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My daughters have birthdays that are around Christmas and Mardi Gras. In order to make birthdays fun and productive, we decide ahead of time what the girls want to 'make' as the fun activity at their parties. One year, it was around Christmas, so the kids wanted to make candy and put it in boxes to take home. I bought several plain containers from the Dollar Store, markers, candy makings and the kids had a ball. They made their own 'food' and got a container to take it home in! Another time, I purchased clay pots, dirt and seedlings. Again, a craft activity, that became a souvenier. These activities are fun and involve all who attend. Parties do not need to be expensive to be fun. We've even made our own 'cake' by giving each child a plain cupcake and everything needed to make their very own cake! The kids love being involved rather than just entertained.

For my daughter's 11th birthday we had a garden party theme. It was very simple but sweet. I made cucakes that I put in flower pots and made them look like flowers and gave all the girls flower seeds as a favor and they took their cupcakes home as a favor. For games....we put questions on strips of paper that were conversation starters and they picked the paper out of a cup. The girls also played charades and put on skits. I had 8 girls total and it was a huge hit. And it wasn't expensive either.

I remember my 9th birthday. We lived in a sort of dumpy lake cottage ( we never had money). Some of the kids were from very nice homes and one lady brought her daughter. When the lady sat down on one of our rickety kitchen chairs, her tush fell through the chair rails and there was was, STUCK in our chair! LOL, it was so funny and my Mom was utterly embarrased and wanted to crawl under the table. Regardless, we played pin the tail on the donkey and a good time was had by all!

I am so glad to see this issue finally addressed.

Our "keep up with the Jones'" society has sadly gone way beyond houses and cars, now we need to use our children's special day to show off what we have?

We need to remember that these are our children, those who see what we do, how we act, and hear what we say. They learn everything from us!

Don't get me wrong, I myself was a very spoiled child growing up. My parents were not together, and I had anything I wanted, as they would compete for my affection. They also had the "I did without, but my child won't" mentality. My birthday gifts were especially rediculous. What did that teach me?: Gimme, gimme, gimme. That's all? Where's the rest of the presents? You must love me because you give me stuff, and spend lots of money on me."

Stuff and lavishment is not love. I just thank God I had this revelation before I had my own children.
Wanting your children to have nice things and experience wonder in life is one thing, but creating an entitled, spoiled child is completely different. We are not giving our children anything by giving them everything.

My husband and I believe wholeheartedly in simplicity. Our twin girls have had small, fun, memorable birthday parties thus far with family and close friends. Not to say we are never tempted to hire the ponies, clown, jumpy thing, invite the entire town, and have a historical extravaganza. But we don't.

I have been to some birthday parties where the children are overstimulated, angry, disobedient, crying...the parents are stressed, reprimanding the children, complaining, yelling, etc. Yikes. This is certainly not how I want to celebrate the blessed day of my children's birth.

I am sure that every parent means well in what they do for their children, we just need to think about why we feel the need to go to such extremes? Is it for our kiddos, or for us?

gtu

Our daughter is turning 3 and my wife is driving me crazy with her birthday party. We are constantly fighting about the party and I am always wrong (of course). She has invited +80 people and is estimating the costs will be +$1,000 bucks. She invited all her school classmates, friends, cousins etc. I am frustrated b/c of the costs, our space is not big enough and the fact that I'm spending time with people I don't really even know and some I don't like quite frankly. I may sound like a grump but time is really so precious. It seems our weekends, revolve around other kids b-day parties. And if I don't want to go to little Suzy's party: "I'm not supporting the family" or "I don't want to spend time with my family" or "I'm not social enough". The fact is I DO want to spend time with my family - just not other people's family who I don't really know nor care to know. We have a TON of friends and family that are close by. Thankfully, our families are great and very supportive. But our life now revolves around her JAP-py mommy friends and their dorky husbands. We haven't seen some of my friends & their kids in years. Growing up, we both came from modest backgrounds and I never had or went to big birthday parties. I have a good stable job and a decent salary. We do ok. Not great. Not bad. Ok. Money is not really a factor and I am all for throwing a party for my daughter with just family and close friends. But I feel this is an expense we could do with out in these times. I'm not sure what to do and don't want this to ruin my marriage. This path we are going down seems inescapeable. Should I just grin and bear it? Any advice would be most helpful. Thanks.

Being a party planner myself I also think parents are out of control. I see it all the time. I offer advice on BUDGET FRIENDLY ideas and ways a parent can have a party that looks like it cost a lot, but in fact it did not in the end. My biggest issues with parties is how Party Favors have gone out of control and parents go crazy with these and seem to forget they are only meant to be a small token to say thanks for coming to my party - not a expensive gift to each child. I try to give creative ideas to parents to send home useful party favors that are cost friendly vs. bags of candy and useless toys. I talk about this on my party blog. http://www.thepartyanimal.org/ChildrensBirthdayParties/
I am hoping that will some help for parents that maybe some will see the light. There is no need to spend thousands of dollars on a Child's Birthday Party - I think you can spend a lot less with just some creativity and the kids will have just as much fun.

I was buying fabric for a quilt I am making for my baby. While in line at the cutting table, I noticed the woman in front of me buying an awful lot of pink taffeta. She mentioned she was throwing a princess party for her daughter's 7th birthday. I asked if she was making a princess costume. She said, "No, I am going to drape this over the doorway in our dining room". She bought 9 yards of taffeta at $12 a yard to just drape over the door and then throw away! I almost felt like saying "Call me when your party is over and I'll take that taffeta off your hands."

Goody bags are out of control. They are filled with junk and I try to leave the party without them.

For my 3 year old daughter's party I was tired of the junk but wanted to have a small favor for the guests of our backyard party. We burned a CD of my daughter's favorite songs for each guest with a cute picture of my daughter on the front that said thank you for coming to my party. Inside we tucked in a gift card for a local ice cream shop so the child could order some ice cream and pay with her own card. Total cost - under $3 per favor and it wasn't junk the parents would just throw away.

We have a 5 year old son and 10 year old daughter and one tradition we do every year is they get a birthday date with mommy and daddy alone on their birthday...it is their gift from us and it makes them feel very special.

I live in an area (overseas) where most of the people are very wealthy. However, all the parties are mostly just 2 or 3 kids, a cake and a movie. I think they enjoy bonding with their friends more than the actual party!

i must have done something wrong. when my son turned 1,i went all out with goodie bags,decorations the works only to have NO-ONE show up.will not have any more parties till he hits school.

To: anonymous | February 1, 2007 10:40 PM

I don't know if I should laugh at, or cry for this person. I wonder if that same person in todays economic situation is still feeling the same. Their whole view of the world is warped by their riches. It's gimme, gimme, gimme, me, me, me. I've got mine you get yours, if theres any left.

When my child has a party, it is impossible to get any baby bedtime

He just won't go to sleep after an exciting day! Sounds like me when I was in college

I have been doing birthday parties at home for many years for our four daughters ages 11,9,6, and 3. During all of them, I would have a theme but it would be something the kids would be in charge of decorating the family room. Believe me, there is alot of creativity that happens with streamers and construction paper. We usually get prepared in advance with about 5-6 party games. For our Hawaiian Luau b-day party, I bought a beach music CD and we had a dance-off. It was a good way for them to be hyper and still controlled. The parties usually consist of 6-12 friends though, we did make a mistake and lost control during a party with 21 guests. We play musical chairs with the little kids but I went to a carpet store a got the sample pieces for free. This way I don't need to find alot of chairs and it dimnishes the possibility of injuries that can happen with many children running around chairs. We call it "musical carpets" and it works well when you need to store them all away for the next party. I will often do the same party theme for each my girls when they get to that age for which it is appropriate. This way I save money by reusing some of the few decorations that I purchase. During the last few years, I have had it easier because my older two girls like to run the party games, activities and crafts on their own so I get to sit and watch the fun or take photos. I don't order pizza ever since my 3-year-old had her party here at home and the pizza came extra cheesy and the kids were choking on the strings of cheese hanging down their throats. Same thing for mozz. sticks. Usually, I will make chicken tenders, hot dogs and french fries with a side of carrot sticks. It's amazing how much kids enjoy the veggies and fruit when it is offered. I find that I can get bargains for the goody bags at some toy stores if I keep an eye out for the sale bins. I would rather buy one nice thing for the kids than spend the same amount on a bunch of stuff. One year there was a big sale on Barbie's and so I was able to get each of the girls one as aparting gift and spent only $3.00 each. Another year I bought white t-shirts and fabric paint and their parting gift was their own personalized shirt that was one of the activities during the party. I think that making a nice party at home simply entails having some imagination and organization skills. The few times that we did parties somewhere else, it has been a bit disappointing. The kids don't seem to have a good time and, I am sorry to say that many of the places our kids have gone to for b-day parties have been downright dirty. Have you seen where they heat up the pizza and hot dogs at the roller rink? Why would you pay money for that kind of filth? I have tried many for parties but the most satisfying ones have always been at home. Sure we've had messes to clean and stains on the carpet, but as much as I love my home, my children are more important. They also take away with them great memories of the goofy things I've done at the parties. To this day, they still laugh at me remembering how I wore a coconut bra (over a bodysuit) during a luau party. Anyway, make the effort fo a personal and creative party at home and everyone will be happier. Also, our local libraries and bookstores offer a variety of books for craft and game ideas. So even if you are not a creative individual, there are many resources out there. Good luck to you all on taking back our youth and living simpler lives. Sig

My son who will soon be 21 is still at home and commutes to and from college. His birthday is Monday and for his 21st birthday I have asked that he join me for 1 day at the beach on Saturday just to spend some one-on-one time with him. Our family has always loved visiting the beach and when my son was younger we would always do day trips during the summer, which are some of his fondest childhood memories to this day. After a day on the beach and surfing I will treat him to his favorite restaurant overlooking the ocean. Folks it's all about spending time with them whether they are 2 or 21, a child had much rather their parents spend one on one time with them than to treat them with some big party that cost losts of money. My son is looking forward to this and so am I, it’s going to be an awesome time, and talking about a birthday without pressure – this is what it is all about!

In my neighborhood there are always big birthday parties, lots of people, even bands and caterers!!!!!! My daughter is 3 and we have opted out of this so far and plan on always doing so for all of our kids (we want more!). Even though our daughter has gone to some very extravagant parties (granted she is still young), this year her only request was a "pink princess party". I could have gone NUTS and organized a huge princess themed party with a bunch of people, castle bouncer, sand castle buckets filled with goodies for the kids, etc, etc. .... Instead, my husband & I took our daughter out for pizza, came home for cake & presents. I am full-time working mom so I bought UNFROSTED cake rounds at a local bakery earlier that day. I frosted & decorated her cake myself (with pink frosting and a cute princess castle candle topper), blew up pink balloons, and sat out her presents (lots of pink bows and ribbons) while she was at the park with her dad. My husband picked me up after they left the park, we went out for pizza, & afterwards we came home for cake & opened up presents. Total time saver & I was able to control the $$. (The cakes I purchased were a total of $8.00 & the cake tasted amazing) Needless to say she LOVED it & her face was amazing when she walked in the house!!!! Very inexpensive & It was just our family. This was 4 months ago & every once in awhile she talks about her pink princess cake & her "Party". To her, that was a PARTY. For us, it was a great afternoon & evening spent with our daughter & very nice memories--exactly what a birthday shoudl be. Oh yeah, and no stress!!!

I always have grown ups thinking that they are going to attend my child's birthday party and get a gourmet meal. It's a child's party I am serving hot dogs and potatoe chips.

I stumbled onto this website while reading a column on stltoday.com and heartily agree. Things are getting expensive and out of control and it applies to adult birthdays and other holidays as well. My boyfriend rented a $2,000 stretch Hummer limo and gave $100 cash to his adult daughter for her 21st birthday. And surprise, she didn't send a card or even call on his birthday or Father's Day.

I gave a $50 gift certificate to my niece for her birthday only to hear her whine loudly that it wasn't enough to buy an American Girl doll.

At an adult party we started at someone's house to open gifts and have champagne and cake. Then it was on to their favorite bar for drinks. Then an expensive restaurant for dinner. Then a movie. Then drinks and appetizers after the movie. It wasn't even a landmark birthday and I spent close to $150 not including the present. The invite originally stated the party was going to be dinner and a movie.

I just don't have the kind of money to do this anymore and am starting to decline invitations or leave early due to "other obligations". I am also starting use more e-cards or just sending a card in the mail so I don't have to deal with the expense.

For my son's birthday parties, I always just made a cake and went to his grandpa's place (Grandpa has a farm with horses and a lake and lots of remote-control boats). Usually some cousins met us there. No frills, as long as I can get away with it!
But this year we were invited to a party where they rented the clown (in whom the children had no interest and who was rude to them-- talking over them to the adults while ignoring requests for face painting), they got two blow-up bouncy things for their yard (I saw two kids on them once, then they were forgotten), the goody bags were Disney toys worth about $10 each, and the birthday boy was out of control the whole time. The funniest part? The kids were more interested in the swingset in the back yard and the child's toys that had been put away!
I see a nightmare of parties ahead of us...

The website is great.Just i want to share something to all..I have 2 sons, age 5 & 8. We celebrate their birthday every year with the family, dinner, cake and they also can do something special with 1 or 2 friends, movie or amusement partk . When they turn a significant age, 1, 5, 8 and so on, they are allowed a birthday party with a group of friends. I sometimes feel bad because most of their friends have a birthday party every year but I still stick to my guns and they understand and do not complain.

I think it is utterly sad that a web site such as this has been created to address a self-imposed sense of inadequacy surrounding something that should be done to make your *child* feel extra special on his/her birthday. Anyone who puts that much pressure on themselves to out do the last party has their own interest in mind, not their child's. They'd be better off putting that money into a college fund for their child and having a simple affair at home.

Having said that, I love birthday parties. I love creating a fun and joyous occasion for my children and their [reasonable number of] friends. I love spending the time creating the details that allow my vision for my child to come to fruition. I relish seeing the smiles and happiness on my child's face and that of their friends. You know what I heard one child say at my son's 3rd year birthday party recently? "This is much better than a bounce house." (She is a first grader, older sister of a guest). What were they doing? Decorating flower pots with stickers and crayons and getting ready to plant "magic" flower seeds. Even the parents enjoyed the party.

I also love presents and favor bags at a party. Any host that turns up their nose at a present because it's not good enough for whatever reason has been taught horribly how to behave. You can bet birthdays aren't the only time they act that way. In my area the max anyone seems to spend is $15, and that's high. My kids have received anything from home made gifts (which they love) to something as simple and fun as bubbles (which they also love). The thought of telling guests how much to spend or what to buy is about as tactless as it gets. I guess I'm lucky to live in an area where birthday competition is frowned upon, and 'do what feels right' is accepted.

I didn't have many birthday parties growing up because of money or lack of interest on my parents' part. It always made me feel as if I were a burden or not good enough to have a birthday party, even though I attended friends' birthdays. I swore my children would always feel like they were worth the effort. And I don't have to break the bank to do it, either. I'm just very creative with the tools, and personalities, at hand. And I love it!

I do not succumb to the bigger/better/more expensive birthday party trend. But my next door neighbor does. One year she panicked about the petting zoo when the guy and his trailer arrived. She asked me if she could put then in MY FRONT YARD because it was inconvenient to move them into her backyard. No concern for what damage the animals would do to my front yard -- and yes, we DO have deed restrictions and yards have to be well maintained. Her front yard was "too nice" to put the animals in. Another time, her car wouldn't start and she was having a meltdown about how to get her daughter to someone else's birthday party and she came over and demanded to borrow my car. I say demanded because when a person "asks" for a favor, it doesn't sound like a demand. This was a demand. We stay friendly, but she has me rolling my eyes often.

this website is great! As a owner of a party business that never wanted to be about commmercialized and materialistic based. I consider myself the activity director and focus on non-competive activities. I am very child-focused and non-competitivve with games. I put the emphasis on being environmentally friendly by not using paper products, creating crafts from recyclables, and ecouraging the parents to avoid the stupid trinket party bags so often passed out at parties. It is amazing what I see parents spending and my mission is to put the emphasis back where it should be and making a child feel special without the materialistic gifts and being an over-the-top party business. One of my major missions is to remain affordable for families. I built my business by being frugal and plain old hard work---something I think most of us want to teach our kids. If anyone is interested in collaborating with me for marketing this kind of party please let me know.
Zaney Janey
in River Falls, WI

To the creators of this site: you're right to state that this problem is endemic of a larger one--that of excess in the consumer culture. I recently had a very small, intimate wedding ceremony with approximately 30 guests (which still cost thousands) and I was widely criticized by family and friends who thought I "owed" them something more lavish and expensive. It's the same sense of entitlement that drives these over-the-top parties. It makes me scared to have children, when I see my relatives and friends throw kids parties with rented trains and fire trucks, catered food, and more gifts than can fit on a large picnic table!

