Are you feeling that birthday parties have gone over the top? Does the idea of a party with 25 preschoolers and their siblings make you tremble in trepidation? If so, read on to find ways to make birthday parties less expensive, easier, and more enjoyable for the birthday child, guests and the parents.
Birthday parties can be stressful for young children and their parents. Young children are so stimulated at the mere idea of a party that once they get started, it can be difficult to redirect them to calmer activities.
The chaos created by a large number of children coupled with noise, music, wrapping paper flying, clowns, games and cake often ends up with tears and tantrums. Organized games frequently end in disaster as well. Consider something else for your next party.
For young children, smaller is almost always better. I, along with many experts, recommend that the guest list be limited to a number equal to the age of the child +1. A three year old would have up to 4 guests, a 4 year old up to 5 guests and so on.
A simple party with a few friends chosen by the birthday child, some toys, a craft project and a simple snack along with birthday cake makes a memorable event for the birthday child. If the idea of having even a small group of children in your home makes you shudder, consider reserving a shelter at a local park and letting the children play on the equipment. Your child will remember having fun with friends. My son, now in his 30s, tells me his best childhood birthday party was an event with six friends at the Dragon Park. Everyone enjoyed a simple boxed lunch, birthday cake and the party favor was large sidewalk chalk. It was so easy and the kids had a great time!
Young children do not need to open a mountain of gifts at their birthday party. The guests tire of watching the birthday child open presents and the birthday child can have a difficult time sharing the toys that everyone else will want to use. One of our teachers shared this great gift idea; Instead of presents for the birthday child, ask each guest to bring a gift wrapped children’s book (within a limited price range). Each child, including the birthday child, gets to choose and open one wrapped gift and everyone is contented. You could also do the same thing using a coloring book and a pack of 8 crayons. The gift becomes one of the activities.
When you keep it simple and age appropriate, everyone will have a happy birthday.
— Written by Anne Colley, Executive Director of Children’s House of Nashville
Other resources for developmentally appropriate birthday parties:
Your Three-Year Old, by Louise Bates Ames and Frances L. Ilg (they also wrote Your Four Year Old and Your Five Year Old and so on. These are tried and true books for parents of young children). These books, along with many more, are available for your use in our resource library in the office.