Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Birthdays, bikes and bottom humour...

When I was a child, a birthday party was simple. You put on your long dress (it was the 70s) and headed off to the birthday girl or boy's house for party games with a few friends, followed by a birthday tea.

Fast forward to the 21st century, and the kids' birthday party has become an elaborate beast. My kids have been to simple affairs akin to the classic 1970s party of my childhood, but they have also been to birthday parties with magicians and entertainers. They have been go-karting, and travelled in a limo to the cinema. They have been to craft parties, swimming pool parties. They have done all sorts.

And in turn, we've done our bit to fuel the elaborate party craze. Parties at home, parties in the park, parties in the garden, parties at the leisure centre, a climbing party, the party where I was Princess Leia from Star Wars and Darth Vader arrived all the way from next door...

But then again, we've also had no brithday party. Last year Son had a new bike for his birthday, which was way more than we usually spend on birthday presents, and part of the deal was no extra expense of a party.

So how did Son want to celebrate this year? Two friends for a sleepover and a bike ride. Simple!

We were able to piggy back onto the Spindles and Sprockets (our local community bike collective) monthly bike ride. Three boys cycling 18 miles in the afternoon = a blissful night's sleepover for all involved! (Thank you Spindles!)




There was also DIY Pizza all round. Add a whoopee cushion and a healthy dose of fart humour into the mix and you're guaranteed a successful supper. Ten year old boys are easily amused.

While the pizza dough was rising there was just the right amount of time for a flag capturing game in the garden.

And before they hit the sack, there was the compulsory DVD.




In the morning, ice cubes from the breakfast orange juice provided amusement for some considerable while. Melting holes in ice cubes by blowing through drinking straws is good fun (if you're ten). And it was a small step from hole-blowing to requests for more ice cubes, and a bold announcement that they would be constructing the Statue of Liberty from ice. Sadly this project was dropped in favour of kicking a football around...

All this got me thinking; years of planning fancy birthday parties, and it turns out whoopee cushion farts and a pile of ice cubes are as good an entertainment as anything!

However, even with the more complicated birthday parties we've organised, there have always been ways of keeping it simple and keeping the costs down. Based on our experience here are my thoughts:

  • We've shared several parties with other children who have birthdays at the same time as ours, which spreads the cost and the workload.
  • We have had lots of parties at home. We haven't got a huge house or garden but if you don't invite the whole class and all the extended family, then you can fit quite a few kids in a small space. My kids have brithdays in April and October and we've often been able to overflow into the garden for both.
  • Choosing a theme can jazz a party up a bit, and make it easier to think of activities. Most of the usual party games can be adapted to fit the theme. Over the years we've had a Postman Pat party (Pin the tail on Jess...), a Star Wars party (Husband spray painted pipe insulating foam silver for light sabres and they all went home covered in flecks of silver paint...), a Spiderman party and a Pocahontas party (complete with a teepee in the garden made from bamboo poles and bed sheets...)
  • Bake your own cake. I'm not an expert cake decorator, but a simple iced sponge decorated with maltesers or chocolate buttons or hundreds and thousands goes down just as well (and tastes better) as a bought cake.
  • Once you've planned the amount of food you think you need to buy, halve it! Kids never eat as many sandwiches as you think they will. (The same rule applies to the length of time you think eating the birthday tea will take...you might think eating will require a civilised half an hour of the party but they'll demolish the food in ten minutes!)
  • Don't spend a fortune on party bag stuff. A bit of cake, a lollipop and a balloon, and you're done.
There were plenty of other birthday party tips on the Non Consumer Advocate last week.

And other bloggers have been busy recently blogging about their kids' birthdays too: check out how Jen tackled her two year old's birthday on My Make Do and Mend Year (and also her mum's and brother's all in the same week!), and Ted's nature walk party at Bradshaw and Sons.) Wondering how to organise a frugal 18th birthday party for twins? Check out Lili's blogpost last month on just that topic at Creative Savv.

What are your favourite frugal birthday party tips?

19 comments:

  1. Get a couple of keen teenage girls to come in and help
    We did themes [pirates, princesses, Little Mermaid]
    One friend always said her child could have as many party guests as his age [plus sibling] to keep numbers down.
    Try and rent out a church hall [ours is Very Popular, cos it is well equipped, has a good car park and it is cheap!!]
    A few friends for 'an activity' party is always good. Steer clear of expensive entertainers.

    if at all possible let them have somewhere to run around and burn off energy

    IMPORTANT make a note of who brings which gift, and encourage a thankyou note of some sort later [the other harassed Mums will appreciate that and it ups your street cred no end] but avoid big present opening sessions during the party. too much one-up-manship.

    Best ever post-party comment I had [we had recently moved, so I didnt really know the Mums of my daughters classmates] "My daughter loved the party on Saturday- where did you get your entertainer?, I want to hire him for her party" "Actually I am married to him, you can see him perform any Sunday morning for free at the Baptist Church, he is the new minister!"

