Monday, July 25, 2016

Simplest Birthday Party Ideas Ever: No Planning, No Cleaning, No Stress

Every year around this time, I breathe a HUGE sigh of relief because it means birthday season is at an end for another year in this house.

This wasn't planned, but we have 5 birthdays (including mine) within two months of each other, and it's almost equal to the Christmas season in terms of stress and planning when everybody needs a party.

Easy and Inexpensive Birthday Party Planning Tips


I know sometimes people combine parties for multiple children or offer an alternative big-deal gift of cash or a vacation in lieu of a party, but that doesn't feel quite right for our family right now.

I like to give everyone a party, but one that requires the least possible in terms of planning, materials, expense, and stress.

Here's what I've learned about cheap and easy birthday party planning in the last 12 years:

1. Have the party somewhere other than your home. Even outside in the backyard is good. If the party's at home, I spend the entire day cleaning and then, after they destroy the house during the party, I have to clean it all again. What a waste, because I hate cleaning.

2. Cupcakes are better than cake. For one thing, they're easier (no cutting, no plates and forks needed.) I also make our cupcakes do double-duty as a party activity. I put out a variety of sprinkles and colors of frosting and let the kids all decorate their own. They love it, and I don't have to frost anything beforehand.

3. Stop buying party favors. Seriously. Most of the time we have them make something at the party and then take that home as their favor (i.e: a handmade wand from a Harry Potter themed party or a decorated pillowcase from a sleepover-themed party.) But even if not, don't sweat it. We've had a few parties where the guests brought home two big fat handfuls of nothing and even lived to tell about it.

4. Set up an Evites account. I resisted doing Evites for years, until I realized that no one cares about the invitations and people are about a thousand percent more likely to RSVP if they can just click "yes" or "no." I know now that cute invitations are basically for my own enjoyment, so I only make real ones when I want to and it's not an extra stressor.

5. Decorations are optional. We put some balloons on the mailbox so people know where the party's at, but beyond that it's totally dependent on what I feel I have time to do. If you want it to appear to the other parents like you worked your butt off then stick some more decorations in the front yard or on your front door. But the kids won't even notice anything you do inside so again, like the invites/Evites, any work you do here is strictly about self-satisfaction.

6. But you do need some random balloons. You expect it from toddlers, but even the older pre-teens will draw faces on the balloons and give them names and start batting them all over and laughing hysterically. I haven't ever met a kid who's too old to play with random balloons on the floor. Actually, that could probably just be an entire party on its own (note to self.)

Unique No-Stress Birthday Party Ideas


It's really funny that the most inexpensive parties that took us the least time to put together were always the funnest ones.

I asked my kids which ones were their favorites and here were some of their answers:


Simplest Birthday Party Ideas Ever: No Planning, No Cleaning, No Stress -- Easy and inexpensive birthday party ideas from a mom of 6 kids (that's a lot of parties!)  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Launching rockets. We bought some {affiliate link} Estes rocket kits on Amazon, met at the school soccer field to assemble and launch them, and then had cupcakes and played at the park across the street until the end of the party.

Have a bonfire. We have a fire pit in our yard, so we just set up a card table and some camping chairs (and a fallen log) near it and started a fire. We sent the kids to hunt for sticks to roast hot dogs, served chips and watermelon, and instead of cake for dessert we roasted marshmallows and made S'mores.

Faux sleepover. We aren't fans of sleepovers in our family, but we did do a sleepover-themed party. The guests wore their PJs, decorated a pillowcase with fabric markers, had pizza, and ate popcorn and watched a movie before going home. This is one of the years when I went nuts and made cute little invitations (but that part is totally not necessary.)

Simplest Birthday Party Ideas Ever: No Planning, No Cleaning, No Stress -- Easy and inexpensive birthday party ideas from a mom of 6 kids (that's a lot of parties!)  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
I sewed these tiny little pillowcases. Somebody shoot me from all the cuteness.

Simplest Birthday Party Ideas Ever: No Planning, No Cleaning, No Stress -- Easy and inexpensive birthday party ideas from a mom of 6 kids (that's a lot of parties!)  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Click to enlarge; the little poem on the invites explains the party pretty well.

Baby doll party. My daughter loved baby dolls when she was 3 so we had everyone bring their favorite doll. Using the baby doll gear we owned and a few borrowed pieces from friends, we set up stations to make play food and feed the babies, bathe the babies, put the babies to sleep, and dress the babies. The kids free played the whole time, but if they got restless or distracted I jumped in and had them bring their babies over to listen to me read a picture book.

BBQ party. Hot dogs, hamburgers, chips, and watermelon. Doesn't take much. We also had a bunch of balloons on hand and played a few games with those, but they mostly made up their own games in the yard. They were having so much fun it was the only party where we skipped opening presents to let them just play some more.

