Simply Celebrating

Avoiding excess can sow the seeds for a successful birthday party, writes Martha Miller.

Giving your child a memorable birthday party is one of the many pleasures of being a parent. But it’s easy to get carried away in the party-supplies aisle where everything seems inexpensive – until you get to the checkout. Disposable plates, cups, napkins, banners, table coverings and decorations can easily add up to a hefty chunk of change before you’ve even bought a single birthday present. Sadly, most of it will end up in the bin as soon as the party is over.

The good news is that kids’ parties don’t have to be elaborate or expensive. Keep these ideas in mind to avoid blowing the budget on distractions that don’t add value to your party and are destined to become rubbish.

Check the cupboards before heading to the supermarket. Do you already have colourful plastic plates and cups? Remember that children are looking at the cake on the plate, not at the plate. And if you do need to purchase supplies, try to buy something that is reusable. For example, is a huge plastic tablecloth necessary? They’re cheap enough, but if it’s thrown in the bin after the party, is it really worth it? A washable party tablecloth can be used again and again, and when it is pulled out of the linen cupboard, you know it’s time to party!

This brings me to an important aspect of family celebrations: tradition. What do you remember from your birthday parties? For years when I was little, my mother baked a sponge cake and iced it with the prettiest, stickiest pink icing ever. She popped in plastic roses and ballerina candleholders, and that was it. I loved it! When I was at university, I asked my mum to re-create that birthday cake for me, and she did. She had held on to those ballerinas all that time. If you haven’t yet started any birthday traditions, let this be the year.

We’ve all witnessed the lightning-fast opening of gifts and the immediate trashing of the wrapping paper. Why spend a lot of money on wrapping paper, ribbon and birthday cards? I bought a big bag of scrap cardboard a few years ago and haven’t needed to buy cards or gift tags since. I love the homemade look, and my four-year-old son also enjoys making cards, as it adds to his excitement over the upcoming event. Newspaper comics make great wrapping paper, as do old paper bags. Cut the bag open, wrap the present and then decorate it with crayons, textas and some of the million stickers that your child has received in goodie bags in the past.

Speaking of goodie bags, I am not in favour of them. My son is just happy to have gone to the party, eaten cake and played with other kids. He would never notice not receiving a goodie bag. But if you feel bad sending your child’s guests home empty-handed, find meaningful alternatives to a plastic bag filled with trinkets. Give guests something that ties into your party theme, and that will give kids something to do later on. For example, at a garden-themed party, give each guest a small pot and some flower seeds. Scooping dirt and planting seeds are really fun activities for kids, and they can take their pots home and watch their flowers grow.

Or just forgo goodie bags altogether. Have your child give the guests hugs as they leave, making sure they thank everyone for their gift and for coming to the party. Teaching your child good manners? Priceless.

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