, discarding the item and demanding the next gift or the child that screams and throws a toy in frustration, simply because it’s not the one he wanted?
My answer is, of course, minimalism.
Just like every other area of our life, minimalism helps us keep balance in our celebrations as well. There is no need for extravagance. I’ve given many a party and I’ve organized large elaborate events for people and organizations, but the ones that bring the most joy are the simple intimate parties. Even for children!
Have bigger parties on bigger birthdays. We allowed friends to be invited to the 5th, 10th and 15th birthdays. The rest of the years were just shared with grandparents and an aunt & uncle, (who graciously attend without giving gifts).
Keep the guest list small. Allow the birthday girl or boy to invite friends. If they tend to get carried away, set a moderate limit: 3-5 friends is good. Just remember, the more children, the more overwhelming.
Play simple games. Part of having a “big party” means party games. (At the age when party games are still enjoyed by all involved!) We’ve done:
- Pin the tail on the ____. In our case, it was “pin the tail on the dragon” and “pin the horn on the unicorn.”
- Don’t Pop the Bubbles. Lay out bubble wrap on the floor and have children take turns gently walking across it. Whoever doesn’t pop any bubbles win!
- Scoop the Cotton Balls. Have a bowl full of cotton balls and an empty bowl in front of the child. Hand them a spoon and blindfold them. Whoever moves the most cotton balls into the empty bowl wins!
- Make your own pizza. Cooking with friends is so much fun. Have bowls of pizza toppings and individual sized crusts ready for the chefs.
What does the winner get? To say that they won of course! Keep it simple. Just have fun for the sake of fun!
Make birthdays special with traditions. Allow your children to pick their birthday dinner. This gives a great opportunity for learn about your child and get them involved in the planning. Planning and anticipating is the best part!
Make a homemade cake. Have them help you make their birthday cake. They can decide what flavors they want and how they want it decorated. If they’re so inclined, let them decorate their own cake. And if they don’t even care for cake: let them pick their birthday dessert! Ice Cream, Pie, Strawberry Shortcake, Cupcakes, Cheesecake, Cinnamon Rolls, the list is only limited by their imagination.
In the end, it’s the time you took that makes the memories special. To know that their parent took the time to make their favorite dinner and favorite dessert makes them feel special and celebrated.
Nothing has to be perfect! And the great thing about kids: it doesn’t take much to get excited! You can make a sad looking cake with wobbly letters, and they don’t care- if you made it for them, they love it and it’s perfect!
What about gifts?
I recommend keeping gifts simple as well. When we send out invites (which just happen to be a group text message) I make my request:
“No need to bring a gift, but if you want to bring something, please limit it to something homemade or craft supplies.”
This has worked very well for us.
If you have family members who wish to give more, here are a few resources for you:
- 18 Non-Toy Gifts for Toddlers
- 18 Non-Toy Gifts for Children
- 18 Clutter Free Gift Ideas for Teens
- 11 Ways to Get Friends and Family on Board with the Limited Gifts Idea
How do you celebrate your children’s birthdays? Leave a comment and let me know!