Kids’ birthday parties are very mentally-consuming for moms. Most moms hope they plant a seed-o-fun and it grows into an unforgettable memory. As a mother of three and Owner of POW! Kids, I think kid's birthday parties have gotten out of hand. I sympathize with the moms that call my kid’s business with a nervous tone, asking “Do the kids really have fun during the party?” They want assurance that their child will be happy at the end of the 2-hour block of time. I have been creating kid’s active-training birthday party curriculums for about 6 years. I launched with my Superhero Training birthday party package after my first son was born. It was a concept I had in my back-pocket since I was a young adult. But it wasn’t until I started going to kid’s birthday parties that I realized so many parents spent between $500-$1000 on a 3 year old’s party. According to a Babycenter.com survey, 25% of parents spend over $500 on their child's party.
I cannot speak for other birthday party venues in Chicago – but I am shocked at the money parents are willing to spend beyond a basic party package price. We talk parents out of spending extra money on unnecessary items every day. Since our focus is on the programming and engagement with the children – excessive gift bags and elaborate balloon arrangements are details we often talk parents out of bringing. These types of add-ons will equal the cost of the party package [i.e. a Superhero Balloon Kit is about $20 each (x 3 = $60), gift bags on average cost about $7-10 ( x 20 kids = $140-200]. It might sound like I am trying to interfere with the cash flow of ancillary birthday party businesses, but I’m not. I feel that someone needs to help calibrate parent’s expectations and their “birthday party-trigger-finger.”
The extravagant birthday party boom began in the early 2000s. It ran parallel to pics of Celebrities kid’s in People and US Weekly, reality TV shows featuring ridiculous spa services and pony shows for girls turning 5, as well as the launch of luxury strollers.
Here are my Birthday Party Rules of Engagement.
I try to offer advise to parents planning a birthday party that balances out the wonderful desire to host a super fun event for their child and friends, without spoiling the crap out of the kids and creating expectations that are frivolous, expensive and unnecessary.
- Stay on your budget.
- Be conservative on the gift bags- most moms throw the goodies out anyway. You can save a lot by having your child help make the bags. If you have an artistic kid – give them opportunities to make something for their guests. This works great for kids 4 to 8 years old.
- Cut back on sugar- treats for the goodies bags – place healthier snacks that could go into school lunches like popcorn, pretezels or protein bars.
- To cut down on your obligation to feed everyone- book during a non-meal time like 1 to 4pm.
- Invite who you want- not who your kid’s school requires. I do not believe it is fair that schools are requiring kids to invite an entire class to a party. It is your child, your party, your money – you should not be required to invite 32 kids when your child possibly only plays with 5 kids. With this being said, do not be offended and take it personal if your child is not invited to a party. It is not that big of a deal. Kids change their friends and they should choose who they want to hang out with. I suggest giving them a number of guests they can invite. Once you get past the VIP guests (cousins, siblings, best friend’s kids), tell your child how many kids they can invite.
- Healthy snacks (1 fruits and 1 vegetable is usually enough for 20 kids) are better options for the kids and they do not need a lot of food they usually prefer to keep playing.
- Buy water instead of juice – or simply bring cups and ask the party hosts/venue to schedule structured water breaks. Plan a water cup decoration session at the arrival time of the party and allow the kids to put stickers on their cup.
- I suggest allowing the kids to open their gifts at home and in private with their family. It is not necessary to have them open them up in front of their friends.
- If you are inviting children that have siblings- you should feel comfortable noting that the party is for a specific age group. No one should assume that siblings are automatically invited. However, I believe it should be stated on the invitation. This is how parties become extraordinarily expense.
- 10. Give your children choices and do not feel obligated to throw a big party every year. I realize this is much easier once your kids get older. Ride the wave of what your child prioritizes each year. For example, this year my daughter turns 8. I gave her the choice of a party like last year (with 14 kids) or she could join me on a weekend trip to Virginia to visit my brother. I honestly, could not afford both. She picked the trip and a reasonable additional request: a sleep over with her close girlfriends. Truth is, her plane ticket cost a little less than a party (about $250), but it is going to be a great memory for us. The sleepover with 4 girls is going to cost nothing for me, while providing her with the experience of getting presents and having a cake.