Inviting the entire school class is only a symptom of the larger problem of suburban-isolation. Schools can only dictate that you cannot hand out selective invitations DURING school hours. When you know your childrens' friends, and their parents, there is nothing stopping you from sending or handing out invitations to a smaller group whenever they want. And really, why would you want to invite children to a party that you and your child do not know and/or like. Birthday parties only need to be a slight notch above a great play date to be special (you know, back when play dates meant ringing the doorbell and asking to play).

The scary part of this discussion is not whether or not a child "deserves" a big party, but the fear and stress parents feel about unstructured time with their kids and their kids friends. Kids need to be parented and not constantly entertained, regardless of it being their birthday.

The first way to alleviate this is to get to know your kid's friends before a birthday party (or the corollary of only inviting real friends to the party). The kids go through the drama of being in a classroom all week with kids they may not get along with/like, why recreate that on the weekend?

Wow! I think this website is perfect. I have struggled with the problem of over the top Birthday problems since my girls started school. I have twins who turn 9 this summer. I have never wanted to spend a huge amount of money on Birthday parties for my girls because I want to teach them responsibility not how to keep up with the Jones'. Unfortunately, their friends parents do not think the same and spend thousands on parties. This year I had planned a small Hawaiian themed party in our back yard...only to find out my simple idea of 6 girls playing limbo and splashing around in our pool was topped by a friend who rented a DJ, rented a water slide and staged a Polyinsian dance troupe scheduled for two weeks before my girls' simple backyard BBQ. They are so disapointed and I am livid. Why do people do such outlandish parties? Is this just one more way they can say...ha! I make more money than you????!!!

Wow! I think this website is perfect. I have struggled with the problem of over the top Birthday problems since my girls started school. I have twins who turn 9 this summer. I have never wanted to spend a huge amount of money on Birthday parties for my girls because I want to teach them responsibility not how to keep up with the Jones'. Unfortunately, their friends parents do not think the same and spend thousands on parties. This year I had planned a small Hawaiian themed party in our back yard...only to find out my simple idea of 6 girls playing limbo and splashing around in our pool was topped by a friend who rented a DJ, rented a water slide and staged a Polyinsian dance troupe scheduled for two weeks before my girls' simple backyard BBQ. They are so disapointed and I am livid. Why do people do such outlandish parties? Is this just one more way they can say...ha! I make more money than you????!!!

We have 2 girls - 10 and 12. And we have family-only parties. Just the 4 of us - the focus that day is on the birthday girl (or boy - my husband gets into it too). Breakfast in bed, homemade cake, a present from each family member, camera around, and dinner choice (eat out or in) of the birthday girl.

Another thing that the girls love is having us sit there and go through their baby album and tell them the story of their birth. They hear it every year, but it's different each time as they ask more and more involved questions.

Usually a weekend after their birthday, they can invite 2-3 friends over for a regular sleepover - no goodie bags, no presents.

Works well - no stress and very special.

I'm not a parent yet, so I really can't pass judgment. But one of my best friends just threw a birthday party for her one-year-old with more than 35 people. They rented out a play gym and there were three cakes. They spent easily over $1000.

Maybe it was overboard. There were times where I think the little girl felt overwhelmed by everyone calling out her name from different corners of the room, and camera flashes were going off all the time.

But I tell you what, everyone had a fantastic time. The play gym was chosen because it was the little girl's favorite place, and she spent the whole time climbing around and smiling.

It's a really sweet memory. And I don't blame my friend for wanting her baby to have a great time.

My son will be six in June. We are going to invite 10-20 friends to our backyard for pizza and play time. There will be a cake designed by a friend with an outer space theme but otherwise, there will be soccer balls, a swing, my son's clubhouse and their imaginations. I might go crazy and break out the sprinkler.

The parents will get to enjoy some wine and beer, too.


It's your typical, laid-back South Austin party. I'm excited.

I am so thankful to find this website. What an awesome idea!

I am the mother of two sons, one is special needs and spent his 5th birthday in the hospital. So far we haven't had any of the "big" expensive birthday parties because that's not our sytle.

We live in an area that is very much into the expensive birthday parties and parents are always comparing what they did and trying to "out do each" other. We were invited to a petting zoo for a two year olds birthday once and none of the kids even paid attention to the animals and spent most of their time exploring the hosts' backyard and play toys. Crazy?

I definitely don't like the "goodie" bags. My children always fight over them and most of the items end up in the trash. Last year for my youngest son's birthday he invited about 4 friends and we met at a park. We had small homemade sandwiches in the shape of animals, chips, fruit, and a cupcake shaped cake like a dinosaur. The kids palyed for over two hours. The parents had fun talking, laughing, taking pictures and enjoy the outdoors. I gave away small soccer balls and some rally cool colored water drink I found at Target. Two of the moms were so excited by my idea that when their son's turned four they followed my idea with a small number of kids, giving a useful "goodie" and making it simple. We have also posted the message on an invitation that says, "In lieu of gifts please bring a stuffed animal for a child in the hospital." My son with special needs suffers from heart defects and and has spent time in the hospital and realizes how important a comfortanting an animal or item can be. Most of his friends brought two animals and some even made cards. I delivered the items to the Child Life Lady at the hospital and we felt good about what we achieved. Several of the moms asked if they could use the same idea and if I would accompany them to take the items to the hospital with them.
I've also read about a six year old boys collecting underwear and shirt from friends in lieu of gift and only keep two pairs for himslef and then he and his friends took the items to a local shelter for abused and homeless boys. A great way to consider giving back.


Anyway, thanks for the great website and I love reading the postings. I guess each family needs to find what they are comfortable with and most importantly afford.

I've always despised those so-called "goodie bags" filled with a balloon, pencil and a various assortment of plastic crap that ends up in the garbage by the next morning. We usually have our parties off-site, but have limited the cost. Swim parties and art parties are usually fairly inexpensive and we always stick with the basic package, bring in our own food and put a cap on the number invited. My opinion is that I paid for you to come swim, create something, whatever and fed you. That IS your goodie-bag! I have even put notes in the invitations for people to please not feel obligated to bring a gift; just come and enjoy the party and celebrate with us. Didn't work. Not one person went with that option. Unless you know exactly what a young child likes and is into at the moment, most of the gifts end up in the Goodwill pile by week's end. Let's all be honest, that's just the way it is and we don't have room for all that stuff. I'm thinking of next year asking people to bring a new or gently used book to DONATE in lieu of gifts for the birthday child.

Wow, am I glad there's a place to vent my birthday party horrors!!!! When I first became a mom, I had no idea. NO IDEA! After all I grew up an only child in the solitude of rural Indiana. My parties were simple affairs involving Grandma and my Aunts. Well, when my first daughter turned three, I threw her a fun luau-themed party. It was cute. I had fun decorating, and we invited close friends and family. She never has forgotten that party, and now every year expects to have an elaborate celebration in her honor. I've felt wrenched with guilt on those occasions it had to be denied, due to our busy schedule and my own inability to cope with the stress of planning it out. But oh can I sympathize with those who've felt outclassed by the "birthday circus" that other moms feel obligated to throw. We even attended one party where a pony was brought in for the children to take turns riding!!! Why is it that families have to struggle to live simply? We currently abide in a certain little town beside Lake Michigan. It would be charming, but the Lake has attracted so many snobs, I really can't stand it here. I'll always be salt of the earth no matter what my fortunes, and I wish the same for my three daughters. Throwing a festival of a birthday party may seem like giving your child a harmless good time, but I think it cultivates a sense of entitlement in children, that makes it hard for them to find happiness as adults. Look at Paris Hilton. Know what I mean?

I have twins and since their entire little lives always seems to be lumped together "Let's invite the twins," "Can the twins come over and play?" etc, I make it a point to really do things up for their birthdays (note, I used plural there). BUT, I always do their parties at home where I am the master of ceremonies and we can let the good times roll for hours. Since the party is for two (they alternate years on deciding party themes - this year it’s Field Day - we always have a pretty big crowd (25 kids on average because I let them each invite their own circle of friends). I always do it over lunch and do a simple meal - grilled chicken legs, carrots and ranch dressing, applesauce and a never-ending vat of Crystal Light to drink, that way their parties become massive long play dates which is how the grand memories are made.

The food for everyone typically runs about $50 before the cakes, which I always bake and design myself. I save my investment for the "entertainment" whether its horses brought to the house (for the Fairies and Unicorns party) or a professional face painter (for the Narnia party). I make up games which suit the theme - for Narnia, we had a stone painting contest, archery competition (plastic bows and arrows) and the kids LOVE those types of things which they don't get to do every day. I limit my total investment to $500 and the memories are *so* worth it!

Instead of having a party every year, we aim for one maybe every three years or so. Last year for my 3 year old daughters birthday, we skipped having a party and spent the day by going to a museum that offers free admission on the first Sunday of the month, took her out for ice cream, and we went to the Old and New State Capitol buildings in Baton Rouge. She and our 4 year old daughter had a wonderful time, and I doubt we even spent over $35 the entire day. I doubt she would really remember having a big party. We're saving having a bigger party for when she is in elementary school with more friends. Our realtives will make a cake and give presents each year, nothing big, but very enjoyable and fun. We did one big party one time, and it was more of a headache than I wanted, and no one from my side of the family even showed up, even though they were invited and knew about the party. I was thankful that my husband's family was there. Birthday's don't have to be about invinting a bunch of people over and spending a ton of money. I prefer to see it as a day to celebrate and remember that persons birth. It's a lot less hassle and headache by skipping the party deal each year.

First, I am glad somebody took the time to work on this type of project.

I am a dad that likes to be involved in education. I was reading some of the comments posted on this site. Education can take many forms. If we can help other parents by talking about our own experiences on birthdays and/or how to make it better without a pressure, then we are serving the purpose of education in some way or another.

We decided to have our own “milestone? birthdays (Big 1, Big 5, and Big 10). On those celebrations we spent more than usual, and that was something that we expected and planned for.

At our sons’ first birthdays we invited mostly relatives and close friends. Big 1 is an event for the adults more than the child. Still, it is an important celebration for the entire family.

Big 5, our kids started making friends, mostly from school. Even though it is a ‘milestone’, kids at that age, do not need a four-layer cake.

Big 10 came with a reminder for our sons, “this is it.? I believe we spent about 250 on those party places that are equipped with inflatable bouncers. We invited as many kids as we were allowed. Actually and for those highly prices, I wanted to invite the entire school!

What does it mean "this is it"? It actually means that probably after your Big 10 the number of ‘buddies’ will be reduced to two or three best friends only. From now and on the parents will cook your favorite homemade Italian pizza and you may have a sleepover with your friends.

How about other years? Yes, we do celebrate every year of our kids. But the celebrations are kept simple. We always have a nice family dinner (no relatives, only mom, dad, and siblings) and a birthday cake for two or three friends the day after.

Goodie bags…I am sure everybody has realized that those “little? but deep bags, come home with a considerable amount of candies and plastic toys that soon end into the trash. In my opinion, parents spend more money trying to fill up those bags than getting something useful or fun for the kids. Again, if families can afford spending extra money on goodies, our suggestion is getting something useful. Last year we chose to spend three dollars per kid and gave them those inexpensive outdoor footballs, soccer, and kick balls. Kids and parents really appreciated. I was actually thinking to give them a book to read for the summer, but my wife reminded me it was a ‘birthday party.’

Now my wife and I will have to sit down and figure it out the next milestone for our boys. As I said at the beginning, this is all about educating parents and children. I am hoping one day to put a good children book inside of those goodie bags!

Born in 64. I heard a comment on the radio the other day that clicked with me. As I grew up, birthday parties were not an every year occurance. They were on key birthdays such as 13, 16, etc. Nowadays it is an every year thing. Why can't we just do the family thing as a normal birthday and splurge every once in a while? My daughter starts planning her parties 9 months in advance. It is out of control!

We have two daughters, and the birthday party phenomenon is in full swing in our little community. Every birthday party seems to include every kid in the class, plus all friends and family. Every party seems to be at a rented Hall, restaurant or kid-themed place like Chucky Cheese. The cost was getting huge and I changed it last year. Now, each kid gets to invite a few (5 or 6) of their closest friends for a small party at home, includig sleepover. The cost runs me under $100 per party. Then, in the summertime, we have a large cookout to which we invite all the classmates from the previous school year. This takes care of reciprocating for all the parties we have been invited to throughout the year, but the cost is much lower and their aren't mountains of birthday gifts, which is important, because we can't fit anything else in our house. I recruit my friends to face paint, or be in charge of games and contests. We have a treasure hunt with prizes I get from the dollar store. We have a potato rolling contest, three legged races, sack races and chalk drawing contests. Their are hotdogs and juice boxes for all. The kids have a blast, and I get away for under $200.00. That means $400 for 3 parties. Much better than the $400 per party I was paying before.

My son invited his whole soccer team and a few other friends to his 12 year-old party last summer at home. They swam, played games, and laughed a lot. I made my own pasta dish, and chicken drum sticks. We also had fruit, healthy snacks, and a home made birthday cake. For party favours, my son and I wrote "Happy Birthday (and the date of my son's birthday, his name & some design) with some colour pens for ceramic on the ceramic mugs from Ikea. The mugs cost about 55 cents each. We baked in the colour in the oven. All these cost very little time and money. I did a similar party for my daughter. She has been to some very simple and sweet sleepover parties this year. As long as you and your kids like it, parties or no parties would be quite alright. Every once in a few years, I don't mind to throw a nice party although I would be very mindful about materialism.

I am a firm believer in "Simple" parties. I have 2 girls, ages 5 and 3 1/2. We only do parties for "milestone" birthdays, and this year was such. My daughters 5th birthday was so easy, and the party itself cost about 75.00 total. We had about 8 girls meet us at a local park. We did a simple craft instead of goodie bags, we did have hotdogs (on sale at local grocery), and best of all, they played on the playground equipment. A simple cup cake "cake" ended the party. She LOVED it , and so did her friends.

What ever happened to a party with just mom, dad and the siblings? Yes, they are simple but those are the ties that bind. When the kids were little we made theme cakes--a little decorator frosting and some inexpensive props go a long way in creating memories.
We went to an "event" party some years back. The boy's mother rented a rec. center with trampolines, ropes, and other gear. She was competing with her ex-husband and his new wife. I'm sure she couldn't afford it.

We have four children and my husband and I have had a few (7 or 8 total) of the organized, "extravagant" parties at a bowling alley, ceramic place, etc. They have never stood out as memorable parties- too expensive, loud, hurried, and waaaaay too many gifts.
What we ALL enjoy are the simple parties at home when our children can invite a handful of friends over and enjoy pizza, pop, and cake while running around the yard and playing. Sometimes I make a special cake, other times I take the birthday child to Wal-Mart to pick out their favorite cake in the bakery case, which makes them feel special!
I've actually had kids tell me that the sleepovers were the best time they've had instead of an organized party.
But I've also had my own kids ask when they were getting their goody bag at someone else's party. So it goes both ways.
I think smaller is better. With the exception of a "milestone" birthday, I think parties should be kept in proper context.

i am so relieved to find your website! first of all, i am a married mom of 3 kids. we don't have bday parties every year other than for immediate family. this was the year to have them for our kids. my youngest just turned 8 and i told him that he really didn't need more "stuff" so we did a "let's help the local food shelf bday party." the kids brought however much food they wanted to contribute and i took the boys from my son's class bowling. the kids had a blast and felt good about helping others and my son learned a very valuable lesson.

