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What have you done to reduce pressure around birthday parties?

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I just did a nice write up on how parents can save money when planning their Child's Birthday Party. Stop by and read it - you may find some great tips to help in your party planning.

I just did a nice write up on how parents cane save money when planning their Child's Birthday Party. Stop by and read it - you may find some great tips to help in your party planning.

For my 12 old son b'day i usually create some fun silly games or just a free game.

I alway had this pressure with my kids but recently i went to a birthday party that provided outdoor games for the kids.

We twist balloons for lots of kids' parties and have always had good feedback from parents about everyone being happy at the end of our visit. (We even twisted balloons for Rod Stewart & Rachel Hunter's kids!)
Find a jolly balloon twister, pay them well ($100-200 per hour, per balloon twister), then plan on doing the balloons first, presents and cake after that. Two hours and your done. Balloons and smiles everywhere!

My kids are grown now. I am appalled at some of what I hear and what I read on this site (which I found by accident). For both our daughter and son, either my husband or I and one other parent would take about 6-8 kids for a day hike. This started around 2nd grade and continued into 8th grade. Many of their friends still talk about it. When you're hiking, you get to talk, help each other over the rougher patches, and there are always memorable moments. And you learn how to pee in the woods!

I just stopped the brithday madness when I realized it was not a war I wanted to win. When the boys were young the rule was you clould invite your age plus one friend. Now they can choose from a low dollar event for many friends like pizza and water gun wars at the house or a higher dollar event for two friends like laser tag and lunch out at a resturant. We also have no gifts rule we started this year. The boys turned 10 and 12 this year and I just said its too much! They hardly blinked at the idea. I feel like most of this pressure is self inflicted from the parents. I mean really- get some perspective.

When I was about 12 or 13, my mother came up with a great idea for my birthday. Instead of having a cake, my mother and I baked a bunch of sugar cookies together and cut them out in large heart and star shapes. I got to spend a lot of time with her talking rather than expecting she would just do all the work. Then at my party, we set out different types of icing and toppings, and everyone got to decorate their own cookies! I'm in college now and that is still one of my favorite birthday memories.

I try to remind parents all the time to keep parties SIMPLE. You don't have to invite the WHOLE class every birthday party, sometimes one or two GOOD friends is just as much (if not more)fun. You also don't need to invite the WHOLE family to every birthday. A birthday with just mom and dad or grandma and grandpa is all that is needed. You also don't need to spend lots of money. Party favors can include stickers, little soaps, tattoes that match your theme and don't need to cost alot of money! Check out CJKidz Birthday Page http://www.cjkidz.com/. See all the themes/gifts/supplies/favors

We love dogs so for my daughter's 8th birthday we had a puppy party. We suggested that guests that wanted to bring something bring something for a local pet shelter such as food, blankets, donation, etc. I made people puppy chow and a cake shaped like a dog bone along with chips and drinks. We ordered inexpensive puppies from oriental trading that the kids adopted as they left the party. It was a lot of fun. My daughter also enjoyed taking all of the donations to the local pet shelter after her party.

My best idea to date: At my daughter’s party last year, I decided that there was too much money spent and too many trees wasted on b-day cards. So, when I sent out her b-day invitation (hand-made by me & my daughter), we added a note that said, “instead of getting me a b-day card, please color the attached picture and bring it for my scrapbook”. We printed out coloring pages from the Nick Jr. website of the Backyardigans (which was her theme) and included one page in the invite. All the kids colored their pics & signed their names. What was really great about this was the fact that the grandparents & aunts really got into it! (In fact my sister has three teen sons and she made each of them do their own picture!) They each took the time to color their pic (staying within the lines, of course!), write a little note and really enjoyed the process. They all said it was so much fun…I mean, how many adults sit and color anymore, right? So now, we have this great collection of color art for daughter’s scrapbook!

My family does 'theme' nights as a way to get everyone together. I'm using my daughter's 1st birthday as an excuse to have another theme night. Her birthday was on Cinco de Mayo, so we're having a make-your-own-taco bar and margeritas. There will be no decorations and we told everyone 'No Gifts'. It'll just be a chance for everyone to catch up and see how big my daughter is getting.

At my baby shower, instead of useless trinkets for favors, my mother bought $5 Dunkin Donuts gift cards for each guest to take home. All the women thought it was the best idea. (Who doesn't love Dunkin Donuts?)

I'm thinking of doing the same for my daughter's birthday, only to McDonald's or something. You spend about the same on the goodie bags anyways, why not make it something everyone will actually use.

When my oldest son begged to do something other than a home party when he turned 12, we had a sledding party and then took a bunch of hungry 12-year-old boys to Old Country Buffet. Boy, did I get my money's worth, and all the mess stayed there!

We always do our birthday parties at home. The kids pick a theme or an idea, and I bake the cake. We do traditional birthday games and usually English party food like finger sandwiches and fruit, ice cream and jelly (that's jello to you). I am always troubled by the gifts part, as my kids really don't need anything more. This year, we've been talking a lot about being philanthropic, and my daughter, turning 7, announced that she wanted her guests to give donations to a homeless charity "that gives them food" rather than buying her gifts. We made the donations clearly optional on the invitations (guests donated $0 to $20), and she still received one gift, but instead of the mountain of thing she doesn't need, we were able to send $155 to a local charity. I was very proud of her as it was her own idea. But now I am troubled that charity donations are a new front for competitiveness, and that I've fed that.

u could just go and find a cheap place like Ice skacting rink or roller and go there then just have a non themed but still fun sleep over there are plenty of fun things to do out therer that don't cost tons

We recently went to a birthday party that provided outdoor games for the kids. This was particularly nice for the adults carrying on conversations while a few older teens took charge of the younger ones.

O.K. While some might say I went over the top I would have to strongly disagree.
This was my idea for a simple, small, low cost, 2 to 3 hour hour party for toddlers. with only some structure.
Unlike most parents I am a professional artist by trade, and this economy a starving one at that. While I do not have much in the means to pay for frills and a fancy birthday party, I am quite handy at decorating on a small budget, recycling whenever possible. Much like my mural paintings I love working in themes, and letting my daughter's personality chose the theme. For her 2nd birthday we decided to have 7 kids and 10 grownups in our small house. My daughter was fascinated by rubber duckies so I made a 3-D lemon flavored Duckie cake from a cake mold, duckie shaped cookies, goldfish crackers, and fruit. I bought 150 rubber duckies from "Oriental Trading Co." to decorate with and play with. For an activity I had made a large fort with connecting tunnels out of 32 boxes all recycled from "G.F.S." and "Meijer." Some had flap doors, windows, and even a large flap for easy access to get your kid out when time to leave. (That silly house lasted for 8 month till I decided I wanted grown-up furniture again and it had to go.)
Even in my small empty dining room I was able to open up a 20' parachute with the help of each parent singing songs and holding the edges creating a fun game for the tots to run under, hide, and explore.
I sewed triangles together to make a reusable "Happy Birthday" banner like I saw in a magazine. We have now used it for Mom, Dad, the dog, and soon my daughter's next birthday. My husband and I cut-out, sanded, and hand painted 3" wooden letters to make up each child's name plus a base for each to be displayed in. The cost of wood was minimal,about $2 per child plus cost of paint and clear finish. A nice learning tool and keep sake for years to come. Total cost of the party was about $60. (The Cake mold has been loaned out to friends several times for their own events, that just makes me feel good.)

O.K. While some might say I went over the top I would have to strongly disagree.
This was my idea for a simple, small, low cost, 2 to 3 hour hour party for toddlers. with only some structure.
Unlike most parents I am a professional artist by trade, and this economy a starving one at that. While I do not have much in the means to pay for frills and a fancy birthday party, I am quite handy at decorating on a small budget, recycling whenever possible. Much like my mural paintings I love working in themes, and letting my daughter's personality chose the theme. For her 2nd birthday we decided to have 7 kids and 10 grownups in our small house. My daughter was fascinated by rubber duckies so I made a 3-D lemon flavored Duckie cake from a cake mold, duckie shaped cookies, goldfish crackers, and fruit. I bought 150 rubber duckies from "Oriental Trading Co." to decorate with and play with. For an activity I had made a large fort with connecting tunnels out of 32 boxes all recycled from "G.F.S." and "Meijer." Some had flap doors, windows, and even a large flap for easy access to get your kid out when time to leave. (That silly house lasted for 8 months till I decided I wanted grown-up furniture again and it had to go.)
Even in my small empty dining room I was able to open up a 20' parachute with the help of each parent singing songs and holding the edges creating a fun game for the tots to run under, hide, and explore.
I sewed triangles together to make a reusable "Happy Birthday" banner like I saw in a magazine. We have now used it for Mom, Dad, the dog, and soon my daughter's next birthday. My husband and I cut-out, sanded, and hand painted 3" wooden letters to make up each child's name plus a base for each to be displayed in. The cost of wood was minimal,about $2 per child plus cost of paint and clear finish. A nice learning tool and keep sake for years to come. Total cost of the party was about $60. (The Cake mold has been loaned out to friends several times over for their own events, and that just makes me feel good.)

Birthday parties were becoming a problem for us as our kids got older. After one disastrous year when they ended up having a food fight inside the house we decided that we had to have a change. This year we had an indoor soccer party and all went well.

The kids got rid of all of their energy and when it came to time to eat they were all well behaved. I don't think I would ever have a birthday party in the house again.

We've always been against bit parties away from home. We really wanted to keep things simple and make sure the kids interact with each other during the party instead of being entertained by some outside thing and not celebrating with each other. But last year when our oldest turned 8, he had made a lot of friends in his 3 years at school and had a pretty long list of kids he wanted to invite. It was more than we felt we could handle in our small house in the wintertime in Wisconsin (and more than we wanted to worry about taking outside either). If he did a party at a local gym, he could invite everyone he wanted to. We knew that if he had to cut the guest list to the limit of 8 we'd stated for our house, the kids who would be cut off are the kids who often aren't invited to birthday parties. We felt it was more important to include everyone, so we did the party at the gym. They led the kids in 3 games that active and got them all working together as a team. Instead of him getting a huge haul of presents and us buying a huge haul of gift bags, we asked each child to bring a board game and we had a gift exchange, which was well-received. I will note that we tried the gift exchange at our kindergartener's party the same year, and it didn't work out as well at that age level--the kids weren't all mature enough to realize that everyone would get a gift in the end, and there were tears. The second graders had a great time with the gift exchange though. So that was our comprimise and it worked out pretty well I think.

