Birthdays are some of the most precious milestones in our
children’s lives, and of course we want to make them special. Unfortunately,
throwing a party for your little one, especially as they enter elementary
school age, can carry a pretty hefty price tag. However, I feel more than
prepared to host a party for my daughter and her little friends, because I have
the benefit of my mother’s thrifty wisdom coupled with some great ideas from
around the internet.
1. You can borrow cake pans from some public libraries.
Buying a pre-made cake can get expensive,
especially if you have it decorated and personalized. Try baking your own.
Barbie/princess fans will adore a Barbie Dress Cake, which is cheap and easy,
especially if your child already has Barbies. If you’d like to do a shape cake,
try borrowing a cake pan instead of shelling out money for one. Some public
libraries rent cake pans!
2. Try Kool-Aid instead of soda.
If you're determined to have sugary drinks at the party, mix up some Kool-Aid or Crystal Light (or the
generic brand of either). It’s cheaper than soda. One mom writing for The Dollar Stretcher buys packets of unsweetened Kool Aid (10 packets for $1), and if kids are still looking for that little fizz she tops off the drink with Sprite, 7-Up or orange soda.
3. There are cheaper (and still fun) activities than getting that bouncy house.
The parents of your little one’s friends will appreciate a
party that is entertaining for their children. But don’t bust your wallet by hiring
a clown or a bouncy house. There are plenty of cheap and exciting activities to
Pin the “Tail” on the… Whatever: This oldie-but-a-goldie can
be done with a simple print out of a picture and some cut-outs. If your child
loves Dora, print out a picture of Dora, and cut out some little maps from
paper. Use masking tape and have the children try to stick the maps to Dora’s
hand blindfolded (pins can be dangerous, so tape is better). You can get
pre-made party sets of “pin the tail” but this allows you to spend practically
nothing and to personalize it to your theme. My little brother had “Pin the Mustache
on Hulk Hogan” at one of his parties growing up!
Scavenger Hunt or Treasure Map: For my Teenage Mutant Ninja
Turtles birthday party, my mom hid our Ninja Turtle action figures around the
yard, and gave the partygoers a map to find them. Each kid paired off with
someone else, and had to find their designated Ninja Turtle. You could hide
things all over the yard and challenge the kids to find them. For older
children, a scavenger hunt with clues is a great activity. If the kids have
phones or cameras, challenge them to complete a list of pictures (a bug, a
cloud, something yellow) before the rest of the guests! Depending on your
neighborhood and the age of your kids, you could send them up and down the
street looking for clues, or around a park or even a mall. Provide a cheap but
fun prize for the winners.
“Laser Grid”/Obstacle Course: Setting up an obstacle course
in the yard is great fun. You can time the kids and see who has the fastest
time, or run it in relays to make it a team effort. Put down hula hoops to jump
through, tires, limbo bars, cones, etc. Your imagination is the limit! Also, if you're indoors with enough room, you can build these amazing “laser” grids, where the object is to not
touch the string!
Kiddie Carnival: Set up a ring toss, apple-bobbing or
challenge kids to knock over a stack of cans with a baseball for a little
prize. A good game for little folks who don’t have much in the way of motor
skills is called “Go Fish.” An adult hides behind something (a refrigerator
box, a couch, etc) and the guest tosses a string with a clothespin attached
(“fishing pole”) over the edge. The adult secures a prize to the end and tugs
on the string. Time to reel in your catch!
4. Make your own piñata.
If you’ve ever seen "America's Funniest Home Videos," you should know that having a
piñata at your party can be dangerous.
However, if you think you can pull it off safely, don’t go out and buy one.
Here’s a great how to guide to make
your own. This could be an activity to do with the birthday boy/girl
before the party!
5. These places have cheap prizes and party favors.
My all-time favorite place to go
for prizes and party favors is Oriental Trading. They have assortments of
different little prizes like rubber snakes, hacky sacks, glow necklaces, etc.
They also have extremely affordable decorations, and so many themes to choose
from. Oriental Trading is a must-visit for any party!
Other options include garage sales and Goodwill. I’ve found
barely-used toys at garage sales for a quarter or less. You could also pick up
packs of playing cards, keychains, koozies and other fun little items. If you
have older children, encourage them to purge their toys and little doodads they
never use or play with anymore. That way they can be enjoyed by someone else as
a prize instead of ending up in the dump.