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Creative Birthday Parties on a Budget

My little brother and I celebrated our nineteenth and twenty-second birthday’s last week. We are exactly three days and three years apart, which means a lot of shared parties over the years. In talking, we started reminiscing about all the birthdays we have celebrated with each other. We remembered the times we were upset that we had to share with one another, the times we wanted to host the party at the Chuckie Cheese instead of our backyard or the jealousy that would ensue if the party fell on my birthday instead of his, or vise versa.

Looking back, we remembered that after all the fuss about our birthdays being so close together and on such a budget, we always ended up with the best party out of all of our friends. Mom, dad, and all us kids came up with specialized events and games that kept us busy and entertained to the fullest. As soon as the party started, dad fired up the grill and mom led us in the sack races, egg toss, or musical chairs. Everything fell away and fun was the only thing left.

Birthday parties are one of every child’s fondest memories, and in anticipation of such memories, kids usually beg to have them at the pool, video arcade, skating rink, or laser tag arena. However, those places can get expensive! As one of four children there were many birthdays celebrated at the Fetter home, meaning my parents got creative very quickly! They had to make every cent of our budget stretch while keeping the children entertained and smiling. It worked every time.

Today parties can get a little out of hand and out of budget. The television show My Sweet 16 is just one example of an over the top and unnecessary party. From a child’s heart to all you mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and party planners, it wont matter the venue in which the party was held, how big the cake or how many gifts were given … what makes the day special and builds the happiest memories for me was the attitude, the company and the love that was celebrated that day.

So, for those of you who are on a tight budget, I’ve put together a list of some creative ideas to make your child’s big day still be very special and memorable.


Art Party

  • Make candy jewelry: string together candies with holes in them and let the children make their own designs and specialty jewelry to keep, eat, or bring home to mom. Good candies for these are lifesaver candies or mints, fruit loops, chewy lifesavers, mini butter cookies, mint cookies with holes, popcorn and anything else tasty you find in the candy isle that fits the bill.
  • Decorate desserts: bake cookies or cupcakes before the party and leave them plain. In small bowls set up different colored icings, sprinkles and toppings and let the children decorate and style their own desserts.
  • A bucket of chalk and a clean sidewalk/driveway can do wonders for the imagination.

Camping Party

  • Set up an indoor or outdoor camping ground: This is easily and safely done in the basement, living room or backyard. Have the children each bring a sleeping bag.
  • Set the tone by serving “campy” foods like hot dogs and s’mores and telling spooky stories. If you are comfortable in chaperoning a campfire, it is a really great way to cook the food and set the mood.

Classic Fun Games

  • Musical chairs
  • Egg toss (outdoor event)
  • Mummifying contest: break the children up into teams of two or three and give each team a roll or two of toilet paper. One member of the team will be the “mummy” and the others will be the mummifiers, wrapping the “mummy” in the toilet paper. Set a timer and see who can make the best mummy! (Education tip: sit them down before and teach them about mummies or Egyptians, show them pictures, and they can learn and have fun.)
  • Sack races
  • Three legged races
  • Scavenger hunt around the house or yard

Lizi Fetter,
All grow’d up

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