I'm not a parent, teacher, or even an adult for that matter. I am a 13 year old girl turning 14 in a few days. I honestly can understand what your getting at with this party thing, but I would also like to point out that the "SUPER PARTIES" in your examples are the complete extremes. Are all parties really that out of control? What about the normal ones with a small fun theme, the kind I went to when I was a child? The kind that normal people do? The kind that are the MAJORITY in my opinion. I think a theme is fine as long as no one gets to blown up about it. I also think that this party thing is one of the LEAST of the things that we should be worrying about in our current world, it would be great if it could be fixed, but I think its going a liittlle far to call it "A SUPERB NOBLE GREAT" cause. What about things like cancer research? Or how about drug problems? Wars? Education? lets spend out energy on that instead of talking about how stressful parties are. Sure, sometimes kids are selfish, and we can fix that in our own homes. We can spread the word about it, but lets not over extend this party thing. Please. Honestly, Its ridiculous. You can obsess both ways, doing the party and stopping the insane party. I have had plenty of fun parties without limo rides. And someone just tell the parents that instead of sitting here plotting. And party bags are crazy, but you can have fun ways of having kids take things home, like a craft they made at the party thats always been the way my family does "goody bags." But while we are stopping obsessive parents and crazy kids, lets not be crazy ourselves.

When my children were 7, 5, and 3, we decided to have future parties only for "milestone" birthdays: #s 6, 10, 13, 16, and maybe 18. On their "off" years, my kids still have a family celebration or one or two overnight guests
. Even on party years, we usually agree on "no presents". WHO in this country needs more stuff?!?

Some of our favorite parties have been:
Daughter 10 yrs. - back yard campout with tents, sleeping bags, hot dog and marshmallow roasting, talent show. All 15 girls in her grade attended. In lieu of presents, guests donated cleaning supplies to our local mission organization to aid in Katrina clean-up efforts.

Other daughter, 10 yrs. - Pool party at local rec. organization. In lieu of presents, donate items to local animal shelter.

Son, 6 yrs. - He loves to play baseball so we secured a ball field from our local park commission, and had a game. ALL AGES played and no one kept score. Dad pitched. Mom cooked hot dogs. One drawback. We live in the Mississippi Delta and his birthday is June 30. HOT!

All our cakes are homemade.

Family tradition: On birthday morning, cake for breakfast made by Mom or oldest daughter. Sing, blow out candles, and open presents from immediate family. Sibilings always give presents, as well as parents. Usually celebrate with dinner out.

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!!!

For my daughter's 6th birthday in March we rented her school gym on a Saturday afternoon (it was $15 for 2 hours) brought balls, jumpropes, a boombox with fun music and let the kids run crazy and play. I also requested only gifts of books for kids at the first grade reading level which we then donated to her school library (I checked this out first with the librarian). I made a simple bookplate on the computer personalized for each book and wrote "This book donated by Susie Jones in honor of Juliet Wilson's 6th birthday." Many of the kids at the party attend the school and are delighted to see "their" donation in the library. It was a great way to party, cut down on so many gifts and teach a lesson in altruism.

We are lucky enough to have a big backyard so it is easy for us. The kids come over, run around, play soccer/basketball, explore. throw waterballons, hunt for bugs etc. Whatever they want. I order a pizza or cook on the grill. The kids have a ball just being kids. I sent them home with safari hats to ward off the sun, or maybe plastic bugs/animals I hid in the yard. Easy, cheap and according to 8 year olds boy and girls alike, the BEST party ever!!

1)Have the party at home (a good excuse to keep numbers down),2)Keep it to friends your child plays with and likes - not who you want but who they want,3)Make sure numbers are even eg 9 friends and your child makes for better teams,4)keep the food and drink simple,no fizzy or too much sugary stuff (cuts down kids bouncing off walls)let any sweets be in party bags (they can then bounce off their parents walls)5)Keep the party to two hours and plan games for good and bad weather.6) Keep plates etc inexpensive get the kids to decorate them (they only end up in the bin).7)Decorate the place the night before when the kids are in bed- its quicker, less hassle and there is no last minute panic about decorating. when your little one gets up in the morning it starts their day as being special,8) DON'T give prizes there are always tears from someone who doesn't win ,9)any child who is out of a game get them to help judge. Give big claps and applause to winners.10) when doing invtes ask the parents to pick up 15 min before you aim to finish ,that way you can be sure the pick up will be on time, parents don't mind waiting a little if the kids are happy and the party hasn't quite finished, but after 2 hours you will be glad to put your feet up.

For my oldest daughter's 2nd birthday I asked for no presents. I got some much flack for that and was basically told I was a bad parent. For her 3rd birthday, I asked instead of toys to bring "a" book about animals. I guess people decided that I did not know best and those that did bring the requested item brought "Many" books. So by the time the 6 party guests were done my daughter had about 30 books! For every birthday we have done something at our home with the exception of my oldest 6th birthday, we did that one at a party place; but only because we did not want the hassle of clean-up after a party.

For my oldest daughter's 2nd birthday I asked for no presents. I got some much flack for that and was basically told I was a bad parent. For her 3rd birthday, I asked instead of toys to bring "a" book about animals. I guess people decided that I did not know best and those that did bring the requested item brought "Many" books. So by the time the 6 party guests were done my daughter had about 30 books!

One of the best ideas for a birthday was one I attented when I was younger. It was at a community bathing center. Really nice time!

What a great website! When my now 20 yr old son was growing up, we had one big party at home for his 1st b-day...spent some $$ on the cake, party decorations and goody bags for the older kids. Year #2, just Mom, Dad and son -- what would he remember? From age 3-11, it was the skating rink...good price..good value...good fun. At age 12, the football coach didn't want any boys getting hurt on skates, so we went bowling..two years...after that, it was just hanging out w/ friends at home. He's off at college now and for his birthday, we make a trip there and take him to dinner and give a gift or two...useful things..practical things. He looks forward to the visit because he knows the effort and the cost for us to just come see him...he feels special.

For my 10 yr daughter...first birthday was a home party...same deal. Age 2, just some cake as we stayed with Grandma at the beach house she rented. Ages 3, 4, 5...again, just small cake and ice cream family time with a handful of friends. Once in school we invited classmates...I gave a Princess Party at home with my own decorations, and homemade cake. I had given out 25 invites expecting the usual 1/4 attendance...not so...apparently my home produced invitations just caught everyone's attention and they had to come...I had 22 kids and a few parents...at my house...wow! Although simple, everyone couldn't stop talking about it. BUT...TOO MUCH for me! After that, we went to sleepovers for about 6 guests. I don't decorate the house, we have homemade cake or cupcakes..it's hot dogs and french fries for dinner w/ Kool-Aid...this has become a "tradition" and her friends look forward to it. They get to play in the makeup, run through sprinklers, hang out, watch movies, play games....their imaginations get a workout. Generally now its the same girls..they all know the rules of the house and I'm not involved so it's become way stress free for me. They really look forward to it. I still have goodie bags (which it's my daughter's job to put together) but I look for useful things at bargain prices since it only for 6 girls and I've reduced the candy dramatically. My daughter hears every year that I didn't get a party every year. The other thing her dad and I have done is to have just a family dinner around that time in her honor...just the three of us. She's been to some of these "over the top" parties, but I have no complaints from her about hers...she just likes the time with her friends and hanging out.

Every year we host a big party for our two oldest children and their friends, since their birthdays are only a week apart (and I'd go nuts trying to plan 2!) We pick a theme based on the no. of kids invited-last year they only wanted family, so we held the party at Chuck E. Cheese. This year there were almost 20 kids under the age of 8 there, so we moved the party to our big backyard and had a "carnival" theme. We popped popcorn, filled a kiddie pool with small plastic balls and put our bubble blower to good use. Rather than making cake a presents a big production we filled a small bowl with mini brownies and put it out with the snacks, and the kids were allowed to open gifts as people came. Grandparents brought their gifts before hand, so it was only their friends at the party. That way no one had to sit and wait, and there were no meltdowns. It was great!

Afterward, before they went to bed, I had the kids do their thank-you cards and have them ready for the next day. Each of them did half, so no one was overwhelmed. I think we're definitely going to try this again next year.

We as a family decided long ago not to buy in to the "if we spend more then we love them more" idea. My children are now 18 and 20. We did a big 10 year birthday because as a military family that is a big one... they get their military ID cards. Even then it was hotdogs and pinatas in the back yard with other military kids. Maybe 20 in all (8 from one family) We do something personal with each child. My daughter would probably say her favorite birthday was 13. Her father woke her up with an "adult" boquet of flowers. He also gave her an beautiful necklace (I helped him pick it out..) She and I have gone to a nice restaurant, just the two of us, or gone shopping in downtown San Antonio. Now that she is away at college, I can look back on those times as something special that we did as a family or "the girls" and not with 100 others trying to imnpress someone, or having some demented version of love. My 18 year old son has autism. It is amazing the things he wants..not a Nintendo, not a bike but to go out to get bar-b-q with some friends. His needs are simple as are most kids... if you really listen to what they want. Ask my kids.. they remember the time we spent together, not the money we spent on 'stuff' that will be in the garbage in a week. And when they get this old....what else matters??

For the birthdays before my daughters turned 5, we usually asked that people bring one of their favorite children's books instead of a gift. At the end of the party, everyone picked a wrapped book. All the kids went home with a book, not a goodie bag, and we had a great time.
We have also had joint parties with kids from our classes that had birthdays in the same month. No gifts, just a wrapped book. If you forgot to bring a book, you just didn't leave with one. Each child had their own cake (that was our splurge) and we sang Happy Birthday three times. We split the cost of the place that we rented out (a gymnastics place) and divided the other things to bring---juice, fruit, paper goods. It cost each of us less than $100, including a store-bought cake, and everyone had a great time. (Plus, all the parents only had to attend one party for the three kids in class with birthdays that month.) It was so relaxing and easy.

We decided that the first birthday is a biggie for each of our kids, but after that we'd limit large birthday parties to major birthdays (we haven't really even defined that yet).

