My baby is almost two.
Though he’s not really a baby anymore. He drinks out of a cup and is tall enough to open doors all by himself. But he’ll always be my baby, right? I mean, I’m 33 and I’m still my mom’s baby.
Last year we had a very low key celebration for Henry’s first birthday. The highlight was the two monkey cakes I made. One big and one mini. No gifts. At least not from us. His Grandma’s are another story.
I’ve had a few requests for minimalist ways to celebrate kid’s birthday parties. Living with less doesn’t mean no fun or, you know, just a single candle on a dry biscuit for your seven year-old’s big day. But kid’s birthday parties can be a bonanza of gifts, useless loot bags and one off decorations that are destined for the recycle bin. They can also be really expensive.
My main advice: think activity, not stuff.
Here are a few minimalist-ish ideas of themes and activities for birthday parties:
Toonie party. What is a toonie you ask? It’s a Canadian two dollar coin. This is an awesome trend back in Vancouver (and maybe other Canadian cities?) where instead of bringing a gift for the birthday child, guests bring a toonie. After the party the child can use those dollars to go and pick out a toy or gift. Frugal fun and takes the focus off gifts and onto the party part of a the day.
Craft the party food. Again, take the focus off gifts and onto an activity. Decorate cookies, make fruit shish kebabs or, for the more adventurous or older children, involve them in a cooking activity. One of my favourites: make your own pizza. Pizza dough is dead cheap to make and loads of fun to play with.
Sing. It’s good for you. For young kids hit the favourites and for older ones consider finding a few new ones and handing out song sheets. Not up to leading the choir yourself? Source a leader from guests, or with younger kids, from parents attending. There’s a wanna be crooner in every crowd.
Simple white lights. You probably have some tucked away for the holidays. Pull them out and plug them in. Easy and gives a celebratory air to any room. And way easier to clean up than streamers or confetti.
Scavenger hunt. Loves this idea for young kids to scavenger for colours. Kind of like Eye Spy. Scavenger hunts don’t have to be too elaborate, particularly for young children. It could be as simple as making name tags for each guest and hiding them around the yard or your home.
Make loot bags. If you’re stuck on the idea of a take away gift think about ways to make the gift interactive. Have guests decorate loot bags and pick their ‘loot’ from a small stash of treats and a few toys. Even better: make loot bags to tote home leftover cupcakes and party food.
Share decorations. If you want to use number appropriate decorations think about sharing, or borrowing, from another family. I’ve borrowed, and loaned out, cake toppers and other decorations before. It’s a great way to get more value out of single purpose items.
Dance. Maybe you don’t know the Macarena but you probably have a friend that considers themselves an expert. Have them lead your kids in a short dance lesson. Nothing cuter than five year-olds learning to two-step.
Games. Ummm… I love this one. Can’t wait for Henry and his friends to try and balance chocolate covered donuts on their foreheads. I’m sure there are loads of ideas out there for creating custom games, ideas that will have you up till four in the morning spray painting garbage cans and stenciling Harry Potter character names on to t-shirts. Personally, I’d prefer a game of croquet or donut balancing, and more sleep.
Family far away? Go digital. I’ve decided we will stick with small family parties until Henry is school age. We have many years ahead of us of inviting the whole class over. So this year I sent out an e-vite to family and asked if they could be online at a certain time to say hello. We’ll be eating cake and Henry will open the gifts his Grandmas have sent. Gearing up to sing Happy Birthday five or six times.
What else? I would love to hear more ideas for simple yet fun kid’s birthday parties. Particularly for older children. Any parents of teens want to weigh in?
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