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    1. Thanks for all those tips Angela - they're all great. I meant to include the hiring the church hall one. Lovely story about Bob!

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  2. Reading your blogs about your 10 year old always reminds me why I loved being an Akela for so many years:)

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    1. Husband helps out at Cubs sometimes. Working in a school is enough for me :-) We really appreciate all that our Akela does for the local cub pack - I'm sure being an Akela must be a lot of work.

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  3. I was pretty lucky as a kid. My Dad was on one of the parents committees for something or other and as part of that had keys to the school swimming pool. (Yeah that sounds posh but it was just a big shed with a pool in and a couple of foot baths. No changing rooms or showers - but then it was only a primary school!! I'm a July baby which also helped. Everyone would meet at my house, troop over to the swimming pool. An hour or so chucking each other in, doing underwater handstands etc etc, then back to my house for the birthday food and cake and maybe a quick game of pass the parcel!! We were all thoroughly pooped but they were always great fun!

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    1. Sounds great fun! My primary school had an outdoor pool like that only without the big shed bit. It was freeeeeeezing!

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  4. Do you have any pictures of when you were Princess Leia?

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    1. Yes, but they're not for the public domain!!

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  5. I honestly think my best birthday ever was a slumber party with my 5th grade girl friends. We didn't have all the fancy (and expensive) stuff that so many kids do for their birthdays these days, but we had a lot of fun. We did each other's hair, painted fingernails, and talked very late into the night -- typical girl stuff, and costs next to nothing.

    My daughters still talk about their favorite party, it was for their 9th birthdays. They were allowed to invite friends over to paint on our family room walls. We had plans to redo that room anyway, so why not let the kids just paint on the walls.

    I think one of the crucial ingredients to a successful child's birthday party is just to let the kids be kids. It sounds like you did just that! Whoopee cushions will do that! Most of the time, simple is best.

    For the grown-ups in our family, we sometimes go out for a nice dinner, but more often choose to stay home. This year, both my husband and I chose to eat in for our birthdays, so that the budgeted amount could go for some things down the road, kids' education and a winter vacation next year.

    When you mentioned the planning and food, and halving the amount you think you might need, it reminded me of a tea you held last year, and numerous leftover cucumber sandwiches!!

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    1. I like the sound of the painting party - what a great idea! I was thinking about the cucumber sandwiches too this week - it's been real cucumber sandwich weather recently!

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  6. That sounds like the perfect party Sarah! we have, so far, managed to avoid the whole extravagant party thing, mainly because the idea fills me with dread, and seems like a lot of hard work (bad mummy). I'm sure our time will come once they are at school, and I am going to be stealing some of your ideas!

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    1. I think all your upcycling and makedoandmending will stand you in very good stead when it comes to getting creative with birthday parties for the Smalls!

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  7. When we were kids we were allowed to invite seven friends to our birthdays - added to me and my siblings that made ten kids, which I guess my parents thought was manageable. We had parties at home when we were young, with treasure hunts and pass-the-parcel and just playing. My mum made birthday cakes in the shape of the number we were turning and we gave the guests lolly bags to take home. When we got older we did things with just a couple of friends, like going to movies and ice skating.

    It was a bit of a shock when we lived in the US for a year and were going to parties that had professional entertainers and were catered.

    Your party sounds like great fun for the boys - that's the main thing! I laughed about the ice cubes because when I used to babysit my cousins they loved ice cubes and wouldn't go to bed until I gave them one to chew on.

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    1. Pass-the-parcel has always been very popular at my kids' parties too!

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  8. Very timely post as just starting to think about parties for two of my girls who will be 5 and 7 (at this age they seem obsessed with planning them!). Really echo your comment on party bags as I have been determined to only send kids home with cake and maybe some craft that they've made. NO plastic tat!

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    1. My daughter already has her 13th birthday planned and it's not until October! Good luck with your parties and your plastic free party bags!!

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  9. Over the years I have thrown numerous birthday parties for my kids (now 12 and 16 years old). I would put a lot of thought and time into the themes of the party, planning games and entertainment. What I have found is that the kids don't really care about the "party" stuff all that much. They just enjoy being together outside of school and make their own fun. The biggest hits from my parties over the years have been providing a big cooler full of water balloons for the kids to do whatever they want with and a scavenger hunt with about 8 riddle clues written on index cards hidden all over the house and yard leading to a closet full of balloons that all fall out on the kids when they open the door. I usually had goodie bags for the guests in there (the end prize for the hunt) filled with a little bit of candy. The kids also liked obstacle courses that they raced each other on, just made in the backyard with stuff I had around the house. Everything else I did usually ended up being a waste of money and time.

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    1. That was really the lesson I learned last weekend - apart from hubby taking them on the bike ride, all I did was provide the pizza ingredients and a birthday cake. They made their own entertainment the rest of the time! My boy and his friends would have LOVED the water balloons - what a great idea!

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  10. Great selection of bikes for those wanting to spend very little or a lot. I recommend checking this place out if your looking for a first bike or to replace an existing one. volto

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