We live in a world of Pinterest and TV Shows like “Outrageous Kid Parties” and “My Super Sweet 16” that have warped birthday parties into extravagant events. Do you know what I remember from my parties as a kid? My friends. That’s it. I don’t remember where they were or the “theme” but I sure remember all the fun I had with my friends.
I realized that parties had gone too far when my son turned six last year and all he talked about was what his friends were going to get him for his birthday. I began to explain that birthdays and holidays were not about gifts but were about spending time with family and friends. It was then that I wondered, “Would he miss having a birthday party?”
This year I chose to do something new. Instead of a Birthday Party we had a Birthday Play Day. I explained to my son that we would have his friends to a park after school one day for a play day to celebrate his birthday but there would be no presents. At first he was not keen on the idea, but I explained again that birthdays were about spending time with friends and creating memories and not what gifts they would bring.
What I found was impressive. He told me it was the best party he had ever had. And better yet, a few people did bring presents, and when we got home he asked, “Why did they bring me a present? I had so much fun just playing with them!”
What did I do so different?
Previous Parties Vs. Play Day
- Held at a venue that charges per child.
- Personalized party decorations galore from Etsy.
- Party favors and goodie bags personalized.
- Held the party during lunch time, so provided food.
- Held on the weekend.
- Balloons and personalized banners.
- Themed cake from speciality baker.
- Ending with lots of gifts…
- Held at a free park playground.
- Held on a weekday.
- After school on an early release day.
- Provided snacks.
- Made homemade cupcakes.
- Bought themed toppers for cupcakes.
- Ending with few gifts but a HUGE lesson.
What did I find out from these two very different types of parties? Kade did not notice the difference. At all. He came home just as excited, just as happy, just as satisfied, as all his other parties. He also learned a very important lesson. “Things” are not what make life fun, friends are.
What lesson did I learn? He didn’t miss the personalized Etsy decorations or the expensive themed cake. It doesn’t matter how much money I spend, or where I have the party, as long as he has friends to make memories with.
I think that as the kids get older they will want to celebrate in different ways: like a day at an amusement park with a friend, or a sleepover, or just a special dinner… As long as my son and daughter understand that it’s the experience that matters, that’s all I really hope for.
Do you think birthday parties have gotten out of control? Have you chosen an alternative? Tell us about it in the comments below!