Once upon a time, kid's birthday parties went hand-in-hand with things like piñatas and pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey. Now, you're more likely to hear about party planners and catering services. Everyone wants their child's birthday to be a day filled with special memories, but what if you are unable-or unwilling-to shell out the big bucks? Here are twenty-five bright ideas to help you keep the party going without breaking the bank. - Lindsay Armstrong
1) Avoid paying for space.
If you have a large enough home or yard to host a party, have it there. This is a bit trickier if you live in a cramped apartment (although temporarily moving furniture can help). The park is a great option in the warmer months. If you're working with a winter birthday, call your local church, synagogue, or community center. Many of them have spaces that you can use for a very low cost.
2) Limit the hours of the party.
Most kids have an attention span of approximately 6 minutes, so there is no need to throw a four-hour birthday extravaganza for a three-year-old child. If you limit the party to two hours in the afternoon, you will greatly reduce party costs. This way you don't need to provide a meal, just some light snacks along with cake and ice cream.
3) Go retro.
Sure, we think of limbo and pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey as boring, tried-and-true activities, but when was the last time your kids actually played these games at a party? Throw an old-fashioned birthday bash! Play musical chairs, Twister, and that game where kids pass a balloon around and sit on it until it pops. You can complete the retro feel with snacks like Rice Krispie Treats and Jiffy Pop.
4) Go on a field trip.
If your child has been begging to do something special, like visit that rock-climbing gym or see a Broadway show, why not do it for his birthday? Make it clear that this field trip is in lieu of a party and let him pick one or two close friends to share in the experience. Even if you spend a little cash, it's still cheaper than a full-blown party.
5) Cook up a storm.
Kids love to help out in the kitchen, so why not combine the food and entertainment portions of the evening? Set out bowls of toppings and let kids create their own pizzas, cupcakes, or ice cream sundaes. Another option is to give each child some dough and cookie cutters and let them go to work. You can open the presents while their creations are baking and avoid paying for costly entertainment.
6) Don't invite everyone.
Smaller parties are more manageable for you and are often more enjoyable for your child. The general rule of thumb is to invite as many children as your child's age plus one. So, if this is a sixth birthday party, invite seven children.
7) Have a treasure hunt.
This is a great activity that can easily be geared to different age groups. For each child, make a series of clues that leads him or her to different parts of the house in search of "treasure." If the kids are young, you can make one set of clues and do the treasure hunt as a group activity. Candy, toys and jewelry make great treasure hunt prizes and because you're only giving one prize per child, as opposed to an over-stuffed goody bag, you'll save money.
8) Think ahead.
The more time you give yourself to plan, the more likely it is that you will spot good deals on decorations, tableware and the rest.
9) Be sneaky.
So you're having a "Dora the Explorer" party; that doesn't mean that everything you buy needs to have Dora's face plastered all over it! If you buy one pack of Dora plates, also buy a package of plain plates in a coordinating color and sneak them in the mix. Do the same with napkins, cups, and balloons. No one will be any the wiser.
10) Use technology.
Invitations can be very costly. It's just as easy to design them on your computer and print them. Better yet, save some cash and the environment: send out an Evite.
11) Throw a costume party.
Ask all of the kids to come dressed up and have a costume fashion show. Award prizes for the silliest costume, the most colorful costume, etc. (just make sure that everyone gets a prize). If nothing else, the other parents will appreciate getting some extra use out of last year's Halloween costume.
12) Paint on the walls.
Buy a roll of art or butcher paper and tape it up to the walls. You can let the kids get creative or make a game out of it. Make slips of paper with the names of animals, actions, and colors on them. Each child can pull slips of paper and paint whatever comes up, like a pink pig prancing.
13) Get crafty.
Making a craft at a birthday party is a great way to kill two birds with one stone. You have a fun activity and a trinket for partygoers to take home. Some ideas: paint picture frames, create personalized T-shirts with stencils and colorful fabric markers, make barrettes decorated with pennies or buttons, bead or braid necklaces. You can buy craft supplies in bulk from stores like A.C. Moore and Michael's.