Opinion Saturday #3

It’s Opinion Saturday again. You give me your opinion on a topic. On Sunday evening I choose the best-reasoned, best-stated answer. The winner gets the prestigious (wink, wink) “Golden Keyboard Award”, a place on my sidebar for a week, and a code to put the award on their webpage for as long as they like.

AKPhotosThis week’s topic: Children’s Birthday Parties

What do you think constitutes the perfect birthday party?
–A huge bash complete with bounce pit, face painting and pony rides?
–A low-key event featuring mom, dad, and a cake after dinner?
–Or something in between?

Describe your perfect party, and tell me why you think it is best for kids. If you prefer, you can give me a link in comments and answer this with a post on your own blog. Or if you’ve already covered this, give me a link to a post from your archives. Hit me with your best thought!


  1. Okie-dokei, I answered! Here it is Happy Saturday!

  2. The job I just left threw huge, over the top gymnastics/acting/cooking parties. They cost upwards of $1000 for 12 kids. And they were fun. Kids enjoyed them. Parents were satisfied. There is not anything inherently wrong with that — just like there's nothing inherently wrong with buying a child a Barbie dreamhouse instead of helping her build her own out of shoeboxes. It's the more decadent, elaborate choice versus the simpler choice.
    For me, the simpler choice was what I got as a child, and I'm glad for that. My birthday parties were at home, with one guest for every year of my age. They were always themed…one year was princesses, and we wore old prom dresses purchasesd from Goodwill, watched Cinderella, and made crowns. Easy peasy, but totally memorable. My mom and I spent weeks planning it, and she had a wonderful book called The Penny Whistle Party Planner that we'd look through for ideas. Family Fun magazine also had some really good ones. Coming up with the theme and executing it together was part of the fun.
    You CAN do the big blowouts. I don't think that they're wrong, or bad, but they are over the top, and expensive, and for me, knowing my mom cared enough to plan something small that would make me really happy, and getting to plan it with her was really special.

  3. Hi Mary!
    We've done both styles of parties. The thing that makes them successful in my mind is if the child is honored and appreciated and celebrated.

    We've done a huge swimming party for our daughter's entire grade at school, and the next year we did a sweet home party, with sprite in champagne flutes, with the sprite dyed her favorite color.

    One thing I do feel strongly about, though, is that no child needs to feel entitled to a big or expensive party. That's not a 'right' kids have. If we do a fancy party, it's a gift, and one they probably won't receive for another few years.

    My favorite party memory is when we were completely broke financially, but we had friends over and the kids had fun with a pinata. Mike decorated a cake (it was a work of art), and that backyard event still outshines any of the other parties we've had since. Why? Our daughter was delighted at every small, inexpensive effort that was made on her behalf. Her joy was so absolutely contagious!
    ps Froglegs, I can't comment at your site, but I'm enjoying reading it!

  4. Mary,

    I don't go for the expensive elaborate parties, and it's not JUST because we could never aford it. 😉 In the first place, I am not a party planner, not my thing, and in the second place, I think it sends the wrong message to our kids.

    Jessica 18yr is an only child, but I have 4 sisters, they have children and grandchildren, and then the hubby's side is more prolific than mine. We always had a family affair, and when she got old enough, she could invite 5 or 6 friends of her choice to come over a few hours before the family was scheduled to arrive. They had their games or whatever Jessica chose to do, then the family time with cake, usually made by me or one of the family, and ice cream.

    I made an exception for her Sweet 16, and she invited 20 of her friends and we rented and decorated a small city building used for such purposes. She chose the inexpensive decorations, the menu, (microwave popcorn, homemade chex mix and soft drinks) and my nephew brought his stereo and played dj for the music and dancing. She had her friends bring their cd's, so we knew it would be music everyone liked.

    When I see any of Jessica's friends who were at her Sweet 16 party, they never fail to ask when are we throwing another party for Jessica, and can they please be invited. I think that says a lot, don't you?

    We had our family party for her here at home before the teen soiree commenced.

    I think the focus should be on family and love for the child, not on expensive gifts and elaborate parties. Jessica knows we love her, and she has happy memories of the family and friends who came to honor her, but I doubt even now she can tell you what any of her gifts were through the years without looking at photos to be reminded. She CAN tell you, however, who took the time to be there for her, and money cannot buy those kinds of memories.

    Sometimes the simplest things are the best things.

  5. i vote for something in between. for younger kids, a few friends and the extended family. to me, i think that for young kids, it's gonna be a huge deal anyways, so why not keep it as simple for yourself as possible? i should've prefaced this by saying i'm not a mom (yet) but i am an aunt and a sister. 🙂 so maybe my opinion has less basis in reality, but we all have to start somewhere, right? anyways, i think that having extended family nearby is great; i realize it's not always a possibility. but i love being included in my niece and nephews' birthdays, and having a chance to single them out for love and appreciation; making them feel special on their special day.
    in my family growing up, we had certain 'years' that were party years -every year until 5, but then i think it was 8, 10, 12, 16 and 18….in any case, the other years we had sleepovers w/a few friends, and EVERY year we had a family party. my best memories are of my parties with family — probably because it was a constant, and as our family grew, through marriages and births, i found more and more special people to celebrate my day with!

