With our first daughter, we had a HUGE first birthday party. We had 50 guests. We purchased a few very expensive toys. Everything was wrapped beautifully and we had a bakery-made cake. It was a fun party, but she had to take a nap in the middle of it. It was a huge endeavor, and a huge expense.
Fast forward 20 years. We have learned a few things about children’s parties.
Children have much lower expectations than that. For my youngest son’s recent two-year birthday, we invited just our immediate family and his grandparents. For our dinner, I made a baked potato bar. I made 20 baked potatoes. For toppings I had sour cream, cheese, butter, broccoli, taco meat mix (refried beans, venison, taco seasoning), salsa, salt and pepper. We had ice cream and a homemade cake, complete with sprinkles. His sister made the cake for him. We did buy special birthday plates to serve the cake and ice cream.
Instead of expensive party games, I bought a bag of balloons and we blew up half a dozen or so that the children enjoyed bouncing around the house for several days until I got tired of them. The balloons doubled as decorations.
Daniel thought the party was so much fun! Because we kept it small and casual, he was in a good mood throughout and did not get tired and cranky.
As for gifts, we found a bubble making machine for around $18.00. We did purchase that new. For his other gifts, his siblings gave him wooden puzzles (50 cents each at a second-hand store), a Fisher Price family farm (thrift store item), and a weasel ball that was found in their grandmother’s house – but was brand new and had never been opened. All it needed was batteries.
Now, as children get older, we do tend to spend more for gifts, but I really try to make the gifts ones that will have lasting value and that can be passed to other children. When you start making plans for the next birthday in your house, think of ways you can reduce costs and still have a pleasant party. Can you make some things homemade, rather than buying them? Can you reduce the decorations you will throw away anyway? Can you reduce the cost of the food? Do you need to have so many guests? Can second-hand or homemade gifts work for this child, given his age or preferences?
Malia Russell is the blessed wife to Duncan, thankful mother to five children, ages 2 to 21 and an author, conference speaker and director of www.homemaking911.com and www.wheat-n-things.com. Visit her site for inspiration, encouragement and practical help in your roles as a godly wife, mother, homemaker or home educator.