by Carol Band
At Home, At Ease
Unlike many adults, children actually look forward to their birthdays. In fact, many kids say their birthday is the best day of the year. To make the day really special, you don’t need to rent out a laser emporium or hire a hot-air balloon. The best parties can happen at home without spending a lot of money. All it takes is a bit of planning and creativity.
Things with a Theme
Having a theme for the party isn’t necessary, but it can make planning easier. Animated characters, such as Dora the Explorer and Scooby Doo, are popular and party supply stores offer loads of products with character images. But the creativity potential with these is more limited. An open-ended theme, such as outer space, bugs or even a party revolving around your child’s favorite color, provides greater opportunity to make it a one-of-a-kind event.
If there isn’t an obvious choice, ask your child to help brainstorm some theme ideas. Don’t be afraid to let your imagination run wild. Sometimes, the best ideas are born from the ridiculous.
While I was planning my son’s eighth birthday party, for instance, he announced, “I want a surprise party, but I already know about it.” What resulted was a surprise party for the guests.
Parents were in on the secret and the boys were picked up at their homes – unaware that they were being taken to a birthday party. When they arrived, confetti flew, balloons were released and the birthday boy yelled, “Surprise!” The theme then continued with guessing games, treasure hunts and food that all had an element of surprise.
One 4-year-old I know, Dylan, recently had a “Stuffed Animal Pet Show” party. Every child brought a favorite stuffed animal from home and each toy won a prize for categories that ranged from the floppiest to the furriest. Games, cake and the goody bags all revolved around a stuffed animal theme. It was a huge success.
For her daughter’s 10th birthday, Sara staged a 1950s theme party. were written with fabric pen on a white sock. Girls arrived in ponytails and bobby socks and were handed simple felt skirts to decorate with precut poodles. Dance contests, make-your-own sundaes and a “drive-in” movie in the back yard completed the theme.
This year, parties modeled after the television show Fear Factor are popular with the over 8 crowd. Set up an obstacle course in your back yard. Dare kids to eat worms (spinach linguini), dig through slime (green Jell-O™) and participate in a variety of challenges (walk holding a raw egg between your knees, balance a broomstick on your hand). Then celebrate with a cake decorated with dirt (crumbled Oreos) and gummy worms.
Take it to the limit. Use your imagination, involve your child in the decisions and remember to have fun!
Invitations do more than simply announce the date of your party. They can set the mood and heighten anticipation. Kick off a spy party with invitations written in code, make treasure map invitations for a pirate party or enclose a tea bag (with a note on the tag) for a tea party.
If you’re computer savvy, there’s no limit to what you can create. For a seventh birthday, my friend Susan scanned her son’s photo into a Star Wars scene and used that for his thematic party invitation. Involve your child by having him dress in costume and hand-deliver invitations.
More on Home Birthday Parties
Carol Band is the undisputed birthday party guru for United Parenting Publications. A veteran of birthdays, she is a freelance writer and mother of three.