Mall scavenger hunt. We divided the guests into three groups (each group was with an adult) and they had to find how many buttons in the elevator, which stores are on either side of Sears, what's the cheapest thing on the Burger King menu in the food court, etc. I adapted the list from here. We added up who answered the most questions, gave out prizes, and then all got an ice cream treat from Dairy Queen in the food court.

Letterboxing at a local trail. Letterboxing is like geocaching without the GPS. Sort of like a treasure hunt. You can find trails near you at this site. There's a Harry Potter themed one near us with multiple stamps hidden; I made little Harry Potter books for each guest to stamp as we found them. We had cupcakes back at the car after completing the trail. Even the girls who didn't like hiking had fun at this one.


These are some of our favorite and least labor-intensive birthday parties to date. What's the best birthday party your kids have ever had or been to?

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Unremarkable Files

14 comments:

  1. Just had my first try at a birthday party. I learned not to have make invites ever again. We are doing a princess party and its not in my home thank heaven! We are doing donuts instead of cake. And after as easy as I've made it I think maybe next time I'll just say "bring your bike to the church parking lot for a bike party!"

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    1. I love the biking party idea. That's definitely going on our list of easy parties to throw in the future.

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  2. Totally dying from the cuteness of the faux sleepover + invites! Those are pretty amazing, you have such patience to do that! I second the idea of ditching storebought party favors. I get it, they look fun-I remember poring over the Oriental Trading Company party catalogs when I was little, gazing at the cheap party favors. But really, homemade is so much better.

    I don't have much experience throwing parties, but I have experienced some good ones! When I turned 8, my parents threw me a Little House on the Prairie party, and it was awesome. Definitely involved some planning and decorations, but we had fun, and when I randomly ran into one of the girls who came years later (we found ourselves at the same college after a million years of not seeing each other or talking!) she actually brought up that party!
    Another awesome party which was very low-maintenance was when I was a freshman in college. My friends threw me a surprise birthday party which consisted of them making a huge birthday-card-banner thing, serving a cake, and watching "Sister Act" and "Aladdin" while we hung out. They also threw homemade confetti on me as I was walking into the room. It was pretty incredible and such a fun time, and super low-key :)

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    1. Making the sleepover invites was one of those rare Pin-worthy moments in my own life where I look back and wonder, "Who was the woman who did that? Where did she come from, and where did she go?"

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  3. I love the simplicity ideas - and I super love that sleepover invite. That was incredibly adorable. Funny how the parents love the invites more than the kids probably do ;) Anyway, we're not big on sleepovers here either, but I love the idea of the faux sleepover party!
    We just had a surprise mystery dinner for my birthday (Am I too old to host my own parties?!) and I thought it was awesome! Definitely took planning, but we figured out how to make a usually big event simple enough for two people to put together :)

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    1. I've concluded that cute invites and decorations are basically just to show off to the other parents, which I seem to have less and less interest in doing as time goes on. Or maybe I've run out of impressive ideas. Either way.

      The dinner sounds fun, but did you plan your own surprise party??

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  4. I actually enjoyed the ones we've had at home the best (gasp!). My daughter has a winter birthday so we are usually stuck inside. But there's something fun about playing good ol' fashioned party games like hot potato on the family room floor that everyone enjoys.

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    1. We've played about every variation of "Pin the ____ on the _____" you can imagine over the last decade. Put the shoe on the ballerina, land the bee on the flower, pin the jewel on the crown...

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  5. Finally--another mom who gets me! Gracie's first birthday party had a whopping 4 balloons. We had only family over and ate cake and opened presents. And she's still alive! And not traumatized! No cake smash, no photographer, no decorative bunting around her highchair, no birthday onesie. It's possible.

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    1. Yes! Especially the first birthday. Let them play in an empty cardboard box for 15 minutes and then press some buttons on the elevator and it's the best birthday ever. It's gotten worse. When my oldest was a baby none of that stuff was expected. Special onesies just for their birthday weren't even a thing back then.

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  6. I found out I like planning pinterest type parties after doing a surprise Arrested Development birthday party for my husband. It was so much fun. On the other hand, I only plan a party like that if I feel like it. For instance, I was hugely pregnant, tired, and had no motivation to do a big party so I invited my daughter's friends to the park, ate cupcakes, sang Happy Birthday and called it a day. She loved it. It was simple and really all she wanted was to hang out with her friends. This year, she really just wants one of those balloon holders. For realz. We are doing a pinterest worthy party this year but that is because I feel like doing it and I like to take pictures of it all.

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  7. We just had a mall scavenger hunt birthday party. It was the best ever. Easy and no mess to clean up.

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  8. Yes, we've started to have parties OUTSIDE the home. I hate having a bunch of people over. My daughter had her birthday at a trampoline place. I loved that they cleaned everything afterwards. And I didn't feel like I had to entertain anyone.

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