Opinion Saturday: Birthday parties under a hundred bucks

OK, people– with ten kids it is birthday party central around here. We have kids’ parties every month of the year except for August and October. I’d love to hear some great ideas for affordable birthday parties. Pony rides and jump houses are great. But I’d rather hear about successful and creative parties that don’t cost a mint. You have all week to share your best birthday bash ideas with me. And yes, that $100 budget includes the parent’s gift to the birthday kid. The most creative idea gets the Very Interesting Person (Party?) Award. I’ll announce the winner next week!

And speaking of winners, I only got a few comments on my homework question. That particular dilemma stumps a lot of us, it seems. But the idea that I liked best of the ones submitted came from Melissa. I loved her point about recognizing each child’s personality type and working with it. Melissa, you get the Golden Keyboard this week.

Now, how about those party ideas??

{ No Comments }

  1. Oh, goody – I LOVE a party! and I’m working on a post about my son’s recent party. I can’t wait to share my ideas here, but I’m gonna have to (at least until after this afternoon’s soccer game!)

  2. When The Boy was younger, we ordered Mad Science to come give the party. For $125, he entertained the kids (12 of them) with Science experiments for almost an hour, and provided the party favors! It was a whole lot of fun for the second week in January in Minnesota, when no one went outside to play.

    I bet you could come up with the same plan. Done a long white coat, involve the kids in a couple of cool science experiments, maybe even do stuff with dry ice (which was a BIG hit). It’s really a lot of fun for a variety of ages!

  3. With seven kids, we also have to come up with low cost birthday parties. This idea is great for girls . . .

    We printed up invitations on our computer and handed them out. We asked guests to bring something for the tea instead of presents . . . cucumber sandwiches, fruit trays, vegies and dip, chocolate fondu; that kind of thing. One of the girls even volunteered to make a cake in the shape of a teapot. It was just beautiful! We served everything on our best china in our formal dining room.

    Then, we played fun shower-type games and I took tons of pictures to post on the blog. : ) All those games that most of us women HATE to play at a shower? Guess what? Girls LOVE to play them!

    Everyone had a really nice time being pretty and acting pretty and eating pretty, and it ended up costing very little.

  4. I’m not a birthday party expert by any stretch of the imagination–I’m still contemplating throwing my first kid party for my oldest this fall! But here are ideas I’ve been collecting.

    1.) Keep the number of kids down – We’re going to adopt an idea suggested to us by friends: the child (if s/he’s having a kid party that year) is allowed to have as many friends over as the age s/he’s turning. So, my four-turning-five-year-old would be allowed to invite five friends over this year.

    2.) Sibling gift making: Soulemama just posted on her older boys’ handmade gifts to their little sister on her birthday. What a great tradition!
    http://soulemama.typepad.com/soulemama/2007/09/for-sister.html

    3.) Little House on the Prairie theme party – this is the party my little almost-five-year-old wants this year. It will be dirt cheap, too. I will have the kids help me bake something period-appropriate and simple, like biscuits or muffins or cake, at the beginning of the party. While that’s baking, the kids can do prairie-like crafts, like taking turns shaking cream in a jar to make butter (to spread on the muffins they just made!), decorating paper bonnets, dance to fiddle music (on CD), etc. Then we’ll eat, and perhaps do an outside game (like play with a “pig’s bladder–” water balloons!) or read a section from one of the books together. Party favors could be paper dolls, rag dolls, and/or a copy of Little House in the Big Woods (the first book in the series, and my daughter’s favorite).

  5. I have a friend who actually told me about this idea. I plan to use it when my 3 year old is a couple of years older. She said to go to your neighbors and/or child’s friends parents and ask for “fancy clothes” then have a dress up party. She said she did this when her daughter was turning 9. She had a friend come over and they helped the girls get dressed up in fancy dresses and did their make up (with the parents permission). She took pictures and had her husband run them to the store to develop and then sent the pictures home as party favors. You could do the same for a tea party as well. Maybe even a superhero/community hero type party for boys also. That is my idea.

