Our Anti-Party Approach to Kids’ Birthdays

Our Anti-Party Approach to Kids’ Birthdays

In a world where online fundraising is an accepted way to raise money for a small child’s dream birthday event, I’m sure plenty of people think that we are pretty stingy parents. After all, you can find examples of over-the-top children’s parties everywhere you look. One of my relatives recently threw a party for her 1 year-old that involved a large rented venue, a custom-ordered cake, and a guest list of nearly 100 people. My husband and I thought this sounded like a waste of time and did not attend, but we might be in the minority because these sorts of things seem to be happening a lot.

I feel strongly that one of the important things I need to teach my kids is that fun and celebration are not synonymous with expense. Another thing I need to teach them is that my love for them (and their love for others) does not need to be expressed with stuff. And just because we have money to spend does not mean we will be spending it.

Small child with cake
Enjoying a total lack of party and a homemade cake.

Tiny kids do not need you to throw them any sort of party.  Stick a candle in your 1 year-old’s dinner (and then move it out of their reach before someone gets hurt) and get them a teething ring.  Maybe even get them a babysitter while you go out on the town and celebrate the fact that you made it a year into parenting.

For toddlers, unless you are already over-doing it on quality family time (unlikely), consider taking them somewhere fun with just the immediate family (think museum, aquarium, boat ride, etc) followed by a family dinner where a couple of candles get stuck in their dessert.

Medium-sized kids can enjoy the same thing until they ask for a party (if they ever do). You can let them help pick the family activity and meal or help make a cake. Once they are old enough to ask for a party, remember that you are the parent, and therefore you will decide if and how a party goes down. You will set the tone and the expectations for how birthday celebrations will take place in the future.

Please do not get into the habit of draining your bank account or your sanity once a year in the name of you kid’s special day.

Boy with cupcake
Proof that it’s possible to have a simple birthday celebration and a very happy child.

For C’s 10th birthday, we had no party at all and he didn’t care. We romped up to some old mines high in the mountains with his grandparents and uncles. It was a 4WD road and it was early in the season, so C got to chop up tree branches and shovel away snow piles that were blocking the road. He got to run around among the rocks and creeks and abandoned buildings. He said it was his best birthday ever and he fell asleep at the dinner table without eating his cake.

Boy running in mountains
C enjoying his 10th birthday at an abandoned mine.

When C’s 11th birthday rolled around, he requested to do something with his friends. We invited friends and family to the free bike park (biking distance from our house) around brunch-time one Saturday. A bunch of people showed up and we had a BLAST! Parents came and stayed to chat or just dropped kids off and went about their day. Some moms brought babies and sat on blankets and enjoyed the gorgeous summer weather while their older kids biked.

We brought a bunch of fruit and veggies and muffins and drinks and cupcakes (which we stuck candles in so we could sing “Happy Birthday”). We requested that people not bring presents. Someone brought some balloons, which kept the littlest kids entertained. The cost of the event was next to nothing, and we had a whole lot of delicious leftovers.

Boys on bikes.
C celebrating his 11th birthday by exercising outside with his friends and family.

Everyone left happy and low-stress. Clean-up took 5 minutes and was mostly recyclables. The kids weren’t on obnoxious sugar-highs because they had done nothing but exercise the whole time, and we didn’t have a carload of annoying toys to take home.

You can bet next year’s non-party will be just as awesome.

4 Replies to “Our Anti-Party Approach to Kids’ Birthdays”

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