For our sons second birthday we met his closest friends and their parents at a playground. We all brought our own picnic lunches (that was the consensus), and my husband and I brought cake for everyone and we sang happy birthday. It was stress free, very low cost, and lots of fun for everyone!

As he gets older we figure we'll do a 'do what you want' day with 1 or 2 closest friends. That's enough for us!

A fun tradition we have is to wake up the birthday child by bringing a fully lit birthday cake in his/her room and singing. We then have cake & ice cream for breakfast. Hey, it's only once a year, and it's no worse than donuts and milk. :0)

Our son's birthday is in winter, which is snowy here, so we had a Sled Riding Party for him - twelve 12 year old boys all went sledding for hours at a local park. Cost? None. Fun? Loads!

It's important to realize the issue is not "birthday parties that are out of control" but "parents who are out of control."

We're not in sixth grade anymore. We can't blame peer pressue, and we really should have outgrown it by now. How sad that adults need a "group" to validate them in making sensible choices. Hurray for the group which is doing the validating!

Last year we started a tradition of having a "Totally Fun Day" - my son, who is 6, gets to spend a whole day with his 1 best friend, doing whatever they want. Ice cream for breakfast? Absolutely! We go to the park, the movies, Chuck-e-Cheez - whatever they want to do. At the end of the day we have a family birthday party at home with his favorite dinner, a cake, and a few presents. He and his best friend love spending the time together, and even with tokens at CC and the cost of the movies, it still works out to be less than having even a basic party with 20 screaming kids at one of those party pits.

My daughter, who is older, gets to have a few more friends, and last year they all went "camping" at her grandparents mountain cabin. They toasted marshmallows, stayed up late telling ghost stories and went apple-picking.

These parties are so much more enjoyable for everyone involved than the usual premade type parties at ChuckeCheez or whatever. My kids remember them long afterward because they get to spend a lot of time doing fun stuff, where most parties are over after 2 hours of pandemonium.
The cost is usually about $100 for the whole day, including game tokens and movie tickets.

Our rule is that the kids only get a party every other year. When they do, we spend about $100-200 on the party, but over two years, that's not too bad. We did go a bit higher - around $300 one year when my daughter really wanted a makeover party - but it was her "double digit" birthday, which is traditionally a big deal in my family. And by the way, it was very sweet and innocent - the girls got glitter in their hair and pink nail polish and "danced" the limbo, and my daughter felt like a fairy princess. I noticed one of the "bad" examples in this site talked about makeover parties rather disparagingly.

Anyway, we usually let them pick a favorite activity like going to the movies or miniature golf and then bring friends, which keeps the planning simple and leaves us free to enjoy the party with them. We actually enjoy the whole party process so much that this year, which is an off-birthday year with no parties, we decided to throw a Halloween bash. We kept that pretty cheap, too, with lots of Dollar store decorations and liberal use of spooky light and fake cobwebs, but we actually had it at home and discovered we still got to enjoy the party. Our kids' friends are still talking about it being the coolest party ever, and it took so little effort and money, which I guess is the way we've reduced pressure. Keep it simple, keep it cheap, and don't feel like you have to do it every year!

We have three children and I truly believe that their birthday is the one day that "it's all about them." I've never felt the way some of the parents have described. I look forward to the parties almost as much as our kids.

Our kids do a lot of the planning and help out in all aspects.

We've had fantastic, outragous parties. We have a strict budget though. Activities, food, decorations, cake, goodie bags has never exceded the $200 budget.

Invitations are always handmade from stuff we have around the home. We've had basic brown bag "camp out" invites to my daughter's princess party with lace overlay.

Cakes are always made at home and decorated with favorite toys Playmobil, Legos, Plastic Animals, whatever the child wanted to do. I've actually had parent tell me that I must have spent a fortune on the cake. It was a generic sheet cake (two layers) 1/2 choc. frosting and 1/2 blue frosting, then my son set up all his plastic animals on and around the cake. Reality... the cake cost less than $5 and took just a few hours. Last week my son did a Cabin cake. Used Chocolate Licorice for the outside walls and jelly beans for rocks. He made a nest out of toasted coconut for the eagle nest on the roof and a black bear was at the back "door". He already had the animals. The response from the other kids... "Wow, that's a cool cake, can I have the chimney?"

Activites... Anything from carnival games to Jedi Knights trainning. Let your child explore their creative side and see what you can come up with. Bird houses out of milk jugs, tamborines out of grapevines and bells, rag and yarn dolls, light sabers out of pipe insulation and duct tape, pirate ships out of refrig boxes (cannon balls were water balloons).

Goodie bags... Make your own money. Instead of your generic goodie bag, we would "set up" shop. We typically use the dining room as a store with a bunch of odd items from a discount store, candy and paper bags to place their purchase in. Either through the games or just at the beginning give each child a certain amount of "money" to be used in the "store". The kids LOVE this and don't worry about one kid getting three of something, because kids tend to "spend" on items they want and not all kids like every item. Just like in a store, you run out of stock. In all the years that I have done it that way, we have never had a child upset. Somethings to get is squished glass marbles, brightly colored marbles, book marks (can be printed off line), other printable games, small plastic animals, superballs, Mc Donald's toys that aren't opened (we save all ours that we don't use and the kids LOVE it), sun glasses, whatever you want.

Food... Pizza from Costco just can't be beat. $9/pizza and it's good.

Gifts... And to all the parents that do no gifts, that would be like waking up on Christmas morning with nothing under the tree. That's horrible for a kids. What we do the $5 rule. The children want to give a gift and your child wants to receive a gift. This way you can still have that, but not break the bank AND still not have much clutter. My friends and I started this once we all had 2, 3 and sometime 4 children. We've all gotten really good at searching the clearance section for the perfect item. It's been a lot of fun to see what we all come up with. I scored one time at a specialty shop... Retired Beanie Babies 2/$5. Whoo Hoo! You miss out on teaching your child that it's always polite to bring something when invited over. Whether it is a party or just dinner. You, as an adult, won't go over to a friend's house for dinner without even bringing a loaf of bread would you? It's the same lesson people

If you are lucky, you will beable to give your child about 10 really good parties. I have three children and I wouldn't give up those times for anything. My kids have told me that those are some of their best memories.

My family was very poor growing up. But that doesn't mean that we didn't have birthday parties and gifts. We had very simple and fun parties in our home and backyard. My mom always made the cake, we played games that we had or movies, and we sometimes had a piniata or something. It was always about having fun, not what was popular at the time. There are many ways to have cheap birthday fun. Our local library has a cake pan borrowing system and they have tons to choose from, (cake pans are expansive), there are tons of great party ideas on Disney's Family Fun website, you can have great fun using the board games that don't get played as often as they should, and as for party bags, it is easy to buy low cost materials and make a craft to guests to take with them. You can find great ideas anywhere online.

The most wonderful parties are the ones at home and I've had nearly 13 parties under my belt and those we've had at home have been the most memorable and parents and kids I think like them best...because they are personal. I think less is best, and thankfully I live in a community that values kids and honors their childhoods...we have NO pressure in my area (we are 45 minutes north of Boston) and I think that's always been the case in my area.
We just had a horse themed birthday party and had a blast...and it was nice to spend the extra birthday cash on a family dinner after! :)

The most wonderful parties are the ones at home and I've had nearly 13 parties under my belt and those we've had at home have been the most memorable and parents and kids I think like them best...because they are personal. I think less is best, and thankfully I live in a community that values kids and honors their childhoods...we have NO pressure in my area (we are 45 minutes north of Boston) and I think that's always been the case in my area.
We just had a horse themed birthday party and had a blast...and it was nice to spend the extra birthday cash on a family dinner after! :)

I live in a very small community in Illinois and throughout the years I have tried to come up with fun birthday ideas for a reasonable cost. I thought I would share a few ideas. I threw a teddy bear picnic party for my daughter when she turned 8. The invitations were mini teddy bears ($1 each) in mini picnic baskets ($1 each) filled with green gift bag stuffing and a small piece of plastic red and white table cloth cut to fit inside the basket. I printed the written invitation on picnic themed paper and place ant and teddy bear stickers all over the invite and secured with Raffia ribbon. My daughter hand delivered the invitations. My mom made a stand up teddy bear cake and the gift bags featured old fashioned candy that I found at different discount stores (craker jacks, wax pop bottles, teddy grahams, bazooka gum ect. I added in hand made wooden picture frames with a large lady bug and a foam sun visor with a bandana pattern. Each bag cost not more than 6.00 to put together. I photographed each of the girls individually with our daughter and had the photos developed while the party went on and placed them in the picture frames before the girls left. The party was held at our house in the summer over lunch and we served hotdogs chips jello and juice at the picnic table. The 8 girls spent the afternoon playing old fashion games like the clothes pin drop, the egg toss, three legged race and then went swimming. The entire cost of this party did not exceed 100.00. And most importantly the girls had a great time. Another idea that my sister and i (who both have kids the same age) used was a Fear Factor themed party and invited the entire 1st grade class (nearly 40 kids) in October. Again we served hotdogs and chips with orange jello that had plastic spiders set inside and green punch. The kids participated in a Fear Factor Race that had them relay race a balloon, suck a lemon, bob for apples and reach into a cooler of vegtable oil covered noodles with rubber eyeballs and plastic mice. The kids had time to decorate thier own minature pumpkin and then played games like red rover and duck duck goose. My sister lives in the country so the kids were able to play in the big yard until they wore out. Each child took home their decorated pumpkin and a gift bag of fear factor treats. Gummy eyeballs, sour candy ect. Very inexpensive for 40 kids. And the pictures are great!!!

I refuse to give in to this ridiculous opportunity for parents to show off. It's TACKY to put on such an ostentatious show, espeically when times are so tight.

My kids will understand that most years they can have one or two friends over for pizza, a movie, and home-fun with games & crafts, and just normal play time. A good old-fashioned birthday party. I don't put extravagant gift bags together for the attendees- another conspicuous expense for no good reason. The kids just have fun being together. It doesn't require Barnum & Bailey productions to have fun.

We'll save the big blow-outs for the graduation and wedding and that is the end of that.

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.

At $6.99 to $16.99 each (plus shipping and tax if you live in PA), and filled with items you could buy from a discount party store, I find the buckets advertised below to be simply encouraging materialism and overspending that so many who have posted here are rejecting.

Best idea here--the "almost sleepover". Thanks!