  6. Here in Southern California the big thing is to have a cake party at the park! So you provide cake, some snacks and some balloons so people can find you, the kids play in the park, you maybe arrange a couple games, and instead of takeaway bags piniatas are very popular. Best of all, when you get home you don’t have a big mess!

  7. First thing we do is enlist the other (non-birthday) children in the birthday planning – decorations, theme designs, cooking, cleaning, etc.

    Next we do tons and tons of (cheap) decorations the night before the birthday. We put up streamers all over the house, including bathroom and, if the child is a sound sleeper, the bedroom. We also make posters out of makers and construction paper.

    The dollar store has several types of Happy Birthday signs that can be reused.

    Scavenger hunts are fun and affordable.
    Tea parties.
    Match Box races
    Craft ideas from Family Fun websites.
    Sleep overs with games and a new movie
    One outing for ice cream or something special like that.

    Can’t wait to hear what other ideas people share.

    Duckabush Blog

  8. Here is a birthday idea from a party I atteneded as a little girl. I will NEVER forget this party…I thought it was the coolest thing! My neighbor had a “Mommy & Baby” birthday party. All of us that attended came dressed as a Mommy and brought our baby dolls. I remember pushing my stroller with my baby Annie up the driveway and feeling oh-so-big! I was probably 6 or 7. I don’t remember eating food other than cake & juice (which can be done quite cheaply!). We did play games with our babies; stroller races, diaper changing races, pin the pacie on the baby. Decorations are not necessary since everyone comes to the party “decorated” for the theme. An inexpensive gift for the birthday girl would be a new baby doll or new doll clothes for a current favorite doll. **If you aren’t up for inviting friends, you could make it a “girls day” and do it with you and siblings!

    Sorry this idea is so gender/age specific, but it is one that has stuck with me over all of these years! Just a thought for your younger girlies!

  9. One of our most successful parties has been a “Backwards Birthday Party”. I can’t even tell you how much all the kids enjoyed it!

    We made up the invites and included a secret backwards message on it that they needed to hold up to a mirror to read (it said there would be a prize for the best backwards outfit). The guests were so creative in their outfits. Especially some of the hairdos.

    We began the party with giving out treat bags (with names spelled BW of course) – kids weren’t allowed to eat the treat inside though till later. We played several games BW, like relay races, treasure hunts, etc.

    We also made up a bingo game where the cards had different words on the 25 squares, but the words I would draw were spelled BW. For example, I would read out: ‘stressed’ and they would have to find the word ‘dessert’.

    The kids made crowns/ hats with their names on the front BW.

    Our decorations were simple – we hung balloons upside down from the ceiling with thin string and did up a few BW posters.

    It was the little things the kids got a kick out of: greeting them at the front door with a “goodbye! Thanks for coming.”

    It’s a fun theme that you can do a lot with. I’m not a terribly creative person, so I can only imagine what some other Moms could come up with!

    Chris in Canada

  10. Brenda on the S OR Coast says:

    One of the “Kids by the Dozen” families on the Discovery Channel has an Annual Birthday Bash. They only have this one HUGE birthday party a year. The guests include a couple hundred of their closest friends and they keep the budget down to about a $1 a person for a BBQ type meal. They go all out on games and fun!

    On the kids’ actual birthdays, they let them choose dinner, or take them out or something. I don’t remember exactly.

    I thought this was a great idea for keeping from going “party crazy!”

    ~Blessings

  11. The park is the BEST place for a birthday party. I have held park parties for 2 year olds all the way to 12 or 13. We reserve a pavilion and try to be close to the playground. Sometime we grill hot dogs, sometimes just cake. You can even do theme parties there. We’ve had a dinosaur party and searched for dinosaur eggs (easter eggs); a army party, a beach party, a cowboy party, etc. Costs are kept low since we do minimal decorating, play games that every one can participate in and then end with a pinata (often homemade) full of candy so no need for a goodie bag. Parents love it because they can stick around if they want to, and there is something for siblings to do on the playground.

    Many years I offered other places to have the party and the kids would always beg for the park!

