Four kids equals lots of birthday party fun...and even for a tightwad like myself, it can be a challenge to provide a fun time without seeming to be...ahhh...well...a tightwad:). I can tell you that it has always been a pet peeve of mine that my kids go to a party and come home with party favors that are more valuable than the gift they brought. I must be honest though, it seems that there has been a bit of a down tick in that dept., and I'm thankful. Blame it on the economy if you will, but I also think that a little rationality is seeping into the collective conscience and parents are realizing that overt materialism is not such a good thing after all.
I just read an article in our paper by Kathy Peel (great author of family management books) about this very subject, so I thought I'd tackle it. Some of her highlights:
1. Kids up to 3 years of age should have morning parties that are only 60-90 minutes long. This avoids afternoon naptimes and the grumpy factor.
2. One lady bought a blow up "moon walk" on ebay for less than she could have rented it, used it once, and resold it on ebay for more than she paid. Now that's smart thinking!
3.Another lady had a "pajama party" at Krispy Kreme for her 3-year-old daughter. She bought little pillows at a dollar store and had milk and donuts for the kids and coffee for the parents.
4. Make your own invites and hand deliver. (One thing I would add here, if your child has a bigger school class, don't hand deliver at school. And please don't invite everyone in the class and leave out only one or two kids...that's just plain ol' mean.)
Now here are some things that worked for us:
I didn't have parties until my kids were big enough to remember. I mean, honestly, who's that one-year-old party for anyway? If we happened to have family in town, we maybe had them over. This is rare because we are so far from family. (I remember one summer when we were in Mich on Lee's birthday and combined it with a family get together) We always celebrated the younger years with our own fam, and when you have 4 kids, you have enough for a party anyway!! At our house, you can pick your evening meal (usually pizza, lasagna, broccoli soup-that's Lee-or homemade mac and cheese). They also pick the kind of cake they want...with a heavy leaning toward carrot or chocolate. When the kids were little, I made themed (dinosaur, barbie, hot wheels, Mr. Potato head, etc..) cakes, but I have never purchased one from a store/bakery.
Around age 5, the kids were allowed to invite one friend for a party and/or sleepover. Since most of our friends have more than one kid, this usually turned into inviting the whole family over for the meal. Age 10 was our first "big party," when the kids got to invite whoever they wanted. This tended to be 10 or so kids. One kid did a movie night at the dollar theater, one spent the afternoon at a large park. Again, I tend toward the less organized, less expensive venues. We were in Maine when Will turned 10. I was working full time and was really tired. We just invited his friends over for the day. It had rained hard the day before, so they brought swim trunks and water guns and had a blast running through puddles. I was feeling kinda bad about not planning more when one kid came bursting into the house shouting, "This is the best party EVER!!!" Sometimes less really is more! Thirteen then became the next "bigger" party. Will went for laser tag, Aaron chose a movie marathon (LOR), Abby had a sleepover...Lee has a year to go!
And going to parties? I don't spend over $10.00 for a gift. If the kids want to add more out of their own pockets, they can...and now that they are older, they often do. I still pick up new gifts at yard sales, the kind still in shrink wrap with tags attached. I also get like-new hard back books. Often these are $20 retail books that I find for a buck. Great gifts!! Again, now that my kids are older, they like to buy their own gifts for friends, which is fine with me!!
And gifts for my own kids? You can imagine that I shop way ahead and try to get things on sale. The older they get, the harder it is. Typically, they get one "bigger" gift and then 2 more smaller ones, and always a book. The cost of the "bigger" gift determines how much I spend on the rest.
There are some thoughts...I'm sure I've been inconsistent, and someday my kids will tell me how unfair I was...story of my life!!
Happy Birthday shopping!!
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