Planning your kid’s birthday party should be fun and you shouldn’t have to fork out ridiculous amounts of money to make it an entertaining and memorable one.
Read more: Birthday parties don't have to be expensiveExpensive birthday parties
With loads of kid’s-entertainment companies and money-making businesses that take away the stress of having to do it all yourself, it’s easy for parents to go overboard when it comes to throwing a kid’s birthday party.
Granted, a lot of parents struggle to balance working-life with home-life. The added pressure of having to organize an unforgettable birthday party for your child can become tricky, but with some creativity and careful planning, there’s a lot you can still do to keep it ‘real’ and not a generic version of some of the birthday parties we see in Hollywood amongst the kids of the rich and famous.
When I go to kid’s birthday parties, it’s easy to spot where the parents have put in their own efforts, or when they’ve simply paid thousands of Rands for someone else to put the event together for them in an attempt to compete with other parents. Often the child is only two and probably won’t remember the day anyway.
Anything you can do, I can do better
I have a love/hate relationship with birthday parties. On the one hand they’re a great way to keep your kids occupied for about two or three hours of the weekend. On the other hand it’s the social awkwardness that lurks around the conversations between other parents as they talk about what they did for their child’s birthday party, how much it cost and which celebrity or petting-zoo they’d hired to make an impression on both kids and parents.
It’s the competitive, ridiculousness that comes with the banter between moms and dads in an attempt to be more exciting, successful or more favoured when it comes to throwing the world’s most over-the-top birthday party.
And then when it’s time to open presents, does this really need to be done in front of everyone? Does it really need to be made more awkward for parents who might not have spent as much on the birthday-child’s present? Although I do think that this is slowly starting to be less of a thing at birthday parties and opening presents is better after the party.
Call me a party-pooper, but what about the parents who either can’t, or simply don’t want to be spending exorbitant amounts of money on parties every year? Extravagant birthday parties put so much pressure on other parents to follow up and go the extra mile to make sure they’re on par with the level of expectations created by previous events.
For the kids or for the parents?
I don't remember any of my birthday parties from my childhood. I've seen the photos and heard the stories about them from my parents, but up until my twelfth birthday, I wouldn't be able to tell you what birthday cake I had or what sort of entertainment my parents had organised.
I don't disregard the idea that a child's birthday is indeed a good reason to celebrate or that it should be a momentous occasion. You don't need to deny them the experience of it, but is a one-year-old really going to remember all the intricate details that went into their Frozen-themed party?
As exciting as a jumping-castle the size of a rugby-field is or a guest appearance by Princess Elsa, or the entire Mickey Mouse Clubhouse cast singing Happy Birthday, I’ve still rather enjoyed the more low-key, realistic birthday parties. There’s always something meaningful and special that comes naturally during the event.
DIY birthday party ideas
I know that not all parents have the time to do this, but I always appreciate small touches that I’ve seen parents put in at their child’s birthday party. A bit of DIY here and there, even if it doesn’t look perfect, is such a nice way to bring it all down to earth with a touch of personal creativity and planning.
The idea of making your child’s birthday cake is probably daunting to most parents, what with competing with some of the beautifully made cakes we see at birthday parties these days. But why not bake some biscuits, or your own brownies to add to the party snacks?
Getting your kids involved in the planning is also a great way to generate some ideas, with the understanding that you’re probably not going to be able to meet all of their demands. Have them help you with the baking or get them to look around the house for props to set out, in-line with their birthday theme.
Dads are also great at entertaining kids at birthdays. If he’s not helping you carry food or busy with setting up music, get him involved in managing some of the kids games outside.
There are loads of ways to get actively involved in the planning of your kid's birthdays and although it can be time consuming, small efforts and home-made party accessories make a child's birthday party a bit more memorable (and help you save on some cash).
Have you been to any kids parties that you thought were over the top?