  12. A friend of mine did this for her daughter’s birthday. Her daughter wanted a cheerleader party. Decorations were homemade pompoms (shredded paper attached to popsicle sticks) and bullhorns from the dollar store. The church she goes to has a “family life center” and you can rent a gym for a birthday party really cheap if there is not a church event happening at the time. So, the kids played games in the gym, and then she hired a teenager to come and do some cheers with the girls.
    Also, if it’s okay to share someone else’s idea, I have bookmarked this person’s to do at my son’s next bday.
    http://homeschoolblogger.com/ourquiverfull/347977/

  13. I HATE doing birthday parties. I am always trying to see how simple we can make it.

    My best two ideas were:

    For a daughter–a dress-up party. They came in dress-up, we gave them party favors of little girl makeup and helped everyone get made up, took pictures, put on stately music and pretended to ballroom dance. Then pizza, presents and cake.

    For a son–we have a park nearby that has tanks that kids can climb all over. All the boys came in camo and my husband took them over to play on the tanks for an hour, brought them back and we had pizza, presents, cake and that was it. The boys loved it so much that two of the guests did the same thing for THEIR birthdays, both later in that same month!

    Jeanne

  14. My daughter’s birthday is in the middle of July. We always invite her friends over, put the kids in the back yard with water games/toys. I always try to bake the cake and the party favors are usually items that can be played with outside in the water mess. The kids LOVE it, and it doesn’t cost much at all.

    We are hosting a “little girl” tea party at the beginning of Oct. While it is not a birthday party, it could be an excellent one. I bought 5 old prom-style dresses at the thrift store and collected old hats, gloves, and clip on jewelery from the grandmothers. The girls are all 6 years old. They get to come over, dress up, and my little one will serve them pink lemonade from the teapot–along with mini muffins and cookies. Cheap fun that reinforces table manners!

  15. I love parties where they can make & take something. Not only will the kids have a nice keepsake, but the actual activity consumes some time and keeps them occupied.

    Crafts can include inexpensive kits from craft stores (we’ve found little bird houses or wooden jewelry boxes for a dollar or two) or something more unique.

    A garden themed party could include small, plain, terra cotta flower pots to decorate (cheap!) complete with seeds that will sprout and remind them of the fun they had.

    Tie-dying t-shirts outside is a hit, too! The finished products make colorful decorations while hanging to dry. Planning ahead is key as you can find plain white t-shirts online for around $1.50 each. Rit dye is only a couple of dollars per color. To continue with the theme, you can make tie-dyed cake by dividing plain white cake batter into a few bowls and mixing different food colorings in each. Then, pour them in the cake pan and gently swirl. We did a two layer cake with one layer being green/purple/blue and the other red/orange/yellow. It was frosted with white icing and was so pretty when sliced.

    The do-it-yourself idea can also be utilized for party food. Individual pizzas are fun – you can use bagels or english muffins and set up a variety of sauces, cheese and colorful veggies for toppings. Then, they can decorate plain sugar cookies or rice krispy treats with a variety of candies, fruits and frosting. So the money you spend on food does double-duty as a party activity, too. :o)

  16. Mine is pretty much the same as Bethpie. Make your own pizzas can be super cheap, and keeps them busy.

    My mom was the queen of the make your own party favors. For a strawberry shortcake birthday I once had, which was a sleepover, she made salt clay and we all made out own woven baskets out of clay, inside little tinfoil pie plates with handles and decorations. She baked them all night in the oven and in the morning when the kids went home she threw a few little favors in and we all had our own little trinket baskets.

    I like to throw activity parties. My birthday was in the winter in Canada so we would all go skating at ponds, which was free, or sledding and then we would all go back for hot chocolate and cake and chili. Super cheap, and lots of fun.

    For my BIL’s B-day we went rock climbing, for relatively cheap cost of equipment rental. That was his present as well so it fits in under $100. And then cake.

    The Boy’s birthday is coming up and I think we’ll meet with friends at the park, or beach, or our pool (Yay southern california) and do the cake thing with his friends, and then a birthday dinner later on with just the family. He gets to choose the menu.

