Wednesdays are simplicity days at SimpleProductivity blog.
Two words strike terror into the hearts of many parents: birthday parties. The thought of having hordes of children running amok under your supervision and in your home can be downright scary. Add in all the things that parties have started to “require”: entertainment, bouncy houses, treat bags, activities and more, and most of the parents I know will run for the nearest all-inclusive package at the local laser tag building.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Birthday parties can be simple and easy, and still be enjoyable. Here’s how:
Cut Back The Scope
The first step is to realize that the party doesn’t have to be elaborate or last for hours. A party that is two hours long is more than enough for small children, and even some older ones! Know also that you don’t have to hire entertainment or spend hundreds of dollars. Kids prefer simple, in my experience.
Scout Dollar Stores and Party Stores For Ideas
Some of the best places to get ideas are at dollar and party stores. I scout the stores for ideas first, noting what is popular (and hence, easiest to find items for).
Pick An Easy Theme…With Food
Having a theme for the party makes everything fall into place. While younger children may want character-themed parties, it is easier if you pick a theme that would has food associated with it. Judging from my visits to the local party and dollar stores, right now luau is a hot theme, and this would lend itself to pork and rice or pineapple and coconuts.
This year my daughter picked “Fiesta” and it became very simple to plan.
Pick Easy Food And Cakes
Kid-friendly food can be as easy as pizza and veggies with ranch dressing, but if you have a theme that has food associated to it, pick some easy ones to assemble. For luaus, this might include chicken kebabs with pineapple, fruit salad and punch. For our fiesta, it was (predictably) tacos, salsa and chips and veggies with (authentic) seasonings.
For cakes, ordering is still the easiest, but cupcakes are the easiest for serving. If you want to do something a little more fancy, search the internet for a cake that you can put together easily. This year we did a cactus cake made out of two 13×9 cakes.
If at all possible, avoid making a cake that has you do something crazypants like painting frosting bathing suits on Teddy Grahams. Trust me on this.
Ice cream, the standard to serve with cakes, is made very easy by individual serving cups. Hand one to each child and you don’t have to worry about ice cream sliding off of plates and onto the floor.
I am a big proponent of children being outside and playing games. Of course, I live in an area where this is possible most of the year. If you have the option of having the children play outside, have activities ready, like balls or a croquet set up. Where I live, ladder golf and corn hole are also popular. If you don’t have the equipment, see if you can borrow it from neighbors.
If you can’t send the little terrors outside, aim for a craft that will keep them occupied. I love Oriental Trading Company for their easy-to-assemble crafts. I usually start the guests off with a craft as we wait for late-comers to the party. This gives the child something to take home that is a remembrance of an experience instead of junk that will end up in the trash in the next week.
The Infernal Goody Bag
It has become very popular for parents in my area to send a goody bag home from the party, stuffed with cheap plastic junk and candy. Know that you don’t have to do this.
I do provide a bag so that each child can take their craft home with them, and if the party has a theme that lends itself to other non-candy items I might choose those as well. This year the goody bags contained a chili pepper necklace and hair flowers, both for wearing at the party. My daughter also lobbied hard for the mariachi rubber duckies, which were also included in the bag.
Decorations And Supplies On The Cheap
Sure, you don’t have to decorate, but it is relatively easy and gives a nice touch to the party. I always look at the dollar store for decorations. I aim for one “theme” decoration and pick solid color plates and napkins to match. For added flair, pick up some crepe paper in matching colors.
This year, for example, I scored a (really tacky) fiesta centerpiece at the dollar store. It is a silver fountain with “fiesta”, printed on paper in the Mexican flag colors, hanging from the silver fronds. My daughter loves it. The rest of the decorations are in white, green and red, including the plates, cups, napkins and goody bags.
Do you have tips to share on how to make kid’s birthday parties easier and still be fun? Share below.
Photo by stevendepolo