Tag Archives: parenting

Happiness Isn’t Measured in Dollars: Fun and Frugal Birthday Parties


The U.S. economy is steadily expanding but for many workers, paychecks barely keep ahead of inflation. During these financially challenging times, smart moms and dads carefully monitor household spending.

A birthday party needn’t be an extravagant affair.  You can create a fun and fabulous event for your child at a reasonable cost.  Here are a few tips from playparty.net.

1. Sharpen your pencil; be realistic. Figure out how much you can afford to spend on the party. Then, stick to your budget.

2. Use your home or another low-cost location as the party venue. For example, the neighborhood park is free and offers plenty of space for the kids to play.

3. Consider scheduling the party on a week day. Ask prospective vendors if they offer discounts for events held between Monday and Friday. (Hint: playparty.net’s Mid-Week Discount saves you $50.)

4. Before selecting a time for the party, think about the type of refreshments you’ll serve. Does your budget permit you to provide a meal? Or are snacks a better fit? Meals are appropriate for parties held between 11 AM and 1 PM or between 4 PM and 6 PM. If the party is scheduled for mid-morning or mid-afternoon, snacks may be sufficient and acceptable.

5. Send invitations electronically if you have email addresses for all of your guests or their parents. (Hint: Check out paperlesspost.com, evite.com and punchbowl.com.) Not only will you save on postage and stationery, but on-line services make it easy to track RSVP’s and send reminders.

6. Try to prepare most of the refreshments yourself. (Hint: Don’t be afraid to ask family members for help. Your child’s favorite auntie would probably be thrilled to make the birthday cupcakes.)

7. Purchase food, such as crackers, pretzels or fresh fruit and vegetables, in bulk.

8. Serve beverages, such as juice or soda, from large bottles instead of purchasing individual-sized containers.

9. If possible, use items that you already have at home as part of the decorations.

10. Buy decorations and other party supplies from a discount store.

11. Prizes and party favors are optional. If you choose to provide them, keep in mind that they needn’t be elaborate or expensive.

12. Use paper bags to hold party favors. During the party, have guests decorate the bags.

13. If your child wants to celebrate his/her birthday at an amusement park, allow him/her to invite just one special friend.

14. Remember what’s most important about marking your child’s birthday — honoring his special place in the family, and reminding her how much she is loved.  Savor the sweetness of the day.


Contact us for more birthday party tips and to book the Best LEGO Party or the Ultimate Race Car Party .

Mike’s Top 20 Tips for Planning a Happy Birthday Party

Dear Mike,

Help! My little munchkin Taylor is turning 4. We had small family gatherings to celebrate birthdays 1, 2 and 3 but this year I’d like to include Taylor’s pre-school friends. I’m nervous because I don’t entertain a lot and I don’t know the other parents very well. How can I make sure the party will be a success?

— Hazy on Hosting, Southern California

Ask Mike

Dear Hazy,

Planning a party can be enjoyable.  It just takes a bit of time, a bit of organization and a bit of creativity.  Start by checking out this Step-by-Step Guide.

Here are my top 20 tips for coordinating an event that’s fun for everyone — your birthday munchkin, your guests and especially you, the proud parent and happy host.

1.   Remember that your child is the reason for the party. As much as possible, involve him or her in decisions about the theme, guests, activities and food. Don’t worry about trying to impress the other parents.

2.  Kids’ birthday parties typically last about two hours. Don’t schedule the party during your child’s usual nap time.  Specify start and end times on the invitations.

3.  For younger children, it may be best to have the party at home. Little kids usually feel more comfortable in a familiar environment.

4.  Be mindful of the season. If your child’s birthday is in August, avoid the heat by holding the party in the morning or late afternoon. If festivities will take place outdoors, check that there’s adequate shade, or consider renting a tent.

5.  If you’re planning an outdoor celebration for a child born between November and March, reserve a back-up venue in case it rains.

6.  Book entertainment that’s age-appropriate. The Ultimate Race Car Party is perfect for 3- to 6-year olds. And 4- to 8-year-olds love the Best LEGO Party.

7.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Enlist your spouse, babysitter, relatives or neighbors for assistance. An extra pair of hands is especially important if guests will be dropped off by their parents.

8.  Remove pets from the party area. Some children are allergic to or afraid of animals.

9.  Tie balloons to your mailbox or use other decorations to mark the party location.

10.  Play music to create a festive atmosphere.

11.  As guests arrive, invite them to do arts and crafts.  Some children need time to transition into party-mode. A little later, playparty.net will kick-off the Ultimate Race Car Party or Best LEGO Party. Afterwards, serve refreshments and the birthday cake. Let the kids wind down as the party ends.  Guide the birthday child in saying “thank you” and giving party favors to each guest as he or she departs.

12.  Serve kid-friendly refreshments. Simple, familiar foods like hamburgers, hot dogs or sandwiches are good choices. Consider ordering pizza to be delivered — it’s much easier than preparing the refreshments yourself.

