When most of us were kids, we had birthday parties that involved Pin the Tail on the Donkey, a pinata, birthday cake and ice cream. And there were presents, party hats and balloons.
It's not like that these days.
Kids' parties these days means parents spending exorbitant amounts of money on custom made birthday cakes, designer outfits for the kids to wear to the party, hiring party planners, and getting special celebrity guests to show up on the big day. Parents spend thousands of dollars on these affairs, some of which rival the lavish trappings of an expensive wedding.
But why spend all this money on kids' parties, when the kids will be happy with something much less expensive but still fun?
For many parents, it's about impressing the Joneses and validating their own self worth. It's also, for some, about assuaging the guilt they feel for spending more time at work than with their children. Some say it's simply because the parents of today's kids have more money to spend on these things.
The bad news is for the parents who don't have the money for these over-the-top parties. When their children attend these expensive parties, the children's expectations for their own birthdays are raised, and the parents throwing the expensive parties expect their children to be able to attend similar functions.
The sad part of this whole scenario is that the birthday boys and girls who are the center of attention at these lavish parties grow up with an inflated sense of entitlement – they think they deserve the treatment they get and just grow to expect it. They also grow up thinking that money can buy happiness.
But you can throw a party for your child that accomplishes what's really important: Making your child feel special. And you can do this without spending a small fortune.
Hold the event at your house, and save the cost of renting a facility. You can have the children do an inexpensive craft project, like making clay dinosaurs, or have them make their own ice cream sundaes or decorate their own cupcakes.
You can also keep the decorations and party favors simple. Get creative and make your own – you can even get your children involved in making simple decorations, or purchase inexpensive items at a low-price store or party supply store.
One huge expense for parties is always the cake. Bake one yourself, and get your kids involved. If you burn more cakes than you frost, you may want to consider going to your local grocer or bakery and see if you can get a low-cost cake. You can still customize it yourself.
Entertainment is another big expense, and you don't have to hire professionals. Just keeping the kids entertained is the name of the game, and an old fashioned game of tug of war, limbo or an egg race will accomplish it. You can get teenagers from your neighborhood or church to run the games, and they'll likely do it for free as long as you feed them.
Remember: When it comes to your child's birthday, the important thing is not how much you spend; it's the memories you create with your child. And those memories, well, you just can't put a price tag on them.