The stress-free birthday party

Last updated 10:23 07/11/2011

It's hard to believe that it's two years since I wrote this post. Xander has just turned seven, and continues to astonish, delight and frustrate me. He's a sweet boy who makes me all too aware of my own flaws.

You may remember that for his sixth birthday, I made the controversial decision to cancel his party on the day; no one had RSVPed so we put a sign on the door and went bowling with him instead. That post prompted a lot of discussion, and I really did learn a lot from the comments.

This year we went with an easier approach. No RSVP or presents required, just meet at the local playground at 2pm (weather permitting) for cupcakes and playtime. We again invited a few of his classmates. I have now made mum friends who have children he likes, so it was easy to ask them, and Xander delivered invites to a few of our neighbours' kids.

There were no decorations, no goodie bags, no fretting about having a spotless bathroom and weeded gardens. I baked a sailing ship birthday cake (though I had a moment of terror when Vieve came to me with icing-covered hands- the ratbag stole all the cannonball Jaffas, so at least it was easy to fix), picked up cupcakes, a few multipacks of chips and some juice and we were set.

Are we cake yet?Dead on 2pm, it rained.

We went to the playground anyway.  It quickly settled to light and intermittent drizzle, and the kids were dressed warmly. People either texted to check it was on, or decided that it was too wet for their comfort.  The kids had a terrific time, and we had the playground to ourselves (except for two unaccompanied kids who pretty much joined in with us).

His birthday cake never made it out of the car. When the rain returned after a couple of hours we congregated in the car park to sing and eat cake under the shelter of our boot. The twins watched anxiously from the back seat as I cut the cake, and Vieve did her best to steal one of the crocodiles.  Cheeky miss!

It was a great, low-pressure way for us to all come together for his party; I'd totally do it again (weather permitting!). It was easy and inexpensive for us, and Xander had a marvellous time.

What's your best tip for stress-free birthday parties?

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DR   #1   10:56 am Nov 07 2011

This sounds like the sort of party we have for our kids. With three young children we don't have the money or time for expensive goody bags, big events etc. So the use of a public space, a few bits of sports equipment and BYO food and that's it. Also we only have a party once every two years - the kids know and accept this.

Some parties our kids have attented have been competely over the top: monogrammed gifts for all the guests; train trips; and multi-day events (and this is for 4 and 5 year olds). Admittedly the really big events have been for 1 child families so that might have something to do with it.

BTW, I clicked on the link for your old post about people not RSVPing. That's absolutely terrible.The height of rudeness and it really concerns we what sort of kids are going to be produced from parents with such poor social skills. I must say we've never encountered that before, but when I do I think I'll have a few choice words to say.

KD   #2   11:19 am Nov 07 2011

Oh snap! I'm planning exact same thing for my soon-to-be 7yr old's party at end of November. Going to the local playground with a big field. The theme is 'dress in your favourite sport shirt or costume', as my son's still into rugby big-time. Got a few balls for the kids to kick around. Have a few games planned (pass the parcel, etc). Doing pizza, sausage rolls, lollies and chips - nothing healthy. No goodie bags. And have a 'rain off' day in case the weather bites the big one. Low key and fun. The most effort will be put into the cake - which will be a rugby field, with Puffles (from Club Penguin), as the players... done and done. Don't care if invited kids don't turn up because the people that really count will turn up. Had so many people not RSVP in the past, or not turn up on the day, that I'm not booking any more 'planned and paid' activities.

Kirsten   #3   11:25 am Nov 07 2011

For our 5yr old we decided on minimal fuss.

Kids came over, they played outdoors, tag, raced around. Gave them balloons and some wooden toy guns/swords which sparked some amazing imagination scenarios. After a while, pulled out a pinata which was filled with assortment of goodies, kids got a bag each and they got to fill it up with the contents once someone finally managed to split it in two...and three pieces. Then CAKE

Some kids had older siblings and they were all invited to stay while the parents had a break and got a bag too.

End of the day arrived and every single child was exclaiming how great the day was. Major success and proof that you don't need the bells and whistles to make a birthday party a great day.

Simon   #4   11:27 am Nov 07 2011

A party in a public space is a great, cheap idea. I'm sure the kids love it just as much.

Kirsten   #5   11:35 am Nov 07 2011

Re Comment #3... Just to add the wooden toys came back to us and the Pinata was really the one thing my 5yr old wanted. Even more than the Spiderman Costume he begged for.

gbsmama   #6   11:40 am Nov 07 2011

Sounds awesome and I bet Xander loved it!!

Lisa   #7   11:42 am Nov 07 2011

My kids are a bit older, daughter is 13 next month, but this year and the last two she's chosen Valentine's - no mess, no fuss, no dishes. The budget is controlled by the number of guests she is allowed to invite (and the size of my car). The girls love the grown up celebration.

Debz   #8   11:42 am Nov 07 2011

As the parent of just one child I too am astounded at the length some parents go to in relation to birthday parties. Having never really been to children's birthday parties before I had my own - the 'goody bag' tradition also took me a bit by surprise.

For me, the simpler the better. Not that I do not put a lot of thought or planning into it; I do!

I look for public spaces with indoor/outdoor possibilities to cover weather and concentrate on things to do rather than things to get or give. I also rope in extended family or parents when I can to act as extra supervisory assistance. If the venue costs anything then I will quite happily ask for money towards that cost in lieu of a present.

It seems to work well with everyone (including any parents who help with supervision)appearing to have a ball - either that or I am completely oblivious to the negative comments!

Angela   #9   11:47 am Nov 07 2011

I think I may employ your plan for my little man's next party. He just had his 2nd birthday a few weeks ago and everyone had RSVP'ed in the affirmative.

So I planned for a certain amount of food/drinks for kids and the accompanying parents to then have 5 of the seven children cancel on the day (most due to sickness but still!!!) So we had cleaned the house to with an inch of it's life in preparation, had too much food for the 3 adults and 1 child that did turn up and had wonderful decorations of helium ballons and ribbons falling from the roof which completely went to waste.

NEVER AGAIN!! Luckily he is still too young to really realise that no-one came to his party : poor little man!

I understand about the goody bags too. I am also guilty of this since I am only just getting started with the whole birthday party thing. The last one he went to the kids not only got goody bags at the end but presents in exchange for the one we were bringing the birthday girl!!!! - a little excessive I thought, considering it was just a cheap $2 shop toy that broke as soon as we got home anyway!

The park sounds like a great idea.

ScrabbleChick   #10   11:58 am Nov 07 2011

I'm known as the Scrooge of children's birthday parties because I deplore the level of competition they have reached. I don't do goodie bags (people bring a present for the birthday child, they shouldn't expect presents for themselves!) and the party is designed to be low-cost fun. The kids all seem to enjoy themselves just as much as the over-catered, over-planned "events" my kids have been invited to. Even more sometimes as they're allowed (in fact encouraged) to run around and make noise and mess!

I love your party idea. Low stress for you, a great adventure for the kids. Good for you.

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