School Year Strategies for Birthday Party Season

From September until June, the kids’ birthday parties suck a lot of juice in terms of planning, travel, and money.

Over the course of a year, how many birthday parties do you suppose most elementary school kids attend? It’s a barrel of monkeys for them, but for parents, it’s a significant ding if you were to add it up.

In addition to the quantity, some families go really overboard, and retailers have only capitalized on the idea of themes, party spaces, bounce house rentals, and even amusement park hosting. It gets to be a silent oneupmanship among families all trying to outdo each other in the birthday arena.

There are plenty of ways to turn it down and make the birthday dream come true for all our kids. We can collectively decide not to indulge in excess and disposability, but actually make the event count. Here are some alternatives and ideas to work from in keeping the birthday party concept simple and happy.

Group together. Many times school friends have birthdays in a clump, so rather than everyone going to the same separate expense, go in on all the prep. Kids don’t need to be doted on exclusively; on the contrary, they often love celebrating in tandem.

Do away with disposables. We tend to get paper plates and plastic cups so we can huck everything at the end, but if you invest in some well-made party gear and keep the numbers sane, you don’t have to go buy it all again next year. That also goes for party props like noisemakers and hula hoops.

Keep it small. Rather than investing in a big blow out, invite a few close friends and parents to a roller rink, an art studio, or a public park. This way the kids actually get to spend some quality time with the birthday girl or boy.

Activities vs. stuff. Set up the music and have a dance party, do a beanbag toss, or have a Frisbee relay. The play part is the part they will remember.

Strategic gifting. With relatives, put the word out for one larger purchase such as a bike or a bunk bed, and have everyone chip in. With gifts at the party itself, either cap the cost of presents or eliminate them altogether. Do away with party favors; those are a weak attempt to soften the blow of one kid getting all the gifts.

Make upcycle cool. Hand off good condition practical things like shoes and sweaters, reuse gift bags and tissue, or make something out of household materials. Time and thought are bigger gestures that we want our kids to appreciate.

Batches of unisex toys. When preparing to attend parties, check out some unisex toys that can span a large age range, like musical instruments, puzzles, building toys, and art supplies. Stash them in a closet so that you aren’t shopping every single time your child gets an invitation.

We can have conversations with parents and release everyone from the deadlock of what is appropriate just by throwing out ideas and agreeing to lessen the load. The children will not suffer if they share, own less, and do more; in fact, it’s very much the opposite. Yes, it is a cultural ritual and it’s important for us to mark the time with ceremony, but we should decide why and how much. Our kids will come to understand and respect that choice when they are older. Plus, they will still have a ball.

 

About Susie Almaneih

Susie Almaneih spent several years during her young adulthood teaching children dance at her church group, as well as other cultural-based activities. Susie now spends as much time as she can giving back to the families in her community. Over the years, this love for community has evolved into a deeper love for delivering positive and creative content and awareness to families of all ages.

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