Birthday parties are great fun to go to. There is something about party food that turns parents into excited kids again and it makes for a great weekend activity, especially when you aren't organising it! It's nice to see that other kids love yours enough to want them to be apart of their special day and I don't know any kids that refuse to go to any they are invited too.
I have three children and between them, have a number of different friendship groups so we get invited to a fair few birthdays. There are times in the year when we would have 5 or 6 birthday parties over Saturdays and Sundays in just one month and sometimes a couple on one day. When my kids were smaller it was great and made for a good social event with friends to hang with while all of our kids when mental on foods full of blue and red food colouring. I went to town on the tray of sausage rolls and eyed off the cake, begging the host to hurry up and cut it. As the kids are getting older though, I am certainly appreciating and a big advocate for the 'drop off' party!
So this lead to a conversation recently and some of what was mentioned, I could really see how birthday parties can get really difficult at times. I know most of you reading will find yourself the same and others who aren't there yet, it's probably coming so you can get a heads up! We went through a couple of questions and I answered based on what we as a family decided and I thought I would share them with you.
1. Do you have to go to every party you get invited to?
This is a biggy, which is why I made it my number one point. Lots of you will feel differently to me but like I said, this is what we decided as a family together and I'm just sharing. My hubby Cam works long hours Monday to Friday and basically gets home to say goodnight to the kids a few nights out of the week. So you can imagine when it comes to the weekend, we are pretty sacred about the two days we get to hang together after Saturday morning sport. We are also renovating a house so the weekend is our time to do that. Plus the only time to chill and catch up on a busy week. When we started getting a birthday party every single Saturday, I was getting pretty over it and decided we needed to put some rules on this activity. Yes that feels mean to the lovely kid inviting mine but kids are only little for so long and Cam deserved to have some quality time with them and me after a big week. So we sat down with our kids for a family meeting over dinner and explained to them that they would be allowed to go to their closest friend's parties and would unfortunately have to decline all others. There was a number of reasons we did this, which I will bring up in the other questions and my kids actually were fine with it.
2. Do you drop off?
Now this decision is pretty easy for us now that our kids go to their bestie's parties because we know the parents well as they are also our friends. We know that they are safe and if anything happened, the parents would treat the situation as we would. I'm pretty sure and hope that parents would do that anyway for the families we don't know and to be honest there aren't really any school or church kids we know that I would really worry if my kids went over. However, the point is we don't know them well enough and I think of situations like if one of my kids had an accident would they be comfortable telling the parent hosting or how would the parent respond to help. There are also certain things we don't let our kids do that I know some of their friends are allowed to do. It's totally fine that their parents are ok with it but we aren't and I would hate to put my child in a situation where they would worry either saying they weren't allowed to watch a certain movie or go to the park without a parent or feel like they had to because everyone else did and be concerned about getting into trouble. My kids are good and we have explained that they can say to someone things they can't do if it came up, but I prefer to just avoid that for them to begin with.
3. How much for presents?
Another reason why we cut down on the birthday invites. Cam and I both come from large families and so we buy a lot of presents for our nieces, nephews and siblings. One birthday party after another really starts to add up, especially if you are on a tight budget like we are while we renovate. I take birthday present money from our family savings which digs into holiday, clothes and activity spending. I am sure I am not the only one who would prefer a holiday somewhere than a thousand birthday parties. With practise, I have become pretty smart with birthday present buying and for us who have got other things we need to pay for $10-$20 for a present is perfectly appropriate. I used to spend a good $30 plus and in addition to our family birthdays, it was getting ridiculous. My advice is to look out for sales. Think about the age of your kids and their friends and pick up specials you know they will be into or is at least good for their age. I generally stay away from Lego because it's crazy expensive but every now and then you can pick up some for half price or more. A lot of Jack's friends are into sport like he is so I go to Sporting shops and find specials like two soccer balls for $25 and that gives me two separate presents. You don't have to spend a lot to get a kid a really nice present. For Eva's friends I head to places like Kmart and pick up all their beautiful note books and a pack of gel pens, which makes a gorgeous present for hardly anything at all! Most shops sell $2 rolls of wrapping paper that are pretty cool and the kids can either make a card themselves or grab the $1 or $2 ones from pretty much any big store. Below is a quick list of present ideas that will suit most age groups:
- Hair clips and different accessories
- Notebooks, pens or any craft sets or stationary
- Sport Equipment
- Board games
- Cars, monster trucks and trains
- DVD or iTunes vouchers for games
- Gift cards for stores like Smiggle stationary or places like Flipout trampolining for an hour
(keep your eye out for the sales)