We have to agree with the fact that parents are definately feeling pressured to provide these over the top Birthday Parties. That is one of the main reasons for the creation of our company, www.favorbuckets.com. Not only are Birthdays "out of control" but the party favors are either overpriced plastic novelties or way expensive unnecessary keepsake items. Favorbuckets.com has created a happy medium by creating a wonderful "favor bucket" that is useful, trendy, themed and always quality. Kids love them, and parents appreciate the quality and price. I mean, how many erasers and pencils can a kid have. And does a four year old really need an Austrian Crystal Tiara. The term "loot bag" drives us crazy. Loot is something that is pirated or stolen not something that is termed a "favor". Yes, the Birthday party business is big business and retailers take advantage of the vulnerable Parent. But here at Favorbuckets.com we keep it simple by providing parents with a quality party favor that they are proud to hand out. Our Favor Buckets are great for all economic levels of party goers. Check out our site. www.favorbuckets.com - It's the Little Things.

I find that wanting to give my children a good time for their birthdays makes me go a little manic. And I don't mean I overspend or overinvite. I like to plan creative activities and work hard on designing and decorating the birthday cake (which actually turns out to be the most expensive part of the party!) So I do get stressed, but that's me - even a couple of friends round just to play after school can stress me, just because I want things to go well and I don't like friction between the children. Anyway, for my daughter's last party we really had no spare cash - I couldn't afford to buy even the cheapest party bags. So I used sandwich bags that I had lying around and put the name of the child on a sticker on it. One girl gratefully accepted it and commented, "We have these bags at home", to which i replied, "But I bet they dont have your name on them, do they?" I could see her taking that in with some awe!! Wow, what a handsome gift bag!
For my son's last 'party' we invited 3 friends to meet us up at some woods with their bikes and my husband and I trailed round after them as they rode, and explored and dug and built, finishing off back at the cafe for a sandwich and drink. All in all it cost us no more than £12. many good, lasting memories. I note that many people have posted here about keeping things simple yet they seem to have achieved that by spending money - a meal out, laser quest, hiring somewhere, cinema with some friends. Really helpful ideas (for me, at least)are the ones that DON'T COST ANYTHING! Like camping in your bedroom. And what other options are there to letting the children be entertained by a DVD?

I loved your comment, Practical Mom: "Lots of hoopla, big presents and fancy attention does not convey that we love our child." Thanks for that! I couldn't agree more. There are many ways to celebrate your child.

Growing up with six kids not far apart, my Mom set the rule of a birthday party every even birthday year and the family went out to dinner to celebrate on the odd birthday years. We've continued this with our 4 children. I think our older children would agree that the odd years have been at least as fun, if not more, than the parties (something that I discovered as a child as well). Parties are stressful for everyone. Every parent should have a copy of the Berenstein Bears book, Too Much Birthday. We've never had a fancy party, just games, scavenger hunts, etc. at home or the church or the park. We have been told by other parents how fun our parties have been. The all-time funnest party was when our then 8-year-old played capture-the-flag at the play structure at the local school. We couldn't pull the boys away.

Our youngest recently turned 10 and received over $50 in Target gift cards. He couldn't find even one thing that he really wanted to buy!! So, I bought the gift cards from him and sent the money to his savings account. Lots of hoopla, big presents and fancy attention does not convey that we love our child. Sometimes I think it's more for the parents than the kids.

To relief these pressures, I call B days kids name DAY instead.

I alway had this pressure with my kids, but now I call it kids name Day not birthday

My oldest just turned 16. Instead of a huge bash we decided to make it special. She invited 16 people in her life, and this included church leaders, teachers from previous years, dearest friends, and special neighbors. Then she wrote each of them a letter, telling them what made them special to her, and thanking them for being a special light in her life. Then she presented each of them a pretty little candle, representing the "light" they have been to her. We cut a pretty cake from Costco, everyone read their letters to themselves and it was done within an hour. We had this on her birthday, which fell on a Sunday, so we kept it extra simple not to take away from Sabbath worship. We did not expect gifts, and some brought one, some did not. That was not the focus.

I have 3 kids all about 2 years apart. My oldest 6 & my youngest 2 share decemeber for their birthdays a week apart, just 2 weeks before christmas. On their last birthday we did a sleding party. We had all the kids dropped off at a local park that has a small hill. We sled for an hour & then went home for Pizza Store bought & baked in the oven,Bithday Cake & hot chocolate. We had 2 small cakes made decorated in each childs favorite cartoon character. The loot bags had a few candies & a christmas tree decoration for each child. All the kids loved it and it worked for the wide age range we had due to it being a con-joined party for a 2 & a 6 yr old.

My 7 year old daughter wanted a sleepover. I suggested an "almost" sleepover. She invited 7 friends, who came dressed in their PJ's and brought their sleeping bags. They came at 6pm had pizza, played a few games, spread their sleeping bags on the floor and watched a movie, ate cake and popcorn. They were picked up at 10pm. The "goodie bag" was a brown lunch sack that my 7 year old had decorated and it said "Sunday's Breakfast". I put a juice box, muffins and a hot cocoa mix in each bag and my daughter included a little note that said, "Thank you for coming to my party." The moms thought this was a great idea and the little girls had a blast-best of all everyone got a good nights' sleep!

Last year when my daughter turned 6 she wanted to invite her Daisy troop and the girls in her classroom. We had a tea party at our house. The girls came dressed up and I made little finger sandwiches and little cupcakes. I found some inexpensive tea cups for them to use and take home. I showed them how to pour tea (lemonade and cold flavored tea) and showed them how to pass the serving plates with the food on it. Again they all had so much fun and this did not stress me out!

I am so committed to this concept that I blogged about it on my site.

I feel strongly that children will always remember the small intimate birthday party held a few times vs. the over the top grand scale event held every year.

Talk about pressure. It's just not worth it. I loved hosting little birthday parties for my five children. We always had the birthday party at home. Either outside or inside. But, always at home.

I have had so many mothers approach me wanting help, or ideas on how they too can have a fun birthday. We do have several of the standby games that are always a big hit. Not once has a child gone home feeling slighted. That is never the case.

I think too many parents have just become very lazy. It's always about how little time they have.

I guess money can buy a lot of things... but it can not buy the memories that are created by a fun little event held at home.

So cool to see so many parents who want to take a more balanced approach to kids' bdays.

This weekend my daughter is going to a birthday party at a place called "Feed My Starving Children" a local nonprofit (there are locations in Mpls/St. Paul and Chicago areas -- www.fmsc.org).

The kids will see a video on the impact and importance of their work and then package rice and beans to feed kids in need around the world. What a great way for these middle-class kids to give back rather than overindulge to celebrate their friend's birthday!

We have made a tradition of having a book exchange at our kids' birthday parties. In lieu of gifts, we ask each guest to bring a book to exchange. Instead of taking home a gift bag of dollar store junk, each child takes home a great new book. And our kids don't end up with more unnecessary toys.

When planning parties for my three children, I have to ask myself whether I'm doing something for my child or for me. A lot of the party nonsense is about parents wanting to look good in front of other adults and not about the child having fun. For my little ones, having parties in our home keeps the guest list small because we don't have a large house. My decorations are primarily balloons. They are cheap and make a big impact. Plus, they can double as party favors. What kid doesn't want to take home a balloon? Another thing to think about is the time. Do you want to feed these people a full dinner or just have ice cream and cake at a non-meal time? I assure you, the kids care nothing about the food. They want to run around the house like small crazy people and only stop for the cake.

I don't get the whole elaborate birthday thing, especially when it's a bunch of screaming two year olds. I just don't think the kids are old enough to really understand what's going on.

We've never made a huge deal out of birthdays, especially "toddler" birthdays. My own son has had a few celebrations, but they usually coincided with other significant events--like his first year of school, his last year of elementary school, and when he finally hit the "teens".

Usually, my husband and I take my son out to dinner at a restuarant of his chosing then give him one meaningful gift--something he REALLY wants, not a ton of crap.

When he was younger, if his birthday happened to fall on a school day, we'd send homemade cookies to share with the class.

The last year of elementary school, my son asked to have a birthday party. I thought it was appropriate because it would be the last time he'd see many of his school friends. He invited 5 of his closest classmates. We barbequed hot dogs in the backyard as the boys made up their own games, then they spent the night in a tent outside. We made pancakes the next morning. No stress, minimal cost and the guys had fun.

When my son turned 13, we gave him a choice--bowling and a taco bar for up to 10 friends, or a weekend trip to a waterpark, just him and his dorky parents. He gladly chose the waterpark.

I feel no guilt. I love my son and could very well afford to dump a bundle of money on streamers and ballons but I'm not in the game to impress the neighbors. I'd much rather spend the time, money, and effort to give MY OWN CHILD a nice birthday. He appreciates it and that's all that matters.

I think that is a great post not

My kids are 16 and 21. Why didn't I find you sooner? Our family never had the money (or the inclination) to do the whole dog and pony show, so after the first few attempts to do simple gatherings, we had family gatherings instead. I always felt embarassed and ashamed, though, like we were outcasts or something - No pirate parties, no pony rides in the back yard.

Last year, instead of asking for presents, our son chose to invite a few friends to have dinner at the Outback Steak House. The kids had a great time in a little party room all by themselves. (We had dinner in a nearby restaurant and showed up to pay the bill.) That worked out well. We all had fun.

Many of the celebrations in the United States that are associated
with Christmas were traditions brought by German and English
immigrants. Along with the well-known and practiced tradition of a
brightly decorated Christmas tree, other traditions brought by these
immigrants include Advent calendars, Christmas greeting cards,
gingerbread houses and gingerbread cookies.
Christmas in the United States today can be seen as focused
around family, travel, shopping and decorations.
Family and travel go together during Christmas in the United
States because family members often have to travel fairly long
distances to be with each other at one location. The growth of cities
that have primarily economic activity, suburbs for residences, as well
as the fact of different industries being found in certain geographic
locations, are among the reasons that family members often live great
distances from each other in separate states.

Our daughter is now 5. I found that holding parties for more than a few people at our house was really stressing me out. Over the past two years, we have attended many parties for her preschool friends. We've been to gym parties, parties with hired clowns and entertainers and highly organized activities, parties held at art venues, amusement park venues, bouncy houses, etc. I am NOT saying anything is wrong with these. I noticed, however, that my child had the most fun when she was just allowed to play with the other kids and run around doing what she wanted to do.

