Children's Frugal Robot Birthday Party

Ike recently turned 4, and Lee recently turned 6. In some years in the past, we combined their birthday parties, since their birthdays are just a few days apart, and because they had the same group of friends, but now I decided that I wanted to make them each their own special party, so they could feel they have their own special day that they don't have to share with their brothers. (They share almost everything they have, so I think its important that they have things that are just their own...) The other reason is because now that they're in school, I wanted to encourage friendship with their classmates, so I invited kids from each kid's class to their birthday party.
A friend was shocked that not only do I make my kids birthday parties (she just makes a cake for the family), but that I make the boys separate parties days apart. But since we live on a tight budget, and there are a lot of things my kids go without, I try to do as many nice things for them as I can so they don't feel they grow up deprived, despite my not spending a lot of money on them. And making them their own special themed birthday party costs little money, just takes some effort and time to prepare, but pays off a lot. The kid ends up feeling like a million dollars, and you've just deposited a large amount in your kid's emotional bank account.

Ike asked for a robot themed birthday party. I tried using pinterest and google as inspiration, but ended up planning the party entirely out of my own mind because I couldn't find anything that really spoke to me when I was searching online.
Since Ike just was turning 4 and his friends are all little, I decided the party didn't need to be anything major or fancy, because anything would be appreciated.

As always, we have our birthday parties in the open area in front of my house- the weather is still nice in September- and it allows us to make a party and not worry about everyone being squished into our tiny home. (Makes the clean up much easier also!)

I borrowed a folding table from a neighbor (no need to do that anymore, as we just rescued two folding tables from the trash yesterday!) and instead of using a table cloth, to keep it robot themed, decided to line the table with cheapo aluminum foil.

For a long time, I'd seen this idea on Pinterest to make Sesame Street themed veggie and fruit platters and I wondered- why not make a robot themed veggie platter? I couldn't find anything like that on the internet, so decided on my own how to do it. I think it came out really cutely!

I used a few aluminum foil baking pains and lined a few more thinner pans with aluminum foil so it all looked robotic, and then filled them with my veggies. I had red and yellow peppers, cucumbers, carrots, kohlrabi, and cherry tomatoes. For eyes, I took little bowls and filled them with mayonnaise based dips- one with vegan onion dip, the other with a sweet and sour mayo based dip, and used black olives to make the eyes.
The kids thought it was really cute, and so did the parents, so that was great. And it was healthy, and got polished off! I love that I got kids to eat healthy food at my kids' birthday parties- no reason why birthday parties have to be junk and chemical fests...

I also bought watermelon, but silly me, I forgot to put it out...

I also put out potato chips in a metal pot, and was planning on making popcorn, but ran out of time before the guests arrived, so we skipped that. And for drinks we just had water.
Until the cake came, we just had healthy veggies and potato chips on the table, so that was what was eaten... even by the "picky eaters".

As decoration and a game, I made a robot out of a cardboard box and a plastic container covered in aluminum foil and decorated with permanent markers. This was propped on the table and ended up being a game- the kids took turns throwing a ball of rolled up aluminum foil and trying to get it to land in the head of the belly.

Another game/activity we did was robotic dancing. I put on "robot music" (search for "instrumental trance" on youtube and you'll get a lot of techie style music that the kids believed was robot music) and we danced robot style.

One of Ike's favorite movies is Astro Boy, about a robot that is powered by something called a "blue core" in the middle of his chest.
I took everyone's favorite party game- Pin the Tail on the Donkey- and changed it up to fit our theme- Pin the Blue Core in the Robot. Mike drew a cute robot on poster board, and each kid was given a blue "core" circle, and was blind folded and spun around, and then tried to tape their blue core into the robot's chest. The kids had a great time with it!

Once the games were finished, it was time for the birthday cake. I don't use food colorings in my house, especially not unnatural ones that would be required to make silver or any other metalic colored frosting, so I just went with chocolate frosting (made with mayonnaise)... and decorated it with something decidedly less healthy- a small package of skittles... Ok, I know there's hypocrisy there, that I wouldn't use food coloring in the frosting but the skittles has... But whatever.
I used my crazy cake recipe converted to make it gluten free, and with less sugar than in the original recipe.

I ended up going with this shape for the robot because the cake broke when I was taking it out of the pan, so just cut the pieces I had into the most robotic shape I could think of. It's far from perfect- my claim to fame is NOT professional cake making, but just making my boys happy. And Ike loved the cake, and the guests did too, so who cares that it wasn't perfect?

We had a great time! In total, I used about one roll of cheapo aluminum foil for the party- about 2 dollars, spent a few dollars on food, and a little bit on the poster board. I didn't add up exact amounts, but my guess is this birthday party cost less than 15 dollars for everything. Not bad for a great time!

Do you make birthday parties for your kids? Do you make themes or not? Do you try to keep the parties cheap or try to make them as fun as possible for your kid, regardless of cost? How much do you usually spend on birthday parties?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. Awesome! I may have to do a robot party for my boyfriend. He is a grown man, but ...

    - Debbie M

  2. GREAT job!! Sooooooooo, are you going to share the converted to GF cake recipe :)??

  3. Your kids are incredibly lucky. End of story!

  4. Your kids are incredibly lucky. End of story!!

  5. That is one of the best birthday ideas I've seen in a long time. Well done. It does surprise me that parents steer away from doing the children's birthday parties . You have proven how simply and cheaply they can be done. I realise it does take extra effort but so does getting in the car and going somewhere else and then dealing with the stress of over stimulated (with food and inappropriate activities) children.And the children do appreciate the time and effort that you have put into it. Yes you do have lucky children!

  6. This is great!! I especially like the robot veggie tray made of aluminum pans--simple, yet never occurred to me.

    I always had homemade parties, and we did so many "pin the __ on the __" games! I don't think we've yet done one for my son's parties, which are also homemade. Here are a couple of other frugal party games.

    Like Purplepear, I don't understand why so many parents do "venue" parties. At least we finally figured out how to avoid feeling rotten after eating that junky food!

  7. i have never understood parents who thought parties had to be over the top and morgatge the house expensive!. you have just proven that a little effort and a lot of imagination will work! I love idea of the veg robot.. if I still had a little boy instead of a teen I would so do that !!

  8. Very nice but most of the parties my kids have gone to include pizza or some type of lunch. Did you tell people that it was just snacks and cake or is that typical where you are?

    1. The party was at 4 pm, over by 5:30, so it was self explanatory that it was just snacks. The standard parties here are snacks, not full meals, unless they're at noon or at 6:30 pm or s.

  9. What a great party! Your son must have been so pleased. I loved what you said about the deposit in your child's emotional bank account.

    When my daughter turned seven, we had little money for a party but had moved that year to a new town, so I wanted to do something special for her with her new friends. We had a fantastic place at that time called "Imagination Market", which was basically recycled cool stuff that you bought by the bag (mixed however you wanted) to make creative projects with. I can't even begin to describe how cool this place was. So I bought a couple bags of things like feathers, the backing that sequins had been cut out of, coloured tape, plastic springs, etc. I think the bags (paper grocery bags) were four dollars each. Then we went to the paint store and got a bunch of those free painting hats, and the kids decorated the hats. They had a blast! It was one of the best parties my kids ever had. An eight dollar party!

  10. Nice,here the parties seem to always be for lunch or dinner and you have to invite the parents that stay too. Just how it is , I guess. Your party is so much more typical of how I grew up .

  11. :...and you've just deposited a large amount in your kid's emotional bank account."

    LOVE this!

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