I love to celebrate! Seriously… I love to celebrate everything: holidays, birthdays, Pi Day, Star Wars Day (May the 4th be with you!), and even Taco Tuesdays. Any chance I have to do something fun and out of the ordinary with my kids is an opportunity to make memories, share laughs, and just live in the moment. What is the point of living if not to celebrate the lives we have been given and the people we care about? A celebration does not have to be a full-blown affair with caterers, wall-to-wall decorations, and a three-tiered cupcake display. A celebration could be something as simple as a store-bought donut shared to commemorate the last day of school. The point is to be present and observe the person, event or moment that is special to you. Allow me to show you how I have learned to create memorable kids parties and special occasions with my top tips for less stress, less fuss, less expense and a whole lot more fun.
Allow me to show you how I have learned to celebrate special occasions with my top tips for less stress, less fuss, less expense and a whole lot more fun.
My favorite type of celebration is a kid’s birthday party. It is such a special moment for the child and the parent. I have been known to get a bit carried away with parties, but I love to do it. I troll Pinterest and plan months ahead with my kids to make their birthdays special and unique. I don’t do it to impress anyone. I don’t do it for the social media posts (in fact sometimes, I even forget to take pictures). My main motivations are to make the kids happy, spend time with our friends & family, and celebrate who my children are in this moment. If you don’t like going over the top for parties or don’t have the time or energy, then throw the party that is best for your family. Your love and intention are far more important than the outcome of the event. In fact, some of my favorite party memories are mishaps and unexpected moments.
For my eldest daughter’s birthday one year, she wanted to have a chocolate-themed party. This meant chocolate treats, chocolate milk, chocolate games and, of course, a chocolate fountain. A friend happened to have a fountain we could borrow but did not have the instructions that came with it. We added the chips and oil but missed the essential step of pre-melting the chocolate. The result was the biggest chocolate explosion the world has ever seen. Ok, maybe not, but we were cleaning chocolate off of furniture, walls and the ceiling for weeks after the event. Was the party ruined? Absolutely not! We laughed until we cried and the kids were still talking about her party and the “explosion” years later. The lesson we did learn was to be more prepared before the party starts, not be so rushed and remember to be in the moment.
From this event and many other kid’s parties, I have developed many tricks and habits to make the parties more fun, the events more memorable, and the hosts much less stressed… all while saving time and money in the process. Hopefully, my advice will help you enjoy the process, prepare a memorable event, and learn to love celebrating.
Here are my top tips for memorable kids parties that are stress-free & budget-friendly party:
Let your kids pick the theme!
It is really tempting to follow trends and have the most popular party theme of the season. While this might make for some nice photos, it will not necessarily be a reflection of your child. Your kid will not be the same kid next year. He or she may not like the same shows, characters, activities and foods in the years to come. Think of the party theme as a representation of your child’s personality in the moment. If they are calm and love to make believe, a quiet garden party makes sense. If they are adventurous and outgoing, then a fun location or crazy games may be called for. You will be so excited when you get to look back in future years and remember their obsession with a movie, sport, book or perhaps even garbage trucks.
Pick the location and scale that makes the most sense for you!
If you don’t have a big house or hate hosting, don’t have a party at home. All this will do is stress you out. Plus, you will most likely have to clean up the house before and after the party. Ain’t nobody got time for that. If you don’t like big groups or aren’t very social, keep the party intimate. If you want hands off, then pick a kids’ party venue. If you want to save money and can’t have it at home, many parks offer free or cheap picnic areas and some restaurants, lodges, and churches do too. We once paid just $30 for a gigantic room at the Elks Lodge by our house. It doesn’t matter how big or extravagant anyone else’s parties are. Do what is best for your family, your child and your budget.
Pick your favorite party element(s) to make special!
We want to give our kid the best possible party, but that doesn’t mean everything that they want or every idea you see on Pinterest. Ask them (and yourself) what the most important part of the party is to them (the cake? Amazing games or activities? The treat bags?). Put your focus on that one element and nix or short-cut the remainder. Go crazy preparing and decorating the most enticing cupcake display, but keep the games and decorations simple. It is ok to mix-&-match special, homemade elements with store bought items. By focusing on one project that means the most to you and your child, you will ensure the party is special, memorable, and unique.
