Thinking outside the birthday party box

21 May

Birthday parties for kids can have a tendency to take on a life of their own.

Our family is full of rules.

We more often say no than yes, it seems, and we have a rule for everything.

We can’t help it, that’s just how we are and it works for us, at least for now. That being said, we have birthday party rules at our house. I know I’ve talked about it before, but I’ll tell again just so I can get on with my story for today.

Our rules are as follows: You can’t have a “friend party” until you are five and when you do, you can have it at the house with five kids. At six, seven, eight and nine, you can have your birthday party out of the house, with more people (within reason, and we never invite the entire class or grade, or even “all the girls”).

At ten you’re back to having it at the house with just a few people. We like the “Almost Sleepover” or “Mock Sleepover” (come in pj’s stay late, go home to bed) at ten because many people (ourselves included) do not allow their kids to sleep at someone else’s house and our kids tend to turn ten before other people’s kids are ten. At 11 and beyond they can have a sleepover if they want, with a few kids (our house is not huge and there are already five of us in it at all times, so space constraints are an issue) or we can discuss another inexpensive, small outing option if desired.

Now that you have the back story on our birthday party rules, here’s where I was going with all of that.

We have to give Alex all the credit for thinking out of the box for this party.

Our youngest daughter turned seven at the end of the month a couple of months ago. We opted to hold off on the friend party until after the Easter holidays and after school vacation, which led us to the end of April. However, way back in October, she already knew what kind of party she wanted: a cooking party and she wanted it to be at home. She planned the entire thing out herself. It would be a Hello Kitty theme. They would make homemade pizza (we do that a lot here) and decorate cupcakes (which turned into decorating donuts when we got the Babycakes Donut Maker as a Christmas gift) and decorate aprons.

We were thrilled. Birthday parties out of the house tend to be expensive: $10 per kid on the low end and as much as $17 per kid or more on the higher end, with some having a minimum of paying for ten kids whether they are there or not. Some include food, some do not. Some include invitations, some do not. However, “everyone does it” so we have tried to keep up while establishing what we feel are fair rules and reasonable budgets for our parties, and having had to say no to some party options our kids have thrown out at us as suggestions in the past.

But I can’t lie: we were jumping for joy in our heads when she explained what she wanted for her party.

The day of the party came, and she had invited seven kids to come. They all were able to come except one, so there were seven little girls plus my two older daughters who served as the helpers.

First activity: making a variety of homemade pizzas.

We bought enough dough that every pair could make one pizza (and Elizabeth helped out when the seventh friend didn’t arrive). We had two cheese and sauce pizzas, one mushroom, olive and cheese pizza, and one cheese and pepperoni pizza.

That week, I found a “20% off your whole purchase” coupon for Michael’s Crafts, so I went and got 8 aprons. I already had fabric markers here, but I bought a set just in case mine were dried out, but I didn’t need them so I returned them along with an extra apron.

I made the donuts from scratch with Caroline ahead of time, along with the chocolate frosting with Elizabeth while the kids were making their aprons, and each child was able to decorate and eat four donuts. I had purchased one Hello Kitty cake decorating kit which contained sprinkles, cupcake wrappers, candies and tooth pick decorations, and I split it for use between the family party and the friend party. I bought all my paper goods at the dollar store in time for the family party and used what was left for the friend party.

And no, I didn’t care that the paper goods weren’t Hello Kitty. Apparently no one else cared either.

Second activity: decorating aprons.

The kids had a blast.

Alex had a blast.

The moms that stayed, loved it.

We had fun, and it was an easy party. I was relaxed at the end, not exhausted and not broke. It was as much fun (maybe more so) than any party we’ve had out of the house, and best of all, she was happy.

The entire party cost us $32.

We didn’t figure that part out until the end, as we weren’t trying to keep it that low on purpose, but when the party was over and we sat back and realized all we’d been able to do at such a low price, we were amazed.

It just goes to show that even though we sometimes live in a “top this” kind of world and there’s lots of keeping up to be done, that it doesn’t always have to be that way. You can think out of the box, as Alex did back in October, and do something different and still have fun.

It may not always be this way. She may want to have her next party somewhere else, and we’re more than willing to oblige, as long as it stays within the parameters we’ve set, but for now, we’re celebrating the success of this year’s party and remembering more often than not, that it can be done.


6 Responses to “Thinking outside the birthday party box”

  1. Debi May 21, 2012 at 8:53 am #

    What a great idea, Alex! Just reading about it made me smile, so I’m sure it was fun for you and all your friends. Sometimes the smaller, more intimate moments in life are those that touch us the most. I’m sure she’ll remember this party for a long time to come…especially because it was her idea! 🙂

  2. Jen Upham May 21, 2012 at 11:32 am #

    What a fabulous idea and what a smart girl. Takes me back to the way we used to have birthday parties 🙂

    • thewholebagofchips May 21, 2012 at 11:37 am #

      I was thinking the same thing. I still remember my eighth birthday party and even my twelfth.

      • Jen Upham May 21, 2012 at 11:45 am #

        Your mom always had the best food 🙂

      • thewholebagofchips May 21, 2012 at 11:59 am #

        yeah, she still does. 🙂

  3. Sue Meyerson May 21, 2012 at 10:53 pm #

    WOW! a new favorite post of mine!! One year, Jacob wanted a Halloween birthday party (his b-day is in March!) , so I bought everything on sale after Halloween (had to make sure I didn’t forget ANYTHING, cuz where would I find it in March!???!)..we had a few kids over and did that story of the little witch, where you tell the story and cut a piece of construction paper for the doors and window of her house, and when you open the “house” it is a jack-o-lantern. We also went trick or treating (the kids came in Halloween costumes), as I planted candy at my neighbor’s houses and told them we were coming…and we had a pinata in the garage, and then decorated cupcakes for the cake part (maybe had hoodsie cups with the cupcakes)…it was kind of a lot of work but it was really fun!

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