This year we invited her whole school class and a few neighborhood friends to a park (fortunately the weather cooperated!). We provided food and very simple goody bags with a couple things from a dollar store. The kids were allowed to run wild, gathering just for food/cake and present-opening. (I was not going to open presents with everybody, but the kids were really eager to do it.) It was easy for the adults, fun for the children, and our daughter definitely knew she'd had a celebration.

Last year me and a few of my friend's went to see a movie for my sweet 16th birthday. one of my friend's said that it was the best movie party they had ever ben to. A few day's later I relised that it was because we just relacsed.

I have always enjoyed throwing simple parties, but (even when "no presents" are requested) have never been comfortable with the feeling that we are soliciting gifts - especially because we have just what we need - no more and no less - already. Because of this I had just stopped having parties all together, but have come to realize that my children are missing out on the joy of hosting their friends. So, we have now decided to throw a total of 2 parties a year - one in winter for sledding and one in summer where each of our children can invite a few close friends - but these will NOT be birthday parties so no gifts, no goody bags. Also, when our children attend a birthday party, if we know the child well enough we invite them to enjoy a day with us at a museum, a play, etc. in lieu of a gift. This idea has caught on in our school community - and seems to be appreciated by the children and parents who also do not want more clutter in their homes.

I love birthday parties, but want them to be arranged around what my child wants. I do spend some time and effort in planning, but the kids have to help too.

We did a Magic party in the summer for our youngest. We went to a park, grilled hot dogs, had fruit and cheese to much on, and the kids played. My son got some magic tricks ahead of time as his present. He practiced them and then showed all his friends.

I typically have parents asking me how I get ideas for such fun and low pressure parties. I don't really know, I just talk to the kids and work with that.

I would no more spend $100 on a party than I would fly to the moon. At least for early years.

The last party we had for my dau I did go a bit overboard. A relative wanted to pay for a hotel room as a gift, so I found a cheap hotel with a pool, then found discounts for that.

It was a very rainy summer, so the kids had not gotten to swim much. We played in the pool, ate junk food, ordered pizza, and the girls talked all night. In the am there was a free breakfast for ONE, so the kids had the breakfast stuff we brought (donuts and milk) and I had the nice buffet.

It was still very affordable, we only had my dau and 3 other girls invited.

I hate parties with too many kids. My children tend not to enjoy them. I often use the parks to avoid housecleaning (LOL!) and cleanup is easy too. IF we use the public pool, most of the guests have family passes. And many of the parents come. It usually is very relaxing and the kids have fun.

One mom we know orchestrates everything to the last minute, like Rabbit in one Winnie the Pooh episode. We are working iwth her to help her be more low key.

For my five year olds party this year I called the golfing center that we play mini golf at and rented a room for $20, bought 2 pizza and breadsticks. Then the 5 or 6 people who wanted to stayed and played golf. We had a great time. We also had coupons for the mini golf.

The year before we had a party in our backyard and it was great too.

I felt very sad for the kids and parents who are trying to keep up with these massive parties. If the kids know how loved they are than it's not going to matter if they got picked up in a limo or not. I want my boys to know that it is not about the money and the presents. We love them and if it is just us for a birthday party then that's fine too.

One of my best memories is of my 5th birhtday when my mom was baking my cake. She had the kitchen door blocked off but I could smell the choc. cake and it was great. I loved and love my mom because we didn't have any money but mom still made things special.

The best way to keep the pressure off is to keep the price down especially being a single mom a budget is important. I limit the number of guests to cousins and a few friends,I pick an inexpensive place, make my own cakes. A Wilton cake decorating class was the price of one cake, and none of those junk goodie bags!

We began with my oldest son by limiting the number of attendees at birthday parties to the birthday boy's age (e.g. He had three guests at his 3rd birthday party). By the time he was turning 7, I encouraged him to accept gifts as a donation for a charity instead of for himself. He decided, on his own, to not have birthday parties after that. We have no extended family in town, but still do something special, just the four of us for both the boys' birthdays. No parties at all, now. This year, my soon-to-be 9-year-old wants to invite one friend over for a movie night sleepover for his birthday. Other than dealing with two sleepy cranky preteens the next day, that's about as low stress as it gets!

As a result of living abroad for a few years my teenage boys are quite sensitive to materialism and excessive gifting. We came up with this great idea which helps them feel good about giving and receiving. Whenever some one gives them cash, these days many do, we take a portion (min. 10%) of it and after the party pick a charity to give it to. Doing this for every party and special occasion, including Christmas, our boys are contributing quite a bit. I've started to write about my ideas around gifting and creating unique parties on my Squido Lens. Pop over and share your ideas!

This year our daughter turned 1! Instead of opting for the "big birthday bash", we decided to have a few of her Godparents and her brother meet at Build-A-Bear to create a "Bearthday Bear" for her and everyone also got to build their own bear. We went out for pizza, cake and lite fare afterwards and everyone(including the birthday girl) had such a great time! For our son's next birthday, we are planning a pizza party at his preschool and a "birthday express" walk-in package/visit to the Local Children's Museum with our family. We've found that some of the best times we've shared are with our family and grandparents. Sometimes bigger is not necessarily better!

Thanks for your comments, Taniya. This is Julie here, from Birthdays Without Pressure. I too enjoy entertaining the adults as well as the children. I understand however, that some people experience MORE stress if the adults attend the party too. I find that parents are sometimes looking for excuses to socialize and are more than willing to bring a potluck item so as not to be a burden. It seems we lack opportunities for families to just hang out together for an afternoon or evening of fun (for free!). Creating a low-stress event (other than all that bothersome cleaning we do beforehand) makes it enjoyable for everyone.

In order to avoid stress when planning parties for my 22 month old and three year old and children, I make sure that I constantly remind myself that the party is a celebration of another year of life and not a chance to show off. This helps make sure that I keep everything in perspective and not go overboard in extras that are completely unneeded. We only invite friends that we visit regularly, in lieu of presents we donate to charity, and we focus on letting the children play and laugh. I must admit that I do spend too much on food, but I like good cake. I also do not want ot serve adults the same sack lunch that I give to the children. Other than these indulgencies my parties are pretty tame. I plan to continue to have tame parties.

I invite all the children in my daughter's daycare class for three reasons: 1) I need to know who her friends are. 2) I need to meet the other parents. 3) I don't think it is right to deliberately exclude a 4 year old and hurt their feelings. We try to plan fun events (last year was a back yard luau with borrowed wading pools) that are still affordable.

This website is a GREAT idea! My "kids" are now 22 and 20 but I also went through the ridiculous drama of kids parties out of control. Being in the hotel industry, people expected me to create over the top events and were surprised to find I had handmade the cake, served up mac & cheese or pizza, played favorite funny movies and set up an art project or fun activity kids all did together. One year, I dragged out costumes and had moms bring wigs, hats and face paints and the moms painted the kids faces, the kids put on the wigs and we used our video camera to film them singing and running around in their "outfits". We all gathered and watched "their movie." They loved it and it cost next to nothing. I am also a professional event planner for charities and I think it's absurd when parents spend hundreds-even thousands of dollars on expensive parties the kids will never remember. It sets the stage for little spoiled brats to become out of control teenagers who "expect" their paretns to host New Year's Eve bashes for them when they are 16-complete with champagne, and it sends a message to kids that excessive behavior and "showing off" is a good thing. Parents need to get real about WHY they have these extravaganza's in the first place-to makeup for their own childhood losses. I think parents who insist on giant parties for little kids would be much better off in the long run spending that same money on a good therapist for themselves.

Just A Thought:
When we moved into our new home in 2003. One of the first things our kids wanted to do was have a Halloween Party. Great Fine We have lots of room. So year number one my kids were 9 and 11. We completely decorated the garage which took two days. I had theme bags, theme food, theme games. Yes, a giant production. Now 4 years latter and a whole lot smater the party has become less abouth the Halloween theme and more about everyone just being together and having fun. What we learned that first year is that the kids really just want a place that is safe and fun to enjoy each other. To run and play without to many rules. So that is now what we provide. A litte food and a whole lot of fun. It is amazing what just letting kids entertain themselves will bring.
Thanks for for you time.

Last spring, a few of mom's in our play group realized that we had 8 birthdays in March and wolud be basically running back and forth trading junk from Target for the whole month. So instead we had one party at a neighborhood rec center, just cake and ice cream and balloons and all the families invited all their friends. We had almost $100 people, almost no gifts, almost no food and the absolute best party ever. The kids rave about it all the time and we are certainly planning on doing it again. Celebrating our wonderful community and our beautiful children couldn't have been easier.

Instead of a birthday party, we had an "end-of-school-year" party. My daughter's birthday is in April, and with spring break, there really wasn't a good time for a birthday party. On the last day of school, she had friends over for a pool party to celebrate the beginning of summer. The pressure was definitely off: no elaborate themes, no "treat bags", and NO GIFTS!! Just some pizza, swimming, playing with friends!

I am happy to say that we do not offer 'friend' parties to our children until their 6th birthday. Before that, it is just family and a few very close friends. My children are only allowed in the home parties until they are in 3rd grade and then they may choose an outside party. The in home parties are limitted to 15 children and the out of home to 10. My kids are taught that this is normal - not the huge parties with 20 - 50 guests. I really think it is all about expectations - and what the parents are trying to teach their children. You are sending a very loud message by allowing a child to have poor manners and a less than gracious manner at any party. One of my children actually lost his birthday gifts for one week due to poor behavior at his own party.
We all need to take a step back and remember what is important. What kind of character do you want your children to possess as adults? Consider sitting down with your spouse and writing out the to 5 to 10 priorities and values you want your children to live with in their lives. How are you doing? How does parties fit in to this? Why is it a priority at all???

I am hearing the interview on NPR, what a great idea, encouraging reasonable behavior regarding parenting and birthdays.
This happened 21 years ago at my daughter's third birthday. Because the parents of one of her friends had just been laid off from work, we could not justify asking them to buy our daughter even a little a gift, when they could not buy things for their child.
We talked about friendship and birthdays with BD and agreed that on a birthday we give to others, not expect gifts. We invited four children and made clear NO GIFTS. But the mother of one of the boys called me, all upset. Was I serious, no gifts for my child? As the only grandchild she had enough gifts, I explained. That wasn't good enough. Finally I explained about the other family. The woman was so overwrought I thought she might report me for neglect!
But that lesson of friendship and kindness served BD well. For her 16th birthday she took up a collection from her buddies for the animal shelter - no gifts for her - but for others. Birthdays are always special for our family because of that sense of giving.

