On my son’s 3rd birthday, I had an epiphany about my kid’s birthday celebrations. It was June 2020 – in the midst of the pandemic, birthday parties weren’t happening, so we asked my son what he wanted to do. His response: “play at University of Richmond and eat cake.” Our family frequently strolls around the UR campus, so it really wasn’t an extraordinary idea on his part. While I thought he’d want something more extravagant, he didn’t at all. Just time with family and a special dessert.
That year, leading up to his birthday, I wasn’t stressed about invitations, cleaning my house, or ordering a huge cake. I was able to enjoy the day, and pour all that would-be stress into positive energy, and reflect on how wonderful the last 3 years had been. Since that birthday, we changed how we celebrate our kids’ birthdays. While we are certainly not anti-birthday party, we create events that are easy to manage so we can still relish in our kiddo’s day without stressing.
Here are a few of our family’s favorite ways to celebrate birthdays:
Party at the Park
Renting a pavilion at a public park offers families an affordable and fun way to host a birthday party. There is no burden to create entertainment for children, as the playground serves that purpose. Further, there is little to prepare or clean in advance. Another bonus is that unlike other party venues, you don’t have to pay per person, so if invitees don’t RSVP it won’t affect your costs.
Last year my son begged us for months to do a “yes day.” Eventually, I told him that we could do a yes day on his birthday, but that would be instead of a party. He agreed to it, so after setting some ground rules (the big ones: no asking for live animals; and setting a spending limit) we planned out a day filled with his favorite things – playing arcade games at Uptown Alley, ice cream before lunch, and picking out a new soccer ball. That night he said, “this was my best birthday ever!”
While it takes some planning in advance, scavenger hunts are a memorable and exciting way to celebrate. We have done this at large stores, like Target, as well as Short Pump Town Center. Bring along a friend, and set clues for items to find (you can be as specific as “bath bomb” or more vague: “something pink”). Once they’ve found everything on the list check it off, and award them with a gift card to spend! Recommended for ages 8+. Adults should accompany children at all times during this activity.
Build-A-Bear offers “Pay Your Age Bears” and however old your child is turning is how much the bear will cost. This is another inexpensive way to do a fun celebration – bring along a close friend and/or sibling to make it extra special.
Tips for Planning your Child’s Birthday Celebration:
How many times have we seen the birthday boy or girl having a total meltdown? There is so much happening and it can be overstimulating for the child. Consider keeping the guest list small, especially for indoor parties where volume and space can be a challenge for little ones.
I prep my children leading up to their birthday parties by telling them that there will be unexpected things that happen. A friend may get sick at the last minute and be unable to make it; or, the pizza delivery may be running late. I remind my children all the time, “focus on the good.” I find these preliminary chats set the stage for gratitude and flexibility on these big days.
Be Realistic about Budget
My husband and I are transparent with our children when it comes to budgeting for birthdays. I openly tell my children that if they have a party, then I have less money to spend on gifts for them. In this way, I am (hopefully!) creating both grateful and mindful humans.
As you plan your child’s next birthday celebration, consider using these tips and ideas, and keep in mind what Aditi said in her post years ago: “Connection. Growth. Awareness. Thoughtfulness. Joy.These are the core values on which the celebration of a child’s life and his or her birthday should be built.”
For more inspiration, check our Party Finder.