We just celebrated my son’s second bir t turned out to be a ton of fun. My hubs and I were amazed by the amount of support and love Luke received from our “village” on his special day. However, the planning process leading up to the big 2nd birthday was … ahem … stressful. See, this was only the second time I’d had to plan a child’s party. In fact, it hadn’t even dawned on me that there was any kind of difference in party planning until we were half way thru Luke’s first birthday party. The kids were bouncing off the walls. I felt like I had failed – epically. No entertainment planned, panic kicked in. “Must make note for next year!,” I frantically journaled that night. As “two” approached, we went back and forth: Have something at our house or rent a toddler friendly place? We don’t have many rental choices for his age group in the Greater New Orleans area, but I looked into about four places. The costs were well beyond our budget.
Operation: House Party went into full effect. I spent 5 months trying to put together the best our pennies could afford. Pinterest was my best friend. [Oh, the pinning…] The final countdown approached. I was five days out. You’d think with five months prep, I’d be ready. WRONG. I became a tasmanian devil of cleaning, tearing thru my house in a dog hair covered dust ball of rage. If you would have told me sometime that week that there was a playground available for our party date and time, I probably would have said, “SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!” Alas, we hadn’t hit the lottery and that witty blue Genie hadn’t appeared (despite losing count of our Aladdin viewings.) So I pushed. Must. Clean. On.
On party day, I was a frantic mess with last minute details. The event was at a full roar when I was sitting on the concrete, covered in sidewalk chalk and bubble residue, when it soaked in (no pun intended.) The kids were having fun, and that’s all that mattered. Could we have benefited from a bigger space, fancier food, a bounce house for the kids. Sure. (Who doesn’t like bounce house?!) But in the end, you could hear the giggles and fun-having shrills all the way down the street. Stick a fork in me. My job here is done. When the chalk dust settled, we tallied our expenses. Thanks to family and friends who helped by bringing finger lickin’ good food to share, we were able to keep our total cost for the party to just about $75. The biggest part of that going to fresh fruit and other snacks for our target market: toddlers. Most of the things we did that made our humble home a fun party atmosphere cost very little, if anything. Here are a couple of ideas I borrowed from Pinterest.
By deciding on a theme five months prior to the party, I had plenty of time to shop at thrift stores, resale sites, and dollar stores for related items. We chose Jake and the Neverland Pirates. Since I decided in October, I was able to score some pretty awesome skull and pirate items at 75%-90% off after Halloween. Anytime I saw one of Jake or Hook’s boats at the thrift store for a dollar or two, I grabbed it. They made quick, EASY party decorations that I can either resell and get my money back OR Luke can play with them as the toys they are intended to be. Win-win either way!
Keep it simple! When the kids are happy, the parents are happy! We focused on toddler friendly snacks and tried to come up with funny names for them that tied into our theme. (e.g. pretzel sticks became “peg legs,” string cheese became “treasure maps,” Goldfish and Doritos became “fish & chips”) Click here for a full list of our food fun.
The pièce de résistance was a Tick Tock Croc that we made out of pineapples. Everyone got a kick out of it. Super easy and cheap to make. Just takes three whole pineapples! I made it in all of 5 minutes.
You do not have to spend a fortune on a cake that looks like it came out of a magazine. Seriously, the kids just want to lick the icing off the tops of the cupcakes. Your oven at home, together with a couple of boxes of Duncan Hines, will make you something just as perfect for the occasion. Grocery store bakeries have totally up’d their game. One can get yummy cakes at the corner market for just a few bucks, too.
My goal was to have many stations with quick things to do. Sidewalk chalk, bubbles, coloring, and a “Feed Croc” ball pitch game were some of the items on the agenda. It ultimately just turned into a melee of fun, but the fun is all that matters. So my advice? Don’t stress or spend time planning anything detailed. Just give them some room to run around and be crazy kids.
“Feed Croc” did turn out to be a hit. It cost me all of $1 and little time to make. I bought a tri-fold project board from the dollar store, drew out Croc, cut it down, and then painted it using paint I already had in my stash. We used balls from other games around the house to “feed” Croc. If you decide to do something similar, just make sure to have a “wind plan.” We had to make some last minute adjustments to keep it from blowing over.
It’s so easy to take great pictures these days, so photo stations make for great, inexpensive fun! Family and friends will spend much of the party taking pictures with each other or the birthday babe. I found this year’s background off of VarageSale for $2. No need to have props or anything fancy. Limited space? Maybe you have a special chair that has been passed down in the family? A tree outside that your little one loves to play under? Growing up, my Mom always had the front door decorated, so that became the background of many family Kodak moments. Just pick a spot that means something special to your crew.
In the End…
This sounds like a crazy amount of effort and work, but trust me it only took about 6 hours total to make and put together everything. (Specifically from 9pm to 3am the night before the party. Yep, longtime resident of Procrastinatorville. I had five months…smh.) My motto is always: Do what works for you! Budget was our dictator, so this is what worked for us. If you’d rather book a venue and hire a caterer, do it! If a table at your family’s favorite restaurant sounds dreamy, reserve it! Life is too short to be stressed out. Do what works for *your* family.
In the end, Mom and Dad, remember that it doesn’t matter where or how you celebrate these special days. All that’s important is just that you celebrate the memories made in the last year (and that you survived another one!) Cheers to you! You’re doing a great job!!
Jefferson Parish Parent 2017 Birthday Party Guide
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