My son turned 11 last January and I was contemplating on giving him a birthday party at Shakers [arcades type of venue]. But the party that he wanted would costs me over $700 for about 15 kids in his class.

So I gave him an option to cash it out... I told him I will give him $100 to be deposited to his bank account + his birthday gift and a family dinner at his favorite restaurant. He gladly agreed to this.

Amanda - I love the idea of "gifts of time". What a creative idea and a wonderful way to have your extended family create memories with your kids. Doesn't hurt that you get a few hours of quiet time too! LOL

I am a Hindu. My children attended the Hindu 'Sunday School'-not a requirement. Here kids celebrate birthdays with a blessing from all the parents and other children. Just a simple hymm is recited by all that says the child is loved and looked after and blessed by the supreme God, and we all wish them the best in their lives. This costs $0.00. We light a candle, and let children know that their life is brightened by this. We NEVER blow off a candle. Hindu Vedanta teaches us that. And kids love it. They grow up NOT being bound to materialistic nonsense, that is harming the society and causing so much unhappiness. And yes, I can more than afford to give them a lot more. I am a physician, but spent perhaps over 32 years (16 each, 2 boys) a total of $100, at the begining, when society was pressuring me to act foolishly. I grew up quickly, and realised the harm society was doing to my kids. Thank God. Hope all parents understand that materialistic excess is harmful.

I have 4 kids whose ages range from 3-7 and whose birthday are from July-December. I used to feel I wanted to give my kids "everything" I was not given as a child. From my first child I created the best and biggest birthdays every year. I would spend hundreds on birthdays gifts and party event "stuff". Pretty soon I found myself trying to outdo parties from previous years. I had an aha moment and realized the focus was no longer on my kids basking in the love of our celebration but with my appearance in how much I spent!
I had started the habit of accepting being short in money from July-January (because of birthdays and holidays), and then would play catch up with life in between.
Last year I changed this awful habit. I first explained to my kids how much I love them and what their birthdays signified to me. I then explained some of my ideas for change so their birthdays that would it special intimate day instead of a major expected "event".
For last year I minimized the amount of people to close family and a couple friends, cut back on amount of gifts (gave thought out gifts vs quantity), kept the parties at our house. I also designated 2 special dates with their grandma and I with the birthday child. So the b-day child & I would have lunch & do an activity together; then the same would be done with just my mom & the b-day child.
This new set up was odd at first but after having gone through the year I've had to praise God for the insight and changes in following through. My kids are now more grateful and look forward to their special day. And instead of the birthdays getting lost materiallistically they are filled with love. That to me is worth every precious moment that money just can't buy!

hOW CAN OUR CHILDREN EVER LEARN TO RESIST PRESSURE TO INDULGE THE STUPID IF WE, THE PARENTS ARE WHINING ABOUT "FEELING PRESSURE."MY DAUGHTER ATTENDED SCHOOL WITH SOME OF THE TRULY rICH AND WE INVITED THEM TO OUR HUMBLE HOME FOR PARTIES THEY LOVED: HOLLY Hobbie:The dairy maids churned home made ice cream and made butter; "yard girls" for planting flowers, nursery maids to dress and care for the dolls;and kitchen maids to prepare the food for the party and serve it. Gingerbread parties(graham crackers) at Christmas time -always a mega hit! Tea parties on beautiful kiddie sets that the kids brought or we bought at Starbucks; or costume parties where they dressed in in the garb of their future professions and acted the roles: actress, doctor,nurse, writer, architect, etc-a big hit.

hOW CAN OUR CHILDREN EVER LEARN TO RESIST PRESSURE TO INDULGE THE STUPID IF WE, THE PARENTS ARE WHINING ABOUT "FEELING PRESSURE."MY DAUGHTER ATTENDED SCHOOL WITH SOME OF THE TRULY rICH AND WE INVITED THEM TO OUR HUMBLE HOME FOR PARTIES THEY LOVED: HOLLY Hobbie:The dairy maids churned home made ice cream and made butter; "yard girls" for planting flowers, nursery maids to dress and care for the dolls;and kitchen maids to prepare the food for the party and serve it. Gingerbread parties(graham crackers) at Christmas time -always a mega hit! Tea parties on beautiful kiddie sets that the kids brought or we bought at Starbucks; or costume parties where they dressed in in the garb of their future professions and acted the roles: actress, doctor,nurse, writer, architect, etc-a big hit.

Sing the song, blow out the candles, eat some pizza, watch a movie, then put the kid to sleep. You would have to be out of your damn mind to spend more than a couple hundred dollars for a birthday party.

We've never done big parties for my three kids - the parties are at home and my husband and I make all the decorations and cake ourselves. We like to theme them, we make fun cakes (shaped like ladybugs, done as swamps, etc), and our kids always have a good time.

This year, we decided to go a step further. Our kids have too many things. When my youngest had his birthday party last month, we asked everyone not to bring a physical gift, but an invitation. We did "gifts of time." A relative can take him to a movie one day, or to the zoo, that sort of thing. And, because my family really likes to give physical gifts, I said they could bring something small to accompany it if they needed to. One person brought my son some socks with an invitation to a jumping theme park. One person brought a little pot and promised to have him over to make cookies. One person is taking him to ice skating lessons for six weeks. It's been over a month since his birthday, and he's still "cashing in" on these presents, many of which cost the bringers absolutely nothing.

I thought I would have to persuade my kids when it came to this idea, but all three of them loved it from the moment I suggested it. The idea of a long-term celebration and individual time with family members, away from their siblings, special time just for themselves, that really appealed to them. We have our next party coming up in July, and we plan to do it the exact same way.

I went to a birthday party for a 2 year old that was very over the top. The mother hired a traveling petting zoo (lama, rabbits, chickens, ducks, goats, etc.), a pony for the kids to ride and had a giant blow up castle to play in. There were over 100 guest! The sad thing is that they really did not have the money to do something like that. Then you have to explain to your child why they will not be having a pony at his backyard simple birthday party.

I went to a birthday party for a 2 year old that was very over the top. The mother hired a traveling petting zoo (lama, rabbits, chickens, ducks, goats, etc.), a pony for the kids to ride and had a giant blow up castle to play in. There were over 100 guest! The sad thing is that they really did not have the money to do something like that. Then you have to explain to your child why they will not be having a pony at his backyard simple birthday party.

To the person who commented that she went without as a child and is grateful her children will not: I am of the belief that going without is a good impetus for making great strides in life. In other words, what will your child have to strive for if s/he is given everything?

I guess I'm the odd one out. We don't do big parties. When my son turned 2, he got a coloring book, some big crayons and a storybook. He loved it! I think that huge parties and giving children every single thing they want is a form of child abuse. I really do. It's disgusting.

Try just throwing a little party and giving simple gifts. If your kid complains/whines/throws a tantrum, oh well! They'll get over it. And, if they don't, oh well! Life's tough. They might as well learn now!

Hi, I just found this site and have briefly read over it. I'm loving it! I can't wait to spend more time reading the info but I wanted to post my 2cents worth on birthday parties.

I have three children (18,15 and 4). In case you're wondering, the first two are from my first marriage, I'm not entirely insane. LOL

With my first two, I was a a younger parent and did all the crazy over the top parties. Large nubmers of invites, parties at special places, big loot bags, etc. The end result, alot of stress, lots of Excedrin, and a handful of memories. However, my son (the 18yr old) does remember at his 5th party dropping out of the game "duck duck goose" because his "girlfriend" at the time got out and he didn't want her to be sad.

Anyway, with my last child, I'm an older parent with changed views and a different outlook on some things. For his first birthday we invited grandparents & great-grandparents only. No extended family or friends. (with the first two there were easily 20-30 guests). He was able to have a great time, it was a short party, minimal gifts, and it was about celebrating him.

We have done the same for each birthday since and it is very calm and relaxing. We are not wealthy but we are able to provide for our children and we don't feel that birthdays or Christmas should be the huge blitz of gifts that they are. We tend to splurge on our children throughout the year when they need/want something or when we just feel like surprising them. Why should Santa get all the credit? (And no I'm not against Santa, he does bring gifts he just brings as many as the child is old, ex... the child is 4 santa brings 4)

Anyway, on birthdays... this year since our little man is in a preschool we decided to have his first "friends" party. To keep it simple we told him he could invite four friends (since he was 4). He thought that was an awesome idea. He spent a week thinking about which four friends and then he and I spent an afternoon making the invitations to mail.

He looooves pancakes, so we invited them to a pancake brunch at our house. No gifts, just to come celebrate and have fun. We made tiny pancakes, played and had fun.

When they left he gave them a thank you gift for coming. He had gone to the book store and hand selected each simple story book and stuffed animal. We took photos of the birthday boy with each guest and emailed them out.

He had the time of his life, loved every minute of it and so did the moms and the other kids. It was from 10am to 11:30am. Short, sweet, didn't interrup anyone elses family time or weekends.

He has already figured out that next year he can invite 5 friends for pancakes.

They don't have to be over the top. What matters most is that your child knows that you are celebrating the joy of them being here with you. That they matter and that they are loved. The toys won't last but the love will.

I am off to read the rest of this site. Thank you to those who have put this together and for those out there who make me realize my family is not alone in our thoughts! This craziness of over the top thinking for everything really needs to stop.

I had a birthday party for my daughter who was turning 4 and requested 'no gifts' but asked everyone to donate to a charity that helps women and children around the globe. A very legitimate charity that could have been double checked. I was surprised to see that not a single person thought to donate to this. I asked them to donate as little as they felt the might spend on a present. Amazingly, other people in my daughters school did charities for pets and they received all sorts of donations. This was appalling to me. One parent even brought a present to the party after I requested no presents. I had talked to my daughter and she did not care about presents. Of course, we get her something appropriate-it's our little girl. After this I just ask people for no presents and I refuse to do the whole 'junk bag' thing that gets tossed in about an hour.

Dear Emma,

I'm not sure where you live and what the weather will be like at the time of this party but what about bringing the kids to a nature center or state park to hike or something? My kids love to do that sort of thing. Take them for ice cream afterwards if you'd like. We've heard from lots of people here at Birthdays Without Pressure who have done that sort of party and their kids really enjoyed it. You might even get a park ranger to help you out or take you on a guided hike geared for that age group.

my chid wants a house party with a few friends from school. shes having 3 friend over. but our house uis to small i cant think where else to have it. the house is just about bigger nough for me my child and my husband! can you think of some way you can help me please.

my chid wants a house party with a few friends from school. shes having 3 friend over. but our house uis to small i cant think where else to have it. the house is just about bigger nough for me my child and my husband! can you think of some way you can help me please.

Thank you so much for creating this website!!!I am now a grandmother with 3 grandchildren. I raised four children 2 boys and 2 girls. Over the years I have served in many organizations both in the community and in my religion and have spent many years interacting with youth of all ages.
When my children were growing up my husband and I set a dollar limit on BD parties and requested that other parents not send gifts
If they wanted to give a gift we asked them to do so in a different setting than the party. As our children grew older and wanted larger parties we turned them into more of a pot luck where everyone brought food and we provided the cake and ice cream.
One of my friends just told me her son spent $400 on her granddaughters 7th birthday party and had 30 children attend.
One friend rented a limo and took her grandchild and her friends to see Wicked and out for dinner.
Thanks again for creating a reality check with this website!!!!

I don't do parties. It's just not my thing. I have two kids (9 & 11) and on their birthday I bring a happy meal to school in leu of school lunch and treats to school. Relatives come over at night and we have a simple dinner and cake and ice cream. I do invite all the kids in the neighborhhod over for the cake and ice cream part. Some bring a small cash gift, but they know it is not expected or required. My kids have gotten used to the routine over the years. I may take a few friends to a movie or let them have a friend over for a sleepover, but no structured party. I don't have any pictures of my kids unhappy on their birthday. They know from the time they wake up until they go to bed that it's their special day, party or not.

Lots of great ideas and gives a good reference for what others are doing around the world. I have three girls. The oldest two have birthdays three days apart and I can't deal with the pressure of two big parities in the same week, so they get a friend party on their even birthdays and a family party (somewhere of their choosing-within a budget) on their odd birthdays. They talk about their next party constantly. I have mostly done home parties with great success. I did a Dora party, a make-up and up-do at a beauty school, and a Fiesta for my girls. This year, I went to an indoor bounce place that was new to the area. It was great, and the kids liked it. I didn't do any gift bags because when it came down to it, I couldn't force myself to buy all the stuff to go in them. The party was about $10/kid without dinner, and we had about 10 kids. It was great and worked well. It was one of the more extravagant parties I've hosted since the others have been at home. I also take a picture of every guest with my daughter and what they gave her. Then, I include the photo on the Thank-you card to go back to the friend. I am contemplating this year for my 10-year old either a Justice party or a Sweet and Sassy party, but still not sure I want to spend that much. For the other, I have been thinking about doing a charity party on her off year and keep it low key, any ideas of things people have done. I don't want to raise $1000's of dollars, maybe just provide some books and toys to a shelter that could use them. Any ideas?

I just had what I thought of as a "small" party for my one year old. I grew up with no parties, just one or two gifts and choosing your birthday meal. I loved it, and I had one party when I was young, and one as a teenager. All simple. For my one year old, we had cupcakes and some ham barbque, and purchased items from Sams like fruit and veggies. Grandparents, great grandparents, and two neighbors were invited. I stressed about cleaning and getting ready, for I also have a two and a half year old and one working constantly hubby. Although I have professed to only wanting what I grew up with, when it seemed my in-laws wanted to come over, I would invite them, and it is escalating. My mom and one of the neighbors I had invited just made me feel bad about the whole thing. Too many toys, too much. But my two and a half year old, who is in daycare, goes to many parties, and is already talking about having one for him in June. I have tried to suggest in the past to my family not to exchange gifts at Christmas, just for me and my husband alone, and what an uproar that caused!! Even if I try to get away from the material, I get hounded. Can't do anything right. What to do?

I have two girls age 11 and 14yrs. We have always done the at home parties or smaller groups if we chose to venture out to businssess for a party. I usually spend somewhere around $200-300. But for the last 3 years my younger daughter has been invited to birthday oarties of her friend where I am shocked at the family hosting. whatever the activity-manicures, movie party, dinner at a pizza place, the invitation states that each child is required to bring $10.00. I was raised where if you are hosting a party, you pay? So what gives? Do I not send my child to the party because I disagree with the parents motives. I know that they are not poor, so why charge the kids to come to your party. This is also hard for the families that cannot afford to come? It usually costs anywhere from $15.00-$50.00 for a gift. Do we send a smaller gift due to the entrance fee? I have never wanted to discuss this with the friends parent, so I thought perhaps others might have an opinion.....

Well, his 5th birthday party is set for March 16th. I apparenly am the "daring" parent planning a house party. I am the only one so far not doing "cookie cutter". I finally hired a magician for $235 with ballon animals for all or $25 less w/o the ballon animals. I'm doing the party betw. 2:30-4:00 when I don't have to serve a meal, and can get a costco cake for $15, plus a huge bag of candy for goody bags. Oh, and I shopped around for the magician.

I will let you know how it pans out, and yes it is definitely a problem for little kids as well. Welcome to suburbia!!!

Wow...I knew this was a problem for teenagers (I've unfortunately seen "My Super Sweet Sixteen" on MTV) but I had no idea this was an issue for little kids as well.

My son is only 4 months old, so we haven't even had his first birthday party yet, but these stories have me concerned. We are moving soon to a rather wealthy suburb (we will, however, be living in the normal-sized houses in this community) and I hope this isn't the norm there.

When I was a kid, having a simple party at home was so much fun. My mom always had goodie bags but they had little things like stickers, pencils, lip gloss and other fun little cheap things that are not junky.

She planned games (like the memory game where she put out ten things on a tray, uncovered it for one minute and then covered it again and you wrote down all the items you could remember) and let me choose what we would eat (usually pizza). Everyone won a prize and everyone brought home a goodie bag.

One year, she also did a "make your own sundae bar" which was cheap and easy. Just two kinds of ice cream, whipped cream in a can, chocolate and carmel sauce and sprinkles in different shapes and colors.