13.  Avoid serving any food containing nuts or shellfish, as many kids are allergic to them.

14.  Place trash cans and recycling bins in strategic locations to simplify clean-up.

15.  Ensure that the party site is safe for kids.  Be especially attentive to potential hazards such as vehicle traffic on the street, a pool, steps or stairs, decks or balconies, glass doors, windows and chemicals.

16.  Check and restock your first aid kit.  Put extra ice in the freezer or ice chest. Bandages, antiseptic spray and ice will come in handy if a guest gets a cut, scrape or bruise.

17.  With younger children, be prepared for possible melt-downs. Their moods can change suddenly. Keep a box of tissues handy.

18.  If babies will be present, make sure that party favors are large enough not to be a choking hazard.

19.  Be flexible. If  kids don’t like an activity, move onto something else. On the other hand, if a game is unexpectedly popular, allow kids to continue to play. The goal is for guests to have fun, not to check-off items on an agenda.

20.  Enjoy this special milestone in your child’s life. Celebrate the unique person that he is. Show her how much she is loved. And most of all, have fun!

Merry Birthday-mas?  The Joy of Holiday Birthdays

If your child was born between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, you’ve probably encountered at least one Scrooge who considers holiday birthdays a curse or a tragedy.  Pay no mind.  Holiday birthdays are delightful!


Remember:  We celebrate birthdays to rejoice in the life of someone we love.  So, focus on your child’s preferences and make the occasion memorable.  Establish your own family
traditions.  Let your kid shine on his or her special day.

Keep reading for ideas wrapped up just for you, courtesy of Playparty.net, about how to make holiday birthdays magical.

Rituals are important

H. Ann Myers advises parents to “make birthdays equal”, especially when there are two or more children in the household.  Be sure to include the rituals that are part of all other family birthdays.  Serve birthday cake and sing “Happy Birthday”—even if it’s December 25th.

Allow the birthday child to set the menu for the birthday meal.  Linda DiProperzi has two rules for post-Thanksgiving birthdays:  (1) no leftover turkey; and (2) no pumpkin pie with a candle stuck in it.

Create a “Birthday Zone”

If you’ve decked the halls with boughs of holly, create a “Birthday Zone” somewhere in your home.  Linda suggests hanging  banners in the birthday child’s bedroom, or putting balloons in the bathroom and writing “Happy Birthday” on the mirror.

Time shift the party

It’s not easy to plan a birthday party at the end of the year.  Some of your child’s friends will be away on vacation or busy with Christmas festivities.  Sarah Dees recommends “having a party a few weeks before or after the birthday” to avoid the holidays.

A half-birthday party is another option.  Some parents have a small family celebration on the birthday and a bigger party in the spring or summer.  Rose Richmond has three
children, all born in December.  When they were old enough to make a decision, Rose permitted each child to choose when and how to celebrate his or her birthday.  Rose’s kids
enjoyed planning their own birthday activities.  You might find that your daughter wants a June swim party while your son hankers for a backyard camp out in September.

Laura Amann provides perspective. “No one solution is perfect for everyone. Some kids resist celebrating on any day but their actual birthday, while some enjoy having a day that doesn’t involve the holiday.  It may take a few years to get it right.”

Consider other activities

Sarah believes that “kids don’t need a party every year”.  She “saves the big parties” for when her sons are five- and ten- years old.  Other birthdays are celebrated with a fun,
casual outing such as a visit to the zoo or lunch at a favorite restaurant.

Sarah also describes a tradition of family members gathering to view photographs and home videos.  Each person in turn shares something he or she loves about the birthday child.

Rose takes the birthday child to his or her favorite place and invites friends to join them there. “One year we took all of the kids ice skating.”  In lieu of gifts, Rose asks “everyone to come and spend time with the birthday person.”

What about gifts?

Gifts can be tricky.  Some December-borns feel that combination Christmas-birthday gifts are unfair.  On the other hand, receiving two rounds of gifts within a few weeks can be overwhelming, especially for younger kids.  Every family eventually finds a way to resolve the gift-giving dilemma.  Here are a few examples.

Laura says, “Everyone deserves separate birthday recognition.”  Never use holiday wrapping paper for birthday gifts and don’t put birthday gifts under the tree.  If the birthday falls on a gift-giving holiday, Linda suggests, “Carve out some special time when only she will be opening presents.”

For Christmas, Ann and her husband give smaller gifts to all of their kids.  In their household, birthday gifts are larger, more personal and more meaningful.  “The birthday gift has to be thoughtful, an expression of love, a message that we understand our son’s individual personality.”

Sarah keeps all of her kids’ birthdays “simple as far as gifts go.”  With her youngest son who was born on January 3rd, she planned a family activity for his birthday and postponed gift-giving until his half-birthday in July.

You may need to intervene if Aunt Mary gives a combination gift to the child with the holiday birthday while siblings receive separate gifts.  Sarah suggests tactfully asking Aunt Mary to combine gifts for all of the children in the family.

Wrapping it up

Celebrate your child’s birthday AND the holidays in the way that’s best for your family.  As Ann says, what’s most important is to “put your child first and make him or her feel