1. Forget themes.
Birthday parties for young children do NOT have to have themes. We had theme parties when my kids were younger, and I found planning and executing them seriously stressful. It was hard to find the "right" decor, favors, cake items, to go with the theme without spending a fortune.
Kids don't expect themes unless we've taught them to do so--they're happy with a simple, special celebration.
2. Smaller is better.
I once went to a birthday party for a one-year-old that was honestly larger than my college graduation party. And the guest of honor? Crying with overwhelm in the corner.
I've read several times that the total number of children at a party should be close to the age of the birthday child. Yesterday when we celebrated Elijah's 7th birthday, we had two other families join us. The combined number of children, including my own three, totaled nine (and a baby). It was just right.
3. Think oversized playdate.
Inviting just two close families to Elijah's party made it feel more like an oversized playdate instead of an "event." There was no need for special activities--the kids just ran off into the woods to play and back again. The two moms and I actually had the chance to start and finish entire conversations!
(Note: This was definitely more challenging when we lived in the suburbs; our yard wasn't large enough for many kids to go play independently. We would sometimes walk with guests over to a nearby park instead.)
4. Please - no tacky plastic party favors.
I still don't quite understand where the whole party favor concept originated, but it is deeply entrenched in our modern subculture. That's okay, try to find one simple gift to pass out to guests.
These eco-friendly travel journals (above; from Target - $1/each!) were a total score; Elijah handed them out to his friends as they were leaving yesterday.
5. Make parties optional.
Last year we started giving the kids a choice about birthdays: They could choose a friends' party or a family party.
A friends' party means having a few friends over to celebrate (this is what Elijah chose this year). A family party means the kids get to choose a restaurant to go to with the family and have a trip to the toy store with Daddy. Last year all our kids chose family parties, which significantly lowered mama's birthday stress.
6. Do what you love.
If you truly love birthday party planning, thinking of themes, and so on, please do it! But if you don't, know that there is another, simpler way--one with much less stress involved but that still honors and celebrates our special little ones.
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