For my parties, it seemed the interactivity was the fun part. Only one time did a girl complain about her goodie bag....she expressed her anger to me the day after my 8th birthday (yes, she was about 8 or 9 years old) that EVERYONE got a prize even if they didn't win a game! She was never invited again...and it wasn't by my mom's choice, it was mine! I knew enough at 8 years old who was a jerk and who wasn't.

It's too bad that parents are creating these pressures for their children and their communities. It's rather abusive if you ask me, because it trains kids to be selfish, catty and mean.

My son is getting basic at-home parties as a little kid, perhaps a Chuck E. Cheese party or two if he want's it as an older kid (or rollerblading, a camp-out party in the backyard or whatever he's into at that age) and then he can have a sleepover as a teenager if he wants.

Hopefully the newer parents who have babies now will read sites like this and be proactive enough to try to put the brakes on this kind of thing. I will definitely spread the word among my circle of friends!

My great-grandma loved a good party. She would plan games and everyone would have to tell a poem or do a show. I think I caught the bug from her and I love a party. I love the planning, the details and the party itself. As a kid I planned my own birthday parties. But to keep them simple, we just have a summer party with friends rather than a birthday party and save the birthday parties for family only. Last year when my daughter was 4 we had a close family friend over. They have 3 kids and we have 2 so it was only 5 kids. My daughter planned and made all the games (with some help) She wanted a princess party so we dug up her dress clothes, cut out a big pink frog for a kiss the frog game, put some large plastic eggs from Easter in the baby pool for a dragon egg hunt (not sure what the hunt was but it was my daughters idea and a favorite at the party. My daughter decorated the cupcakes herself - and licked her fingers while she did it! I was just looking at the pictures from the party and it is fun to see the smiles on the kids faces. When it's not out of control and you have good friends that you can just have a good time with, it's fun to plan and have a party.

Help,

My son is turning 5 in March and so far every kid has had a party at a place and has invited the whole class. We live in northern NJ and just recently bought a house and are having finacial difficulties and can not affoord to spend the almost $500 we spent last year on his cookie cutter party at Unbelievabills. We are thinking of a home party but would still have to invite the kids and think of something entertainment wise for the kids to do. Also our house is not big so space is an issue. We are looking to keep the whole thing under $300. Is that possible?

We want our little boy to be happy and for his birthday to not be lame. Any suggestions?

Many of these comments have good advice about what is easiest to control: your own parties. But what do you do about the flood of invitations from others?

I have a general policy of declining all party invites before age 5, except in some special circumstances, such as the 1-2 children my child esp. likes at school. But I can tell you I don't do it without a big heap of guilt. What are others' thoughts on this?

E.g I just got off the phone after declining an invite of a child in my daughter's day care class; it was from a boy I've heard her mention only once. I assumed the entire class of 23 had been invited. I also declined in large part because I refuse to attend parties at Chuck E. Cheese or any nonhome "location," esp. when I have to sign a liability release! My older children, even when they were 5 or 6, never seemed to enjoy the sensory overload of these horrible places (kiddie casinos, I call them), felt they didn't get to play with their friend nearly enough, etc.

But then this mom said, "Oh, I hope the other little girl will feel comfortable alone." In other words, my daughter was apparently one of the children the little boy really wanted to be there, one of only two girls (I encourage my kids to find male playmates because they have no brothers). Hmmm. Should I reconsider or hold the line and invite the boy over to our house for a more meaningful/enjoyable playdate?

This recent invitation, which was dropped in my child's cubby at school, prompting me to request that the daycare reconsider the policy of allowing invite distribution at school (which was the policy at two different preschools where my older children attended), making it easier for parents to decline invitations (if in the mail, I can intercept). The daycare worker looked at me as if I was from Mars, reporting that no other parent would feel the way I do and that all the parents would be very upset if told to mail invites. I was floored by her ire and disdain, again making me think I was the only person to feel that there are just too many parties, large or small. So glad I found this web site! What are other school policies out there?

Finally, for little kids esp., I think home parties are more enjoyable and less stressful for the children. In my opinion, if the parent is so worried about the house getting destroyed or it being too much stress/work, they are failing to invite the right kids, inviting too many kids or failing to discipline the friends/let them know you expect them to follow house rules. If it is all that much trouble, why have a party at all? Because the child feels entitled to one?

Regardless of a person's financial wherewithall, it is my opinion that birthday parties should not be overblown affairs. How much is spent on someone or by someone has become far too linked to self-esteem or to worth in our society. Even if one can afford a $10000 party for one's child, what is that teaching them about what "usual" is? What are you teaching them about "appropriate?" When they get married, or are just trying to get established after college, or at any stage of life, are they going to expect a multi-thousand dollar gift from their spouse, roommates or friends? Sometimes a gift that's just $10 means just as much, but will our children even recognize it if they've become accustomed to more, more, more?

I would respectfully disagree with those that say "do it up right - they're only young once." Certainly, show them how special they are to you, and let them know that you love them. But before you blow a ton of money planning a dinosaur-themed re-creation of a Vegas-level show for 30-250 friends, I think we all need to ask ourselves not CAN we, but SHOULD we? For the good of both ourselves, and our dearly loved kids... I respectfully believe we should all say "no."

One notable exception for a truly noble reason - I recently had a friend throw a home-based "puppy party" for a whole group of roughly 5 year-olds to celebrate her daughter's birthday. They dug in the sand in special boxes for "goodies" like puppies, and they had all the puppy favors and cake, etc. They played puppy games and did puppy activities. The mom was juggling a million details and plans. Why? Because her daughter has a chromosomal disorder and frequent hospitalizations, and this year may be her daughter's last.

Thank you to this website for promoting reason and for providing resources to weary parents/teachers/families. It is much appreciated.


Yeah..in our supersized consumer culture people tend to go overboard.

But you could argue about the other side of the coin.
We have two boys aged 8 and 5. We live in a nice area. The kids go to a very good private school that is worth every dime paid in tuition. Life is busy.

When birthday party time rolls around, its worth the few extra bucks to have the party somewhere where everything is taken care of. You show up..kids run around in circles for a couple of hours. They have fun. They go home. we go home and the house looks just like it did when we left. We don't invite the whole friggin' school. We don't give gold or fur trimmed favors. I've never heard any whining from the kids (mine or others) and I wouldn't consider any party we've ever thrown excessive.

Its all about moderation. Sadly..a lot of folks have forgotten that word as they drive to Best Buy in their Hummers talking on their pimp phones about the plasma jumbotron their about to buy for the media room of their house which will probably be foreclosed on in a few months.

I came back to follow up after my daughter's 7th birthday (I had earlier recounted parents staying at my house during her 6th birthday party).

This year she wanted a karate party, and I found a place that hosts parties - they handle everything including food, drink and handouts - for a reasonable price. All we had to do was bring the cake. They even had plenty of room for the parents to hang out (and YES they ALL STAYED except ONE).

If I thought kids were overindulged before, this party clinched it. DESPITE each being given their own karate sashes (anyone remember the headband Ralph Macchio wore in The Karate Kid?) and a personalized thank you card which included a great group photo from the beginning of the party printed out, I still overheard a kid ask my daughter where his goodie bag was.

I'm DONE. Don't know what I am doing next year, but I am DONE with those kinds of parties.

I live in Paris on the second floor. My neighbor is hosting a very noisy birthday party for her 9 year old. I came online to search for ideas for next year's party. My ears are hurting...the french do not require one to have carpet or a rug on the floors. Everything was vibrating including my stomach. Tomorrow, I will share some of these ideas. Thank you for your wonderful ideas.

My friend just emailed this website to me so I've had to check this out. UNBELIEVABLE the things that parents are doing for their LITTLE kids parties!! I mean come on, a 4 year old is not going to give a crap about what went on during his birthday at that age. It is NOT going to be a pivital moment in his life that will be the cause of his future lack of self worth if he doesn't have goodie bags at his party. If it is, then the parents have steered the kids values completely off the track. My son is getting ready to turn 4 and a friend of his is going to have a party in a fun center with about 30-50 people. The mother has been planning/stressing over it for almost 2 months now and what is the point?

The general trend of overindulgence and overstimulation in every corner of our childrens lives from preschools and extracirriculars and the gross overmarketing by the media of elaborate holidays has prompted us adopt some more simple methods of celebrating important moments. We do family only parties. (a close friend or 2 would be okay if you can do it without a bunch of hurt feelings involved). My husband and I both grew up that way and neither of us have negative feelings about our small birthdays and don't feel like we missed much. I had one friend-invite party growing up when I was 9 and the feeling that comes back to me when I think of that party is the nervousness I had about whether or not the other 5 girls I was not allowed to invite (smaller house) would still be my friends. That's not a what a child should be feeling on their special day.

We stick to just family and it works great. Financially, we could spend quite a bit on a party but we choose not to go with the crowd on this. I spend almost no time planning (as there is not too much to plan) and it's great. My son has always had many smiles at his small gathering because we turn the attention on him and he is most comfortable and secure with just us and we are most comfortable not having to plan some great "event." At some level I am tempted to succumb to the guilt that we are not inviting preschool friends or any of his neighborhood playmates to my son's party. Our neighborhood is small and pretty tight and I would have that feeling of having to invite them all. So, we are inviting none and we are just doing family only which is what we have always done. Just mom, dad, our son, his 3 cousins, 2 aunts and and uncle. That's it. Grandparents all live out of town but we call them on the phone. We don't do party favors, I just turn on a bubble making machine and let my son and his cousins run through the bubbles. Including all the family members he receives about 8-10 gifts which is plenty. My husband and I make sure we don't have any other tasks to do that day (like work) so he gets our attention all day long. My son gets to pick what cake he wants and he gets to select a movie at the end of the day. We also go and ride an old steam engine train at our local train museum which he gets a kick out of (with just mom and dad). I am not an event planning type person and just can't figure out why little kids birthdays have become these room-packed monumental events. Also, this goodie bag thing has got to disappear. What is wrong with just cake and ice cream and maybe a fun game?? This is SO all about our feelings of inadequecy as parents as kids will not go lacking in true quality of life without a spendy party. I think part of all the party excess is guilt based, trying to fill a void within ourselves, and also a lack of thought on the part of us parents to think of other ways to make our kids feel special. I don't think my son will feel any less special when he looks back and sees the pictures of his simple birthdays . My neighbors have also become inspired by this simple birthday thing and have now restricted their kids birthdays to family only also. It so much easier and no stressing about who to invite and hurt feelings of those who aren't' invited. Most people seem to be totally respectful of the family only thing we do, so I don't stress at all about it. When he is older, if there is something specific he wants to do with a few friends like going fishing for the day or a movie or whatever then fine. But these keeping up with the Jonses' parties are absolutely ridiculous.

ok ok I am guilty of excessive bday parties but i enjoy doing it so I guess it is ok because there really isn't any stress.
I have 2 girls ages 9 and 2. We usually have about 30-35 kids. i don't do party bags anymore I usually wrap up a 1lb bar of chocolate the kids love it... however the parents aren't so thrilled! lol
The kids are only little once- do it big!

I just found this site a few days ago and am enjoying hearing about the ideas for simple, fun parties and that I'm not the only mom out there who wants them!

Here's my experience. I have 2 girls, one who's almost 4 and a 6 week old baby. This is my almost 4 y.o's first year of preschool and first year of being on
the b'day party circuit. She went to her first party Sunday at a
local Little Gym - I know since their rates vary from location to location but I'd bet in my area they're pricey. About 20 kids went. The other Moms know each other from previous years of their kids being in preschool and were cordial but mostly talked among themselves. My daughter wasn't playing in any of the groups of girls and that surprised me because she's very outgoing and likes her classmates. The kids played for about an hour, then ate pizza and cake. Presents were collected w/o being opened. Each kid got goodie bags that had a book and stickers in them. I would say this was pretty modest compared to some of kids parties I've heard about. But here's the rub, my daughter's own b'day is in about two weeks and we're
having an old fashioned economical party at home. The friend who had the birthday party Sunday was planning to come to my daughter's party with either her aunt or grandmother (her mother is going out of town that day).
Now, after Sunday's party, her Mom RSVPs again and says her childcare plans have changed and her daughter's not coming after all. I want to believe her but I'm suspicious because
previously one of TWO people could have brought her to my child's party but now neither of them can? Maybe she's telling the truth but I'm suspicious and my husband is too. His take is we didn't spend enough on her child's gift. We spent about $25 which I think is appropriate given this is my child's first year in preschool with this other girl. I hate to think my husband might be right but what I've heard about girls' birthday parties makes me think he might be.

This only makes me more determined to want to keep her celebrations simple, and with the people and activities she loves the most.


I am a mother of a 12 yr old daughter and a 15 yr old son. I cannot really relate to problems with kids parties under school age because back then we just had a family party at the house with cake, lots of balloons and aunts, uncles and cousins. The kids loved it. But once they hit school age that all changed and the older they got the worse it got. Not so much for my son who was always happy with a Chuck E Cheese party but my daughter. The girls in particular seem to compete, or should I say their mother's do. You can never do the same thing twice. So enough was enough for me. Last year I had a scrap booking party for my daughter. I told her she could invite no more then 5 friends because I have a table with six chairs. I bought small scrapbooking albums for each of them and scrap booking paper and stickers at the dollar store. I put on the invitation for each girl to bring 3-5 pictures to scrapbook. I served pizza, pop and cake and they spent two hours scrapbooking and laughing around the table and their scrapbooks were their party favor. It was simple, cheap and easy and it was one of my daughter's favorite parties. The same thing could be done with beading, stamping, drawing, painting, paper mache or whatever depending on the age of your child and their artistic leanings.

My children are now 14 and 11. My experience is that the first born child usually has the biggest parties. That certainly was the case for us. We never spent all that much money on parties. One of my oldest child's most memorable partues was a home party where each child brought a scooter, skateboard or bike and we went to the park and rode together. Then we came home for cake and ice cream. That was pretty cool. I am thinking that the overindulgence must have passed us by, because we never felt that much pressure to spend a ton of money.

Tracy,

Julie here, from Birthdays Without Pressure. Thanks for sharing your story about how you celebrate your children on their birthdays. This highlights how birthdays can be about so much more than getting more stuff! What a meaningful way to honor your kids.

One thing we'd like to hear more about is how families are celebrating teenage birthdays. Please tell us!

Today my daughter turns 11. We woke her up with a special "breakfast in bed". It made her feel super special. We also tell the story of the day they were born on their birthday. We did this one year and the KIDS reminded us again the next year and it has become a special tradition right before bedtime on their birthday. One of our children is adopted, so on her birthday we share how she came to join our family. The birthday child gets to choose dinner and gets first dibs on "fun" chores like getting the mail, etc :-)

finally i have found a community that i had no idea was out there! i have "suffered" in almost complete silence with my feelings about parties and overindulgence of children today because i am surrounded by so many who fall into this category. i first have to put all my cards on the table and say that i myself have gone overboard to some extent mostly with my first child when i was a little clueless about everything from how many ounces of formula to feed to what to do for birthdays. so, from personal experience i will say that sometimes a parent thinks they are doing the right thing until they have a lightbulb moment and realize something is wrong with the picture. i think one of the things i regret the most is the amount of time i spent putting "great" goodie bags together. this is hard to admit and i realize now how silly that is. but i used to get carried away with the goodie bags (but no, i'm not the moron who started them!!) my oldest is about to be eight and my youngest just turned four and only last year did i finally simplify things. it was the first year my oldest did not have a "big" birthday party ($200-$300 is what i mean by big). she invited her best friend over for a sleepover and we had pizza and cake. i decorated her room with patio lights in the shape of parrots because thats what she loves and they "camped out" in her bedroom. in my book it was the best one yet. this year, she has asked to do almost the same plus go and play putt-putt golf. my four year old did have a party at a Chuck E. type place with a small guest list and sent the children home with a coloring book rather than a goodie bag (i'll never go back!). also, i read the post about parents who stay. i too have a very small house and just don't have room for children and parents. i did an at home party one year with the expectation that the parents would drop their children by but every parent stayed (husbands and wives). i ended up spending as much (if not more) time with the parents as i did overseeing and enjoying the party with the children. i think the parents being there is fine if you have planned for this and invited them to do so as you would for a backyard birthday cookout or pool party,etc. that's all for now... i could write a book.

