When your children start school there is often a sudden pressure to host whole class birthday parties.
Whilst this is a lovely thing to do (and helps cement your child’s friendships across the class) it can become extremely expensive what with venue hire, food, party bags, invitations, thank you cards and so on.
We also built a useful Sandwich Calculator tool to help you work out how many loaves of bread you need for [x] rounds of sandwiches; or to feed [y] amount of kids/adults!
Over the years we have found a number of tactics to reduce the cost of hosting three birthday parties a year and so we thought it might be useful to share them.
5 Ideas for IneXPENSiVE kids’ birthday parties
1. Host it at home
One of the most expensive parts of a birthday party can be venue hire and so one of the most obvious ways to save money is to host the party at home.
If you are lucky to have a big enough garden and birthdays that fall in the summer months then holding the party in the garden is perfect.
For young kids organise party games (like tag, hide-and-seek, duck duck goose, egg and spoon race etc.) or create an assault course (sack race, crawl through hoops, hop round some cones etc.)
If you’re feeling brave arm them all with water pistols (retreat to a safe distance!) and let them have a water fight!
Older kids might prefer to stand round and chat but you could also set up a volley ball net or badminton court to keep things fun.
A barbeque with sausages, burgers and salad should keep everyone happy food-wise and is a good cost effective way to feed a lot of people.
If you’re catering for a lot of people a hostess trolley can be a great way to keep lots of food deliciously warm without you being trapped in the kitchen for the duration of the party! If you don’t have one, you could borrow one from a friend.
House party (No, not that kind…)
For those without a large garden or with winter birthdays a party at home is still a good option.
For younger kids organise an array of party game favourites such as pass the parcel, musical statues, the memory game (random items on a tray, let the kids look at it for five minutes then take it away and get them to write down as many as they can remember) and dead lions.
It can help to alternate between an excitable game and a drawing or writing game to stop things getting too over-wrought.
Decorating cupcakes with different coloured icing and a variety of sprinkles is a also a fun party activity (and saves you the bother of decorating the cakes yourself — win-win!). Put a load of newspaper down over the table and you can even relax a bit as the kids splatter sugary icing everywhere.
For older kids a movie, pizza and (for the bold) a sleep-over is often their idea of a great time.
Nothing makes kids feel indulged and spoiled than getting to act like teenagers or older peers.
A thoroughly indulgent night of movies, beauty and hanging out with your friends can make any party in a huge success.
2. Treasure Hunt
This might take a bit of planning and a large dose of imagination but it makes for a really great party and inspires teamwork too.
Host the party at a nearby large park where you can lay out a series of clues leading to some treasure (a box full of sweets/chocolate coins works perfectly).
Divide the party into small teams of, say 5 kids, and get them to work together.
Each clue could have some scavenger hunt aspect, such as ‘Find five different shaped leaves and bring them to me, to get the next clue’ or involve a physical challenge, such as spinning around five times then each walking between two trees, in order to make the hunt last longer.
It also means you can administer the hunt – perhaps being a little more ‘generous’ with the judging of teams that are struggling a bit or getting left behind.
The first team to complete all the challenges and solve all the clues wins the box of treasure… to share amongst everyone.
Celebrate the team’s success with a traditional picnic with sandwiches, sausage rolls, crisps, fruit and cake.
3. Share the burden
Another great way to save money on a party is to go halves with another parent.
Find out which kids in the class have their birthdays near to your child’s birthday and ask if they’d like to do a joint party.
When you’re born is essential information for kids (being days or weeks older than someone else is serious playground kudos). Ask your kids who has a birthday near theirs – they’ll probably know.
If they don’t know their teachers will have this information, maybe even on the wall (they need to know this stuff too) so a bit of eagle-eyed classroom snooping can help you out here.
Sharing parties makes destination or activity parties, such as swimming pool parties, laser parties, soft play etc. half the cost and also half the work as you have another parent (or two!) helping make the food and sort the invites etc.
4. Make use of your local village hall
Not as budget as hosting at home but for all my kids’ first whole-class parties in Reception we went with the classic of booking the local village hall (or in our case the next village over as it was even cheaper than our village at just £25 for an afternoon – it always pays to shop around!).
No willing volunteers? You can tackle this yourself. Many face painting kits for kids come with stencils (like this one, right) and you can switch this into a kids’ tattoo parlour – decorating volunteers with scorpions, dolphins, lightning bolts etc.
For the quieter kids we set up a table with crafts and colouring so they could enjoy the party away from the craziness of the bouncy castle.
Even the super-hectic kids sometimes like somewhere to step away from the noise for a bit and you’ll be grateful to have somewhere for them to catch their breath and keep out of trouble.
Another terrific party investment from our experience is one of these colouring-in table cloth rolls.
They’re like huge rolls of wallpaper. Unfurl them on a long table, set out a few pots of pens and pencils and you have one spot where dozens of kids can scribble to their heart’s content – something they’re rarely allowed to do elsewhere, so is great fun.
If you being even more cost-conscious, if you have any old rolls of unused wallpaper, scribbling on the reverse side of this can serve a similar purpose. You may need a few heavy objects to stop it rolling back up on itself.
We hope you have a great party! If you have any top tips to share from your parties, do share them with us in a comment below!