Birthday Myth Busting: Create a Terrific Birthday Party without Breaking the Bank!

The best birthday party creates birthday blessings for everyone, including Mom. (Especially Mom!) Plus, they don’t have to break the family budget. Enough with over-the-top birthday parties for kids! Today, Anna and I put our heads together to do some birthday myth busting. We hope you enjoy our list of easy, fun, and yes, really cheap ideas.

Flash From the Past 

Seriously, my mom was a genius at creating fun in the cheapest, easiest ways. Still, I’m getting so old, it’s hard to remember any birthday party from my childhood! Somehow, knowing the most unforgettable birthdays may fade in our memory, helps relieve any self-induced pressure. After all, if the kids aren’t going to remember the details, moms can freely to focus on the relationships instead! (Get free weekly ideas for building fellowship-based relationships here!)

Probably my most memorable birthday party as a child was the year Mom invited my friends to come over dressed as their mommy or daddy. Imagine! Two little boys even showed up as a judge and a preacher! Naturally, in the era of stay-at-home mommies and glamorous 60s television, the little girls dressed in faux mink stoles with gloves, rhinestones and yes, cigarette holders! Très chic!

Next, flash forward to the 90s when Anna’s favorite birthday party included an excursion to Shreveport to see the western art of Russel and Remington in person at the R.W. Norton Museum. Well, you get the idea. Clearly, the simplest birthday, tailored to fit the child’s interests, are by far the best. Simple is best.

Busting the Myth of Over-the-Top Birthday Parties

“I’ve gotten to where I only plan parties I can cancel at the last minute,” laughs Anna. “Last year my sweet son was sick on his birthday!” (For more common-sense parenting ideas from Anna, check out our other podcasts here.)

Of course, if you still feel the pressure to create Pinterest perfect birthday parties, we hope you’ll tune in for all the easy, freedom-inducing ideas she shared in our interview for Fireside Talk Radio. (Listen to our full podcast above.)

Dirt Piles and Black Ninjas

Anna likes to tell of one family who waited to order the dirt for their landscaping, so they could time it for their son’s birthday. Delighted little boys played with abandon in a huge dirt pile, sprinkled with all his trucks and shovels. Some very dirty boys enjoyed one of the best, and easiest, birthday parties ever, featuring, of course a “dirt” cake made of crumbled Oreo cookies and pudding.

Another favorite birthday party memory for our family featured a black ninja party in Anna’s back yard. “One of my wonderful friends has a son who is a creative inspiration. He’s hilarious and wonderful,” laughs Anna.

“‘If I was going to throw you a birthday, what would you like for it to be?’” Anna asked the little boy. “My only instructions from him were ‘black ninjas.’ He wanted us all to be black ninjas. Rather than red ninjas or green ninjas. Black ninjas.”

To accommodate his request, Anna cut scrap black fabric into mask length strips, collected card board from an appliance store, and bought many rolls of boxing tape. As families arrived, adults cut the eye holes in the black ninja masks. 

“The eyeholes were all wonky depending on how good they were at cutting with scissors,” Anna explains, “Some of the adults were the wonkiest because they put them on over glasses. It was so funny.” Her back yard soon morphed into a black ninja village of card board forts. (For many more creative ideas for kids, check out Fireside Talk Radio.)

“The best thing that came out of it was we got a group photo of all the people their in their black ninja masks!” Anna’s backyard has been the location of so many hilarious birthdays, she’s starting to get them all confused. “Was that the birthday I gave them all squirt guns and put the kiddie pool inside the fort?”

For Teen Age Girls

Are parties for teenage girls stress inducing for mom? Not necessarily! For instance, one way you can get some relief is by letting high school girls plan their own party. It’s a grown up thing to do, so they find it inspiring to manage a party budget and plan thoughtful surprises.

“I took our child hood tree fort and all the cushions and tablecloths you had and made a little bower, like a little nest, for our high school girls friends,” recounts Anna about one twinkle-lit surprise party she planned as a teenager. Her menu included cute little box lunches. “We climbed up there and celebrated together, like a secret fun place to be grown up girls together.”

And Grown Up Girls, Too!

In another birthday blessing for a newlywed friend, she hosted a special moment at the park in early Spring. Come and go, keeping it simple made the afternoon easy for everyone to spend a moment together basking in intersecting friendships. 

“One of her girlfriends, who I love as well, helped me host,” reports Anna, “We invited everyone, all the grown up women, all the generations, young and old, all who love the birthday girl. We had some finger food and water bottles and punch, but mainly we congregated in the park and told her how much we love her.” Sometimes a small, simple party encourages everyone included, not just the sweet birthday mommy who might enjoy a few extra hugs for her birthday.

Grand Blessing

Like parties, birthday presents do not have to break the bank, either. For instance, even Grandparents can feel overwhelmed at the pricey plastic toys marketed for kids today. Especially when we’re blessed with many grandchildren, birthdays can start to tax fixed incomes. Cha-ching! Here are two ideas to put the focus on blessings, rather than fancy gifts.