Make it yourself! (or better yet, make it with your kids!)
Making things yourself can not only save a ton of money, but also make the party unique. You don’t have to go over-the-top with handmade everything to add a special touch. Just pick your favorites or the ones that will save you the most money. My kids love preparing things for their party with me: mixing the cake batter, hanging the streamers, making a sign or decoration. Not only does it provide great bonding time with them and memories of this birthday, but it gives them a sense of pride in their special day. My son loves to show guests, especially friends, what he made for his party. “Look! I got to put the sprinkles on the cupcakes!”
Prepare as much as you can in advance!
So you may not be able to put up decorations or set out food too far in advance, especially if the party is outside of your home, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be organized. Prep decorations, treats, goodie bags, and food ahead of the day so you aren’t rushed, stressed and sweaty when guests arrive. If the party is at home, I will put up wall decorations and set up tables at least the day before. The kids love to help and the early preparation builds their excitement and enjoyment of the event.
Shop your home for decorations!
Rather than spend a bunch of money and time shopping on party décor, look around your house for ideas. Steal the school picture off your mantle to personalize the gift table. Hang your daughter’s tutu or ballet slippers on the wall. Set out action figures, toys or decorations from your children’s rooms to match the party theme. Having that special toy or personal item in the background of photos will remind you of who your child was this age and add a special touch to the party.
Make a display table!
If you really want that wow factor at your party, make a display table: a dessert table, buffet, gift table, display of photos… whatever makes sense for your party. You don’t have to decorate the entire space or set up a display for each party element. Simply pick the one that best fits your party and dress it up. This can be as simple as hanging a dollar store table cloth on the wall with a coordinating color on the table. Having a display table as a focal point is a good coming-together place for gifts & cake, and also makes a great backdrop for photos.
Stock Up on Clear Serving Dishes!
If you regularly serve a meal, snacks or treats at your parties, I recommend stocking up on clear serving dishes. Even if none of the pieces are a set, the simplicity of the clear dishes allows the whole display to blend well together. Plus, clear will go with any theme. You can get them anywhere: party stores, thrift stores, Ikea, yard sales, or even in your own kitchen. I have been gradually adding bowls, platters, and cake plates to my supplies as I come across deals so it wasn’t a big investment to establish a “set.”
Buy solid, clear or white tableware!
Unless your child insists that it is a priority for them, avoid buying the character plates or party packs. They are often overpriced & flimsy and can only be used for that one party. Instead, buy white, clear or solid color plates that you can reuse at other times. Not only will this save you money, but it also makes the décor more elegant and less busy. I have been using the same set of white and clear tableware that I purchased in bulk for multiple parties. It is all going to end up in the trash anyway.
Have white cardstock on hand!
White cardstock has been my saving grace for years now. I always have a ream on hand for quick kid projects (like homemade greeting cards and water coloring). If you have a printer at home, you can use the cardstock to make your invitations, party signs, thank you cards, etc. I even print out images from my computer to make my own party decorations and banners. This is another great opportunity to make the party unique, spend time with your kids, and save a bunch of money.
Relax and remember to enjoy the day!
Parties are meant to be fun and not punishment. If you spend the entire time stressing over the decorations, having everything in its place, whether every single person’s needs are met or what other parents will think of you, you will definitely not enjoy the event. Plus, your kids will remember you on the day as being stressed, crazy and well… not fun. The memories your children make at the parties and their laughter is much more valuable than a perfect picture for your social media post.
I hope my take on parties and these tips will get you excited for your next event. Celebrations and parties are meant to highlight special moments in our life. Be sure to remember that your happiness and sanity are more important that the outcome of the event. If something about the party stresses you out, delegate it out or just skip it. There are no rules these days for how to throw a kid’s party. No routine or schedule. Just plan ahead, include your kids, and have fun!
Don’t forget that there is so much to celebrate each day. Be grateful for what you have, and celebrate everyone and everything you care about.