We only have "parties" on the "big" birthdays age 5,8,10,13,16,18,21 the inbetween birthdays are times for grandparents to come over for cake and icecream. Even our "big" parties consist of having a few friends over to share the cake and ice cream, sometimes pizza, maybe a sleepover, kids play in the backyard. often the kids will invite whole families over because they enjoy playing with all the kids in a family. I can't imagine inviting whole groups of unrelated kids over without their parents to keep them sane. I don't think we've ever spent more than $20 on a party (not including the gift)
My kids don't feel they're missing out.
Mrs Nehemiah

We're pretty low-key about most things, and birthdays are no exception. Our two oldest are 11 and 8, and they've been planning their own birthday celebrations for several years--our oldest since she was four.

We treat birthdays as a chance for the child to be a host, plan a pleasant time for a friend or group of friends, and enjoy the pleasures of entertaining. Last year, my daughter chose to ask one friend to join the family at the skating rink; this year, she hosted a hot-dog cookout and knot-tying session in the yard for the girls at church. My son generally requests a few friends to come "camping" at our house (his birthday is in April, so we set up the tent in the bedroom).

It's very relaxed, and the kids have fun being the host. DD has already been invited to attend the birthday party of two of DS's friends this fall--because, as they said, "She's a really good arranger, and everyone has fun!"

Hi everyone!

I'm part of a group of high school teenagers that are working towards getting the youth involved in exactly such programs - http://www.youthtakingaction.org/index.php?page=birthday-programs.

One of our programs, the Birthday Club, allows kids to set up their parties through our website. Participants can send out party invites to their friends and request them to donate online in lieu of bringing presents. The Birthday Club allows children to select how many presents they would like to donate, i.e. our website will only allow the first 'x' invitees to donate. In addition, the donors can also print and bring along a certificate to the party!

The birthday person can also choose where he/she would like to make an impact. One cause we support is - $10 can save 200 children from developing blindness due to lack of Vitamin A.

If anyone is interested in participating, please do visit our site. It's a great way to make your special day, a special day for many others as well!


The type of birthday party my 10 year old son chooses for himself and has really enjoyed for the last 3 birthdays is simply a sleepover with 5 of his best friends. They simply decide what they want to do for fun, such as play video games, play ball in the basement, watch a movie, or just talk. All I have to do is supply snack foods and stay awake! His friends have adopted this type of party as well.

Hi Parents of the 5 and under set! Here's the truth--we all invite ALL these kids to our children's birthday parties because we don't want to "offend" anyone--or hurt anyone's feelings. The reality is--even a simple home-based party-- with more than your child's age number of kids the party becomes overwhelming! I have been to at least 20 parties where the birthday kid looked completly overwhelmed at the sheer number of kids in his/her backyard. At most of these--the birthday kid found one child and went off with him/her for the entire event. It was as if they were too stressed to handle the other 13 kids there. I have finally learned--with my own children--not to do this anymore. I tell my daughter how many kids she can invite--and we only invite that many. Usually she only wants 2 maybe 3 children. Let's face it--how many close friends do we "adults" have? And why would you ever invite the whole kindergarten/preschool class? Did you like EVERYONE in your class when you were in school? Does your child even know all their names? I guess the hardest part is learning that you can't control what others think/feel--you just need to do what's best of your child. And, I've found--smaller is defintely better. Party on!

My girls are now 9 & (almost) 11. Most years we have a combined family party in September. One daughter's bday is July 5, mine is in Aug, other daughter and husband at end of September. July and August are too hot anyway! We invite all of our friends and family and we cook out. Presents have never really been an issue. If they want to bring something, ok. My girls are appreciative for whatever they get. One year my daughter didn't like a doll she was given. She didn't let the giver know, and then we donated it to the local children's hospital.
When we lived in a small apartment we either had the party at the pool, or Chuck E Cheese. We didn't do the party packages there. We just took in our cake and the presents, used coupons to get a good deal and they gave us extra plates for the cake, and even put our ice cream in their freezer until we were ready. The kids played, adults talked, and no clean up! Very inexpensive.
We usually also do something to celebrate closer to the actual day of the birthday if we are doing the family party, whatever the birthday person wants, like the zoo, botanical gardens, and anything "free" like Krispy Kreme's birthday donuts and mug.

I had to laugh when I read Linda's article in Redbook's August issue. My step-daughter's birthday party is tomorrow. Most of the kids in her class have their parties at the museum, zoo, pump-it-up, chuck-e-cheese, etc. My husband and I along with my step-daughter's mother had already decided and agreed just to have the party at our house with cake & ice cream. I hope that others parents will follow our lead and realize that you don't have to spend $1000 on your child's birthday party!

My son is now 11, and his parties are so easy! we invite a few of his friends over and they have pizza, and of course cake and ice cream, and then they play the Wii all night. It's great- no goody bags, etc. My daughter, 10, is a little different. A few girls spending the night is a whole lot more commotion than a few boys, in my experience!

I think you have to really let the people enjoy. No matter how grand the party is, you should make it lively. During these times, where we can be gaining confidence, instead of getting shy to the guests.

Especially with kids, they might not know some of the guest you have invited, so let them be the host especially if its their party. This way, they can start gaining confidence while they are young.

It would really be great if you start training your kids into gaining confidence. That would prepare them in getting along with people well as they grow.

I think you have to really let the people enjoy. No matter how grand the party is, you should make it lively. During these times, where we can be gaining confidence, instead of getting shy to the guests.

Especially with kids, they might not know some of the guest you have invited, so let them be the host especially if its their party. This way, they can start gaining confidence while they are young.

It would really be great if you start training your kids into gaining confidence. That would prepare them in getting along with people well as they grow.

A year ago in May, I gave my son, turning 8 at the time, the option to do a "large" party for his 8th birthday and a small for his 9th or vice versa. I explained to him we would be getting away from having a large party every year and we would be saving those for the "big" birthdays (16 yrs., 18 yrs. etc.) but that he could choose to have one last big one and when to have it. He chose the small party for his 8th birthday. He invited 4 friends, we had dinner, my husband took them for a game of laser tag and then they came home and played tag, basketball, etc. I had to remind them repeatedly to open the presents they were having so much fun doing the other stuff. After I drove everyone home (at midnight!), I asked my son what he thought. He said it was so great, he wanted to do a small party again for his 9th birthday. My younger son (6 at the time) said, "but you won't get as many presents if you have a small party." My comment was "I think your brother learned tonight that celebrating a birthday is not about the gifts, but about having a good time with friends to make your birthday special." My oldest son agreed. We did the small party again this year for his 9th birthday. A sleepover with three boys - we got pizza, played flashlight tag outside in the dark, basketball, etc. He has now said he would prefer small parties from now on and my younger son has started thinking the same way! Hopefully, my youngest son will always know it is done this way and will know the importance of having a fun and special birthday that is not defined by the where, how big, how much, etc. but focus on the WHO - friends having a great time!

I think the best way to enjoy the live is to play bingo with friends

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.

The first four years of my daughter's life included lavishly thrown parties. All with different themes, customized invitations, custom cakes, gift bags galore, decorations out the wazoo, professional costume rental for daddy to wear (Elmo yr 2), custom birthday outfit, etc. Her fourth birthday party even included a trip to Florida for a tag birthday party with her god cousin. Two huge castle princess cakes, decorations, elaborate gift bags, rented out an entire bowling alley, etc. Followed it up with a week long trip to Disney and SeaWorld. Reality finally hit me over the head. Who was I doing this for. I had been raised in a group of people that it was what you had, or what other people thought you had that you based your self esteem on. Wow, I finally got it and I was passing that evil onto my child. This year for her fifth birthday, we had a very simple Rainbow Fish party during snack time at her preschool. I brought in cupcakes along with goldfish, cheese and apples cut into the shape of little fish. We read the book Rainbow Fish as a class and then my little girl gave each one of her classmates a little book. She said it was her best party ever. For her next birthday she wants to help me make her own birthday cake and then just go to the zoo with mommy and daddy because it's a special day. Now that's what I call a birth-day!

We try to keep it simple around our house. We let our child plan the party, but we manage the plans so that they are not elaborate.

If gifts are allowed, we have them open the gifts at the beginning rather than the end so that the kids can all play with the gifts - kids that buy gifts, buy gifts that they want themselves. This gives them an opportunity to play with the gifts they gave.

When you keep the party simple, the kids have time to play and interact with each other.

My daughter turned one last week and I put on the invitation "your presence is the only present we need." Of course a few people felt too compelled to bring something so we waited until after the party was over for her to open them.

The following week we went to another one year old's party who received numerous gifts (including 3 swim suits). I said to another mom that I put no gifts on my daughter's invitation and she looked at me like I was the worst mother in the world and asked me... how is that going to make her feel? I said -- loved. The hour it took for the gift opening was spent with her getting cuddles and love from everyone.

my best friend is allway helping every one now it his birthday and I wanted it to be the best for him but I am just 16 aND i DON'T HAVE VERY MUCH MONEY

The DC Metro area is very big into lavish, over the top parties for kids-ponies, clowns, moonbounce-we even went to a party that gave the kids Hot Air Balloon rides. Honestly!

We just can't compete, so we don't! For our daughter's 4th birthday, we rented a pavilion at a local playground. She wanted a princess party but we had some boys attending too, so I made it a castle party and got lots of fun accessories at the dollar store-fancy princess wands (6 for a $1); breastplate armor with knight helmets ($1 a set); a 'jousting' game that I made myself with foam core boards and throw rings from another game. The playground we went to had a big volleyball area that was filled with sand so I hid some play jewelery in the sand and let the kids dig for treasure. The one thing that was the most pressure was the castle cake. I really wanted to make it myself and really make it look like a castle. My daughter loved it and the parents at daycare still talk about the cake. Our biggest expense was the pavilion, and in the end I could have gotten away with not actually renting it, but I was afraid that someone else would rent it the day before and then I would have no place for the guests. Total party cost $150 (includes pavilion rental). Oh, and we had 10 kids show up, each with at least one parent. We ordered pizza and I had lots of fresh fruit and veggies. Chloe still talks about her party, even after the hot air balloon ride at the other party!

