It seems, these days, some parents have a way of getting carried away when it comes to planning a special party for their child. Sometimes, however, simpler is better, especially when it comes to saving a little money and lots of precious time. Furthermore, most children are happy just being with their friends, enjoying birthday cake, and - of course - opening presents!
A number of ideas can be easily executed with just a little effort and not a lot of money. Consider these simple party ideas next time you're planning a birthday party for your child.
- Jungle/Safari Party - Easily held in the backyard or at a nearby park, a Jungle Party is ideal for children who love animals. Decorations might consist of your child's favorite stuffed animals or even the inflatable kind. Balloons in jungle colors - like shades of green, brown, and tan - and palm fronds or other greenery also make great decorations. Games might include Pin the Tail on the Tiger (elephant, giraffe, etc.), a safari/scavenger hunt, and even the Barrel of Monkeys game. Craft projects can include making animal masks or a simple lesson on drawing a favorite jungle animal. Food can be simple as well, like animal crackers, trail mix, peanut butter sandwiches, and "jungle" juice.
- Circus Party - What kid doesn't love the circus? Also best when held outside but suitable to a large recreation room or finished basement as well, a circus party is colorful, fun, and ideal for a girl or a boy. As with the safari party, decorations are simple and can include balloons, streamers, animal or circus posters, stuffed animals, paper clown faces and hats, and other similar items. Games might include jumping rope, ring toss, pin the nose on the clown, and learning to juggle. And kids can put on their own clown make-up or have a friend or adult help! Serve circus or carnival type food like hot dogs, popcorn, peanuts, and soft drinks, all inexpensive to buy and easy to prepare.
- Doll Tea Party - This one, of course, is most suited to young ladies. A doll tea party generally includes a formal sit-down lunch with food suitable for kid's taste buds. Set up the dining room table or smaller table with fancy paper plates, fresh flowers, and enough room for the girls and their dolls (have the guests bring doll chairs or "sassy seats" if they have them). Serve small tea sandwiches like white bread with peanut butter or strawberry jelly, cheese and crackers, fruit kabobs, and small desserts. Some little girls might like tea but many don't. Instead, serve apple or some other kind of fruit juice. Encourage guests to wear their best party dresses and hats. For activities, make paper dolls, decorate photo frames (have smocks to protect their dresses), or decorate cookies that can be enjoyed later for dessert.
- Superhero Party - Little boys (and some little girls) love superheroes and organizing a party around their favorite(s) needn't be too difficult. Start by choosing the hero or heroes and designing a color palette around him. For example, if Spiderman is the hero of choice, make sure all the decorations - like balloons and streamers - are blue and red. Batman? Go with yellow and black. For more decorations, choose iconic items that are peculiar to the character. For example, make skyscrapers out of construction paper for Superman and webs of yarn for Spidey. It's usually not too hard to find inexpensive superhero plates and cups as well. Food might include "power juice", "energy bars" (not the real ones!), "vitamins" for super strength (Skittles or M&Ms), and super-sized cupcakes or a superhero cake. Purchase some inexpensive t-shirts at the craft store along with some fabric markers and make shirts with the hero's insignia on front and do some face painting as well (webs, bats, etc).
- Spa Party - This one is popular with late elementary and middle school girls and expense can be kept to a minimum if you plan accordingly. This can be an overnighter or just a few hours long. Decorations needn't be over the top and can be any color. Tea lights are appropriate and soft music should be playing in the background. On the invitation, guests should be asked to bring a comfortable robe and slippers for the "spa". It's best to organize this party in stations so no one is waiting too long for their spa service, and if you can enlist the help of some older girls or adults to man each station, it would be helpful. Ideas for stations include facials/masks, mani- or pedicures, and make-up application. Party favors might include a product from each station as well as other beauty products like a loofah or body lotion. Serve mostly healthy snacks like smoothies and cheese and crackers or veggies and dip but do have some junk food on hand for a little indulgence. If there's extra time, watch a PG-rated chick flick!
- Casino Party - Casino parties aren't just for adults. Kids love them, too! Organize your basement or other large space into various game "booths" where kids can make the rounds again and again, playing card games (simple poker or blackjack), spinning the roulette wheel (you can make one out of cardboard or buy a cheap one at a toy store), or taking part in other simple games of chance. Decide on a pre-determined amount of chips for each win and let the kids spend their chips on prizes at the end of the party. Decorations can include playing cards, giant dice, balloons, streamers, and fancy casino signs. You can serve snacks and "drinks" (maybe Shirley Temples) at each game table or set up a buffet for all-night snacking. After everyone is done playing, enjoy some dancing and save time for cake and presents!