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Throwing Birthdays - Piece of Cake?

Back in the childless days, I loved throwing parties.  They were painless in the sense that once the liquor started flowing, you didn't have to sweat the details.  Fast forward a few years and now that I have children, I spend time a great amount of time deliberating a plan of attack.  It seems like there's so much pressure tied to throwing a child's birthday party.  Who should we invite?  Where should we have it?  Gifts, or no gifts?

For Carter's 1st birthday, he had it back in Minneapolis.  It was a bit of reunion of sorts with friends and family so we had a ton of guests, and had to tote back a ton of gifts.  I loved seeing old friends and my family, but I wasn't too fond of all of the gifts.  For me, celebrations aren't about gifts.  For Carter's 2nd birthday, I thought long and hard whether to host it at our house or somewhere else.  I also posted this on urbanMamas to see if it would generate any ideas.  In the end, we held it at home, and invited the urbanMamas and some neighbor friends.  We decided on a "no gift" policy since with a February birthday, Carter was still swimming in gifts from the holidays.  Every year, I get a better sense of how I like to handle birthdays, and keeping it simple is always key.  Here are two fuss free ideas that we used for Carter's birthday this year:

Cupcake birthday cake.  This year, my husband came up with a brilliant idea of making a cake out of ice cream cone cupcakes.  When it came time for cutting the cake, it was so easy!  After Carter blew out the candles, I handed each child an ice cream cone.  No messing with plates, silverware, and anxious kids.  He didn't keep it simple by also making apple cupcakes and a carrot cake for the adults.

Icecreamcones_3

Book exchange in lieu of gifts.  We attended a couple of parties last year that had book exchanges rather than gifts and loved the idea.  Each child was instructed to bring a book to Carter's party, and when before they said their "good byes" I made sure they chose a book before leaving.  We did not provide clear instructions, but somehow it worked out fine.  However, to alleviate confusion, you should provide guests with explicit details such as "bring a new, unwrapped book that is appropriate for kids age 2 yrs old and older" or "bring a wrapped book from your child's collection that he / she would like to pass on to a friend ages 2 yrs old and older".

What are your ideas for a fuss free party?  I've got another birthday to throw this summer so I'd love to hear any simple successes!

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I agree. Birthday parties are stressful. We have friends we like to invite (some with multiple kids) and our children have friends. Our sons' birthday parties can get up to 30 people. We've reached a point where we're going to only invite friends who have kids the same age as the child having the birthday party. Friends that have multiple kids will be asked only to bring the child that is the same age as our child having the party. We'll see how it goes.

Also, can we all agree to do away with the party favors? Usually, we're giving each other bags of crappy toys that the kids lose interest in within a day or two. Inevitably, I step on one in barefeet in the middle of the night. If we must give party favors, let's keep them to stickers, tatoos, or healthy snacks.

By the way, we loved the book exchange idea.

I couldn't agree more with your idea to keep parties simple. Whilst I haven't hosted many kids parties, I have attended a few and the parents always seem to have spent a ton of money and look generally stressed out much of the time. There are usually many people present and I wonder whether for a baby of 1, 2 or 3, it's worth it 'cause the babies would have a good time I'm sure even if there were only a few kids/adults there. And yeah, I have noticed how the plastic toys can proliferate in your house until it's quite overwhelming!

The book exchange idea did rock, Hau. That was brilliant!

Maybe I'm a freak (ok, yes I am), but I love putting together cute theme parties. I don't spend a lot of money and I don't get stressed about it but that's because I love it; if you don't love putting together big kid parties, you shouldn't feel guilted into having one. I think parents just need to focus on the aspects of the parties that are important to them and forget the rest.

To answer your fuss free party ideas question, I think that doing color themes are super easy to do and everything looks pulled together, even if you only spent $20 on decorations and accessories. You could have all primary colored foods (hmmm...), decorations, napkins, linens, etc.

Tom's party favor comment almost killed me - I love party favors! But mainly edible ones, healthy or not :). Toy party favors can be useless.

Sometimes the easiest route to take is to go to a place that hosts parties regularly and just let them take care of everything, including clean up, which is always the worst part for me.

Cute, theme parties hey ?!... what a cool idea. I also love the cupcake birthday cakes.

I confess, I'm in Marlynn's camp of party throwing. This last one (3rd), I made a vow to scale back on guests, prep, etc - especially since I was 6 months preggers. Didn't happen. We had a cowboy birthday and I made a false front western town out of appliance boxes with "rooms" behind and huge clip art cutout signs, stand-up animals, etc.; "wanted" posters with each kid's photo (husband's contribution - burning the edges of the paper. oh, he also made the jail); favors were the sheriff stars on the top of the cupcakes, cowboy hats from Dollar Tree and bandanas. Food was fairly simple - mini corndogs, bbq chips, mini pigs in blanket, fruit. Year before was a circus bday - used that plastic stuff that comes in rolls for table coverings to make a red/white circus tent in the dining room, balloons everywhere, blow up animals - same kind of food as cowboy party, but with bags of kettle corn, pink lemonade and cupcakes in a cone too. Favors were clown noses, animal masks and candy circus peanuts. about 40 guests at both.

I'm a big fan of ordering stuff from Oriental Trading Company - prices are great and they have a big selection online.

Even though I've been told that the parties have been over the top (not sure if that's a compliment or criticism ...), they didn't cost alot of money, just time. Also agree that if you love it, do it. If not, don't sweat it. I love the book idea - much as I love the party, I hate all the presents. We end up rationing them and takes a week to open them all.

Maybe a space party next year ...

It is true that party favors can be a waste of time & money. We have tried to come up with creative, inexpensive favors that will not end up embedded in the parents feet in the middle of the night. One that we like is to take the paper outer wrapper off of candy bars & replace them with ones that I customize on the computer- the new wrapper usually says something like,"Thank you for coming to Trey's Party!" It is cheap, easy & the kids love it.

Another philosophy that we have is if we are going to spend money on favors- instead of getting 6 crappy plastic toys- we get one cool thing. At my son's last party, the guests received a small playmobil action figure set. They are very high quality, great toys & were only $1.99 each. We wrapped a thank you label around each one & the kids loved it.

At my daughters last party, we made books out of brightly colored cardstock (punched holes on one side & used snap rings to keep them together), provides markers, stickers etc & let the girls go to town decorating them. Then, they went around & signed each others books.

For my daughters 9th birthday- she had a few girls for a slumber party. We let them put on a fashion/talent show & video taped them. They had a blast- they really enjoyed watching the tape together.

My 3 year old insisted on a Christmas themed party for her July birthday. This was a lot of fun. We had it at a park, brought a christmas tree which we plugged in- hung giant peppermints made from paper plates & wrapped the party favors in christmas paper. Guests played along & brought her gifts wrapped likewise. We got some strange looks from strangers- but it was great!

My son had a pirate party one year. The invitation was a treasure map which we crumpled, stained with tea & burned the edges of. We then rolled them up & hand delivered them. They had to use maps to find clues at the party which eventually led them to the backyard where the treasure was buried (their favors). They also made pirate hats out of construction paper.

My son had his last party at Chuck-e-Cheese which is normally the last place on earth I ever want to go- but we found that if you have it on a weekday, there is no crowd & it is cheaper. As much as love doing it all myself- I must admit that it was a great feeling to be able to just show up, have someone else take care of it all & then just leave after with no clean up! It was almost worth having their disgusting pizza for dinner!

I lved organizin my birthdays.I chose different kind of themes every year and my friends enjoyed this very much too.It was great fun.

Great suggestions. I will try them.

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