My granddaughter's birthday is on boxing day, making it difficult to hold a party for her in any case. When she turned 7, we invited all her classmates to a local community centre to hear a presentation about "Sleeping Children Around the World", a registered charity. In lieu of birthday gifts, guests were invited to make a donation. Donations exceeded my wildest expectations, and 14 "bedkits" were sent to children in the undeveloped world in my granddaughter's name. A few weeks later, she was delighted to receive photos of children enjoying her birthday gifts!

I've learned that kids just love to come to your childs house and play? This is a big treat because it doesn't happen too often. This takes the pressure off of planning too many games - let them go to your childs room, play room or outside to have some play time.

My daughters' birthdays are very close together and since starting parties when they were 3 & 4, they have always had joint parties. This year they turned 12 & 13 and I said from now on "parties" were finished, but they could celebrate with a couple of friends in future (cinema/pizza - you get the picture). Both were fine about it. For their "last party" they wanted a party of their own. One went pottery painting with 9 friends, the other had about 12 friends to our saturday "disco night" at the local ice skating rink. I took lots of bottled water and juice, treat stuff like chocolates and cakes.

Both parties were very low pressure, a friend of mine stayed with me to help. We even painted our own pottery bits at one party and sat looking after coats and snacks, drinking coffee while the girls whizzed around on the ice at the other.

Some party extravaganzas have embarrassed me a bit, when the "going away present" was bigger than the gift we gave, when there were TWO childrens entertainers AND a bouncy castle... Since they've grown bigger there is a family who still insist on dinner on the evening, sleepover, two types of activities like bowling and swimming, followed by another meal out - you lose your child for half a weekend! My daughter loves it, but no more than she loves a two hour ice skate and fries!!

I think it's a good thing that so many parents have started to say "enough" and upon hearing that we've stopped formal parties, several friends have said they'll be doing the same. We will celebrate as a family, include a couple of really good friends and still have a brilliant time.

I don't think mine have ever compared their parties with anyone else's, including their own from previous years but they've always had that "best party ever!!" feeling no matter what I've planned.

I like this website though, seeing what people think is and isn't acceptable. Of course, if you have a huge amount of money it must seem natural to spend a bigger sum on your kids, and who would blame you? No matter how rich or poor you are, if you have raised your child well, they'll enjoy whatever you do without losing a sense of reality - it really is about the parents keeping a hold of normality.

I really like the idea of "presence/no presents" and would have gone with that when we had whole classes over - we used to put away a few unopened gifts for our local hospital. Now it'll just be two friends I dont'think that's necessary.

i know this is slightly weird or w/e that some one who the party is actually for is on here, but I'm bored and was looking for something to do for my friends party--it may be shocking--but I notice my parents pressure with parties. For instance, this year, I'll be celebrating my 16th birthday. and for the past few months my mom has been hammering me about what I wanted. So I told her to give me a few days and I'll come up with something. But she still kept pestering me, especially about cost and people that would come--so I thought about this. I'm a big outdoors person--as are my friends--so we're gonna take a suburban full of my friends to go camping for the weekend. That may sound like a "what the heck, are you crazy?!" idea, but if you think about it it's really not. We'll be at state park on the river, hanging out with our closest friends with a relatively cheap cost. I mean it's like 20$/nt. per campsite and 3$/prsn./day then food. Which of course is typical campin' out food like burgers and 'dogs. My mom thought that was a really good idea, because while I'm celebrating my birthday--she has a mini vacation.

Well I'm done with my shpiel or whatever. Maybe it helped--but it I'm not expecting it to. I just thought it was like one of the coolest ideas I've personally ever had and felt like sharing it. :-D

Personally, I love old-fashioned at-home or in-the-park birthdays. It puts the focus on friendship rather than "stuff".

Hmmm...birthday pressure. For my daughter's sixth birthday we invited 16 of her friends to a Chuck E. Cheese's birthday. Only three families R.S.V.P.'d, and only three kids showed up. My daughter was briefly devastated. She kept waiting for the rest of her party to show up, but they never did. I made her go play with her friends, and I know they had fun. It was a bad experience, but she got over it and didn't take it personally. (I didn't get over it though--it hurt to see my child disappointed on her first big party!) I explained that her friends had to rely on their parents to take them to parties, and that they probably would have come if they had been able to.

So this year, we're doing things differently:

1) We're having it at her gymnastics gym, which hosts parties for a reasonable price. They supply the activities so I don't need to dream up any party games. (I would have it at home, but our house is teeny.) She's inviting her entire class.

2)We're making it "multi-themed", i.e. anything we find on clearance that my daughter likes (I kid you not, this was her own idea to keep the price down). So far we have Pirate gift bags, Harry Potter napkins, unicorn napkins and Supergirl invitations. We're going back to the party store after Easter to score some bunny plates and cups.

3) Gift bags...will be filled with dollar store junk, stuff on clearance, pencils, stickers, gum. If it costs more than 20 cents, then I'm not buying it. Also, I'm only going to make half the gift bags, so if only half the guests show up I can return the unopened items. If all the guests come, I can have my mother assemble the other bags.

4) We're making our own "Candyland Cake". I warned my daughter that it might turn out strange looking (I'm not the best decorator), but she said she doesn't care.

5) We're only serving cake and drinks. Maybe some pretzels for the parents to nibble on. No lunch, no dinner.

My child's day care class includes a child whose family is vegan. I decided rather than try to make vegan cupcakes (I wasn't going to exclude the kid from the celebration) I donated a book to the classroom in my child's name. Too much celebration revolves around food anyway. The teachers loved it. After they read the book, the kids each made a bday card for my child and they called it a day.

We meet in the park during good weather or have folks over in bad weather for a playdate. Pizza and cupcakes, juice boxes and you're done. I didn't know there was all this "pressure" to do anything otherwise! One year I split the cost w/another parent whose kid's bday is the same as one of mine. The kids DIDN'T CARE! No one is in therapy over this. Good grief.

Living in California it is expected to throw a lavish party. I did for my sons first and fifth. However, the other birthdays we celebrate by going away for the weekend. On the day of his actually birthday we have a very small family dinner and only those that remember. I don't call or invite. I do not want to feel any stress especially since my kid does not really care for large birthday parties. It works out wonderful for us. We still end up spending a lot of money but it's all for my son. I don't mind spending and buying him every toy or things that he wants or needs. I find it cheeper than to throw a lavish party and he ends up with junk or things that he already has or cannot use. I hate returning anything so I usually throw it away or give it to someone that will enjoy it more. I rather spend the money on a 5 star hotel, fine dining and a weekend full of fun and spending on whatever my child wants. He's happy we are happy and we have made beautiful life time memories for him to cherish. In closing the only important thing that really matters is that my son is happy and we do all this for him. If we were to throw a party for him it ends up being for everyone but him. Attending to everyones needs to make sure that everyone is happy. This is not my idea of showing my child how much he is loved by catering to others. This way my son is the only true recipient and it really is all about him.

Personally, I don't get it.

We have one guest per year of age, homemade cake and give away an equal number of toys as new ones received as gifts.

What's so hard about that?

As an meaningful alternative to the excessive nature of many of today's birthday celebrations, please consider making a donation to the non-profit children's charity, Birthday Buddies Inc. which provides birthday Giftpacks to children living in Second Stage Housing for abused women. Birthday Buddies believes that these children are particularly deserving of a celebration in their honour and the delicious anticipation of receiving special gifts and much needed personal items on their birthday.
On your birthday why not choose to sponsor Birthday Buddies by accepting donations for the charity in lieu of a gift for yourself.
Each Birthday Giftpack aims to provide the following:

- a birthday cake with candles, a card and balloons,
- a selection of toys,
- a book,
- a writing journal and pens,
- a Personal-Pack, of age-appropriate toiletries, such as toothbrush/paste, deodorant, hair brushes etc.

All items are new & of good quality and are chosen specifically for the interests and needs of the birthday child. The gifts are wrapped & presented in a new back pack.
For more information visit www.birthdaybuddies.ca

The past two years I have definitely thrown huge themed birthday parties for my 2 year old daughter at our home. There is definite pressure in my community to have such eloborate parties. My daughter is turning 3 soon and the time has come to think about another party. However, this party will be more economical for everyone this year. I am planning my daughters birthday party at the beach. I will be asking those in attendance to bring their own picnic lunch and we will provide the cake. Also, we will put no gifts on the invitation. The beach is more than enough entertainment. Guests bringing their own picnic lunches would also be a great idea for a birthday at the park. The children can get involved by packing their own lunches.

My four year old has a ton of friends at preschool, church and gymnastics. We decided to have a BIG birthday party so that all her friends could come (about 20 kids)but our house just isn't big enough. Speaking of our house not being big enough, we didn't have any place for 20 new toys either. We had it at the indoor play area at the local mall, and then everyone went down to the food court for (home made) cake! We wrote on the invitation "no gifts please!" The party cost me paper plates, balloons, invitations and napkins. The cake was almost free and the kids enjoyed playing with one another more than anything else! I explained to our daughter that the party WAS her gift, and she loved it.

I talked with the kids and they said the balloons is what does it.

We buy them very cheap on eBay, mostly excess inventory. Some are printed with obsolete or irrelevant messages, but the kids don't care.

Last party we had over 3000 balloons and they cost less than $100 and that includes the 100 or so mylar balloons for kids to take home.

I did buy an electric inflator which was a bit pricy, but before that we used my shopvac on reverse. I also get a "K" size helium tank which costs $70 plus about $5 in tank rent from the place I get my welding supplies.

Even in a small house or apartment, you could do a smash hit party by filling a room with balloons and if you buy right, it wouldn't cost much.

I have 9 children. Each one gets a private party with the immediate family and all get a combined birthday party for their friends on July 4th. We live on a farm. We have a big barn that we have the party in. All of the children take part in cleaning the barn for the party, setting up, inflating balloons and whatever else is necessary. The last party we had over 100 people. My kids did it all, 5 cakes, 200 hot dogs, huge balloon drop, radio control planes, water balloons and a hay rack ride. Even my 4 year old helped by pulling the cord for the balloon drop at the end of singing "Happy Birthday."

