Planning a low-key kids birthday party can take a lot of the stress out of this special occasion. A quick search of kids birthday parties brings up so many results, including instructions on how to plan the perfect party. When I was little, my mom threw some epic birthday parties. But not because they were carefully-crafted themed parties that took weeks to plan. The thing that made them so fun and special was the simple fact that they were fun and made me feel special. There was always tons of good food to eat, lots of chocolate milk, and friends and family. I I remember dressing up in fun birthday attire, laughing with my friends, playing simple games like “duck duck goose” and eating my favourite foods. These are the things birthdays are made of – pure, natural fun. And as much as I love Pinterest and Google, I feel like they can also set the bar high when it comes to celebrating special occasions. Of course, if you have the time and love to plan Pinterest-worthy themed birthday parties, then go for it! I’ve also spent time scrolling the internet and Pinterest for children’s birthday party ideas, but when it comes down to it, the reality is that kids won’t actually notice the matching colour-coordinated decorations or the carefully organized snacks. What they’re most excited about is celebrating with their friends or family. And when it comes to 1st birthday parties, which always seem to be the ones most over-the-top, the motto “the simpler, the better” is most relevant. If you want to celebrate this important milestone with a lot of people, which is totally understandable (we did too!), a good alternative could be to have an open house where people can drop in at any time for a little visit and snacks, so as to not cause an overload of people at once. Or separate it into a couple of different parties on different days if you’d prefer, keeping things more intimate and the day not as long for the birthday baby. As children get older, I love the idea that Sharifa Oppenheimer sets out in her book Heaven on Earth, suggesting to keep the number of children invited to the age of the child and ensuring the activities are age appropriate. For instance, 3 friends for a 3rd birthday party, 4 friends for a 4th birthday party, etc. When K turned 3, we invited his three closest friends from nursery school and kept things quite simple. It worked out well, wasn’t overwhelming at all, and kept things intimate, simple and fun. Here are some more ideas on planning a low-key kids birthday party.
Start with the Day’s Rhythm
Have the rhythm of the day set out beforehand. Starting with some free-play is always good and if it’s nice outside and you have the space, it can be a good way to begin the party and let the kids get some of their excitement out. From there, it’d be a good idea to lead into a craft or activity planned, with activities and games better suited for children aged 5 and up. After that, everyone can gather for a snack or lunch. Sharifa suggests making the table setting special with a richly-coloured fabric tablecloth and a flower or cake centrepiece. After the food and cake, you can open any presents brought, thank the guests, and then start heading into the final goodbyes.
Keep Food Simple
Unless you really love to spend hours cutting up sandwiches and fruit into elaborately-designed characters and shapes, keep things simple. A tray of cut fruit or fruit wands for kids, veggies with dip, cheese and crackers, and a few appetizers or homemade pizza does the trick. Kids also love to help out in the kitchen, so if you’re up for it and the kids are old enough, cut up a bunch of pizza toppings and give each child an individual sized pizza to decorate on their own. And don’t forget the cake or cupcakes. Making a simple birthday cake with healthy ingredients and using honey or maple syrup instead of a ton of sugar, is always a good idea for little ones so you can avoid the sugar high that comes with eating a lot of processed sugar at once. For K-Bear’s first birthday, we made some delicious and healthy cupcakes with yogurt and fruit toppings.
You don’t need to spend much on fancy decorations to make a party memorable. Some balloons and a simple banner normally do the trick. I made a banner out of different scraps of material for my son for his first birthday and we continue to use it every year. I love this as it’s always the familiar, special banner that gets pulled out each year and I also don’t need to really worry about decorations other than blowing up some balloons, which he loves. We have a special birthday crown that I made for his first birthday, which is also re-used every year. It lets the birthday boy or girl feel special and serves as that familiar special birthday tradition.
Have an Easy Craft or Activity Planned
This will help keep the day on track and ensure things don’t get out of hand. Plus, children love little crafts and then they have something to bring home with them. Some simple, inexpensive nice craft ideas are: little potted plants, nature crowns, watercolour paintings, or bird feeders. For older kids, activities like a nature treasure hunt or “digging” for treasure in a sandbox can be fun ideas.
Forget the Treat Bags, or Let the Kids Make Something
Even if they do seem to feel like a necessity these days, treat bags really aren’t necessary. If you’d like to send the guests home with something, think of inexpensive, useful gifts. Maybe a flower cut from the yard (a craft could involve decorating a simple vase from the dollar store), a little canvas and paintbrushes, or the craft that the kids make themselves.