  17. FUn ideas, I’ve been checking them peridoically to see what people have to say.

    We, and a lot of our friends, do not do birthday parties every year. I have several friends who do three a life time per kid at age 5,8,16.
    Another friend who only has three kids rotates years and one kid gets a “big party” each calendar year.

    Our birthday parties aren’t usually very expensive. We make the decorations and I make the food (which is the biggest expenss)

    Good luck! and this is a great idea for a post!

  18. The type of party depends on the age of the b’day kid but we’ve had the following inexpensive but successful party themes:

    Pirate Party: Paper pirate hats and themed cake etc and the b’day boy made a pirate map for the guests which led to a box of bootie that we’d buried in the yard.

    Out in the State Park: We have a great state park near here and we’ve gone there for several years.
    One year we had a Nature Scavenger Hunt where the kids were given a page we printed out with the pictures and names of 10 natural things they had to bring back for a little prize. The things to find were like ‘an acorn’ etc and we also threw around some colorful little plastic lizards.

    Another year we had a Spy theme which was kind of hide and seek with spy gear that we already owned.

    Another year we had a Star Wars theme and we split the kids into 3 teams of 4 and they were each given envelopes with a poem that led them to a location in the park nearby where they’d find another clue envelope. One of the poems led them to a hollow tree where my husband was hiding in a Darth Vader costume. They liked that a lot.

    My son is 11 and his birthday party is turning into a potluck annual reunion for a lot of friends from his preschool and old school. We say ‘no presents, please’ and he just gets presents from the family now. He seems okay with that.

  19. My mom LOVED throwing birthday parties and on a low income school district teacher’s salary (at the time–I was on reduced lunches) she had to keep it cheap, as in make everything and come up with free games. I remember a lot of fun parties.

    We had slumber parties with a breakfast buffet, swimsuit parties where everyone came in their suit and we finger-painted one another then played in the hose. Ice cream socials–where everyone brought their favorite topping and she provided a slew of ice cream flavors so we could build our own Sundaes. Themed parties where she would buy a theme coloring book then make large versions of the images and use them for pin the ___on the ___, play drop the clothes pin in the jar, have a variety of races, and she would bake a cake that had something to do with the theme.

    When I was older we had the choice between a larger at home party or taking one or two special friends to a place of our choice (I usually opted for the take a friend to the movies or out to eat or whatever. )

    My kids usually have a two or three friend party, get to choose two decorations for their theme when we find them on clearance throughout the year, and help create the games we will play. One year we had a dress-up tea party for my oldest and her friend, complete with little sandwich es etc. Another year we had a Blue’s Clues party with a pin the tail on blue, paw print games and and a blue shaped cake.

    As far as gifts go the siblings each buy a $1 gift at the thrift shop or Dollar Store and either I buy four gifts there (Something they want, something they need, something for fun, something to read) or if they have a special request then that is their gift.

    So far we have had no complaints. 🙂

  20. Well – you have girls and this is one that worked with my girls. Last year we set up a spa for them. I enlisted my dh and my mom and my aunt. Everyone took on a fake name ‘Martinique’ or ‘Francoise’. In one part of the kitchen we had a ‘cafe’ set up where my dh served them from a menu of hot chocolate and snacks. In the other part of the kitchen at one end of the table, my mom was set up with a hand spa station where she washed their hands with some fancy soapy water and pushed their cuticles back. Each girl got their own ‘spa kit’ there – a washcloth with nail clippers, a cuticle stick, an emery board all wrapped up and tied with a hair ribbon. When they were done there, they moved to the other end of the table where my aunt and I painted their nails (with lots of funky colours to choose from) and applied nail stickers. We talked to them in a phony French accent and they got right into – having a conversation in their own ‘character’.

    We’d hoped to do toes too – but by the time we got through all the fingernails, we were exhausted. lol

    The gifts to my girls included all the nail polish leftover (a big treat at our house) and nail accents. The spa kits for the guests were inexpensive and easy to find at a dollar store.

  21. For my daughter’s 9th birthday we bought her a Karoke machine ($40), a cd, we invited friends to the house for a Karoke party. The kids provided the entertainment, we had snacks. It was low key and fun.