My daughter is about to turn 4, and having a few friends over, and a cake from the grocery store is really exciting for her! My own favorite birthday memories involve simple games, one picnic at the lake with about four friends, one year when I went to a movie with a friend and she got to sleep over (I recently ran into her after 25 years and she remembers that night too!) or the times I got to decide what was for dinner.

Like others have said, I worry about the escalation. If little kids are getting limousine rides, prom night or even weddings are going to look pretty ho-hum.
Some have made the argument that "I go all out because I want to celebrate and make my child feel special." We all love our kids and want them to feel special.

I think the "pulse check" for whether you've gone overboard is if the party is over your budget (which is of course different for everyone- $500 is way out of my leage, but a very modest celebration for others), if your own child is overwhelmed, crabby or rude and demanding instead of happy, appreciative, and having fun, and if your own expectations and behavior are alienating friends and family. So I don't think anyone is saying that pony rides, or inviting lots of kids, or themed parties are bad. What's bad is if whatever you are doing is causing more strife than joy.

I have a friend who never once had a birthday party with friends so she makes sure her kids get a special day with friends. She always puts up balloons the night before so they see them 1st thing on their bday morning. We have a neighbor who throws a huge BBQ on his son's birthday every year. It's way bigger than I could handle, but it's really a great celebration, and a time when this little boy plays with cousins, sees grandparents, aunts and uncles from all over the place. This family is not showing off, and they enjoy putting on this annual shindig. They are generous hosts and just want to have a great time. They invite us every year. They fill up the kiddie pool, and we all fill up on hot dogs, potato salad, and cake. It's different from how we celebrate, but it's great.

Above all, I am working to teach my kids party manners. My daughter just went to her first party with a school friend, and I made sure she thanked her host and both parents. At her own party she says "thank you for coming to my party" to every guest, and says thank you for her gifts. No one will begrudge your celebration- small or large, family or school friends, if you express gratitude, consider others' feelings, maybe even offer to help out.
I really like this site and the discussion.

I also agree with Toni's comments from Sept 23. My daughter did absolutely beam at her 2nd bday party when she saw that everyone was singing just for her! That smile was just priceless. We had Elmo paper plates, grocery store cake, friends over for sloppy joes and chips, and the kids played outside. It was a great day- fun, and festive, and as far as she knew, the best party ever.

They are only kids once. We only get to enjoy them while they are young for just a short amount of time. I love seeing her beam with excitement when the birthday song is being sung..I don't think it's too much to buy party supplies in whatever theme they are into, and a nice cake. I don't think it's a big deal to invite family, cousins and some close friends to attend. We do give out party favor bags, and a note to thank you for taking the time to attend. I never had birthday parties, or anyone who even cared enough to call... I just want my child to have nice memories of her birthdays as a child, and know that we tried to make it special for her.Does that mean I'm going to break the bank to compete with someone else's party? No, but only you know what you can afford, and you want to make their day special. It's up to you as a parent to decide how you do it. Surely we as parents have enough insight to tell if they are becoming spoiled or bratty, or unappreciative. If they are , it's because we have made them that way, they learn from us. We don't have to give into their every whim and want to make them feel special, just spend time with them, that's the attention they truly desire.

I ALSO WENT OVER BORD WITH MY FIRST SON. HIS BIRTHDAY WAS THE WEEK BEFORE CHRISTMAS AND I WANTED TO MAKE SURE THAT HIS BIRTHDAY WOULD BE SOMETHING THAT WOULD NOT GET MIXED IN WITH ALL THE CHRISTMAS CELEBRATION. LIKE IN SCHOOL I AWAYS MAKE SURE THAT HIS BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION WOULD NOT BE THE SAME DAY AS THE CHRISTMAS PARTY THEY WHERE HAVING.
BUT AT THE AGE OF 7 MY SON HAD TO WRITE ABOUT HIS BEST BIRTHDAY PARTY. WELL WHEN HE SAID THAT HE COULD NOT REMEMBER BECAUSE THE LAST BIRTHDAY THERE WAS HARDLY ANYBODY THERE(DUE TO THE CHRISTMAS BREAK MOST FAMILIES GO ON VACTION) EVEN THOUGH WE HAD 12 KIDS WHICH WAS NICE IN A MOVIE THEATER WATCHING A MOVIE THAT HE CHOICE AND A SPONGE BOB THEAM. THAT'S WHEN I SAID YOU KNOW WHAT THIS IS CRAZY. I WENT CRAZY GETTING THE GOODYBAG AND MAKING THE HOMEMADE CAKE AND BOOKING THE MOVIE THEATER. NOT TO MENTION ALL THE OTHER BIRTHDAYS AND HE COULD NOT THINK OF A BIRTHDAY THAT HE LIKED.
SO AFTER THAT I TOLD HIM NO MORE BIRTHDAYS WITH ALL HIS FRIENDS. I DID NOT WANT HIM TO THINK THAT IT'S THE AMOUNT OF FRIENDS THAT CAME INSTEAD OF THE QUALITY OF FRIENDS THAT HE HAS.
SO NOW INSTEAD OF SPENDING ALL THAT MONEY ON PARTIES FOR HIS FRIENDS HE PICKS THE FAMILY VACTION TO GO ON AND WHILE WE ARE THERE WE HAVE A DINNER AND A CAKE TO SING HAPPY BIRTHDAY AND THAT'S ALL. HIS PRESENT IS THE VACTION AND ACTIVIES THAT HE DOES THERE AND THAT WAY PARENTS CAN ENJOY QUALITY TIME WITH EACH OTHER.
AND THOSE BIRTHDAYS HE NEVER FORGETS. AND HE LEARNS THE MOST INPORTANT TIME IS SPENT WITH FAMILY.

I have a few girlfriends who were spoiled as children and now that they are in their twenties and thirties, their aging parents are feeling the guilt for giving them what they wanted. Now none of them are married. One is already divorced (her husband left her for a "nicer girl" and the others can't keep a man around longer than a few months thanks to their materialism and self absorption. Once they realize the self-entitlement these girls were raised with, they head for the hills. It's really a great idea to spoil your daughters while their children because in the long run, you will save on the cost of an elaborate wedding--there won't be one! No one will want to marry a spoiled little girl! Spoiled is another word for ruined. You people need to realize actions have consequences.

I'm afraid to say that I am one of the parents that does the Half Parties, mainly because my two kids birthdays are the week leading up to Christmas. I thought it would be less pressure on everyone what with all the holiday parties at work and with families, but then summer hits and the pressure is on me to come up with a "theme." I will say that I do keep it simple. This last year was a Monkey Party. One of the games was Hot Banana (played like Hot Potatoe, but Monkies don't eat Potatoes). Another game was Monkies in Barrel where we had two hula hoops as boundaries to see how many moms, dads, and kids we could fit into one of the two. Kids were stacked up on shoulders and below squatting in the spaces between grown ups shins. It was great fun!

Although I do enjoy getting families and friends together, I agree whole-heartedly that gifting has become excessive. Two moms in our close group are in constant competition for the Best Gift award leaving the rest of us feeling unworthy of our invitation. At the end of the parties, one mom always makes sure that goodie bags have all items. (Once, her child was accidentally shorted and had the audacity to point this out to the hostess.) She's becoming less popular, for obvious reasons. Her behavior and that of other parents started to become an issue. I think simplifying the parties might be an easy idea to spread at this point.

This is a prime example. I recently got a call that I was NOT expecting from a materialistic mom; sweet but loves stuff. I was stumped when we went to buy her daughter's present. Being September, there were lots of back-to-school items. I grabbed a pair of scissors, construction paper, glitter and glue and hoped she would forgive me. On the contrary. She called to thank me. Our gift was her favorite! Wow... instead of a Raspberry, I got the Best Gift prize. Now maybe we can all start giving more simply... if at all.

You're only young once! I didn't grow up with much, and I want my children to enjoy a less pressured lifstyle. A pressured birthday is one where you get a tin can decorated with yarn. I've been there, and my wife, son and I don't intend to go back. The kids love llamas and clowns -- they're gentle and fun-loving. Our birthdays are celebrations, and the children's smiles stay with us forever.

After reading some comments, I must be the Mother from hell as my kids are extremely fortunate to receive a gift at all.We made the decision to support any giftgiving to our children and their friends by subcribing to TEAR FUND/Gift For Life www.tearfund.org.nz
Sponsoring a pig, goat or school stationery supplies to families and communities in other less wealthy countries has led to a far greater appreciation of what our darlings are provided with.

When I was a kid, birthday parties were smaller affairs where parents dropped of their kids for about 2-3 hours of board games, pin-the-tail, and a slice of cake.

Now the parents STAY for these parties. Not only do you have to host the kids, you have to host the PARENTS, and sometimes they bring siblings! I have had my daughter's parties at a gymnastics place, but was concerned about the cost so I tried last year's party at home. The kids had a fantastic time, but there were too many parents for my smaller house. If I could have gotten them to come back to pick up the kids at the end, it would have been great, but I know now that I will have to limit the number of kids to limit the number of parents, which is a shame for my daughter's sake.

PS: I have no concept of why spending thousands of dollars on a child's birthday every year is considered appropriate. Perhaps it's just because I am not "wealthy" and have money to burn on whatever happens to crop up...

As a first grade teacher in a wealthy area I found that the birthday party pressure extended to class parties as well. Where it started out as parents bringing cupcakes or donut holes it expanded and some parents were also sending in goody bags. Others brought in full cakes and were disappointed to learn that I couldn't light the candles in the classroom. The word spread quickly around the classroom about the "cool" parties.

Now I teach in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the country. I see those party jumpers and big parties at houses where I know the family is strapped to the limit working several jobs to make rent. This issue is not just limited to the wealthy. All parents want to give their children the best and the "best" is defined by all different kinds of media. I applaud this discussion!

Being able to communicate much more effectively with your children can help you strengthen your relationship with them. You will know what they want and can teach them if its too much or not.

You should give your children the chance to enjoy their childhood. You can give them children's party in any form even if its not expensive, as long as you provide much fun on it. It could only happen once a year and pressure or stress might be bearable for that occasion only. What is important is that we do not cross the limit or not wanting more than what we can have.

At their early age, you can educate your children if you communicate much more effectively with them. That way, they may understand if you cannot give what they wanted if it is too much, but at least appreciate the beauty of the gift that you can give them.

Being able to communicate much more effectively with your children can help you strengthen your relationship with them. You will know what they want and can teach them if its too much or not.

You should give your children the chance to enjoy their childhood. You can give them children's party in any form even if its not expensive, as long as you provide much fun on it. It could only happen once a year and pressure or stress might be bearable for that occasion only. What is important is that we do not cross the limit or not wanting more than what we can have.

At their early age, you can educate your children if you communicate much more effectively with them. That way, they may understand if you cannot give what they wanted if it is too much, but at least appreciate the beauty of the gift that you can give them.

Wow! Just reading these posts reinforces my chosen philosophy about celebrating birthdays. I neither want to nor feel pressured to succumb to anybody's idea of what a good birthday party is. Never have, even though I have attended some of these over-the-top affairs. Our birthdays are usually celebrated with family at home. There is cake, a good meal and plenty of hugs and kisses. There are usually very simple gifts, maybe a popular or current book, a $5 or $10 gift card, etc. The birthday kid truly feels loved and appreciated. Every once and a while the party might involve a different setting like a restaurant or the ice skating rink and a few friends. But my kids know that those parties are a real rarity. I have told them from the beginning that I operate on simplicity and real meaning. Thankfully, they just appreciate the celebration. Is all of this due to lack of financial resources? No, not in the least. I want my kids to understand what's truly important; being surrounded by people that genuinely care about them. This relates to all aspects of their lives. At the end of the birth-day, you can have all the material things in the world, but those things will not provide real JOY.

Perhaps we are unique in this respect but we give each child a budget for their birthday. They can make choices within that budget. ($100)

Even my 3 year year old understood that he could have more kids at home or fewer kids away from home.

For my older kids, we sit down and come up with a specific budget, researching what options are out there. This requires careful math skills.

The $125 has to cover everything, invites: (I charge for paper if they use the computer at home for these), cake, ice cream, snacks, thank you notes, decorations, plates, napkins, goodie bags etc.

Last year, my daughter became obsessed with pirates, so I decided to throw her a pirate-themed birthday party. She was turning 3. We rented a pavillion at a local park, I made treasure map invitations, ordered a cake from a bakery, bought a treasure chest pinata and filled it with Pirates of the Carribbean M&Ms and ring pops, buried a wooden treasure chest filled with plastic jewelry and coins which the kids got to dig up. I also had bandanas for each child to wear, eye patches and pirate temporary tattoos. I invited fewer than 15 children to the party, all of whom we'd known for years or were family, and the party was a roaring success. Too much of a success. Ever since then I have been repeatedly asked how I planned to top last year's party. It hadn't even occured to me that people would expect me to top myself. I had a lot of fun planning my daughter's birthday party, did a lot of things myself, but I still spent too much money and was tied up in knots, fretting about whether or not the party would be a success. And I was utterly exhausted afterwards. My daughter still wears the pirate t-shirt I made for her, as well as her pirate hats, but in hindsight, I didn't really need to spend money on the pirate themed table coverings, the 'Beware of Pirates' sign, and there was entirely too much candy, including chocolate coins I ordered online which were very expensive and tasted awful. This year's party is going to be very low-key and family-oriented. I'm not interested in topping myself.

I was a bit shocked by the third comment on the page. January 29, 2007. I see why she posted as anonymous. I would be too ashamed to write my name too. Not only because she spends so much money on her parties, but the entire hateful tone of her comment. She talks of all the charity and things that her 5 year old wants to do and that is wonderful. My question, however is this. When she grows up and doesn't have your money and she is possibly married to a man that can't provide that lifestyle will she be happy? I'm sure you'll say yes. Try testing that. Have a simple birthday party for her and see if it really is ok with her. My guess is that she will be disappointed, maybe even embarrassed. What will her other friends say when she doesn't have this grand celebration?

I totally agree with celebrating the birth of your child. I also believe that we are also raising our children to be adults. It sounds to me like this lady is raising her daughter with a false sense of financial responsibility. I feel sorry for the man that her daughter will marry. Unless he makes the same amount of money as her family how will he ever measure up to her standards. Unless her Mommy and Daddy plan to continue to give and give all of her life.

I have a son that turned four years old in April. His first birthday party was just family, but we went all out for his second birthday party.It had a construction theme. We rented space for the party at a park. We had all kinds of activities that no one played with because they just wanted to run around. We had toys to ride on,and not a single child touched them. They just wanted to run around. I had beautiful decoration that I'm sure no one other than the parents noticed, because the kids were running around. I had hard hats for the kids with their names on them. Not a single child kept one on their heads because it would get in their way as they ran around. I had fantastic goodie bags that didn't seem to be a big deal at all to the other children. Most left them sitting around the park and I had to give them to their parents so they weren't left.

I didn't learn my lesson. His third birthday was the same way with the same response from the kids. This time we had a circus theme. With beautiful Lion cupcakes, a circus tent cake, lots of decorations, face painting, etc. Only one child painted his face...mine. The others just wanted to run around and play. SOOOOO...for his fourth birthday I asked him what he wanted to do. He told me that he wanted only his four best friends to come over and play. So we had a cookout at my house, with cake and ice-cream, and a few balloons, and streamers, and they ran around all afternoon. He had as much fun at that party as he did at his others, and it saved me hundreds of dollars. I have learned my lesson!

I'm back after about six months, and I want to say that this site really stopped me from going down a really stupid path. We have ditched the party bags and all favors. We use bubbles or little art supplies for game prizes. We also offer our kids, as they get older, a choice: An "event" where they can have one friend and do something really special (the last one was Build a Bear and it was the best birthday ever!) or they can have a simple party. Our lives are so much better because of the wisdom we gained from this site. Thanks!

