We Gave Up Big Birthday Parties: 5 Things We Do Instead

kid birthday ideas
Image via Amanda Rodriguez

My oldest son’s first birthday was an elaborate affair.

I stayed up every night for a week straight constructing goodie bags and decorations and all kinds of happy little accoutrements that the kids tried to gum to death and the parents largely ignored.

It set me back a good $200, and my kid fell asleep halfway through it after exploding out the back of his diaper and crying while everyone sang.

I haven’t gone to such extremes for a kiddie party since.


Because, ain’t nobody got time for that!

Everyone knows that honey badger kids don’t care about fancy party favors or themed décor. They don’t care if their goodie bags are personalized, if their cupcake toppers are homemade, or if you hire a clown or a magician or a face painter to come make everyone at the party all sparkly.

They care about presents and friends and hugs and cupcakes. They want to open their presents and play with their friends and get cupcakes all over your dress when they hug you.

It’s not about the crazy you bring to the party, it’s about the love … and the fun, of course. It’s about making that little person feel special for a few hours on their day. You could make that happen by exhausting yourself in your craft room for weeks and blowing your entire shoe budget for the year, or you could just not do that and do something like this instead:

Making Kid Parties Happy Without Breaking the Bank:

Host a baking party. Boys and girls alike will love getting together and getting their bake on. They can have a good time, they can eat delicious goodies, and they can learn something, too! Do something easy like chocolate chip cookies, and let everyone make their own batch so they have something to take home as a party favor when they go. Create a cupcake station with sprinkles and different colored frostings and let the kids go to town on their own cupcake creations. It's simple, cheap, and loads of fun!

Image via Flickr/emrank
Image via Flickr/emrank

Have a picnic party. Go to your child’s favorite park or find a new one with fantastic play structures. Invite his or her besties and let them have a blast playing together. Consider a park with walking trails and go on a nature scavenger hunt.  Make it a potluck, and have all of the families you invite bring their favorite picnic dish to share, or grill hot dogs and hamburgers – because who doesn't love a barbecue? Bring large blankets for the kids to sprawl out on if they want to get the full picnic experience. 


Do something good together. One year, we had an Operation Christmas Child packing party for my son and his friends. Sure, he still got to open gifts for himself, but he also got to give away a lot of them, too, and all of the kids at the party had a great time going through the gifts they were donating to the kids. We spent the money we could’ve spent on a few hours at the bowling alley or the jump center on items for kids in need.

Add a little friendly competition. One of the most fun parties we’ve ever hosted was an Olympics party, where we set up a bunch of games and obstacles in the backyard and had the kids compete in them. Some of them were silly and some of them were true tests of skill, but every single one of them was fun. We took a break halfway through for cake and ice cream and then sent everyone home to their mamas all sweaty and tired. Parents actually thanked me for that day.

Image via Flickr/Az Jade
Image via Flickr/Az Jade

Make it a family affair. Really, little kids don’t have a lot of personal friends. They don’t care if you invite every child in their preschool class and, even if you did, they probably wouldn't even really play with them. Make your little one’s party a family celebration, and fill it with people they know and love. A few of your closest family friends and any relatives you are close to are plenty to put on your guest list.  You won’t have to worry about having your house ransacked by a bunch of diaper-wearing bandits, you won’t have to entertain a room full of virtual strangers (the parents don’t usually drop off at tiny kid parties, they stand around, pretend to make small talk, and act all awkward because they don’t get your jokes), and your kid won’t spend half of the party hiding the best toys so his or her “friends” don’t break them.

MORE: The No Presents Birthday Party }

Do you plan big birthdays or have you decided to keep it simple? 

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What do you think?

We Gave Up Big Birthday Parties: 5 Things We Do Instead

Amanda has been wowing the Internet since 2008 when she launched her pretty-much-useless guide for parents, parenting BY dummies. As it turns out, her parenting advice is not generally useful for more than a good laugh, but sometimes that’s exactly what you need! Amanda spends her offline time (which is embarrassingly limited) running a photography business, working as a social media director for a local magazine, writing freelance articles about stuff she loves, wrangling her 3 little Dudes ... More

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  1. mommy nhoj says:

    Thumpbs up to charity work. We might consider this in her next bday – it’s like giving back/ sharing the blessings you have. But we still want our little girl’s birthday more than just 3 of us sitting and let her blow her cake. It’s the perfect time to mingle with husband’s friends and colleagues. I am not a great party planner but surely I feel like giving the best shot for her first at least! I remember my parents did the same thing – just first and then the 18th! Hahaha

  2. Destiny says:

    I dont remember ever having a huge elaborate birthday party growing up. It is a little pointless. Invite all the friends over, get presents, eat cake. it doesnt have to be any more than that. for my daughter’s 1st birthday it was just me her daddy and my parents. she got her own little cake to dive in and more presents than a 1yr old knows what to do with…lol


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