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A non-party Birthday Celebration?

The urbanMamas community has been a great resource for birthday party ideas.  One mama emailed recently and is taking recommendations for a non-party birthday celebration:

My son will be turning 6 in January, and the thought inviting his entire Kindergarten class to a party is daunting and fraught with danger (What if they all show up?! My house is too small! What if nobody shows up? He will be crushed! Plus his birthday is the first week school is back in session, not giving people very much notice for a party. Clearly I needed to plan a lot farther ahead).

I’m in search of non-party ideas for birthdays…something we can do as a family or with one friend that is a special event. What can we do in the winter? I’m looking for something more than a simple trip to OMSI…  Help!


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Our son just turned 8 on the 22nd. A birthday so close to the holidays can be a real pain to plan, what with everyone so busy and/or out of town. We invited 5 of his friends(some old, some new) to go bowling the week before his birthday. It was awesome. 5 kids were easily managed, but I wouldn't want more! The cost(at Hollywood Bowl) was $8 per kid, which included 2 games, shoes, a drink, and a free pass for next time. We also bought a couple of pizzas and brought a cake. We didn't have to clean our house, it was easy to keep an eye on the kids, and we all had fun. Then, on his actual birthday a week later, we had a really nice, just us family dinner at a local kaiten sushi restaurant that he loves. Good luck, and don't feel bad about calling the other parents a few days before the party to see if they are coming or not! At least you'll be able to plan without wondering how many surprise guests are coming!

With on kid with a late October birthday and the other with one in December, I find myself with a serious case of summer birthday envy. I can feel your pain - you want a nice party but can't just hold one in a park.

My daughter turned six at the end of October and really wanted a party with her entire class. In the past we had elaborate parties at home - I love to throw them. Our house is way to small for more than 8 kids and that is really pushing it. So this year we had a party at Mt. Scott Pool. For $120 we had the party room for an hour and around 30 people got to swim. I made lunch and cake, then the kids were off to swim with their families. It was a blast and a lot of people really enjoyed it. All the Portland pools have this type of deal, Mt Scott and SW Community Center have the more elaborate pools.

A friend with a birthday the day before had a bowling party and the kids loved it. It would be expensive to invite the whole class. There were two parents for 6 to 8 kids and the parents were tired at the end. First time bowlers (which most if not all the kids were) need help.

Another party that she went to and enjoyed was at a gym. There are many options around town - this one was in Clackamas. In January we are going to one in inner NE. We have also been to a few in Tigard. Years ago we went to one at the Children's Gym in Hollywood. They always seem to be fun.

In January we are headed back to Mt. Scott for a skating party. I can't remember how much it costs but the base rate is for 30 skaters and you can add more if you like. It is another low cost and fun option for a winter birthday bash.

My two year old's birthday was the 19th of December so we face the near the holidays issue too. For her we rented the indoor playpark at Northminster Church in North Portland. We got it one evening, served dinner, the kids ran around while the adults hung out. The toys might be a little young for a 6 year old's party but you could do a bunch of games instead. A lot of community centers also have rooms you could do this in also.

If you are really worried about kids showing up I would personally contact a few of the "key" friends and give the parents a heads up once you have details nailed down. If you have email addresses for the parents then I would also consider emailing everyone with the details and sending home a paper invite later. For most kids, even if they want the whole class they are happy when five or six are able to make it. I would definatly make sure you have a space that can hold everyone you invite. I know I have planned things last minute or on a busy weekend and been shocked at how many people are able to make it.

Have fun!

You could go up to Hood for a morning of sledding, hot chocolate and birthday cupcakes.

My birthday is tomorrow (granted, I'm MUCH older than 6!!) and we're going to Mt. Hood Ski Bowl to go snow-tubing. I have a five year old boy and he can't wait to go! Seems like great fun at any age! Plus, they have a huge indoor kids play area that's free with the purchase of a tube/tow ticket which we'll be going to after we're done tubing.

The cost is $13 per person for two hours, or $20 all day and there's more info on their website www.skibowl.com.

Good luck!

I second all of Sarah C.'s words & suggestions, as we, too, have October and late December babies--not always entirely conducive to planning an outdoor gathering (except in the snow). We usually have my son's party later on in January, and do something special as a family on his actual birthday. He is turning 4 tomorrow and he seems to be completely ok and excited about the fact that we'll have a simple family celebration and then a party later on. Oh, and as far as the RSVP thing goes, we usually ask guests to kindly respond by a particular date and that way we can re-schedule (hasn't happened yet) if it seems it's not a good weekend/day for people. Also, perhaps something holiday-ish/seasonal (i.e. Zoo Lights, etc.) could be a fun thing to do as a family to appreciate the fact that your child was born in this lovely winter season! Just some thoughts to share...

I really don't enjoy kids' birthday parties (and have experienced RSVP disasters) and have tried for having them every other year with my four sons (birthdays in October, November, January, and July!) To compensate, I started when my oldest son was in second grade using the energy I would have spent planning a party on setting up a treasure hunt for the birthday child -- we've done musical clues, rhyming couplets, puzzles, pirate themes, sequences of displaced items -- and the older boys now love this tradition so much that they have wanted to start setting up the treasure hunts for their younger brothers.

For my son's November birthday, I planned a summer party at Mt. Scott pool - complete with proper dress (shorts, sunglasses, & sandals and obviously swimsuits) and barbecue decor.

How about something like this - http://www.oldmcdonaldsfarm.org/programs_2k7.html. The Farmer for a Day program looks like it would be fun for everyone in the family.
Or maybe one of the programs at this place: http://www.onceuponahorse.com/activities.html

Growing up, my family's birthday tradition was that we always woke up to part of the house (usually the dining room) decorated with crepe-paper and a home-made happy birthday sign. This always makes it "feel" like a party even when it is just the family. We were always allowed to open our presents first thing in the morning -- with breakfast (some years the presents were even brought to us in bed) and we were allowed to do whatever you wanted to do that day except be mean to another person (that is how my mom explained it to us). I've continued this tradition with my own family. Perhaps your son could choose a favorite resaurant for dinner...having a say at such a young age is quite exciting! I'd ask him what he would like to do.

Of course, some element of surprise is always fun too. I'll never forget, my freshman year in high school my parents had to be out of town for my birthday and my older brother surprised me and not only decorated the house after I went to bed, but put little birthday messages all over the house --in drawer, under the lid to the piano keys, on the bathroom mirror...it took us weeks to find them all. I was so touched.

Also, my little brother routinely had his birthday parties months after his actual birthday, and nobody, including my brother, ever seemed to mind.

One more thought, there is an old saying which says to only invite as many children as your child is old... As someone who used to teach kindergarten, I'm quite certain my child will never have a birthday party in which the whole class is invited -- I simply don't think is a necessary, beside the fact that it is difficult to manage. If you choose to have a very small (SIMPLE) gathering at your house (the old fashion way -- where the children play with toys, open presents, maybe dance or play pin the tail on the donkey...) simply teach your child to not hurt other people's feeling by flaunting it to his classmates (So and so is invited to my birthday party and you are not). Also, if there is a neighbor, or a friend whose feelings would be really hurt if they weren't invited, my mom always said I had no choice, I had to invite them because it wasn't worth hurting their feelings.

If you are having a very small gathering -- with less than three children, I would just check the date and time with the parents in advance and make sure you choose a time that works for everyone rather than setting the time and hoping they can make it. I would explain that is it small and offer to work around their schedule.

Have fun!

i don't want to have a party but i still want to have fun

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