This is such a GREAT site, I'm sooo glad I came by the article I found it in! I have been saying for the last few yrs that this party phenom was getting grossly out of hand! As a mom of 4 kids, I feel horrible every yr when school starts...here goes another yr of crazy bdays and spoiled non-appreciative families. As my children's bdays are about to start, I again feel the pressure to keep up w/ the "in crowd" of their friends' parties. We aren't able to compete financially but I still feel I have to. I want to cry sometimes and feel ashamed when my kids ask "mommy, can I please have a party at ______?" and the end result is no. I NEVER had bday parties as a child, so I go crazy over planning and then have to step back and regain my composure. I want so badly to give them everything incl. the moon and stars but let's be realistic. I know it's not for ME, it's for my child. They have never had a party other than at home, but as they get older we try to do different things. For ex.: we think of what they want and have a family meeting asking what everyone thinks/get suggestions, want a big gift?, a big party (like w/ themed plates, goodies, etc)?, a special day w/ mom, dad, or the family, or something else they had on their mind? We have special circumstances in our family as well. We have a huge family and extended family as well, our bdays start at the beginning of the school yr, we have bdays close together...in fact my hubby and 1 daughter are only 2 days apart, we also have a son w/ a bday only 5 days after Xmas.

We've found that Family Fun has really great ideas, esp. those for at home parties, Nick Jr also has wonderful printables that can be used, in fact we once made a Blue's Clues party almost completely from printables from invites, placemats,stickers, goodybag treats, thank yous, etc. Additionally, I make the cake always (however I am a cake maker, so that helps!).

To refer to another comment left about the classrooms/teachers/daycare insisting that everyone in their class be invited this is how we address that issue. First, they cannot force you to invite everyone, so get over that! Though, most schools ask that invites not be distributed in class unless the whole class is being invited or the entire specific sex (girl or boy) group is being invited. If your child is older, they may hand deliver invites to their friends or we send a sheet to school and their friends (b/c they always get new ones when school starts) write down their addy, ph #, parents email and mail or email the invites out from that.

We, of course, have started the discussion w/ the kids about what they'd LIKE to have, not what they are going to GET! We try w/in our means to make a reasonable compromise. Based on that we start our guest list standoff...lol. Unless it's not going to be an issue, such as they just wanted a low key, play some games w/ cake party. However, if it's any bigger the rule is the # of kids totally invited is no more than 5 over their age. We do account for the fact that we have 4 kids and at some places that's already enough for a party reservation. lol

Stand together moms (and dads) and let's stop this fanatic craziness! How much is enough and at what point do you stop? We've been invited to parties at Disney which are $1000s of dollars for a 5 yr and gifts that become more attrocious...a 9 yr old getting a Louis Vuitton purse!! What's next, a car by their 12th bday?!

Wow, I am glad that I found this web site. I have two kids that are 2 and 5. The 2 year old was born on Dec. 23 and the 5 year old was born on Jan. 1. For all of the past birthdays, we have held a lunch on News Year's Day for the immediate family and sometimes the neighbor and her son. I just fix something like pizza or frozen lasagnas, sides, cake, etc. The past two years we have made the kids share their party since their birthdays are so close to Christmas and each other. I know, we are horrible. But it just seems cruel to expect people to come to our house for one more event during the Christmas season. I think this year I will have a small family party for the toddler in early December and then allow the older child to have a friend or two spend the night for her birthday. I have friends who rent skating rinks or science centers or McDonalds. Those parties are nice and those children are very lucky, but we just don't have the excessive cash for items such as that. We need to save our money for things like a new insulin pump for our 5 year old who is a type one diabetic, their college expenses and our retirement. I think if you have money to spend and you can still pay for their college education later on w/o going into debt, that is wonderful. But if you aren't sure how you will pay for their college and your retirement, maybe you should look into more lowkey celebrations.

Most of the toys that the kids got for their past birthdays are already broken.

I despise the party bags they get, the stuff gets all over the house and the toddler is always at risk for choking. However, our local McDonald's gives a coupon for a free dessert at the next visit. Yum!

Wow, I am glad that I found this web site. I have two kids that are 2 and 5. The 2 year old was born on Dec. 23 and the 5 year old was born on Jan. 1. For all of the past birthdays, we have held a lunch on News Year's Day for the immediate family and sometimes the neighbor and her son. I just fix something like pizza or frozen lasagnas, sides, cake, etc. The past two years we have made the kids share their party since their birthdays are so close to Christmas and each other. I know, we are horrible. But it just seems cruel to expect people to come to our house for one more event during the Christmas season. I think this year I will have a small family party for the toddler in early December and then allow the older child to have a friend or two spend the night for her birthday. I have friends who rent skating rinks or science centers or McDonalds. Those parties are nice and those children are very lucky, but we just don't have the excessive cash for items such as that. We need to save our money for things like a new insulin pump for our 5 year old who is a type one diabetic, their college expenses and our retirement. I think if you have money to spend and you can still pay for their college education later on w/o going into debt, that is wonderful. But if you aren't sure how you will pay for their college and your retirement, maybe you should look into more lowkey celebrations.

Most of the toys that the kids got for their past birthdays are already broken.

I despise the party bags they get, the stuff gets all over the house and the toddler is always at risk for choking. However, our local McDonald's gives a coupon for a free dessert at the next visit. Yum!

My family recently attended a birthday party for a 5yr old in which we brought one gift from all of us. We left with more than we brought for the birthday girl. My girls got plastic containers to put candy in from the pinata, an additional "goody bag" w/junk and a package of books. I told the mother it was "over the top" but she replied that everything came from the Dollar Store so it was no big deal. She missed the point!! After we left, I explained to my girls(4&5yrs)as best I could, that the best part of the party was being with all their friends, not the gifts we came home with. That was the most recent experience with outrageous birthday parties. Hopefully this website will bring awareness to others and the madness will stop.

This is a good website! I live in a nice area of Colorado surrounded by lots of wealthy, older parents. I am a single mom, so we make and decorate our own cakes, which actually look nicer than expensive store bought cakes. My son just had his 7th birthday and we had a small family party and he go to invite a couple of friends. We also went to a local Rennassiance festival the day after his actual birthday which he loved. He recieved plenty of gifts and cards.
This past year at his school he recieved lots of invitations to birthdays.The ones he went to were over the top with every single child in his class invited, and the birthday child getting a massive pile of expensive gifts! Plus pizza, ice cream, fancy gift bags, and so on for each of the guests. I dislike buying a gift for a child that gets such a huge hoard of stuff.

I am looking for great comments and questions about birthday parties. We are a podcast show about keeping life simple so you can enjoy what really matters. We will be interviewing Michelle from Birthdays Without Pressure.
Reply to this message or our site at questions@vickyandjen.com.
Simply,
Jen

Tomorrow for my 2-year old's birthday we will be re-using many of the Winnie the Pooh decorations that we used at my son's first and second birthday parties. If your friends stick their noses up at this, select new friends. My kids' faces light up when they see Pooh, and they could care less whether he is last year's cake topper.

A fun tradition we started with my son is having the guests sign a special birthday table cloth. I bought an inexpensive, white vinyl table cloth and the guests sign their names & the year on it with a permanent marker while they're eating cake. We don't use it every year, but I think some day my son and daughter will get a kick out of seeing who came to their parties.

We have one child, she will be six at the end of June. She has had one big party when she turned one (which I did not want to have, but my husband did.) Of course, she could have cared less and we did all the work. There was about 30 relatives there and she doesn't remember a thing about it. Then when she was 3 we had a "Princess Tea Party" at our home. The women had everything for dress up, took pictures, had a craft to do and even got the cake. My daughter did not even enjoy it. She wanted to play outside. Being dressed in the women's fancy dresses took the fun out of that. That was my wake up call. Since then we have always had a small party at our home with grandparents, godparents, and a few neighborhood friends. This year we are planning another party at home with 5 children from her kindergarten class, 3 cousins and 5 close friends. We are having a magician and lots of games. At first, I also, was going to have a cake made at a bakery but this morning I decided to do homemade mini cupcakes. I am not all about the fuss. I grew up with only a cake celebration after dinner with my family. That is how my daughter likes it as well. Of course, we will have a small celebration for her and with her grandparents on her actual birhtday.

i say if you have the money do it. We took 20 of m 12 yr olds frinds to the mall and each had a 1,000 dollar budget.

i say if you have the money do it. We took 20 of m 12 yr olds frinds to the mall and each had a 1,000 dollar budget.

Birthday parties I've attended in Pacific Palisades, CA for 4-6 year olds included: announcing the birthday on a lighted marquis in the town center; renting a Ferris wheel at a private beach club; providing personalized M&M's for the kids and rent-a-pony on a crowded street; party favor bags that exceeded the cost of the gift we gave, and extravagant themes, such as, hiring a “Hot Wheels? collector to set up his toys.

The kids probably would have been just as content "playing".

Summer Birthdays:

Have guest bring a bag lunch and a "gift" from nature (stones, plants, flower etc.)Have water of some kind (sprinklers, pool, swimming hole, beach) provide drinks and a cake as well as blankets to rest and eat lunch on. Only get your child one gift, a special one, and they will treasure it as well as the extra time you had to spend with them because you were not "hosting" a massive party. Put the extra money in their college savings account. Invite a few adults to stay at the party with you and celebrate your "giving birth" day. One year at my son's party another mom brought me a gorgeous plant from her garden as a "giving birth" gift. My son was turning 10, he hugged me and said "yeah mom, thanks for having me" It was a nice reminder for us both.

This site definitely gives me food for thought. I just held my daughter's 7th birthday party. Honestly, I think that I really need to cut back on what I spend, especially in regards to the craft and gift bags. All told, I think I spent about 200 dollars. That included all party supplies, craft items, gift bags, and the fee for the nature center where we held the party. The nature center was great, because for 7 dollars a child, you got a half hour presentation with a live animal and a naturalist who gave a great talk about the animal and its habitat. The kids ate it up, and my daughter, who is animal-crazy, really appreciated the party. That said, in order to keep stress down to a minimum for me, I ordered the party supplies and craft activities all from one site. I'm sure that I could have found less expensive alternatives...I guess that I'm torn on whether I should go with what causes me the least stress, and saving money. The girls (total guests were 5 girls) all seemed to have a terrific time, and my daughter was a gracious gift opener...so I guess I should cut myself some slack. It's hard to get rid of "mommy guilt." I do worry all the time that I'm giving her too much. She's our only child, and we're upper-middle class, so I know that she gets quite a lot of material goods. I just pray that we are balancing that all with trying to teach her to be a good citizen and have a big heart.

It’s the escalation that bothers me – each year is bigger and more elaborate. The focus is on bells and whistles rather than friendships and relationships. What do our children learn is important: Stuff or people? I changed my tune when I realized that large parties where kids are entertained and over stimulated do nothing for building genuine friendships. Old fashioned sleepovers with a few close friends spending all evening giggling and bonding are, in my opinion, a much more meaningful gift than a limo ride to a professional basketball game or a wedding reception style dance party for a 6 year old. Is it possible these large groups of attendees don’t even like our children and are merely attending for the event? I think we owe our children lessons in establishing meaningful friendships rather than turning them into collectors of toys, entertainment highs, and shallow acquaintances.

The best parties I gave for my now teenage son were at a local park (one with dollar train and carousel rides). We bought takeout pizza, and had a cake and punch. Train rides and a playground - just what kids want. And easy cleanup.

While we prefer simple, family celebrations and refuse to bend to expectations to have over-the-top birthday parties, we also feel that families have a right to do so if they so desire. Concurrently, we have a right to accept or turn down an invitation. That said, I was appalled when my daughter received an invitation for an over-the-top, all-day party to be held during school hours at her preschool/daycare center thus making her a participant regardless of my intents or desires. When I spoke to the center director, she acknowledged that she had given the mother permission to control the day's activities for ALL children and added that the invitations were sent home so parents would know to send presents! Now, I usually send a gift even when we turn down an invitation, but I resented being EXPECTED to give a gift in a party setting held at a school during school hours. Other parents may have brought in simple refreshments for a birthday celebration, but no one else sent home sanctioned birthday party announcements requesting gifts. Center management felt gift solicitations were okay since all-day activities were planned! Consequently, there were a number of hurt feelings. Additionally, prizes and goodie bags were not available for all children. My daughter won a very nice prize which was promptly stolen by another child according to her teacher. My daughter was able to shrug it off, but there were a number of fights and tears among others. Yet, the mother of the birthday boy said she was pleased as her son had made "a nice haul". Oh, please....

An earlier poster mentioned that her sister in law gave her grief for missing a child's third birthday party due to circumstances beyond her control. I had a similar situation a few years ago with my own sister, who lives in Mass. and I live in VA. She was throwing a party to celebrate my niece's first birthday during a time when I was extremely busy with work. She was angry that I didn't drop everything to either 1) Spend 20 hours in the car over the course of a weekend to make the roundtrip drive or 2) Drop $1400 so my wife and I could fly up there to attend a party that the child will not remember. So, the following year, to keep the peace, I ended up going with option 2. I love my sister and I love my niece, but my sister insists that we come for every birthday and I don't think it's right. Her child is already showing signs of being a spoiled brat. I think that a lot of the people who have younger children were brought up during the self-esteem movement, the "i'm special, and look at what I did!" movement, so naturally their children are the ultimate "look at what I did/made" moment!

I'm putting my foot down this year and I refuse to spend big bucks for plane tickets or use up vacation days so I can spend them in the car just to appease my sister's sense of entitlement.

To be honest, I feel no pressure at all. But that was not always the case.

I have two children, 14 and 8. When my oldest was in school, I threw him a party each year. We invited his entire classroom of kids, plus their parents; I made personalized gifts for all the party-goers (one year I made bean bags with each child's name embroidered on the front. They used them in a bean bag toss, and then took the bags home with them); I made kid food and grown up food; we planned games and decorated. We never had a lot of money, so it wasn't over the top in terms of money spent, more in the time spent.

Granted these parties were fun. And I am glad that he got to experience it. But in hindsight I think one would have been plenty.

And talking to him now about it, he says that he always felt overwhelmed with all the kids and activity and noise and presents begin pushed at him.

When my oldest turned 8 we started homeschooling, and what a change in perspective I had at this point.

A few years passed and for his 11th, we invited four of his friends, all siblings, for hot dogs and cake and some paper airplane making, and asked that they bring no presents. Of course they brought one anyway, but my point in the request was that we wanted their company on his birthday and not what they could bring.

My second child has had one birthday party with friends (also the siblings mentioned above). All the rest have been small family affairs (small as in me, dad, brother, and maybe a grandma).

My opinion, for what it's worth: I think a shift occured somewhere between my childhood and my children's. It is a trend that is disturbing to me. When I was a child, there were the "big" birthdays, and by big I mean we had a few friends over, played some games (didn't win the game didn't win a prize), ate some cake, opened a couple presents, and they went home. And that was it. This notion that we must throw a huge blowout bash every year, invite everyone we know, rent halls and jumpy castles and collect piles of presents (whilst sending every kid away with a bag of goodies... little Timmy and Suzy can't feel left out; what might that do to their self esteem?) is simply feeding this young generation's greed.

In the end, throw a party if you want, or don't. But don't feel pressure (or guilt) over it.

Just wanted to add, I'm sure there are folks out there who want to play social one-up-manship. That's definitely prime parent territory!! We seriously couldn't care less. It is all for fun. The only thing that gets my dander up are the non-RSVP crowd. Hey, if you're going to be there...let people know! I don't like leaving kids out on accident!

We only do big B-days for our 3+ kiddos. Although, we do have special days for our younger kids. Actually, my husband and I have discussed it and plan to only do "big birthdays" from age 3-8 and then only the big 10, 13, 16 milestones after that...but keep with a special day or inviting a friend out.

I think, if things are done in the right spirit, it can be nice. It is fun for us and our kids love it, too.

It really makes me sad to think others take such offense to something that is just a personal preference of ours. If you have cake at your house for your kids that is great, too! We've had fun w/ both types of parties over the years. Our kids just like being included and so do we...big fancy shindig or little get together. It's all about sharing a good moment w/ friends in our book.

I never had a birthday party growing up--not one. I never had friends over to the house (it wasn't allowed). No sleep-overs. No play-dates. I didn't even get to go on *most* field trips my class took or attend summer camp.

