I’m not a fan of perfect parties… you know, the kind that look like they stepped right out of a magazine or jumped off a Pinterest board. They feel overwhelming to me as a mother and quite frankly, make me a feel a little inadequate! Oh don’t get me wrong – I’m very comfortable in my motherhood and to each his own when it comes to kid’s parties! But when your kid comes home and tells you they want a petting zoo and a fairy face-painter and a jumping castle for their next party, you start to wonder how this will all play out as they begin to learn that not all families can manage the same kinds of parties and in fact that parties don’t need all of that “stuff” in order to be fun.
Insofar as we’ve done parties, we’ve always opted for simple, homemade, outdoors and focused on presence rather than presents. I would much rather my child invite a handful of special friends and enjoy the day, than dozens of friends she/he hardly knows, just for the sake of padding out a guest list.
If you’re feeling a bit of pressure to live up to some unrealistic expectations for your child’s next birthday party, here are 4 ways to make your next kid’s party simple, fun, meaningful and stress-free.
Let me know in the comments what YOU do to simplify parties.
1. Ditch the invites or make your own
You own a phone, right? Why not just text the invite? I know it’s slightly unconventional and downright untraditional, but it’s quick, simple and it works. Plus, if the people you’re inviting own smartphones, they can click on the date link in your text to add the party as an event in their phone’s calendar. Busy mamas will LOVE you!
OR if you have a particularly crafty bunch of little people, have them create their own party invites using old birthday cards or wrapping paper. If you have some outdated calendar magnets on the fridge, you can even cut these up to glue to the back of your homemade invites so that they don’t get lost once they’re delivered.
2. It doesn’t have to be a three-course meal
Your party doesn’t have to provide an entire meal for your guests. Particularly if it’s a young child’s party, some snacks and a cake are all that’s needed. Don’t overthink the food – aim for yummy, healthy fillers for the little people (think lots of fruit and a cake!) and a relaxing cuppa with other parents. And forgo the lolly bags. Even if you feel like you have to do it, no parent I’ve ever met actually appreciates taking their kid home with 200 grams of sugar in a plastic bag. If you really want to do party bags and will enjoy putting them together, why not give them something other than lollies?
Seeds, a pack of crayons, books, playing cards, hair accessories – all make fun party favours that don’t add to the sugar intake.
3. The best things in life are free
You don’t have to invite a clown or the petting zoo to every party; even if that’s what your children’s friends have done. Do your party YOUR way and ask your child to think of some fun games that can be played during the party. When given the opportunity, most kids won’t ask for someone to come along and entertain them. They’ll create the fun for themselves. Choose a party venue that gives the kids lots of space to run around, hide, kick a ball. This might be a family member’s back paddock or it might be your local park or the beach. It doesn’t have to be inside your home (for you to clean up before and after).
4. You don’t have to have a theme
I know. Your kid is really into Frozen at the moment and there is so much cute stuff in the party section at Big W with Elsa and Ana and Olaf and Sven; table cloths, banners, cake toppers, loot bags, balloons, paper plates – literally everything you’ll need to throw this party, and all with Frozen characters on them! How easy would it be to just buy it all and have the theme done and dusted…
But not really. This stuff costs money, and it sets the expectation that all successive birthday parties will be themed. Instead of buying themed paper plates, why not just use the plastic crockery you have in the cupboard and wash it afterwards? Instead of a Frozen tablecloth, why not just use that blue one you already own? Perhaps your daughter already has an Elsa doll that you could use to create a themed corner of the table, or you might be able to do a Dolly Varden cake using Ana. Beyond that though, do you really need all the extras?
Look, maybe you do want to go all out and who am I to tell you not to! I’m just saying; if you want to simplify your kid’s parties, going nuts on the theme probably won’t help that cause. I know cause I’ve been there, done that!
Don’t forget: a party is still a party even if you don’t have a “theme”. And you can break the rules when it comes to themes… it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
Remember: you don’t have to feel like a stressed-out wreck for the week before the party in order to give your child a birthday that he or she will remember. You can enjoy the process too. In fact, it’s really important to enjoy the process and the party, because after all, we’re celebrating our child, not competing for the Mother of the Year Award. Last I checked, there wasn’t one anyway.