    I like birthdays at parks. Usually the pavillion is free, entertainment is right there and the kids all love that.

    We have had game birthdays where kids brought their favorite board games we set up stations and divided into groups, everyone played a little while then switched games.

    Mad Libs parties are fun and easy, you can even print them off the computer.

    You can turn virtually in sport into a party. My kid loves basketball so that was our theme. We divided into two teams and played. Then we had water bottles gotten at the dollar store 2 for $1 that I put everyone’s names on and it was a party favor to take home. I made sugar cookies decorated like basketballs (a little work but so worth it).

  22. Last year when my dd turned 14, we had a tea party at home. I went around to the Goodwill/Salvation Army stores and bought a china tea cup/saucer for each girl, each “set” cost around $2. We fixed tea, soda, finger sandwiches and cookies. I let each girl pick a teacup/saucer to use and then take home to keep. They loved having a chance to wear their fancy dresses and heels. A few girls brought DVDs so as the party wound down, they watched a move.

  23. For our daughter’s 8th birthday, she invited three friends for a sleepover. They ate pizza and drank root beer floats. For the craft/favor, I got a bunch of men’s plain white undershirts and a bunch of fabric pens and paints. The girls decorated the shirts and they dried overnight, to be taken home and worn as nightshirts. I kept costs down by planning ahead and hoarding coupons from Michael’s, Hobby Lobby and JoAnn for the markers and paints, and bought the undershirts on sale. Plus, there were only four girls, so we didn’t need a lot of stuff. They ended the night eating microwave popcorn and watching our copy of High School Musical. They had a great, low-key time together, and loved their new nightshirts!

  24. A dance party can be a really fun cheap way to celebrate a Birthday. All you need is Music. Rounds of group freeze dancing and free style dancing with one child in the middle while the others cheer them on can be made into fun games. Guests can be sent home with mixed C.D’s. I don’t expect my child to be fed a meal at a birthday party although it seems to be the norm. I prefer keeping it simple with some cupcakes and fruit is just fine! Last year when school supplies went on clearance at target I bought pencil boxes and filled them for under $1 to give away as gift bags.

  25. Since we have 5 kids, we like low cost birthday parties, too. A couple of years ago we started the tradition of having a friend party every other year with a family party on the opposite year (and usually a friend gets to sleep over). Also, whenever one of my kids turns 13, his/her celebration is a trip to New York City with Mom. We fly and stay at an international house that I know of and have a blast while spending two days of one on one time. (Plus since Mom loves the big apple it is a real treat/vacation for her, too).

    For my daughter’s six year old party we had a beach party in January. We pulled out an old water table, had water balloons, made whirly gigs, and played hula hoop games. The menu: peanut butter & jelly sandwiches on white bread cut into triangles — shark teeth! Cupcakes iced blue. Blue jello cups with gummy fish. Pretty cheap & lots of fun!
    We had this one in our church’s gym.

    Another year we had a snowflake theme and the big activity was sledding in our backyard. We made snowflake crafts (w/fun foam) and served hot chocolate.

    We’ve also had baby doll/American girl doll tea parties with ribbon awards given to each each doll.

    My son had a star wars themed party and the highlight was my husband dressed up as Darth Vader and every boy got a chance to fight him with a light saber. We took pictures of each child with Darth Vader to send in the thank you notes.

    For my daughter’s sweet sixteen party, she could invite anyone she wanted (everyone from church youth group and most of the kids from her small school). We had pictionary games set up, card games, volleyball, basketball. Everyone played a big game of capture the flag together. I served a spaghetti dinner. Everyone had a great time.

    Lisa

  26. Our best birthday party was a talent show! My son came up with the idea (he’s an amateur magician), and it was excellent! All of the party guests were told on the invitation that they could participate in a talent show, so they came prepared.

    We also did decorate-your-own cupcakes for the cake.

    Total cost for the party was the cost of the few snacks (crackers, grapes, and juice) and materials for the cupcakes. I only bought the icing especially for the party, since we had sale-purchased cake mix, sprinkles, M&Ms, and decorating gel in the pantry.