We let kids be kids, teenagers be teenagers and we all have fun. Everyone helps clean-up and we have a bonfire when we burn the party garbage. No presents, no party bags. Helium balloons to take home, but that's about it.

The only complaint I get from my kids is from my teenage daughters and it's always the same, "the boys won't dance with us!"

We've done this for about 8 years and it is always a great success. People I don't know come up to me and comment about my great parties. I tell them to thank my kids, they make it happen. I realize that not everyone has the space or the number of children that I do, but when your children contribute effort to their party, they take ownership for it and they make it a success.

i need ideas!!!!!! plzzz get me som

We have really low key parties. Under the age of 5 or school age. We only invite the people that mean the most to our children. It normally consist of a few adults and cake and icecream. Now that my daughter is in 1st grade she wants a party with all her friends. We'll see how that goes. But I'm just looking to have a playdate type party just come over and play run around outside and have fun if it's warm enough we'll put the spinkler on for them to run through. Kids being kids that what it's all about.

Fun silly games or just free play. That is how I was raised - it nice to raise our children the same way.

This website is great. Its nice to see a resurgence of the basic. I recently started this website where parents can share birthday party ideas/cake pictures/etc. www.familye.com (e for entertaining :) At-home or homemade birthday parties have always worked for us, I have a 5/4/newborn. It is our house rule, so that nothing else is expected. And every year we have lots of fun planning and doing it - but we do it all ourselves. We bake the food. Last year we gave each child a big cookie that we made as the favor. Fun silly games or just free play. That is how I was raised - it nice to raise our children the same way.

We get a certificate every year in the mail for a "free birthday cake" from Safeway. It's just big enough for 4-6 people, so that way we have an excuse to keep the party small.

My oldest daughter's favorite and most memorable birthday party was the simplest party I ever had. She was turning 6, I was very pregnant with child #3 and not up to planning a party; I was also working part time and attending university full time. I talked to her about it and told her I wanted to celebrate the day, but that I really couldn't handle an apartment full of friends or any of the usual trappings. I asked her what cake or treat she wanted and what I could fix for her birthday dinner (just our family and her favorite food). We ended up having Rice Krispy treats and celebrating with whatever friends could come to the local playground at a moment's notice. There were no gifts (except something from her dad and me after dinner), no pressure, and all the kids at the playground were happy to sing to her and play in the sand. She even invented some of her own games and got the kids to play them. My 6-year-old became her own party planner and felt so "grown-up" that she could do it herself. I was amazed at how much fun such a simple party (if you could even call it that) provided.

I love a party as much as anyone, but I realized that with 4 children, birthday partys could get out of control really quick. So, I decided to let my kids be their own party planners. We have done everything from princess to horses for my daughter, and Jedi to superhero to Blues Clues for my boys. I found a website that allows me to create and print off (for free) party invitations. The kids have a great time coloring and they don't cost me anything. I make and decorate the cake myself (I love it and it doesn't cost me more than the cost of ingredients and a little time). We have a great time planning games and usually find things to play that have little or no cost associated. I did away with gift bags a few years ago, because I wanted the party to be the 'party favor', and I have only had one young guest ask about it. In 10 years of having over 25 birthday parties, I have never spent more than $40 on a party, and the kids are always excited for the next one.

My son is turning 3 in April, and I plan on giving him a party at the local zoo because he loves animals. I can invite up to 15 children, but I'm only inviting relatives and children he plays with regularly. I'm considering the no-gift route as he has too many toys, and really doesn't need anything. We celebrated his 2nd birthday with a trip to the zoo, with me, his father, and his cousin. He had a rather large party at home for his 1st birthday. It was mostly adult relatives. That was a little stressful because I did almost all the planning and coordinating alone. I'm going to celebrate my son's birthday every year, because I love him and believe in celebrating his life. I think that someone who does not do anything for their child's birthday is just as selfish as someone who goes over the top to please others. Each year I want my son's birthday to be memorable, whether it's a family day somewhere special or a large party with friends. As long as your child knows that they're special and you're doing it for them it really doesn't matter whether you have a party or not. I take a different point of view than most people on lavish parties. If you truly have the money and that's how you choose to spend it then go for it. I've been to a few parties that I thought money was wasted but I wasn't angered. If pony rides and bounce centers make your child feel special, why should I be mad. Some people posting seem envious of those who do go all out. Give your child a party because you want to, don't give your child one if you don't. Some people enjoy hosting parties (I do), others don't. Do what works for you, there is no right answer. Only what's right for you. It really doesn't matter because your child will recognize your true motives. Not giving your child a party because you don't want to compete with others is the same principle (selfishness) as giving your child a party because everybody else does. If you're truly celebrating your child, then you'll try to do something that they'll enjoy and appreciate, whatever that may be.

Facing a birthday party next week for my 5 year old daughter, and not wanting gifts or the ordeal of gift bags. So here's what we came up with: The Potluck Art Party. Each child is asked to bring whatever art supplies they'd like to share(or, if they have to buy them , to spend no more than $5 worth) We'll provide the paper, glue, brushes, scissors, frames. Hopefully we'll toss everything together and get creative. Each child will leave with the fruits of their creative labors, and a share of the loot. For the invitations, I printed up half-sheets of info, then my daughter and I cut up old artwork and embellished it with stamps, paint, etc. for "envelopes". I have no idea how this will work out, but it's met my goals of being activity-based, welcoming to both genders, non-Disney, and hopefully net zero in the too much stuff category. And of course, there will be cake. Although I'm planning on rolling up rugs and using sheets, my house will be a mess, but creative chaos I can deal with. We'll let you know how it goes...

I just had my daughter's 4th birthday. As I called around most places required 20 kids and if I didn't still got charged for 20. Finally I just invited 9 kids and had it at a local pizza shop that has a room with children's games. I did not rent their party room or anything which would have needed 20 kids at $20 each for pizza. At the end all the moms told me it was great. I refuse to fall into the pressure of big partys.

I found this site by coincidence and find it interesting. I never thought of birthday parties to be a thing of pressure. When I was little birthdays in my family were big celebrations. My mother had a hard time giving birth to me so each year was one to celebrate in big. Even though I looked forward to the parties, I don't recall ever being greedy or envious of others. Now that I have a daughter ( and also had a hard time in child birth) I also celebrate her birthdays in a special way. Unfortunately they get higher and higher in price each year but again I never saw it as pressure because I enjoy celebrating her life with all of our close friends.
I have never seen it the way people here describe the experience. We live in South Florida and everyone celebrates the events in their own way, usually in BIG wasy down here. Whether a big party or a small one, we enjoy them the same. I never , nor my child have made a remark about gifts eitherso this is news to me. I;m not saying that it doesn't happen but until now, I was not aware.
My child usually tells her friends they do not need to bring gifts just their presence on that day is a gift to her. She is only 9.
My advice then would be to talk to your friends if you feel pressured from their parties, but also speak to your child about these parties but do not take this beautiful celebration day away from them.
Communication is probably the best way to fix this problem. If you have a good relationship with your friends then it should not be a problem.
If the people inviting you to these outrageaous parties are not your friends then don't go. Why bother with giving yourself and your child the headache of having a bad time.
If you need to celebrate it the best way you can, within your family only, then do that. But let them know that you are happy for the new year God ( or whoever you believe in) has granted them. Don't just stop celebrating their birthdays because of others.
You don't need to spend lost of money on a party or a cake to show them how important they are in your life.
What happened to the times parents baked their children's cakes themselves. There are also cupcakes ( which are by the way in fashion these days)
As for the pressure of gift giving.
I read someone saying a book is a great gift. I think so myself!
You can spend less than $10 on a great book.
As for the party bags. I don't think they are necessary either but If you must give something a book also works well for this. A book in the theme you have chosen with a personal note from the birthday child is a great one. This is also good at any age.
It's just sad to see that something so special has gotten to the level of adding pressure or stress to people's lives these days.

My youngest is now 18.

NO "birthday parties" before age 5 -- we had special family meals. For her 2nd birthday, auntie, cousin, bd girl & mom went to a small zoo/amusement park. 3rd birthday, same event, with one more kid/mom pair. 4th birthday, cupcakes at preschool. 5th birthday, a special event at school (arranged for "The Lizard Lady" to visit the class, with permission of the principal & teacher). 6th birthday, ditto.

7th birthday -- seven girls came over and I supplied glueguns and glitter -- made crowns and ornaments.

8th birthday -- since dd's birthday is in the rainy months, and since we had a large covered space, invited the whole class (19 kids) and played traditional very active playground games (red-rover, simon says, blind-man's bluff). NO goodie bags.

9th birthday -- another school-based celebration, the most expensive one, but I think it was worth it. The "learning theme" at school that year was "Knowing the Pacific", so I paid for a Hawaiian performance troupe to come to school. The entire school learned a song and sort of learned one hula. No cupcakes, we had mochi instead. For her actual bday, I took my dd and a classmate, who has the same bday, to a tea shoppe for "high tea".

10th birthday -- sleepover with about 7 classmates and we decorated Xmas ornaments. I was still sweeping up glitter weeks later, but dd's classmates still remember that one.

16th birthday -- limo with 6 gfs to restaurant of dd's choice.

18th bday -- an open house for all her friends at her brother's house (we invited about 30 people, probably 25 showed up). I got lots of finger food from Trader Joe's and the local grocery.

this is a great site-the kids are 6, 4 and 16months and I don't get the concept of loot bags-we have always done the blow up balloons on the string for each child that comes-and we have a bouncing balloon contest and they take that home and then we usually blow bubbles and they get bubbles to take home as well and one year my daughter got a cd of mixed music she loved and we made all her friends a copy so loot bags, nope and we just play and have snacks-it seems to work and the kids love it and then we make everyone their own ice cream cone with cake in it that they get to decorate and have a candle in it and everyone gets to blow it out (and have never had left over cake that I have had to throw out...)

For my son's 2nd birthday party we invited about 8 friends for a dinner party and the 'real celebration' -- 2 years of being parents!! Our son was in bed before the party even started and has no idea that he missed out or not.

We recently attended a great birthday party that was an outdoor food fight. (We live in Central Florida.) It was good cheap fun and the moms turned it into a great experience for kids and families. We all applaud this effort to bring sanity to the birthday machine.

You might be intersted to read the blog entry I posted on our blog at the Orlando Sentinel's Web site. Here's the link: