Why I Don’t Throw My Kid’s Birthday Parties

No I am not a mean mom that doesn’t believe in celebrating my kids.  I love birthdays.  In fact, August is my birthday month and I pull the “it’s my birthday month” card the entire 31 days.  I love birthdays.  It is a day where we set aside to celebrate the special people in our lives and how much they mean to us.  However, what I think is a fun birthday party and what my kids deem fun has been different in year’s past.  I threw a couple of crazy themed parties for my kiddos (see below).  I spent a truckload of time and money – mostly time, to make it perfect.  Or so I thought.  I was stressed for a week planning and creating decorations. I came up with fun themed games, food and party favors.  And as my kids had post party let down they were always disappointed.  And to be honest, I was too.

why i don't throw kids birthday parties

It wasn’t that it was not fun, but I didn’t take into account or ask my kids what they wanted to do for their party.  Sure they suggested the theme and then momma bear took it from there and created an over-the-top event.  However, I often forgot about who I was planning it for, me or them?

Lego Ninjago Birthday Party


Tangled Rapunzel Party


So I don’t throw birthday parties for my kids anymore.  I hung up the party planner hat and passed on the baton – to my kiddos!  Last year when my son turned 8 my husband and I decided to try something different.  We offered my son $200 for his “birthday party”.  With that money my son had to plan the party, pay for the supplies, purchase the invitations, and that money also included his birthday gift from us.  We did the same for his birthday this year.  So do you want to know what a 9 year-old plans for his birthday party?  So this is how it went down.

In the beginning of April I reminded Isaac his birthday was coming in May and that we were going to again give him $200 to plan his birthday. I went over all the things he needed to purchase reminding him that whatever money he had leftover he could use for his gift from us. I asked him what he wanted to do.  Immediately, he said he wanted to invite his entire class to our house for a swimming party.  Now the first week of May is hit or miss in Ohio as far as swimming weather is concerned, but we have a heater and a pool cover so I figured we could give it a try.

So the first thing we had to do was invitations.  We priced out invitations and Isaac decided he didn’t want to spend money on paper invitations.  So I offered him the E-vite option.  He loved the price and ease of it.  So he helped me create a simple birthday invitation.


The fun part was Isaac checking each day to see who RSVP’ed.  The next thing to decide was food.  I told him we had to provide an after school snack and dinner for the kids.  So he decided he wanted to have bins of his favorite snacks out for everyone.  So he bought Cheez-Its, Granola Bars, Peanut Butter Crackers and Animal Crackers.  He also bought Gatorades and Waters for drinks.


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He decided he wanted Little Caesar’s Pizza for dinner since that was an inexpensive option for his favorite meal. I told him we could save money by making homemade ones but that he would have to help prepare them.  He didn’t like that option.  He thought Little Caesar’s was the best option.  But then he really wavered back and forth on buying breadsticks.  He really likes them but that would cost an extra $10.  He decided he really wanted breadsticks so we got 5 orders of them.  The total pizza and breadstick order was $51.56.

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Then the cake decision came.  I told him we could make a cake or cupcakes and that we could probably do that for less than $5.  But again, he would need to help me make them.  He really wanted a store bought cake because he likes them better.  I gave him cake options and he decided on a $14.99 one from the grocery store.  He also purchased vanilla ice cream.

We talked through party favors and goodie bags.  He felt like the goodie bags are just a bunch of junky toys that kids throw out anyway.  He just wanted his friends to come over and enjoy the pool and play “mad ball” in the backyard. (I have no idea what that is but it looked like a cross between kickball and dodgeball)  He didn’t feel favors would be missed.  I asked him about games and decorations and he said he didn’t want to spend any money on that.  He said Marco Polo and diving sticks would be fun games to play for free.

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So that is what we did.  I helped by giving Isaac options and allowed him to plan and make the decisions.  Is it how I would have planned his party?  Well you all know the answer to that question.  But what it did was empower my son to make decisions, budget and get creative – a skill far greater than any party has to offer.  We had no fights, no grumpy stressed out momma, and no post-party let down.

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I sat on the deck with the greatest joy in my heart opening up my home to all these kids and watching the joy on Isaac’s face to share his special day with all the kids in his class.  It was such a blessing to watch the kids playing and having a great time and knowing I had nothing to do with it – it was all my son’s doing.

Isaac opening presents


And guess what?  Not one kid complained that we didn’t have a candy buffet, piñata or theme.  And this week at school the party was all they could talk about.  They are all trying to convince Isaac to have an end of the year party too.  All in all Isaac spent $102 on his party.  So he has $98 to spend on a gift for himself.  Tim and I did buy Isaac something small to open up on his birthday – so we kind of broke our rule a bit 😉  But since there are no rules to parties I guess it is okay.

Update:  Many of you asked what Isaac bought with the $98.  He actually bought himself a tortoise complete with the sun lamp and chips you put in the cage.  His name is Rocky 🙂

So I know some of you are like “Well yah that is easy you have a pool in your backyard.” That is true for this year. But remember I told you I did this for Isaac’s 8th birthday too.  We didn’t have a pool then.  Last year Isaac bought a Groupon for a local fun place for $32 for 6 people to have a 2 hour wristband.  It only allowed him to invite 5 friends.  After buying tokens, pizza and cake he spent $75 total.  He had $125 leftover.  So last year he decided to buy three hermit crabs, a tank and hermit crab food with the leftover money.

So you might be surprised what your child might plan for their birthday.  But working through the process and allowing your kids to think critically is pretty awesome to watch.  They have such a huge sense of ownership of the party and they also appreciate how much goes into planning one.

Me and my birthday boy

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Now this might not be for all of you out there.  You party planners out there are cringing at my dollar tree buckets filled with Cheez-Its. HA!  But for some of you it might be something to consider.  Click here to read how my 7 year old daughter spent her $200 birthday budget.

How we Handle Chores


My Daughter’s Health Story

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