  6. My hubby always tells me we can either send the kids to college or I can throw them their birthday parties.

    I opt for the birthday parties.

    They really aren't that bad and I start so early that I save a lot. I love to plan the parties and the themes.

    Other moms will call and say okay I need help do your planning magic. I love it.

    We always take treats to school for the birthday child. Used to just be a family party but now that they are in school and older we end up having the big production for friends and low key for the family. I enjoy the kids anticipation and their input in planning their parties.

  7. My son is just five, so for his birthday we've always driven up to my folks' house and had a celebration with the kiddo's grandparents and aunties/uncle. Once I let the kiddo decorate his own cake (a regular sheet cake from a mix) and he LOVED that. When the kiddo turned four, my brother made a gigantic crown out of cardboard and glitter glue, with a huge "4" on it; we still have it and my son still loves it.

    Conversely, the kiddo's dad took him to Disneyland for his fourth birthday. (He had a more modest party for the kiddo's fifth, as his elderly mother was in town.) I kind of think, regarding our son, hat when he is given HUGE presents or parties, he starts to expect that sort of thing more often and he doesn't appreciate it as much. Certainly he has begun to expect gifts at his dad's house every weekend, as his dad continues to buy him everything under the sun. I end up trying to teach the kiddo that there's more to life than things — that it's the time we spend with people that matters so much more. Not always an easy lesson for a five-year-old, and I hope he doesn't grow up spoiled.

    Anyway, I tend to prefer more humble gatherings, where everyone plays a board (or card) game together, plays music and tells jokes. A friend of mine had a blowout with a bouncer, a pinata, craft table and catered food when her son turned five. It was fun, but I think the kids would've liked running through the sprinklers just as much, ya know?

    Young kids don't understand what things cost — they just want to have fun with people who love them, and fun can be had for not a lot of expense.

  8. Mary,
    nice to meet you – thanks for stopping my blog!
    Well, as mom to a 16 and 12 year old, I think I have pretty much covered it all over the years!
    Run, run, run and don't look back!!
    Just kidding!!
    We always went for the biigger the better idea – bouncy castle, clowns etc…boy we were dumb!
    But really, the kids love anything. I don't think any of that matters – it's a fact that kids will just make their own fun! A couple of years I a made some plain cakes and my son and his friends decorated them – I think he was five – they had a blast, gummie worms, reeses pieces, you name it…that was fun. My daughter has had sleepovers and so has my son. That seems to be the theme of choice…not mine!!! they are the worst if you can't enforce a sleep time – some kids just don't listen! However, I say do whatever you think will be the best for your child and make the most of it, they are only young once!!

  9. Here is my answer.

  10. I let my children plan them.

    Most are surprisingly simple.

    Of course I have veto power over hot air ballon rides or $1000 gymnastics parties.

    This week, my son turns 15. He is having three friends over. He wants me to buy a special coffee crunch cake, and pizza. They are going to play PS 2 and borrow a DVD.

    No problemo.

  11. We were pretty broke when I was a kid, so we didn't do anything fancy. Just the usual homemade cake, maybe some family and friends. One year we so tight on moola that when my dad asked what I wanted for my birthday I told him I wanted to learn how to drive. I was 14 then, but he taught me, anyway. Although his cup of coffee was empty by the end of the "lesson", I'm not sure actually drank much of it, rather it spilled while I learned to drive our Chevy Chevette.

    Might that be why I like to throw big parties for my boys, when I get the chance? To give them something I wish I'd had for my birthdays?

    I've thought about this one, but I can't decide on what the "best" party for a kid would be. There are a ton of great ideas at http://www.familyfun.com, a few themes of which I've used. Instead of renting a bouce-around, we've actually bought one and "party" with the neighbor kids every chance we get.

    Although my boys have pretty cool parties (full of goodies from the dollar store), I think this year my 5 year old received the best presents ever. I was planning his party while weeding through the post-Christmas mess and decided he didn't need any MORE toys. If I told the guests to not bring presents, some would have anyway, others would then feel bad. So I asked the guests to bring a book of their choice, new or from their own bookshelves. The parents told me they REALLY thought that was cool, and what a good time their kids had when choosing books specifically for my son. And I spent weeks reading him those books at night, remembering who gave them to him, and the good party he had.

    Most important, though, is taking good pictures of the child's party. Years down the line, the pics may be all the kids remember of the event, anyway. I look back at my own birthday pictures and remember pretty happy times, even without all of the hoopla I now throw together for my boys. I hope some day my boys will look back on their birthday photos and remember the fun they had, too.

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