It’s been decades since I hosted my own children’s birthday parties! Yet, with my privilege to now host my precious GrandBlessings occasionally, it brought to mind some of the truly inspired ideas that I used for planning parties. I’ll even attach photos of my recently discovered notes of one of my kids’ 4th & 5th year old parties.
First, of course, the theme. Whatever their interest is at the time. From school busses (his 3 yr old dream), to dinosaurs, to ballet, to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (the original), to Space, magic, etc…. Once the theme was determined, hopefully several weeks ahead of the birthday, begin collecting the stuff.
Because there was NEVER a dull moment at our house, always lots of kids around, I began making Chocolate Chip Cookie Cakes (the Original) instead of cookies…. SO much faster! Usually the morning of the party, I was desperately trying to decorate the cake with the theme. I literally amazed myself at the last-minute theme drawings I could make with icing! HINT: Canned frosting, lots of colors of squeeze-tubes of decorating icing with all the tips, sprinkles, etc. DON’T forget candles!
SO, here’s the secret sauce, with the REALLY good ones*:
· Send real invitations. Let the child help address and write.
· Inside or outside? If outside, with a weather contingency.
· Set a tight schedule with time blocks. MAX party time is 2 hours (with food).
· *Have an Entering Activity. While the kids are arriving, get them involved.
· Depending on the time of day, food or no food? Pizza, of course! It takes up some of the time, in a good way. Of course, this was long before all the dietary restrictions, sad for you. Choose your time of day accordingly, and include it in the invitation.
· Cake and ice cream. Instead of big scoops of melting ice cream, I would *cut ice cream sandwiches in quarters. SO much less mess. (revolutionary in my day!)
· Write kid’s names on their cups, and only fill 1/3 full of Kool-Aid, Milk, Water. Only 1 or 2 choices!
· ***My BEST idea! When it is gift opening time, set up 2 chairs. Everyone sits, waiting their turn. As a gift is chosen from the bunch, the child bringing that gift sits in the 2nd chair. A picture is taken of the guest, gift, birthday child. Later, that photo is printed, and mailed with a thank you note from the child. (Before the party, the child is explained that NO MATTER WHAT, they say thank you to the guest, even if they already have it, even if they hate it, even if they have several of them, they say THANK YOU!).
· Goodie bags are given as each child is picked up. Keep it simple.
Some ‘entering activities’:
· Big butcher paper with lots of markers to have each child draw pictures and birthday greetings.
· Have each child make paper airplanes.
· Have a follow-the-leader outside, with kazoos, whistles, horns, etc, as each kid arrives.
· In the Spring, let them dig and plant bulbs. Party favor could be a bulb to take home.
Some outside games:
· Red Rover
· Hot Potato
· Simon Says
· Red Light-Green Light
· Log Roll/somersaults
Some inside games:
· Pin the tail on the donkey. OR pin the mustache on the poster. OR pin the nose on the clown…. Etc. Can use tape or removable tacky clay.
· Musical Chairs (use colored sheets of paper if not enough space for chairs)
· Always fun to have lots of balloons around (INEXPENSIVE FUN!) Many games with balloons. Sitting on them to pop is always fun.
These few suggestions are to help you be creative and create a memorable Birthday for your child, without breaking the bank. Although, once, my eldest child actually said, “Mom, can I have a REAL birthday party, like at Chuck-E-Cheese?” UGH. Stab to my heart. And, Yes, he did. 30-ish years later…. he gets it!