4. Do you have to invite kids that invited your child?
This is where this question can be made less awkward for some. You always feels bad not inviting a kid that invited yours to their birthday party but everyone's circumstances, priorities and capacities are different. For us, our kids don't have a party every year. They swap between the three of them unless it falls on a big one like 1 or 5 (that's big to us). It also depends what you do for a party as well. Whole class parties are great because you get to know all the kids in the class but like I mentioned earlier, we have a number of different friendship groups so my kids would want kids outside of their class to come as well. By then you are looking at 30-40 kids, no thanks. I see my house falling down just thinking about it! There are also some really cool places to take kids for parties as well as fun themes to do just at home. That can get pretty pricey so sometimes to fit in your budget it means only inviting 10 or so kids. It's a bit easier when they are little and it's more of a big lunch at your place but as the kids get bigger and want to do movie parties or go bowling it's hard to make it an inexpensive event. Mind you, if that is something you don't care about and happy to spend every year then why not! Last year Eva had a disco party. We were about to begin a big renovation on our whole upstairs area so I said she could choose ten friends and we would make it small but special. We made a play list of favourite dance songs, I made it in the afternoon so only had to make up afternoon tea treats and borrowed as many decorations as I could and picked up the rest at the cheap stores or online. I had seen on Pinterest an activity where the party all decorated a picture frame and took a photo on the day of them and the party person to put in the frame. This kind of thing was right up Eva's alley so found some photo frames in a store selling for $2 each and grabbed a heap of craft and stick on treasures for the kids to do. Another year the kids decorated their own cupcake! You don't have to go crazy, and remember kids aren't going to really be looking or at least not for too long at your $200 hanging balls decoration that you spent three weeks working on. They are there for the games, the food and the party bags.
5. What about party bags?
Which brings me to our final question. Do you have to do party bags? You know, you don't have to do anything and you can make your kid's party whatever you like, huge or small, long or short, all time or just casual, every year or every couple. It's your child and your budget right? But party bags is such an interesting one and there's generally the expectation of receiving one at the end of a birthday party. Hands up whose kids have asked for a party bag and you have literally wanted to die right there and then of embarrassment. No one wants their kid to talk like that but their intentions are totally innocent so don't get too worked up if you think their being rude. If they have gone to party after party coming home with a bag of goodies then they certainly aren't going to leave a party without asking incase they were accidentally missed. If you aren't the party bag type then no worries. We have rules like I have mentioned as you all would too. We have always done party bags but I generally mix it up a bit and depending on the party, make it to suit the theme and again, budget. For all my kid's first birthdays, there was a lot of babies and not that many older kids. So I gave books. I bought book packs from the postoffice of popular titles and picked up cheap ones in Aldi and Big W. I worked out that each book cost the same as a lolly bag and at least would be used by the kid invited. We have done lolly bags that contained my birthday boy or girl's favourite treats and for Jack's sports day party, everyone got a fake olympic gold medal. We have done bubbles that you can pick up for $2 and for Eva's tea party birthday everyone took home a wand that was about $3 each, which was fine as it was a small party. If you are against lollies you can see that you don't always have to send home a lolly bag. Just be creative and look on Pinterest, the party bible!
So don't stress about birthday parties. It's nothing to be awkward about and you shouldn't get yourself in a panic because you just can't follow what everyone else around you seems to do. On the years our kids don't have a party we invite whoever wants to come to the park to share birthday cake and enjoy a play at the park. No presents or anything like that, just a casual catch up. Make your family up a little set of rules for events like this so your kids know what to expect and do what suits you guys best.
©The Realistic Mum
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If you love children’s books then I have written a lovely little book on clouds changing into different shapes that you can find on Amazon and iTunes. Look for the title Look At The Clouds, What Can You See?