    It was one of our most fun parties ever!

    http://frommynoodle.blogspot.com/2006/05/birthday-party-day.html

  27. I don’t have a full answer for the complete party–but you’ve got to check out this pinata Zebra! If you spend the time making a few pinatas, it could really be lots of fun! Cheap too!

    We aren’t doing anything drastic for our son’s 2nd…which is coming up soon. Maybe an Old MacDonnald Theme or something…..Yikes, only a month to plan that….better quit typing, and get started organizing!

    Valerie

  28. Sorry, here’s the pinata zebra with instructions. There’s lots others too!

    http://www.pinataboy.com/gallery.html

  29. We had a great preschooler art party once. We made giant batches of Kool Aid play dough in 4 different colors and brought out all the play dough toys and kid friendly kitchen equipment. We pulled out our easel and borrowed easels from friends and set them all up on the lawn with paper on both sides and lots of paint. We also had them water paint on the patio with buckets and brushes.
    Another major cost cutter I have found is to not serve a meal. All our birthdays are in the summer so we put out fresh veggies and dip and cut up fruit and then serve cake about an hour into the party. My kids are always too excited to eat much at parties, anyway!

  30. My kids are little, so the guest question has not been very big yet. We are very informal.

    This year we tried to go camping – being greenies we had to come home after the first night instead of staying all weekend, but we did make ice cream in a can (just google it) which was a big hit — the kids didn’t peter out on making it either, I was impressed.

    We also do park parties, or take the family to the zoo on our family membership. (Doing a simple animal theme party in conjunction with that might be fun – yay pinatas!)

  31. I had my sons last birthday at the shelter OUTSIDE a local kids farm. Admission to the farm is free, but their birthday packages cost $90, the shelter outside costs $5 an hour, so we did the party outside, complete with pinata, and then everyone treked inside for some free family fun … petting zoos, play grounds. It was a blast, and SUPER cheap.

  32. In the last few years we have stopped having parties all together. We have enough kids in our house that we don’t really need to bring in another handful. The birthday child invites one guest. The guest can spend the night if they want. We have special food and of course cake or cupcakes, and play all of our favorite party games (our family with the friend).

    Our local theater offers free movies on your birthday so usually Dad will take the birthday child for that treat as well. If it falls on the same day that the friend is spending the night he will take them both.

    We used to spend hundreds on parties, now we only spend about $50, the amount of the gift. The only extras that we need are M&Ms for the “don’t eat pete” game and the cake mix and frosting. Sometimes I will get little treat bag trinkets for the kids, but not usually.

    We all FAR enjoy this new system and it focuses on our family and one special friend rather then a whole host of random kids and general craziness.

    The only child who has something different is my daughter. Her birthday is at the start of Spring, right when we are ready to pull out the grill, so we invite a few of her friends families over for a little gathering. It is pretty much family focused as a typical barbecue is, but we do have a pinata. We all like this because the kids all run around the yard and have fun and the adults all get to socialize a bit. We started this when we were just so burned out of kids parties. We never have parties and found that we were focusing so much of our energy and attention on providing these parties for the kids. It just didn’t seem right. We spend a bit more that $50 on her party, but it is mostly on food, and I feel like it is going toward building lasting family relationships, not just loading random kids with sugar and disposable toys.

  33. I forgot to add something. This is the first time we didn’t do this and only because I am 8 months pregnant.

    For my birthday I invite all my friends and their families to the local park. I bring a cooler full of ice cream and sundae toppings. We have a big and very family friendly soccer game or kick ball game and usually both. The Dads sometimes get competitive (okay, and me too!) but we try to make it fun for all ages, even the wee little ones play. My friends and I have children ranging from 0-17 so the play is very varied. After the game we make delicious ice cream sundaes. Mmm. The cost isn’t much, if I had to guess I would say $30. My kids were devastated that we didn’t do it this year. I must say, I’m a little bit sad too because it sure is fun!

