Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Simple Celebrations: Emphasize Your Child, Not the Party

June 2010 Cover
*This article appeared in the June 2010 edition of Parents & Kids magazine.
"Simple Celebrations:
Emphasize Your Child, Not the Party"
By Carrie Bevell Partridge

My daughter Katie's fourth birthday party was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. We have always had our children's birthday parties at home, so we thought we were doing well in the simplified party department. But having over forty guests in said home for said daughter's birthday party was just too much. Nothing against the fortysomething guests. We just weren't able to focus on the birthday girl because we were too busy pulling off a party for her! And when it took Katie 45 minutes to open all her gifts, I think she had had it, too.

We can probably all agree that it's quite easy for a child's birthday party to get out of control. Some of us invite too many guests. Some of us go crazy on the decorations. Some of us spend a small fortune on the cake. Some of us plan too many activities. Some of us can't resist buying every accessory available for the thematic party. Some of us want to utilize the latest and greatest party facilities. And some of us end up giving more gifts to the guests than the guests gave to the birthday kid! It happens quickly, easily, and expensively.

So how can we avoid all of this? Well, here are some tips for the pooped-out parental party planners: 
  • Crowd control. A common rule of thumb is to allow your child to invite the same number of guests as the number of years he/she is old. In our situation, we have started using this rule to apply to the number of friends the child may invite, but we also invite additional family members.
  • Less is more. If your child wants you to buy every decoration, trinket, or favor available for their party theme, come up with a set dollar amount to be put toward buying supplies, and let the child be the one to decide which items will be purchased. This gives the child practice in decision-making while simultaneously teaching a lesson in finances.
  • DIY cake. That's right--find your inner Betty Crocker and make the cake yourself! I have yet to meet a boxed cake mix I didn't like, and I doubt your kids have. Want it to have cute decor, but you aren't artsy? Don't worry about an elaborate illustration; just have fun with colored frostings, cool candles, various candies, or even miniature toys for embellishment. You can save a lot of money by making the cake yourself. And your child is probably more concerned about how it tastes than how it looks anyway.
  • Location! Location! Location! Instead of renting a space for the party, save some money by having it at your home, a public park, or anywhere else that is free.
  • Steal ideas. Running short on creativity? Just ask other moms for ideas or browse the web for some creative tips. Some good places to start:,,, or

This is not to say that it's wrong to have a professionally-made cake, an extra-fun party location, all the greatest decorations, or even a hundred party guests. But it's easy to get caught up in the comparison game when it comes to birthday parties, and we can often lose sight of the whole reason for having the party in the first place. It's a day to celebrate the life of your child. He or she should be the priority, not trying to impress everyone with your party-throwing skills. As Parents & Kids publisher/editor Gretchen Cook says, "Your self esteem and your child's self esteem should not be based on how elaborate the birthday party is." And I'll add to that that anyone whom you've invited to join you in celebrating your child should also not be concerned with all the frills (or lack of) at your party.

Just because you keep the party simple doesn't mean that it won't be an absolute blast for your child and his or her guests. And it can prevent you from having to refer to the pictures or the video to see what actually went on at the party and whether or not your child had a good time.

Carrie Bevell Partridge has been guilty of getting caught up in the party planning but has discovered the joys of the simple celebrations. and


Jen said...

Great article with great advice! For cake the past few years, we've enjoyed making cupcakes instead of cake, and letting the guests decorate their own with sprinkles and icing and m&m's. Simple parties are the best!

I love the new look of the blog - beautiful!

Carrie Bevell Partridge said...

Thank you, Jennifer! I do love a pretty, fill-in-the-blank template. :) Also, I REALLY want a cupcake now!!!