Parenting Perspective: Birthday parties

April 19, 2011 12:33:37 PM PDT
My 3 sons all celebrated their birthdays last week, so it's a perfect time to share some birthday party ideas with parents out there who need new, creative approaches to their kids' birthday parties at all price points.

I am a big believer in shaping the birthday party to your child's interests and hobbies, NOT to the parent's interests and needs.

Other people might disagree and plan an elaborate event to invite all their grown-up friends to a fancy venue. That's one way to do it, but I like the day to be TOTALLY kid-focused. It can cost as little (a few dollars, literally), or as much as you want.

For example, this year for my one-year-old twins' first birthday we went very simple.

My older son, Jake, likes to bake (he thinks he's the Jr. Cake Boss) so I let him bake a dozen cupcakes and ice them two different colors, six light blue ones, six light green ones. That way, Hunter and Zeke each had their "own" cupcakes. (Not that they will know the difference, they're only one year old. But when they look back at the pictures and videos, I want them to know that we treated them as individuals, not as ½ of a twin set. It seems wonderful to be a twin, but some grown-up twins have warned me that they often felt they didn't get any individual attention. So I'm trying hard not to dress them alike, call them "The Twins" or make one cake for 2 people.)

So we had our cupcakes, plus Jake also made brownies and chocolate/cream cheese balls (all cooking is with adult supervision since he's 11 years old).

I invited other families and friends from the neighborhood whom my little boys will be seeing and playing with in the years to come. I blew up some balloons and tied streamers to them. I made small 8x11 sized construction paper posters with their names, Hunter and Zeke, on them and hung them from the kitchen light fixture.

Then we were ready for the party.

At 4:30 our friends started arriving and by 5pm we were all there, about 20 of us. It was really just an extended play date with everyone watching the twins crawl, picking them up to kiss them, watching them play with their toys.

By 5:15 we sang "Happy Birthday" to each twin and got their big brother to blow out the candle, then the twins each tried eating the cupcake which always makes for hilarious pictures. Jake opened all their presents for them while they tried to eat the bows. Some of the friends stayed for dinner.

A perfect party, that costs less than $10 per child plus gifts. It doesn't get any more affordable than that and what fun we had!!

Most importantly, I took the day off from work to celebrate my boys' special days. That way they got mommy's undivided attention on their big day. If you can find a way to spend more time with your little one, the rest will fall in place, believe me!

With my older son, I've done different kinds of parties over the 11 years, with prices ranging from a few dollars (parties at home) to lots more. Again, it depends on your budget and what your child likes. But most kids I know can have fun at ANY price point. It's more about spending time with you and their friends and being the center of attention for one whole day.

Here's a list of Jake's birthday celebrations over the years to give you some ideas. His favorites are the sporting events, but he also loved the road trip this year to Carlo's Bakery to meet The Cake Boss!


One year old: party at home
Two years old: party at the Please Touch Museum
Three years old: party at the Philly Zoo
Four years old: party at the Academy of Natural Sciences
Five years old: party at The Franklin Institute including the IMAX
Six years old: bowling party with his whole school class
Seven years old: Rock wall climbing party
Eight years old: Sixers game with best friends
Nine years old: 9 school friends came for a sleepover/pizza party
Ten years old: Went to the Union Soccer Team's first game, then came back to the hospital for a Beatles themed party in my room (I was pregnant with the twins and couldn't leave HUP)
Eleven years old: Drove to Hoboken, NJ to see Carlo's Bakery, from the show THE CAKE BOSS; bought Jake's cake there and walked around. It's Jake's favorite show right now!

There are dress up parties, hip hop parties, scavenger hunt parties, all of which you can do at home or on location elsewhere. Have fun with the idea, and get input from your child.


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