  34. Veronica Mitchell says:

    Pieces at Wisdom Has Two Parts had a great idea for her daughter’s inexpensive birthday party: a camp-out theme. She wrote about it here:

    http://wisdomhastwoparts.typepad.com/wisdom_has_two_parts/2007/06/atwitter.html

    http://wisdomhastwoparts.typepad.com/wisdom_has_two_parts/2007/06/the_birthday_ca.html

  35. We did a birthday party for my son at our local volunteer fire department. I don’t know if they would let you do this, but for a young boy, they thought the tour and ride on the fire truck was super cool.

  36. A “Come as You are Party” — this was one of my favorite birthdays growing up – it was when I was in 5th grade.

    My Mom arranged with other Moms to pick up a carload (an old ford LTD) of my friends early in the morning one Saturday. So, everyone was in their pajamas and jumped in the car. It was lots of fun going around and surprising my friends – I think it was 5 or 6 girls. We went back to my house and we have pictures of a bunch of us playing basketball in our nightgowns.

    It was different and sure was fun and inexpensive. Funny, I mostly just remember the driving around and surprising my friends. I’ll have to ask my Mom what else we did!

    Another option, when I was 5 years old my Mom arranged for a birthday stop at the fire station followed by cake and games at our house.

    I just came home from ETH with an infant boy, so I’m noting some of these ideas for the future!!

  37. One of our favorite parties was a mystery party for my daughter. We taped mysterious music on a tape and then my daughter recorded a message that said something like “you’re mission, if you choose to accept it, is to help solve the mystery of the stolen birthday cake on … at… Then we packaged the tapes in manila envelopes with “top secret” printed on the outside, dressed in dark clothes and dropped the tapes on her friend’s front door steps. We then rang the doorbell and ran away, leaving the mysterious :0) package. We had so much fun just delivering the invitations! For the party my creative husband came up with a list of suspects (Sally Sneakasweet a secretary that is constantly trying to diet, Otis Bringsabox the nice, but somewhat dimwitted UPS delivery guy, Pistol Pete the 40 something jerky guy that thinks he’s too cool and still plays with cap guns, and there was one more, but I forget who he was) When the party started we gathered the “detectives” around and told them what had happened – I had made my daughters birthday cake and left it on the kitchen table, went to the store and when I returned it was missing. We then gave them info packs with the “suspects” and briefed them on each. They then set off to solve the mystery which included finding clues, a note scratched on a piece of paper, a pocket book with some interesting contents, a phone call (from a neighbor) about seeing someone at our house, etc. (I think we labeled objects in our house that were potential clues with a picture of a magnifying glass. I don’t remember the entire story line we created, but it ended up being Sally Sneakasweet and when she was almost caught sneaking a bite of the cake (she couldn’t resist because she was always dieting and never got to eat junk food) she panicked and shoved it in the freezer where it was eventually found by our detectives. Before they had the solution they had to take a guess at who they thought the culprit was and the kids that guessed correctly got a piece of candy or something. We also dusted glasses for fingerprints as an activity while the kids were arriving. It was really fun creating and setting up the mystery and the kids loved solving the crime. AND it was barely any cost!!

  38. Just wanted to mention the “Pennywhistle Birthday Party Book” (or a title close to that) That has lots of great ideas for inexpensive birthday parties

  39. hmm, I don’t know why that last post posted and not my really long one about a great mystery party we had. Maybe I’ll post it again.

  40. I just remembered something that we did for my son. All the kids had been wanting to go to Build a Bear shop, but it isn’t something that we would normally do, due to the expense, and there really isn’t one anywhere near us. Anyway, we were going to be visiting relatives near a BAB and close to my son’s birthday, so we brought just our own children there and had the party package. I think we set the limit at $15 per kid (possibly $20) so it was somewhere around a hundred. We then had cake back at the house and that was the whole birthday. It was a huge hit and we killed two birds with one stone (not that I advocate the killing of birds with stones or otherwise!).

  41. So it took me days to get back, but I finally got to finish the post about my son’s birthday party, and do a post to answer your Opinion Saturday question. It’s here: http://learningpatience.wordpress.com/2007/09/19/party-ideas-on-the-cheap/

    I am just LOVING all of the ideas I’ve read here so far! I can’t wait to have time to read more! Thanks for this question, Mary!