Throwing a big birthday party at some themed place or doing a little extra for my kids and making sure that they have friends there to celebrate/party with them is really important to me. I really don't care if the parents bring gifts. I really don't care if anyone thinks the party is too much or too little. The only thing I "stress" over is my tendency to go over budget because I want the whole experience to be really fun for each kid involved. I find myself saying "oh, this would be so COOL, I bet they'd really get a bang out of this" and then trying to fit the $'s in.

Selfishly, I get to kind of experience at a distance what I dreamt of as a kid--a big, fun, b-day party filled with friends.

My kids know that the party IS the gift. We tell them that we want to supply the opportunity for awesome memories and time playing with friends that might not otherwise happen. It is kind of a "king for a day" thing. In addition my husband or I take the each kid out individually for a special one-on-one day (no siblings) just to spend together doing whatever THEY chose (museum, movie, playing at the park, swimming, whatever).

We just want the kids to feel special and have that "moment" reserved for them. We also spend time doing charity work together whenever possible and other things.

The birthday party is our one extravagant moment for each kid. If the fact that we do "big" parties bothers others I feel badly because we really do it in the spirit of sharing a good time...not rubbing noses in things.

Each year we spend about $500 per kid per birthday between their "day out" and party.

Hi there, I completely agree with this website! I can't believe how out of control parents have become with spoiling their children. I don't care how much money you have - you don't need to spoil your kids this way. I believe these parties, especially for very young children are all about the parents. An infant/toddler is not even going to remember these parties. I have two step sons and I'm expecting a baby of my own. I refuse to fall into this trap. My husband and I make good money yet we do not spoil our kids. Most birthday parties are small and family oriented. Once we took a large group of our son's friend's bowling and even that was expensive and stressful! Several years ago, I missed my niece's FIRST birthday party because I was three hours away as my dog went into labour at her breeder's home. This was her first litter and I wanted to be there. I had every intention of being home in time for the birthday party. Unfortunately, it became a long and difficult birthing, which resulted in hospitalization and a near ceasarean. Thankfully she and the pups were fine, but in the end I wasn't able to make it back for the party. This caused a huge family rift and my sister-in-law and I barely spoke for months as she was so angry with me for missing her daughter's party for "a dog". It was awful! I would never have missed it had I been in town, but it was winter and the driving conditions were treacherous, plus I would have been driving on little to no sleep just to make it there and my niece wouldn't have even known I was there - she was turning ONE!! The guilt that was laid upon me insinutating that I didn't care about my only niece and that my dog was more important was heartbreaking to me. Thankfully that is all history now and my relationship with my sister-in-law is MUCH better, but when I think back on that, it still brings up a lot of hurt. I guess the bottom line is that not only are the parties sometimes too over the top, even for small parties, the expectations attached to them is also unfair to family and friends.

Our sons' bday party consists of friends over from a weekly playgroup and we serve pizza and cupcakes. Give kids stuff from the dollar store if we think of it, or give them stickers en route out the door. One year we forgot to give them anything and no one was scarred over it. This is nuts.

We just came from a 6 year old party and I guess the stakes for goodie bags have been raised- every child at the party received a real fish! With a bowl, food and directions on how to keep it. I now have to make sure my son or I change the water for a fish we never asked once a week and find someone to feed it when we go on vacation. Honestly what next for party favors- kittens?

My situation is very unique. My husband and I both have divorced parents and our daughter is the first grand-daughter for all 7 grandparents(who mostly don't get along and make it very awkward for us all to be together unless it is a large gathering where they can all get lost in the crowd). So, in May my daughter will reach her first birthday and I couldn't handle the pressure surrounding the question, "What are we going to do for her first birthday?" Some grandparents even wanted to have their very own celebration. In addition to my party, that would mean 4 MORE 1st b-day parties. We know we couldn't have anything small if we were to invite the grandparents since it would be uncomfortable for everyone and if we invite immediate family that's at least 50 people in our small 2 bedroom apt. (Italian family :) Finally, I put my foot down and said that it is about the baby, so for her first birthday she would not have the extravagant cake that one set of grandparents wanted to make, nor would she have all the hustle and bustle. For my daughter's first birthday it will be the birthday girl, daddy, and mommy singing happy birthday around a cupcake tree that I'm going to make MYSELF. We'll take pictures and we'll celebrate together with no stress on anyone. Afterall, it is about the baby not everyone else.
I saw the news clip on t.v. about your organization and it made me feel extremely confident in my decision. Thank you so much for starting this organization:)

Well, after reading a few posts I realize this is a heated topic as to the grandeur of children's birthday parties. Consequently, I will just tell you about what we do for our 3 daughters for their parties. The party lasts from 2-3 hours and consists of party games like pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, the limbo, the chicken dance, the gift opening game (where you pass the gift around the circle and when the music stops you open a layer of the gift and pass it on. When the last layer is opened, there is a prize), freeze dancing, musical chairs (on pillows), playing in the sprinkler outside, playing with dolls, etc. etc. Of course over the years as the girls are older the games have changed but the limbo and gift passing game are still a hit at age 12!!
Also, at the party is a time for birthday cake and singing "Happy Birthday" and also gift opening. I will mention now that the gift giving is not a huge extravagence. Actually, 2 months ago for my daughters 12th birthday there were 2 girls who didn't get the message about the party and came as a very last minute thing and I insisted along with my daughter that the presence of the friend is far more valuable than bringing a gift and those 2 friends didn't bring gifts which was just fine.
At the end of our parties we give goodie bags consisting of "good" things like note books, crayons, fancy pencils, a ring etc. We do do candy now and then but I am not a big fan of it. All in all, the goodie bags are the most costly part of our parties ranging in cost from $20-$30 for ALL of the guests. I love dollar stores.
Of course my kids see what other kids are getting for a party like tubing at a ski resort or party at McDonald's or a kids play place but all in all they love their home-spun parties and feel just as special and honored on "their" day as the kid next door.
Sometimes I think about when I was a girl. Somehow back then kids only had birthday parties at home, had homemade cakes....just iced with sprinkles and candles, NO goodie-bags (what was that after all), just a few party games and playing dolls in the bedroom and singing Happy Birthday. Somehow we all felt so special and honored.

I remember when I was a little kid I didn't get these huge birthday parties, and my mom made the cakes for us. NOT THAT I DIDNT LOVE THEM (love ya ma!) but now a days, it seems like every 8 year old I know has a cell phone, and their parents would rather just give them what they want than give them what they deserve.
The rest of my family lives in California. My Uncle and his wife have a little girl named christina. This is their only kid, so I could understand a little spoiled....
I flew out there for her 3rd.... (THIRD) birthday party. First they showed me the new house the had gotten built for them. Honestly, Christina's closet was bigger than my bedroom now (which is a decent sized master bedroom), and the room was beyond rediculous.
Then the other kids started showing up for the party. There were about 30 kids there, all bearing gifts that were $50 plus dollars. One kid got her a leapfrog computer, and 5 games to go with it!!?? All the other more extravagent than the rest. REMEMBER. She is THREE!
Then her cake showed up. Her party was Dora the Explorer themed, and so of course, so was her cake. It was a beautiful cake... a very beautiful $600 novelty cake that was destroyed within 10 minutes of kids clawing through it.
OH! And to top off the evening, they spend $3K to hire a professional actor to come as Dora and play with the kids for a few hours....
WHAT?
The best I got was a little mermaid cake that was home made, and a plastic ariel to play with!
I love my baby cousin to death... but I dont believe she will every have to work for anything.... ever.

i agree a lot i have two kids 7 and 5 and wanted to do the same party s like other parents....these two partys for me was like hell and no body was happy even the kids had fights with each other.....this year we will celebrate it quitly like use my parents do.

Birthday parties are a lot like angagement rings. Just because they are bigger or more expensive doesn't mean you love the person more. My son averages one birthday party invitation a month. So in his 4 short years we have attended over 40 birthday parties. I have seen over the top parties and I have seen simple parties.
There are a few things I have observed from them:
1) Treat bags are a waste. How long has your child played with anything they have got in a treat bag? I usually give each child a small book, a coloring book, or one small gift that fits the theme of the party. Like a plastic ball and bat for a baseball party. It's at least something they can use.
2) Don't hand out invitations in front of others. It sounds old fashioned but manners never go out of style. My son goes to preschool and the going thing for most is only girls are invited to girl parties. That is fine but my son was hurt when he saw his freinds and classmates recently be invited to a party and he and the other boys weren't. It's sad when a 4 year old says "Will I get to go too Mommy?"
3)Don't spend a lot on the gift. But be thoughtful about it. Find out what the child is into. My limit is $15 per gift. There are a lot of nice tings out there for that price if you use your imagination. I also buy one large roll of non-themed unisex birtday paper and use it all year long.
4) Keep it simple. Your child and your wallet and the other parents will thank you. For my son's 4th birthday in November we used our church's fellowship center which has a foosball table and a small Little Tikes swingset (which we brought inside for the party) We brought along some our son's toys for the kids to play with. Legos, a crawl tunnell, his sit and spin, a play tent, and a small blow up bounce toy. We served pizza, soft drinks in cans, and a cupcake birthday cake from the bakery. There were probably 50 people there including grandparents, kids and their parents. The whole thing cost around $100 including plates, napkins etc. and everyone had a blast! Our son got to play with all his friends all the parents got to socialize and the grandparents and great-grandparents loved watchig the kids play. They even got into the action themselves.
And isn't what it's all about.

In my own family I have begun to see the trend of over the top birthdays. For instance my very best friend set up a decorated moving trailer for gifts(six or 8 feet long spent over 500 dollars on gifts for her then six year old child,had games where her child was bound to be the winner because she was older then all of the other kids invited, let only her child hit the 35 dollar pinata, spent $40 on cake and ice cream alone,and more than 100 dollars on food and drinks. While that may not seem over the top to some people it is to me. This child actually scoffed and tossed my children's very thoughtful gift of a journal($3)bought so she might record her experiences spent in another country and some dress up items ($5). My friend did not correct her child for such behavior, only handed her a "better" gift. She invited 40 people, mostly adults and she spent nearly an hour and a half opening her gifts. This is the same child who actually throws massive fits at resturants, almost refuses to share her many toys with my children when we come to visit and the same child that my three year old ask me why she was so mean. If that in itself does not show these "butt out" parents that you are rasing self centered,materalistic,
greedy children I don't know what will wake you up. This sight is not intended to tell you how to spend your precious money but to help you raise an adult who wants to spend time with you because you spent TIME with them when they were children. Yes we want you to celebrate their birthday and yes we want you to show them they are special but do it within reason. To those of you who are making a joke of this sight with your bragging about over the top parties: grow up. This really is a serious matter in our society. We live near a staunch Amish community and frequently see the commonplace horse and buggy go by and I can't help think how simple and fulfilled their lives are and often say so to my children. I do celebrate my childrens birthday with parties that are simple. We don't have " goody bags" but a simple craft project that the children made themselves and can take home. We do have gifts but with in reason and the birthday girl of the day sits in a chair and the the gift giver sits acroos from her while she opens her gift. That way both children feel special. Games? Marshmellow relay and homemade pin the tail on the donkey, sack races. Our guests love coming to our homemade parties. It's like nothing they have ever done before. Yes it takes almost two months to plan and prepare, simply because my husband and I hand make everything from the invites, games,and our other children make their gifts that they give and the birthday child helps in ways that aren't too revealing of what the suprise will be. I even made the pinata for our last party. It's so much fun to see thier faces when they make thier own party favors because it is something they created on thier own not something that was handed to them. The cost? MAYBE $20. if that. Another case in point: At christmas one year we were really strapped for cash, barely making ends meet just getting by, so I handmade christmas ornaments for the nieces and nephews, and my children and I made chocolate candy and put them in decorative bags. For the adults I spent three days planning and making pinecone and acorn ornaments and candy. This was really too much money spent for what we had to work with. When the gifts were exchanged(all store bought except for ours) our gifts actually called for silence from everyone and then they proceeded to make fun of them in front of us in very subtle undertones "oh these are cute and aww". This year the ornaments were in the very back of the tree so they wouldn't be seen. This year my husband and I didn't recieve anything from anyone on his side of the family and were told that the adults wouldn't be exchanging gifts because they would rather recieve something with value. WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEEOPLE? These people hurt me beyond words and didn't seem to care. To Christine Sacco: keep trying to change, one day it will make a difference. This year we are staying in our newly purchased home, just our small family, gathering around the fireplace and sharing what the true meaning of christmas is all about. we'll have a few gifts and stockings but at least MY kids will know that I love them and the fact that they are number one in our lives, not the Joneses. My advice Christine? STOP WORRYING SO MUCH ABOUT WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK IT ONLY MATTERS WHAT YOUR KIDS THINK AMD I hope they think and know that you love them no matter what.

Thanks so much. I actually got some really good suggestions for my daughter's 3rd b-day coming up. My first son was in Kindergarten and I planned a huge party at the park next to the school and I was going to go big! I was so excited!! Then no one RSVP'd so luckily I saved money on booking things and buying stuff. Then we ended up having a hurricane come through our city that day anyway. Now I'm on my 3rd child and ever since that first fiasco it's been the simpler the better. I do like to do the parties at other locations though because that is a lot less stressful for me. I think the Gymboree Play and Music sounds fun for my daughter's birthday next month and the campout sounds fun for the boys' next birthdays. Thanks for the helpful info!

This is a great site! Too bad every parent doesn't get to read it! Our children are now 30 & 32 but we recall sometime during their last formal parties (before their teens) that other kids actually asked "Where are our goodie bags?" When did this all start & who was the dumby that did it? Our 2 birthdays were in late May so hopefully it was warm enough for games on the lawn or putting out the Slippery Slider, then cake & a ride home in the convertible. Hopefully the sanity returns!

This experience did not happen to me personally, but to my sister in law a few years ago. Her 6 year old son had recently started school and made some new friends. They were then invited to an old fashioned traditional birthday party for my nephew in November. First the kids played, then some organized games were introduced, then hot dogs were served, then cake, candles, singing, making a wish, blowing out candles, etc. After about an hour and a half one kid looked at my sister in law, rolled his eyeballs at her and said in a very annoyed voice: "Well, aren't we GOING anywhere or DOING anything??"

when my brother in law was a kid his dad would put all the toys in the attic after Christmas except for a couple for each child. Then every month it was like going to the store. The father would bring down a couple more toys and pass on or put up the toys that they had lost interest in. It worked well for them and the kids were use to it so they didn't argue the point.

I have found the Family Fun magazine as well as the on line info from Family Fun to be very easy to use and full of user friendly birthday ideas that are not over the top but are lots of fun.

When I was a kid my mom had a great rule: you host a birthday party with a number of guests equal to the age of the child. So two year old has two friends over, a three year old has three friends, a four year old has four...and so on. It's much less overwhelming and more fun for the child.

Children these days are raised in ways that make them self centered. Everything is geared toward teaching children about how "special and unique" they are. Why is anybody surprised at what's going on with these birthday parties? The little monsters are given the world on a plate as it is. Sports, dancing, singing lessons galore, their own cars the second they get a license (no, not the hand me down beater car, but new cars, it's EXPECTED), and the parents gladly do it so they can show off to their adult friends.

These are also the parents who hover around their children and shield them from disappointment and failure. When I was growing up, if I got a bad grade, my parents blamed ME. They didn't call the teacher and demand to know why I didn't get a higher mark. Or, when I saw less playing time on sports teams than others, I knew it was because I was not as good as the other players. My parents didn't threaten to sue the coach. See what is happening here? The parents just can't BEAR the thought of little Kym, Kylie, Karyn (yes, the "unique" names that some parents give their kids, another bad trend) not being perfect in every way. And instead of using these moments as opportunities to learn a lesson and to improve skills (be they math, english, baseball, cheerleading), the parents take great offense and try to cram their "vision" of their child down the throats of others.

I feel bad for these kids because they are being set up to be crippled as adults. I already see it with some of the recent 22 year old college grads that my firm hires each year. They are "book smart" but most of them have very little common sense. Many of them get defensive if you criticize them in any way (i'm talking constructive criticism related to work matters). They whine. They can't handle having downtime because they were so overscheduled growing up. They have a hard time with tasks that require abstract thinking, probably due to all the battery powered toys and coma inducing "educational" video tapes their parents had them watch. Big on brains, but no creativity.

