Simplifying Birthday Parties {Think About It}

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My kids are obsessed with birthdays. It’s probably a topic discussed at least once a day in our house. I’m not entirely sure why the fixation on this topic. I would love to say it’s because of how we celebrate.  After I posted about my daughters Jake and The Neverland Pirates party, I had a bloggy friend comment that she loved how simple we made birthdays, and didn’t go overboard.

So of course, her comment, doubled with my kids talking daily about who they’re inviting and what the cake should look like for birthdays months in advance, it got me thinking. And you all know how I love to think!

Think About It! 
You don’t need to go into debt to celebrate a birthday. You don’t need to have food for an army (unless you invited an army).  You don’t even need to pay big bucks for a location.  Your kid will have more fun, remember the special day longer, and most importantly feel loved on their special day if you keep it simple.
Money.  You really truly do not need to go into debt for your kids birthdays.  I will admit here, with our first child’s first birthday, we went WAY overboard. Looking back, I think boy we could have spent our money wiser with her. She won’t remember it at all.  As your child gets older, they won’t know how much you spent, unless you make it into a big deal as some sort of manipulation. So save some money. Keep the decorations to a minimum, or home make them. Bake the cake from scratch, or pick up a premade from a bakery.
Think About It!
Unless you’re a terrible cook, a homemade cake is made with love, and can even get the child involved spending time with mom. Take my son’s cake we made this last weekend. It was so simple, and extremely cheap. We spent a couple dollars on one of those new Duncan Hines flavor creations (caramel) because we were in a time crunch and my homemade frosting was an EPIC fail! Another dollar for the Happy Birthday decorations, and voila – simple easy cake! (In case you were wondering the theme it was for our son Lincoln’s first – hence the penny for 1 President Lincoln). We used a salad serving spoon to create the bumpy penny edge. Nothing fancy, tools we already had on hand, and cheap cheap cheap!
Presents. Who has ever bought their child an expensive toy only to have it break a week later, or be forgotten about in place of a cardboard box?  I’m not saying give your child a cardboard box (though I know mine would love that!), but really think about the presents worth before shelling out all your money.  I also suggest, that if you invite friends and family to the birthday party, you let them know a gift is not expected – just their presence.
Think About It!
I don’t like my friends feeling like we just want a present out of them. All we really want is to spend time making memories while celebrating their life. Presents are fun and nice, and I’m sure the kids really love them, but is it what they remember?  There are very very few presents I was given that I still remember.  I do remember the memories from the day though. Having my BFF over to play just because it was my birthday.  Having all my friends and their mothers over for a mother daughter night because I turned into a young women and was no longer a little girl.
Food.  Have you ever had leftovers because you weren’t sure how much dinner your family would eat?  Have you ever had leftovers from a party because you made too much salad, bought too many hot dogs, or filled your freezer with ice cream? 
Think About It!
Food at a birthday party should be the simplest part. If you plan a party around lunch or dinner, you’ll want to have enough, but don’t go overboard. Finger foods like a veggie/fruit tray and sandwiches are perfect for small children’s birthdays. Just do your friends a favor and find out if there are any allergies. You’d hate to only have PB&J’s for a kid with a peanut allergy.  Another of our favorite birthday foods is a $5 pizza from Little Caesers, and a bag of salad.

Games.  Make and create your own games!  I remember my parents throwing me a Carnival party for my 8th birthday. It was the most friends I had ever had over at one time. My dad painted a bean bag toss on a piece of cardboard. We had a “fishing pond” made from sheets.  And then a bucket full of water balloons and squirt guns. Simple, easy and cheap. It was by far the best birthday I ever remember, that probably cost my parents next to nothing to put together.
When we celebrated Princess C’s birthday, Mark put together a treasure hunt. Using a paint program on the computer he mapped out our yard, and placed X’s where all the clues were. We didn’t need a fancy one time expensive Disney themed map, when we could make our own. You don’t either!
Think About It!
Traditions. Finally my favorite way to simplify and truly celebrate our children’s birthdays are by carrying on traditions. Things like singing the Happy Birthday song are fun, and do make it special – but have you ever changed it up some?  You know like they do at restaurants?  I recall many birthdays laughing as my dad sang us this version

Oh Happy Birthday. Oh Happy Birthday. There is Sadness in the Air, People Dying Everywhere, but Happy Birthday. Oh Happy Birthday.

Albeit maybe a little morbid, and depressing.  I don’t currently sing this song to my kids, but I still have fond memories of my dad singing and everyone joining in.

Another family tradition, that I know Mark just loves, and I have carried on to my kids is one where we all get to whack the birthday person on the head after singing this catchy tune

Heavy Heavy Hangover, thy poor head. What I wish for you is a Bump on the head.  – Followed with a nice Bump on the head with their present. This is then repeated with each successive present.

Finally, my last and most treasured tradition is our Birthday Dinner. For our birthday, we would get to pick out a restaurant – any restaurant – and go out with just Mom and Dad (no siblings!) for dinner. The quality time spent with my parents was priceless time not often found with 5 siblings. My parents made sure to carve out that time at least once a year for the individual child. I now very much enjoy taking my own kids out one at a time, to focus on them and the things they like. Talking about their life, listening to them tell us whatever is on their mind, and enjoying ourselves. This is a tradition I would encourage all parents to start. Your children will appreciate it the rest of their lives.

What do you do to simplify birthdays?

2 thoughts on “Simplifying Birthday Parties {Think About It}

  1. There was nothing simple about Michael's birthday, but it was his 1st. Tons of family and friends over to celebrate. Now I get to tone it down (a little) 🙂

    1. And you know, I do think first birthdays should be a pretty big celebration. There are still ways to keep them simple though. We have really toned it down with each kid.

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