Momsense: Fete Accomplished – How to throw a stress-free birthday party

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From the simple days of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey to lavish car-racing and princess “spa” themes, kids’ birthday parties have swelled to become fodder for reality television. Perhaps because of these tough economic times, or a desire to trim the excess, parents seem to be reverting back to the homespun birthday parties of our youth.
Personally, we are happy to scale back. Not only does it mean less pressure and less expense for us, it means putting everything in perspective for our kids. Do they really need to be king or queen for a day? It can be hard to come back down to earth after. Tracie Wagman is the publisher of Help We’ve Got Kids, a print and online directory of products and services geared at families in the Toronto area. There are hundreds of advertisers in the Birthday Party section.
“Every year I am amazed at the incredible and unique options there are for kids’ birthday parties. There are certain trends that emerge each year but one thing is for sure, people are getting more and more creative when planning kids’ parties,” says Tracie. But in the excessive one-upmanship surrounding kids’ parties of the past, Tracie believes parents may have lost sight of the single most important element of success in a child’s birthday party: fun.
“It usually doesn’t take too much for kids to have fun. So my advice is not to overdo it. Don’t over-plan the party, make time for kids to run around and be kids. You can’t control everything,” she says.

9 Tips for Stress-Free Birthdays 

  1. Scale back the guest list to a manageable size. Follow the old rule of inviting the number of guests equal to the child’s age plus one – so a three-year-old would have four guests at the party.
  2. Ditch the loot bags full of cheap, useless toys. Instead, incorporate a craft or activity into the party that then becomes the take-home treat. Easy craft ideas include pet rocks, pasta picture frames and beading.
  3. Don’t worry if the schedule you organized with military precision falls apart. Kids love to run around and play “freestyle” at parties. 
  4. If you prefer not having a gaggle of kids destroying your house, look into renting a community centre or church hall – this can be more affordable than a dedicated party venue.
  5. Don’t worry about planning activities for parents or trying to impress them. The party is for the kids.
  6. Revive old-fashioned “low-tech” birthday games such as pin the tail on the donkey, relay races and treasure hunts.
  7. Whether your budget is tight, or you just want to curb the excessive gift-giving, consider giving your child one special birthday gift.
  8. Too much stuff? Consider asking for books or canned goods in lieu of gifts to donate to local charities or food banks.
  9. Skip the party and instead put the focus on family. Allow your child to choose his or her favourite menu or restaurant for a birthday dinner.

Gifts that give back

Many parents are using an online birthday party service called ECHOage. Here, the birthday boy or girl chooses a cause to which guests can make an online contribution. After the party, the website deducts a 15 percent administration fee, then the child receives half the money towards a gift and the balance is donated. “I love the company and concept and think it’s a great way to teach and have fun at the same time,” says Toronto mother of three Daniela Flores McEntyre, whose children’s birthday contributions went to a Free the Children project that opens schools in Sierra Leone. “Not only did my son not miss the gift receiving, it also gave him the notion that each individual contribution counts and that they are NOT powerless to ignite change.”

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