Our family is huge advocates of the simple, homestyle birthday party.
No fancy cupcakes stacked on ice sculptures. No hand engraved tea cups for each guest. No dazzling decorations made from handcrafted paper and imported glitter.
While we have done a few themed or styled birthdays parties over the years, they have still been relatively simple and have not included hours of work and breaking the bank. I don't want to spend $300 on a birthday party. I also don't want my children to have high expectations for their birthday.
I want to set the bar low and keep it low. Low key and low stress.
I want them to feel loved, appreciated and special that one day of year, but I don't need to break the bank or the planet to do so!
We don't usually even invite kids from school. Our parties are small, intimate and typically only family (perhaps one or two friends from school depending on how organized I am).
The thing is, kids don't need fancy parties. They don't need the glamour and glitz. All they really care about is the gifts (despite our best intentions) and the cake.
Don't get me wrong if you love organizing parties and going all out, by all means do so! But please don't feel pressured to put on a show for your child's birthday. Don't feel pressured because "all the other kids" have parties filled with the child's entire class. Don't feel pressured to buy or make the most colorful, tall and delicious cake in the world. Don't feel pressured to have pinterest worthy decorations and personalized balloons. Don't feel pressured to have gifts to the sky packaged in hand stamped paper (that took you all night to stamp because you suck at crafts).
None of that matters to your child. I will say that again, none of that matters to your child. It is only for you. It matters to you.
What matters to your child is a day of celebration solely for them! A spotlight on them for a day. A meal made just for them. A cake baked specially for them. A present picked out or made by you for them.
We will usually make a meal as per the birthday child's request. If they want a special breakfast, lunch or dinner, we make it happen. Pancakes for supper for the birthday girl - heck ya! Mac and cheese for lunch for the birthday boy - you got it!
Then our family comes over for a visit - my parents, Jamin's mom and my brother, sister in law and my two nieces. We spend the day hanging out together and connecting. The kids play, the adults talk. We settle down arguments, manage sharing and police toys - because naturally they all want to play with the same bloody toy.
Then we will have a meal together and enjoy cake. Sometimes I buy a cake (I love Cake's by Krista in Kingston) or if I am feeling organized and brave, I will bake a cake. Warning: I am a terrible baker and cook. Sadly these tasks are just not my forte. Everything burns, everything breaks, everything tastes funny. I have accepted this but every once in a while a delicious master pieces comes out and renews my sense of balance in the world. Plus my kids never complain about my food - they seem to love it despite my weariness about the way it tastes.
The birthday child gets a glorious happy birthday song (we have a birthday crown they can wear too!), we eat snacks and cake and then move on to gift opening. Packaging is tossed, bags are ripped, paper is thrown around like confetti and then the "party" is done.
We usually request second hand gifts or homemade gifts for the kids. As our children age and because we have so many kids, it becomes challenging to purchase gifts for all the kids. We have everything we need and we don't want to create more waste and put more demands on our planet through manufacturing and transportation. Our family has been incredibly accepting of this and we rarely get new purchases. The kids never know the difference anyways!