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by guest writer Emily Graham at MightyMoms edited with tidbits of ideas thrown in by YLE.

Every parent wants their child’s birthday to be special and we are often pressured into turning a small gathering into a huge production. But even if you invite the entire class, you can still get out with your budget (and sanity) intact. Here are a few wallet-friendly party themes that will make a lasting impression.

 Red carpet premiere

Roll out the red carpet and queue the paparazzi. Host a movie night featuring your child’s favorite film. If it’s summer, consider renting, buying, or borrowing a projector and doing a movie in the moonlight. Visit your local dollar store for boxed movie candy and pop some popcorn for a truly cinematic experience. A photobooth and a few home-made props will ensure the star of the party gets the camera time they deserve.  Encourage guests to dress up or bring their favorite fancy dress costume for the paparazzi red carpet photo opportunities. Take pictures of the guests with your cell phone as they arrive on the red carpet, while they are watching the movie, edit the pictures to include a fancy gold frame (you can use a photo editing site like picmonkey) and print the picture to give to the child at the end of the party.

Water bash

All kids like to play in the water and there are few things more fun than a slip and slide – remember to keep it on a soft surface (preferably grass, so you can water the grass while having fun). You can make your own with sheet/rolled plastic, which can be found at any hardware store. The Art of Manliness offers DIY instructions here. You can modify this for younger children by folding your plastic in half and creating bumpers out of pool noodles, although this will add to your final cost. If a slip and slide is not in your wheelhouse, water gun fights are always a hit. You can even break everyone into teams and set up obstacles for the kids to run around and hide behind.  Host your party in the afternoon between 1 and 3 PM and you won’t be obligated to provide lunch (although simple snacks are always a good idea when hosting a group of active kids – chips and fruit should be good and will still keep costs down). Add a pitcher of lemonade and a box of, or homemade popsicles for dessert and bam! Instant party.  ***We like to make Gatorade popsicles – they’re super easy to make and good for hydration for active kids on a hot day***

Dino dig

Your future paleontologist will giggle with delight when you announce your hosting your own fossil excavation, right in your own backyard. You can pick up a pound of assorted ammonites, trilobites, and other common fossils on Amazon for less than $20. Print a copy of the Fossil Identification Workbook off the National Park Service’s website and provide sieves and small bags for each guest to save their treasures. You can hide fossils in your yard, or bury them in a plastic tote/bin filled with sand. For additional savings, ditch the plastic bin and use cardboard boxes with the sides cut down to about 6 inches high – you could even have your child decorate or color the sides of the boxes with the names of the partygoers/excavators and pictures of dinosaurs and bones. Look around the house for items you might provide partygoers to build their own replica dinosaur with, such as straws or toothpicks. If you have a plethora of toy dinosaurs lying around, make keepsake salt-dough fossils with basic ingredients you already have at home.

Sew fun

If you have the patience to dig through the $.99 bin at Goodwill, you can find all sorts of old T-shirts to use for DIY craft projects. Heather at Mommypotamus offers tips on making cute no-sew bags, which even your smallest seamstress can handle with minimal adult assistance. Older kids can also use scrap materials to make doll clothes, scarves, and custom pillows. If you need sewing needles and thread, you can usually get these items in bulk at the craft store or pick up travel sewing kits as party favors. And since they will already be feeling grown-up, conclude your activities with a fancy tea party complete with finger sandwiches and mini cakes.

You can find Vintage Tea Party printables for only $2.50 each set at YourLifEvents Etsy store here and here.

Indoor Party Fun

While these ideas assume a spring, summer, or fall party as written, the Sew Fun, Dino Dig and Red Carpet parties can all be adapted to a winter indoor party with just a few tweaks. If your child’s birthday is in the dead of winter or you get rained out, there are plenty more fun indoor activities to keep children of all ages engaged as well. Host a scavenger hunt, tell stories, or create your own band with pots, pans, wooden spoons, and other assorted, and non-breakable, items from the kitchen.

All three of the above ideas can be incorporated into one ‘Indoor Camping Party’ like so…
1) Create a scavenger hunt throughout the house that has the campers:

  • find items to make s’mores (you can make these in the microwave if you don’t have an indoor grill *hint: top graham cracker with chocolate and heat in 10 second intervals until chocolate is just starting to get soft but not super melty, then put the marshmallow on top of chocolate for about 10-20 seconds, when it puffs up, turn off microwave and top with second graham cracker**),
  • find items around the house to create a fake campfire (ex. large round drink bucket or a hula hoop, or a blanket shaped into a circle, for the fire ring; rolled towels for the wood; and items for a craft project for the kids to draw, color and cut flames out of paper. Stick the flames in the pile of towels (use kabob skewers taped to the back of the flames to make them stand up) along with flashlights turned on and facing upwards to create the light of flames), have them scavenge for and set up pillows around the campfire for seating,
  • find items to use for musical instruments.

2) Turn off the lights letting the campfire flashlights be the only light in the room and tell stories around the campfire;

3) Sing songs around the campfire using the musical instruments found during the scavenger hunt – pots, pans, wooden spoons etc.

Finally, Plexus’ idea for creating a tiny town out of cardboard boxes is genius and won’t cost you a dime if you already have an excess of parcel packages or shoeboxes available.

Your kids won’t remember if you spend hundreds of dollars on their birthday parties. What they will remember is the fun they shared with their friends and family and the effort you put into commemorating their birth.

Image via Pixabay

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