Somewhere along the way, some fancy-pants parents decided that a child’s birthday had to be the equivalent of a trip to the moon.
The over-the-top extravagance of event planners, catered food and ice sculptures reset the birthday party bar. It ruined it for the rest of us; it made us “normal” parents want to shake our fists and cry, “Enough is enough!”
Really, all that a 7-year-old craves is his friends, a cool cake, some interesting activities and presents. It’s just a birthday, after all. It’s annual. A once-in-a-lifetime event — like a wedding reception — it’s not.
Forget about impressing the other parents, and remember that the day is about your child. Simplify your party planning and budget by foregoing the extremes. You can create a memorable birthday celebration by going old school.
The following games can be played in your home, yard or a park with little fuss. Most of them are fitting for boys or girls, ages 5 to 12.
Ring toss — Create rings out stiff rope and tape. Toss the rings onto a narrow bottle.
Paper bag name game — Find objects (or small prizes) that begin with the letters of your birthday child’s name. Place the objects in small paper sacks, staple them and label each sack with the letter. (A pack of gum for the letter G, for example.) Have the guests sit in a circle, and using one bag at a time, pass it around until the music stops. The child holding the bag guesses the content and keeps it if he guesses correctly.
Dress-up relay — Divide the partygoers into two teams. Prepare two baskets filled with random clothing (large shirts, jackets, gloves, bathrobes, boots, hats, sunglasses, skirts and pants.) Each team selects a team mannequin to stand by the basket of clothing. Team members race to dress their mannequin in all the clothing, and then the mannequin sheds everything and waits for the next team member to start over again. The first team to finish wins.
Head to the park for a game of flag football, soccer, basketball, kick-the-can, capture the flag, red rover, hide-and-seek or freeze tag. Choose your game according to your child’s tastes and party theme, if there is one. Bring along drinks, pizza and cupcakes. Eating outside prevents messes in your home.
Scavenger hunt — Divide into teams and go door to door, to homes you designate as safe, with a list of items to collect. Or, hide clues around your home. Instruct the partygoers to follow the clues to find the hidden prizes for the guests and your child’s gifts.
Balloon stomp — Insert coins, stickers or candy into balloons before blowing up. Let the guest stomp away while instructing them to break the balloons with their feet only.
Mall trip — Appeal to your tween daughter and her friends with a mall challenge. Depending on your budget, dole out $5 to $10 to each girl. Challenge each guest to find the best item and deal she can. Have the girls model their finds back at your home and vote for the winner. Finish the party with ice cream sundaes.
Ugly makeovers — Supply a variety of inexpensive makeup, hair accessories and jewelry. Instruct the tween partygoers to partner up and make over each other in a garish, tacky way. Take pictures of the results.