A Frugal Fun Birthday Party for My Boys

I like making my children birthday parties, to show them that we celebrate their presence in our lives, and I always have fun coming up with ideas of how to do it frugally but not sacrifice on the fun. Often I have themes for birthday parties, but this time I didn't stick with a theme- my only "theme" was trying to keep down the cost as much as possible, and without too much of a headache for me to make it or run it.
I think I did a successful job- all the kids that came to the party really enjoyed themselves and my boys said that it ranked as one of their top days this summer. My boys have birthdays September 4 and 8, with my boys Lee turning 10 and Ike turning 8. I would make them separate parties, in theory, but I know myself and my limits, and if I tried doing it perfectly I knew it would end up not happening at all (I never ended up making birthday parties for any of my kids last year, because I was too overwhelmed with everything going on) so I made it together and the boys were fine with that, because they share friends anyhow. I crowd sourced for ideas for their birthday party and ran a lot of ideas by them, and settled on this in the end.

The entire party ended up costing me only $30, and that included a full supper for the 12 kids who were there (including my 4), and everyone had a blast.

The kids arrived at the party and I had some bowls of snacks out on the table already for them to nosh on while waiting for the other kids to arrive. (Chips and popcorn and veggie spears.)

When everyone came we started with a balloon game that we played at my birthday parties when I was a kid- everyone has a balloon tied to their foot and the mission of the game is to pop as many other people's balloons as possible while making sure your balloon doesn't get popped. Nearly everyone participated, other than the child who couldn't handle hearing the sound of balloons popping- that kid went into another room.
When it was finished, everyone picked up the pieces of balloon that were all over, and we made a contest out of that too.

Then everyone headed outside for a water balloon fight. We didn't use special water balloons, just regular balloons that I bought from a cheap store and filled with water. I looked online to try to find rules for a water balloon fight but didn't find anything clear cut that totally spoke to me, but what we ended up doing was marking a playing field, with one side for each team. Each team got a bucket filled with water balloons and their goal was to try to get as many people from the other side wet as possible.
They all had a blast, it was perfect for the hot day that it was, and of course afterwards we had a contest who could pick up the most pieces of balloon.

Next up was a pinata.
Growing up, I made pinatas out of paper mache, and they were a lot of work and had to be made a lot in advance, and I didn't have the time or energy for that type of thing. So I collected some boxes of various sizes and glued them together until they were more or less the shape of a horse. I filled them with these hand powered flying toys that I bought for about 25 cents each, and taffies that I bought cheaply. Originally the theme of the birthday party was going to be airplanes for one kid, and Minecraft for the other, so the flying toys fit in with the airplane theme, but I scrapped that idea because it took too much energy, however I'd bought the flying toys long in advance for the birthday party, so I used them. Once I stuffed the pinata, we painted and decorated it to look like a horse. (That was going to be connected to the Minecraft theme, because of the whole horses in Minecraft thing, as were the water balloons- Slime or Creeper explosions or something or another but whatever...)
The kids took turns hitting the pinata blindfolded, and then when it broke they had fun grabbing up the stuff- but I made sure kids only got one flying toy each. Unfortunately the flying toys weren't the smartest thing to put in a pinata, because all the whacking broke a large percentage of them.
The next activity was having the kids fly the flying toys outside for a bit.

After that, we all went inside and made paper airplanes. I showed different techniques to make them, and some kids made them their own way.
We then went back outside and had various paper airplane contests. Which could go further, which could go fastest, which could do tricks, etc...  That was enjoyed by all. (Again part of the original birthday theme.)

The next activity can either be dubbed genius or lazy or both. I'll call it both. I could have made and decorated a birthday cake for the kids, and that would have taken a lot of time and energy that I didn't have, so with the birthday boys' permission, I skipped making them a fancy birthday cake and instead made chocolate cupcakes- most of them with gluten and some gluten free for my gluten free kiddos, and then made a few different colors of homemade buttercream frosting with which the children could decorate them as an activity. (I made plain white, yellow with homemade carrot juice as food coloring, pinkish red with my beet food coloring, and brown with cocoa powder.) This probably was the most expensive part of the birthday party, as the powdered sugar and butter and various sprinkles and candies I bought for the kids to use to decorate was pricier than anything else we did, but it was well worth it- the kids all enjoyed the activity.

Before eating the cupcakes, we all had dinner together- I made cheapo baked ziti using cheap pasta, this soft white cheese that I can buy for 25 cents a package, homemade tomato sauce, and a little bit of melt-able hard cheese. I made two pans of baked ziti, one with gluten free pasta that I had at home already from the scratch and dent store, and one pan regular. Everyone loved it and enjoyed it, and I served it with sliced bell peppers, cucumbers, and carrot sticks.

When dinner was finished, they sang happy birthday, ate the cupcakes, and went home.

Everyone had a good time, there was minimal work on my part to prepare for it and run it, and the costs were minimal too. Even without a theme, it all worked just great.

Frugal parties certainly can be fun!

What type of things do you do for your kids' birthday, to celebrate them frugally, without taking too much of a toll on mom and dad? Or do you like to go all out for your kids' parties, and budget accordingly?

Penniless Parenting

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


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  1. At my daughter's birthday party we played baseball in the lot outside our house, made collages out of magazines that were lying around the house, and ate pasta and cake.

    Other times we have done relay races and a circus-themed party with carnival games.

    Once or twice (in 11 years) we have "hired out" - bowling alley or whatever.

  2. We used to play games, musical chairs, pin the rail on the donkey, sack and three-legged races, hot potato. My husband plays the mandolin, he'd break it out and we would play Guess that Tune. Dinner we would light some coals, and give each kid a couple of hot dogs on a skewer, and supervise them as each cooked their own. I'd make fries.
    The kids enjoyed it so much, that our older kids replicated the same party for the younger.

  3. love your kids party! wish I was invited! loved the idea with the cupcakes and them putting on the creme and sprinkles. these are gr8 memmories your kids(and the friends)will remember!

  4. Looks like the party was a success. I am in agreement with the idea of simpler birthday parties and too often see parents spending a fortune on them and dislike all the pressure that creates for everyone. I enjoy your blog. It’s among my blog inspirations to actually get my own up and going.

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