First, know that I am not the “normal” mom when it comes to birthday parties. I believe that the whole birthday thing has gotten out of hand. Here are my guidelines for parties:
1. NO LOOT BAGS – no junk needed. I never understood why kids got a gift for bringing a gift. Parents do not want, nor should KIDS expect a “take-a-way-gift” for someone else’s birthday. INSTEAD: We take pictures at the party of each guest with the birthday girl and then send them a hand written thank you IN THE MAIL addressed to them. Kids LOVE getting mail and it is a far better thank you than a bag full of junk.
2. NO PRESENTS – as the girls got older they of course wanted “more action” swimming, rock climbing, etc. So the invitations simply read this: “Taylor Rae is 10 today, and she would LOVE for you to come rock climbing with her. The only present that she wants is your presence. Cost is $15 per climber.” Parents have called me to tell me what a fabulous idea it was and said they are going to do this next year! Two things happen here. 1. The kids that want to come do, there are no limits on the numbers. And 2 – I could get my daughter something extra special for her day because I wasn’t spending $100s on her “party”. BTW – if you are thinking there might be parents out there who think this is”tacky”, who cares! They don’t have to send their kids then! Parties are for the kids. Trust me, parents would rather send $15 or $20 with their kid to pay for their activity for the day than try to find a present for a kid they don’t know!
3. NO JUNK FOOD – that is just my simple rule for everything.
4. Making each year special/activities
1st birthday: When both my girls turned one, we had a family birthday for them. We asked each family member to make a birthday card for them, but not for this year. They were to pick a special year in their own life and write a birthday card for that year. For example, my mom made a card for them for their 26th birthday, the year she had me. She told them of how she felt having me etc. It was great. My Baba made cards for their 60th birthday with a list of what she was doing when she was 60. It will be a nice comparison for them. The first birthday is more about you than the child, they are truly too young to grasp it. So make it special so that when you baby is older they can really appreciate it.
2-6 years: pudding “finger painting” – make a couple kinds of pudding. Give each child their own plate and let them create a master piece, then they get to lick their fingers and their plate! Of course – each child will get their own pudding to dip their fingers in.
water sidewalk/house painting (just get paint brushes at the dollar store and cups of water and let them paint away)
“Obstacle course” set up markers – we always made masking tape shapes on the grass – and have them have to do one silly thing (hop on one foot – tap their head and rub their tummy etc) at each shape. I set it up like Musical chairs – Get silly, but remember, they have short attention spans, don’t try to plan a whole bunch of stuff. They just want to play. You will just have to guide them to safe play.
A sleep over with a few close friends, do what kids do, scavenger hunts, Wii tournaments, makeovers!
Make home made pizza – the kids will LOVE building their own creation.
Rent a movie or 2 – let them stay up late and have popcorn.
Do a craft that they could take home with them. My FAV? If you have a digital camera and colour printer) Take pictures of the party action. Print them about 2 or 3 each and let them make a scrap book page of the event. They can either take it home or leave it for the birthday girl to remember what her friends thought of her special day.
10th birthday: I remember the “double digits”. My youngest was adamant that it was a big deal so we planned her a “Power of Ten”.
- There were 10 kids there (her and 9 others)
- 10 different food items – carrots, broccoli, cake, ice-cream, etc
- there were 10 activities planned – a craft, pop the balloon, Wii tourney with 5 games, stuff like that.
- We had 10 different ‘songs’ playing in the background
- each of the kids invited had to give their “top 10” list of songs and she made a take home CD for each of them instead of loot bags
Be creative and DO NOT think that if you did not spend 100’s of dollars. Remember it is about you child, not what others will think.
UPDATED DEC 30, 2012
12 year olds
1. Minute to Win it – my kids LOVED this one. You can find many easy to set up games on the web. We set up 5 stations around the room so that it was more engaging, more kids could be participating at one time. They moved around to the different stations and then we recorded their yeses or nos (if they completed the challenge or not). I had a timer and everyone worked the challenge for the same minute. More details if you PM me…to much to type!
2. Video game challenge – Wii or whatever game system you have. Set up a tournament.
3. Photo scavenger hunt (digital camera or phone cameras work great). You can get many off the net.