I don't think it's a coincidence that the number of young Americans in therapy is on the rise. And as the current glut of children enter adulthood, it will only get worse since they will probably be even worse off in terms of having the skills to cope with the stress and anxiety of living in the real world.

Sorry for the long rant - it's just that these out of control birthday parties are really symptom of the sickness plaguing this country right now. We're ruining our children and setting them up to be miserable adults. This has to stop.

Coming from a wealthy family, my sister Anna-Maria and I were most always treated like princesses; however, I decided that things would be different for my children. First off, Nadia and Clarice, my seventeen-month-old twins, did not have a birthday party when they turned one. Instead, I invited my sister, best friend and her then fourteen-month-old daughter, and in-laws over for some cake because I knew that they wouldn't remember it, and would discard any toys that they got. So, instead of presents, I asked for donations to charities in the girls' names. Of course, I took pictures, and I also have put all of the certificates for donations into the girls' scrapbooks. I have the same planned for my nine-month-old daughter, Corianna.

My children are grown. But I look at these extreme parties and am just amazed at the unwise lengths these parents are going to for their child's parties. First of all...their kids don't care! Kids want a few things for a party to be successful, in THEIR eyes: they want their best friend there, they want something fun to eat (not a buffet...pizza & ice cream & cake is enough)...they want their family around (Mom. Dad, siblings, grandparents), balloons are a nice touch...and they want some presents! Period! $100 from start to finish. That includes the pizza and the presents! I don't know who the parents are trying to impress...maybe other parents. But the days of birthday parties at hotels and being catered are so unwise and so unnecessary. My kids remember some of their fondest birthday memories as the birthdays with the simpliest celebration, and the people they love in attendance.

I am the proud aunt of an eight year old girl, almost nine now that I think about it. After a girl scouting trip to a nonprofit organization called Feed My Starving Children, she decided she wanted to do something different for her birthday. For her eighth birthday, she had her friends and family get together at Feed My Starving Children, a site where meals are packaged for starving children throughout the world. FMSC works with relief organizations throughout the world to distribute these packaged meals. She asked that her friends and family make a donation rather than buy her birthday presents. Our family enjoyed this experience so much that our family also volunteered over Thanksgiving weekend. It was such an amazing experience for our family. Now that her birthday is rolling around again, she has decided to have her party at the site and has asked again for donations instead of presents. It’s really uplifting to see a young girl realize the difference she is making by taking time on her special day to help others.

I have one child who is 17. We tried to make his birthday special for him each year, this meant that we would always ask what he wanted to do at his party and most importantly, who would he like to see. As he was born right after Christmas, we would usually pick a day for him to have his party sometime in the summer and on his actual birthdate, friends and family were asked to send cards only. Reading these post comments makes me feel blessed that our son just wanted to go out to dinner with his two set of grandparents when he turned 16 and that for his 17th birthday, he went to see a movie with a few of his friends. Possibly the best birthday present he ever received was when he turned 5 and some friends brought along the boxes that their new, (large) appliances came in. The kids had a blast and the presents were recycled afterwards. The only thing that mattered was that my son knew that he was important on that day to all of the people who came.

We have a couple friends who had their first child as they rounded 40. The first b-day party was crazy. They had a couple of blow up activity things, like the indoor trampoline. A Giant blow up Barney, a pool, the hot tub had to be installed b-4 the party, presents out the wazoo, maybe 60 people coming and going at all times, most not even acknowledging the baby. This was his first b-day! His second was even worse, twice as big, and now after seeing this site I realize how we even inadvertantly contributed. See, my wife and I raise quarter horses, and teach riding lessons from our ranch. We didn't have much money that year, so we thought we would show up with 2 of our lesson horses. We did have fun handwalking the kids around the cul-de-sac for a couple hours, but when we decided it was time to go, well you'd have thought we were the worst people on the planet to some of these kids. They got mean to us, and we just said if you want to ride some more than you'll have to have your parents pay for riding lessons from us. Besides it was August there was no shade for the horses and they had done their job. The kids didn't care, they would've rode those horses to exhaustion because it's all about them in their minds. I won't even go into the third b-day. We don't plan on going to the fourth.

Thank Goodness for this site! The first out of control birthday party I attended was for a six year old girl. It took her two hours to open her presents and it took two pickup trucks to haul them home. I was so disgusted by that that I promised myself my daughter would never have a party like that. Now we do small family parties where she gets maybe five small gifts, and then we have cake and ice cream and play. These extravagant parties make me sick. The kid was just looking around for more presents and couldn't even tell you what she had received so far. It was ridiculous.

For me it is not so much about the actual party, which can become costly it is more so about the gifts. My son turned five at the end of last month and for the first time I held a "kid" party in the early afternoon and a family party following right after that. Between Christmas and birthdays both of my children (ages five and soon to be three) get way too many gifts and we end up gift giving to way too many people for both birthdays and Christmas. I go through this every year and it seems to get worse and makes me more miserable than the last year. How do I make my family and friends see that my kids do not need all of that stuff and their kids don't need it either. I would really like this madness to stop, or at least lessen, without alienating family and friends; however I am at a loss of what to do next. I really don't want this to continue. I'd also like to mention because my son received so much new stuff there are still unopened gifts in his closet.

For me it is not so much about the actual party, which admittedly can become quite costly, it is more so about the gifts. My son turned five at the end of last month and for the first time I held a "kid" party in the early afternoon and a family party following soon after.
Both of my children (ages five and soon to be three) get way too many gifts between Christmas and birthdays.

My son received so many new things for both Christmas and his birthday that there are still unopened gifts in his closet.

This madness needs to stop or at least lessen. Without alienating family and friends; how do I convince them that it's out of control and that gifts are not that important?

I even mentioned to a friend of mine, who I knew was on a tighter budget than usual this year, just to worry about her own family for Christmas. She got offended.

What is wrong with just spending time together with family and friends. Isn't that gift enough? When I say things like that I told that I am being a scrooge or a cheapskate.

I go through this every year and it only seems to get worse with each passing year. It can't continue like this.

Any suggestions?

For my daughter's 9th birthday party I brought her and 3 friends to a Chinese food restaurant - they all got a little more dressed up than usual and we had a wonderful dinner... like a girl's night out! I told the parents ahead of time to keep the presents small and they did, and my kids truly appreciate their friends more than the gifts. For my son's 7th, I brought him and 3 friends to Chuck E. Cheese - no, not a full-blown party, we just had a pizza and I got them some tokens. Again, gifts were not extravagant, and my son had the time of his life. As far as party favors, I usually stop at the dollar store and pick up one small thing for each kid - I can't be bothered with all the junk that comes in the bags. Or better yet, when I get the helium balloons at the dollar store I use them for the favors - kids love them! Here's another good one - my daughter's best friend also turned 9, and her mom brought just the two of them to the circus. So simple, but the memories will last forever.

For my daughter's 9th bday party I brought her and 3 friends to a chinese food restaurant - they all got a little more dressed up than usual and we had a wonderful dinner... like a girl's night out! I told the parents ahead of time to make the presents small and they did, and my kids are learning to appreciate their friends and not the gifts. For my son's 7th, I brought him and 3 friends to Chuck E. Cheese - no, not a party-party, but we had a pizza and I got them some tokens. Again, gifts were not extravagant, and my son had the time of his life. As far as party favors, I usually stop at the dollar store and pick up one small thing for each kid - I can't be bothered with all the junk that comes in the bags. Or better yet, I sometimes get the balloons for the party and use them for the favors - kids love them!

Sometimes it seems these parties are more about the mom trying to get attention for herself, instead of for her little boy or girl. Parties where all the relatives are invited, etc etc.

What's up with collecting all the lovely, wrapped packages, loading them in the car, and opening them at home - in private???!!! This is a relatively new practice. Birthday party after birthday party, my son says, "Mom why aren't they opening the presents?" I want to say, "Because they're self-focused morons honey." We take the time to pick out 'just the right gift' only to have our gift seized upon arrival, and tucked away, opening it during a more convenient time for the hosts. If it's not convenient to open the presents AT the birthday party...then why have a birthday party?????

My son turned 4 this year and his nursery school forced me to invite every child in the class. We don't have the room here for all those kids. I had to pay a small fortune at Chucky Cheese for this party that he won't even remember.

Don't you think the schools are at fault for this madness by forcing us to invite every kid in the class? Now if they forced me only to invite the boys in his class, I would have invited all 14 of them into my home and saved a bundle of cash.

When I am invited to a non-home birthday party, I feel like I have to get a more expensive gift to cover the cost of having the expensive birthday party. I think other people feel the same. There is no way a price limit on presents is going to work with non-home birtday parties!!

We have to start having parties at home again! The schools have to stop forcing us to invite every child in the class!!!

The expectaion of the "party bag" has GOT to stop. Why can't it be good enough to plan a little art project (like star wars magnets that we made at my 6 y.o. party) and THAT is what you get to bring home. We give our children too much. What is there to look forward to if they get everything they want now??

This is a good party: When my daughter turned 5 I purchased a bunch of straw garden hats and cowboy hats, tons of (off season)ribbon, and some feathers. (I planned ahead so everything was on clearance) We went to a park with a community room and the kids, boys and girls made the hats with the help of my glue gun. They wore them all afternoon; that was their gift. After the craft we went to the playground sporting our new hats and played. Great CHEAP party. Everyone loved it. Some of the kids still have thier hats.

I once threw a party together for my young child that included hiking through the woods and sitting on big rocks while eating lunch that I had wrapped up in napsacks and tied to sticks. I don't think the party cost anything and every kid there said it was the most fun they ever had - some kids told their Moms they wanted the same kind of party. That party was a wake up call for me and from that day forward I gave up on Chuckie Cheese, Ice Skating, Movies, Horseback Riding, etc., etc.,

I am saddened by what parents have done to kids these days. Sure I am guilty of spoiling my kids, but my kids are absolutely thrilled by old fashioned home parties. My 7 year old son actually prefers them. His birthday is around Halloween, so we invite his friends over, in costume. The boys are very excited to be able to wear their costumes, plain and simple. We picked up some frozen pizzas, cup cakes, had some games planned, and the next thing you know, they were just playing, together and I just stood back and enjoyed my view! 17 boys just playing on their hands and knees with cars, Legos, and whatever else spurred their imagination. My son said it was the best party "EVER!" and a couple of the boys who were at this party begged their parents for an at-home party as well. They don't get downtime to just play together anymore.

My 5 year old daughter's party wasn't much different. The girls came dressed in their favorite party dress, some Halloween costumes, others had Easter dresses. We had a tea party. I picked up some foam tiaras and some self adhesive "jewels" and they decorated their own crowns. Then we had some beads, some plastic twine and strung necklaces and bracelets. I had each girl bring a stuffed friend and had ribbons and barrets that they could "make over" themselves or their little furry friend. I had pb&j "finger sandwiches" and cupcakes for 13 girls. Another successful super sized playdate. No fighting, no crying, just playing. Both parties were done for around $100 each! The best feeling for us was the kids want the same type of thing next year and their friends are starting to follow suit! Dollar stores and online catalog stores where you can purchase things by the gross really can spark your imagination as well!

At both parties the parents did NOT stay. I have to admit, given the option in our area, if you don't have to stay, you dump and run and thank the host at drop off and pick up. The kids behave better, too.

Why can't we just let kids be kids? Save all those happy meal toys and stuff them in a pinata! It all ends up in the trash anyway, but you would think the kids found gold when it showers down on their head!

I think a distinction ought to be drawn between the big, one-time "life passage" parties, and over-the-top birthday parties.

I live in an area with a large population of Pacific Islanders. It is customary to hold a large celebration around the child's first birthday. It is not so much a birthday party per se, but a family party -- hooray! The child made it through the perilous first year. Yes, the parties tend to be large, but it's not for the kid, but for the family and to cement the family's bonds with the community.

There are also a lot of Hispanics in my neck of the woods, and the Quinceañera, which you can read about here, if you are unfamiliar with the celebration:

http://www.mexconnect.com/mex_/travel/dpalfrey/dpquince.html

There is also a significant Jewish population who hold b'nai mitzvah (bar mitzvah for boys, bat mitzvah for girls) religious observances and receptions following.

Individual examples of each of these celebrations can be over the top (for example, the excess perpetrated by David H. Brooks on the occasion of his daughter Elizabeth's Bat Mitzvah). However, the celebration itself, or a large guest list isn't necessarily excessive.

I gather folks here would find a Hummer H2 is an unreasonable gift for my sweet 16 daughter. I had to do without as a child. I am fortunate that my children do not.

I am interested in pitching a story about parents who are trying to go against this tide of expensive childrens' parties.

I'm looking for parents willing to share their stories or experience in standing up to party pressure. I am specifically looking for parents who live in the following areas: the District of Columbia, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Delaware.


The topic is interesting and not much has been written about it. The story also appeals to our demographic.

Thanks in advance for any help you can offer.

although i see how these parties are getting way out of hand, i also feel that in some way they might be a positive element in our society where very few people understand or partake in gift giving apart from christmas. i come from a culture where it is rude to show up to someone's house for the first time empty handed. yet, here in this country people never think of bringing something, whether it is food or flowers or any small token gesture of thoughtfulness. in this american culture of materialism it is okay to spend money on yourself but when it comes to giving to others we are at a loss. perhaps the goody bag idea at least attempts to acknowledge the concept that you receive but need to also give something back in exchange. i think that our materialist focus generates a manic need to go overboard on the party.

Sally told me about this site and I was shocked.
I give my child a big party every year!! Everyone I know does!!
We make every year of their life a big celebration. We're happy to have them with us, healthy and bright.
My daughter is now 10 and still gets her big parties. She looks forward to them.
She gets whatever she wants that day and gets to invite whoever she pleases. We have spent anywhere from $5000 to over $15,000. Last year we invited all of her friends for a weekend at the AG Place ( all costs paid by us) all the way from Florida. So what?? It should be of noone's business if we want to spend our hard earned money like this. My husband feels the same way!
We don't do it to impress anyone.
We do it because we work hard for HER.
She chooses what she wants to do with our party planner.
We do though, donate the same amount we spend each year so another child can have a birthday experience as well.
We are happy to have been blessed with great careers but we share our fortune with others.
We were taught this when growing up and we now teach it to her.
We have taught our daughter to value what she has and to be generous to others but never to feel higher than anyone because material things could be here one day, gone the next.
She's a high honor student and at the earliest age of 5 was already involved in charity work with us.

She gets these elaborate parties but donates all the gifts to a children's home ( she had the idea herself to do this)
One time we asked guests to bring reading books to be donated to a low income day cares, another time toys to be donated to the local children's hospital.
In ending,
I don't see why it's such a big problem to some people to see others enjoying the better things in life with their children. If people want to spend on their child, why not. If you don't want to, it's your choice.
I don't think sitting at home , putting others down will solve any problems in life.
The important issue at hand our country suffering from is the loss of values and morals. Parents are too busy now a days to teach their children the important things in life.
A child who is well taught will know to accept whatever is given. To give and not wait for something in return and to respect others at all costs.
One more thing to those of you in this campaign,

Get up from that seat and go spend time with your child. When was the last time you both did something together or did something to help someone you know in need!
As many have already said, Lets get real America, and lets start campaigning for something better, like putting someone else in the White House that will fix the education and poverty issues in the future!! That way they too can have BIG OutRAGEOUS Birthdays for their loved ones!!!!!

My husband worked at a private residential community and country club in Windermere, Fl. One of the families had a $250000. birthday party for their 7-year old daughter. There were limos to pick up all of the guests, t-shirts for the 250+ staff, an adult party with alcohol, rented the grand ballroom for the kids, helicopter rides, horses, wild animals and so on.

My adult niece recently attended a party in Florida for a 5 year old. The party included a circus, hot dog vendor, cotten candy vendor, and a ferris wheel among other things. Total cost $10,000.

Last year for my son's 10th birthday, I rented a suite at a local hotel with an indoor pool. Invited 4 of his closest friends and 1 adult. The kids swam all day and were so exhausted they were asleep by 10:00 p.m. The next day we left the mess for the maids to clean-up.