Like so many of us in this day in age, I look back on my birthday parties as a kid with such fond memories. My mom baked a cake, made homemade icing and used the same sprinkles year after year to create what was one of my favorite birthday treats. We invited my grandparents over for dinner and to watch me blow out my candles, and called it a day. There were a few years we had birthday parties, but not every year.
We have all either hosted (guilty) or attended really lavish, complicated kids parties. The ones where moms stay up hours fixating on decorations and party favors and the best cake to order.
I’m afraid we’re losing all the fun that can come with kids parties.
Thankfully, with each of my boys’ birthday parties, I find the less I do, and the less I stress, the more I’m enjoying their parties.
Hopefully by the time they are in grade school I’ll have gotten it down like my mom did, and keep it simple and happy, which is all the kids want anyways. Here are some ways I’ve slowly started simplifying their parties, which have in turn, brought more balance to the party planning process and made us all a lot happier and less stressed.
1. Send electronic invites. I stopped with paper invitations once Shep turned 2. I found with paper invitations, while timeless and beautiful, add a lot of steps to the planning process I’m fine skipping, not to mention cost. Paperless Post is my favorite stop for electronic invites, mostly because their designs are so beautiful and their interface makes it really easy to keep track of RSVPs and party details. They even have a mobile app you can check when you are on the go. I also know most people appreciate one less thing to throw out when you send a Paperless Post invitation instead of a paper invite.
2. Host outside of your house. Depending on the age of your kids, a party at your home could be more or less stress. I usually host parties at our home, but for Shep’s age and my sanity, we’re heading COSI, a local science museum, for his birthday this year. I’ve done the math and between decorations, food and everything involved in a kid’s birthday, it’s actually less money to host the party somewhere else. Plus – no scrambling to clean the house beforehand (win!)
3. Keep food and treats simple. While it can be fun and enjoyable to plan a party menu, it can get really complicated if you want to have a spread that appeals to all. Instead, focus on a theme and keep everything else really straightforward. For Beau’s birthday we did Donuts. Besides that I had veggies and dip, some quiches and fresh fruit. For Shep’s party this year, we’re keeping it SO simple – pizza and ice cream (what the kids want anyways). It’s such a short period of time that if kids have special dietary requirements or would prefer to skip the party food, it’s no biggie anyways. This party is all about the attractions at the science museum, so no need to spend too much time or energy on a big meal (that kids will likely skip anyways, right?)
4. Limit goodie bags to one or two items. How many times has a party bag sat in your car, or you forgot to grab one on your way out anyways? While cute and thoughtful, I’m convinced goodie bags exist simply to torture parents. Instead, pick one item or token of appreciation to pass along to party go-ers that you know they can use (applesauce, Play-doh and fun straws are some of my favorites).
5. Match the party type to your child. I have learned over the years Shepard hates the birthday song and he hates large crowds. It’s not his personality type and that’s OK. So instead of a big party where we bring a cake and sing to him, we’re focusing on playing. Beau may be the opposite and love a big, loud party where he’s the focus. But the key is here, keep the party about YOUR child, and no matter how simple it is, they’ll be so appreciative and actually enjoy themselves.
6. Make a homemade cake. This is a new tradition I’m starting in our family this year because I have such fond memories of it. There is something very special and kind about baking a cake for someone, and I find the act of buying a cake to feel really transactional and a lot less meaningful. It doesn’t mean it will be from scratch, and it doesn’t mean it’s going to be the best cake in the world, but my hope is that my kids know I did it from my heart – just like my mom did.