Completely free, birthday jingles are a nice way to give a lasting blessing to your toddler grandchildren. A birthday jingle is a short tune praising some special attribute of the child. You can steal a tune from the latest advertisement or an old hymn. 

Not a musical person? No worries. Chants and raps work just as well. Best of all, by calling attention to positive characteristics of the child, you’ll teach the rest of the family to appreciate those good qualities, too.

The Blessing of Books

If you still want to buy a gift, Anna and I vote for classic books. I love the way the title page provides the perfect place to write a short note with the date. Nothing inspires great note-writing like classic literature highlighting courage, faith, or sacrificial love! Birthdays are a great moment to write a short birthday blessing for your growing grandchildren.

Writing an annual birthday blessing in the front of each book means your grandchildren will have a personal collection of great literature and a reminder of their grandparents’ affection.

Are Donation Parties Right for Your Child?

Finally, I wanted to address one more birthday party myth. One popular trend is clever and fun for the right child. If your child wants to sponsor a birthday party food drive or donate gifts to a charity, what a beautiful idea! Donation parties may be perfect for your child. But if they aren’t, don’t waste emotional energy worrying about it.

You sure don’t want to train your happy child to resent your spirituality! You may think it’s a great idea for him to be generous, but he might not be there yet. So, don’t put yourself on a  guilt trip if your child doesn’t want to give away his birthday presents this year.

Here’s why: In order to foster generous stewardship, it’s first necessary to foster ownership. A sense of confident ownership is fundamental to generosity.

True Generosity Involves Sacrifice

Here’s what I learned with our kids. I wanted our children to be adults who give from their hearts. Generosity includes sacrifice, though. Contrary to what many of us were taught in my childhood, it’s okay to enjoy the things you own. We don’t have to feel guilty about material blessings. 

In order to be truly generous, we do have to be willing to let go of a personal blessing to enjoy the better blessing of sharing it with others. In the process, true generosity reflects Jesus’s own generosity of giving up His own earthly life to share a better, eternal blessing with us.

The Stewardship of Managed Blessings

As parents, our end goal is to raise good stewards, not host amazing birthday parties. Stewardship is managing all the blessings entrusted to us, so that many people are blessed as a result. In order to be generous, a child must first recognize he has something valuable to give. Receiving valuables (even if it’s just toys for now) may be the first step in understanding ownership and sacrifice for your child.

Stewardship includes making responsible decisions about taking care of his valuables. When he’s ready to share, who will he trust to pass the blessing on to others? Consequently, another part of stewardship is learning to identify those nonprofits and ministries who responsibly steward blessings and resources as well.

In a variation of the donation birthday party idea, you can craft a special donation that fosters your child’s own passions. For instance, a few days before the birthday party, take your child along to give eight blankets to a homeless shelter in honor of your child’s eighth birthday. Or, together as a family, donate sixteen bags of dog food to your local animal rescue agency in honor of your teenager’s sweet sixteen.

The Gift of Lasting Blessings

Looking back, I loved my mommy and daddy dress-up party as a child. But the best part was when my first grade teacher showed up with a book! My mom was touched that my teacher would take time on a Saturday to drop by my party. Mom’s amazement and gratitude translated itself into my heart, too. In fact, my children love the book she gave me, treasured today by another generation of grandchildren.

If you’re wondering what to do for the next birthday at your house, keep these truths in mind. Bigger and more expensive is not better when it comes to birthday parties. Together is better when it comes to birthdays!

May I pray for you?

Dear Father, the One who chose the day of our birth, we praise You. You knew us while we were yet in our mother’s womb. You know our lives from before conception to the moment we leave this earth and beyond. As mommies plan the next party to celebrate the birth of a child, we ask for Your inspiration.

Give each child a sense of their own value, O Lord. Have mercy where it’s needed in the lives of children who don’t know what it means to be celebrated. Reach deeply into our hearts and touch us, so our lives reflect the love You pour out on us. Give us grace to create fellowship and lasting companionship with those we love. Let us have courage to build strong relationships filled with blessings. We don’t know about tomorrow, but we have today. Therefore, today, we praise and celebrate You, O dear One. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

We LOVE to hear from YOU!!

What are your favorite birthday memories? How has your child surprised you in a birthday moment? If you had it to do over, what would you do differently when it comes to birthdays?

More Adventures to Come!

We’re so excited to have our interview with Prayer Walking Janet McHenry coming u soon. Plus, don”t forget to tune in for entrepreneurial wisdom from two of our favorite successful people, Intern turned CEO, Yaziri “YO” Orrostieta and Writer/Publisher Mike Sahno.

Cathy Krafve, Columnist, Speaker, Blogger, Podcaster, and Christian Writer, invites your stories, ideas, and questions at Truth with a Texas Twang.

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