Tips on having a blast and surviving to tell the tale
Okay, so having a house full of five-year-olds is never low-key, but there’s a huge difference between taking 30 kids to an indoor theme park and entertaining a bunch in your backyard. Kids’ birthdays are getting out of hand. But, rest assured, there’s no need to keep up with the Joneses. Kids can be just as amused with a little creativity as they can with pony rides and a magician.
Two moms with lots of party-throwing experience share their tips for cheap, fun parties.
“We like to have movie or reality television themes,” says Lianne Summers, who has three boys, ages 14, 8, and 6. One of her favourites was a Fear Factor party where kids had to taste gross foods like bloody worms (cold spaghetti with ketchup), maggots (cooked rice), and cow guts (apple sauce).
Once you have a theme, whether it’s dinosaurs, princesses, or some popular Japanese cartoon show, ask your kids for activity, food, and decoration ideas that fit the theme. They know better than anyone else what their friends like to do and eat.
You might be tempted to slave over a hot stove for hours, creating tasty hors d’oeuvres for your mini party guests, but remember that when it comes to food, kids are pretty easy to please. Find out about any allergies your kid’s friends have from other parents. You might even want to include an allergy question in the RSVP request. But, generally speaking, pizza, hot dogs, and chips are party pleasers when you’re in primary school.
You can make the food fit your theme with a little creativity. For instance, for a Spiderman party, create spiders out of hot dogs. Cut two slits into both ends of the hot dogs, making eight “legs.” Don’t cut all the way through the hot dog. When you boil them, the legs will curl up and your hot dogs will look like spiders. For a princess party, order a party-sized rectangular pizza and cut each square slice into crown shapes. And when it comes to cake, if you’re not a prize-winning baker who just adores creating icing animals, just buy one from your local grocery store. You’ll find lots of choices to fit any outlandish party theme.
Last summer, Joanne Bero, who has a 13-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter, threw her daughter a pedicure party. “The girls came over and while I got their food together, two teenage girls who volunteered brought tubs with soapy, warm water and gave the girls pedicures and then temporary tattoos,” she says. Both Bero and Summers say that scavenger hunts are always a hit. “When they were younger, it would just be a simple list and they would be in small groups with a bag to collect the items. As they got older, I created clues so they had to figure out the item and then go find it,” says Bero.
“I think the best activities are the outdoor ones for two reasons: less mess and less noise,” says Summers. If your kids are born in the winter and you can’t face a snowball fight, a cheap alternative is taking the whole crew to a bowling alley. “But watch out for fingers getting caught between the balls!” says Bero.
But, similar to the menu, kids are usually easily amused activity-wise. “Any activity from when we were kids is always a hit: hot potato, unwrap the present, carry the egg with a spoon, water balloon toss, apple bobbing…,” says Summers. And Bero adds, “Younger kids need lots of quick, easy things to keep them busy. As they get older, they come up with their own ideas and enjoy being able to do their own thing.”
Decorations and Loot Bags
Both Bero and Summers suggest the dollar store for décor and prizes. Balloons, streamers, party hats, and paper plates can all be bought on the cheap. If you’re afraid of all the banging and breaking that comes with normal balloons, spring for the helium-filled variety and let each guest take one with them when they leave.
Let your loot bags follow your party theme. “I try to fill other containers rather than a “loot bag,” like a bug catcher filled with some outdoor activities and candy, or a sand pail filled with some sand toys,” says Summers.
Finally, Bero points out one of the most important party preparations: “Make sure that the wine is chilling while the party is going on so that it is ready to crack open when the last guest leaves!”
Written by: Vanessa Grant