All of us with kids know exactly how huge an event a birthday party is to them, but actually organizing them has been known to cause more than a few headaches: birthday decorations, activities, games, costumes, food, not to mention the clean-up... they all add up and can be quite the drain on your wallet. But be not afraid! It is, in fact, possible to throw a party with birthday decorations your little one will look back on fondly, without pulling on a ski mask and robbing a convenience store. Here are some ideas that'll build those rosy memories of yesteryear without breaking the bank...
Number 1: A PINATA
Pinatas are an under-used and under-rated birthday decoration these days, and why? They've become a staple of the Hollywood movie child's birthday party and many times I myself envied those little Americans for getting to beat the snot out of a paper animal with sticks and not get punished for it (the subsequent rain of candy made the idea of adult-approved preschool violence all the sweeter, if you'll pardon the terrible pun). They're wonderfully cheap to make too – spend a few dollars on the cheapest candy you can find and the rest is just glue and old newspapers to put together your papier-mâché mugging victim.
Number 2: BALLOONS
Truly the birthday decoration that keeps on giving. Who didn't love these as a kid? Show me the child who couldn't enjoy a good balloon and I'll show you a sad, sad man. Balloons take full advantage of kids' hyper attention spans, and the more there are, the happier they'll be. For added effect, get these bouncy bags of air in as many different colors as possible and fill the room with them; the kids will feel like they've walked into the world of a Disney cartoon. They’re available in pretty much any supermarket and usually dirt-cheap too, so don't hold back - color their world with a million squeaky orbs of joy. This one ties in nicely. Or, if you have a backyard, you can fill up the balloons with water and let the kids have at each other! It's a little bit more of a clean-up, but they'll go home babbling excitedly about the best party ever and your offspring will be the coolest kid at the school for a good, long time.
Number 3: COSTUME/FACE PAINTING PARTY
Do they count as birthday decorations if the ones being decorated are the kids? Sure they do! The added bonus with this one is that guests are expected to provide their own costumes, saving you a pretty penny in the process, since you don't have the shell out any of that precious moolah to dress them up yourselves. Depending on what your own kid wants to wear, there's a lot of potential saving there too: papier-mâché and a little paint works wonders for making a cool costume, and water-based acrylic paints are a dime a dozen for those who didn't come with a costume, but want their cute little faces painted in all the colors of the rainbow. If you're willing to go the extra mile here when it comes to manpower, make the theme face-painting rather than costumes and do the face of every kid that comes. Just make sure you rope a spouse or family member in to help shoulder the workload if you're inviting a large number of guests, and make sure to be up to date with cartoon and pop-culture characters – nothing causes a temper-tantrum faster in a kid than asking to get their face painted as Star Lord and getting a blank stare in return.
Number 4: THE EGG AND SPOON RACE
A classic of the party world. What's that you say? They're a little old-fashioned? Perhaps. But that doesn't mean you can't spruce them up and modernize with a bit of creativity and a mercifully small amount of cash. As mentioned before, acrylic paints are cheap and easy to come by – make it a relay race and put the kids into teams and have them decorate their clothes or faces to reflect the team colors that you can delegate to them. That way, you'll have saved time and effort by effectively outsourcing the brunt of the work and getting the kids to make the birthday decorations for the party themselves. Just make sure to lay down lots of newspaper – your joints will thank you for it when there's less cleaning up to do. Throw in a few cheap dime-store toys as rewards for the winners of the race (and the losers too, so there's no crying afterwards) astyle="float:right;padding-left:20px;width:35%;" hands.
Number 5: CANDY JEWELRY
Ah, sugar. Is there any problem you can't solve? This is another ultra-low budget activity that doubles as a sly way to have kids make their own birthday decorations. All you need is twine and a selection of different candies that have holes in them, and voila: rings, necklaces, bracelets, even crowns and belts. The kids are only limited by their imaginations, and you can always get creative and give them more ideas. Why not make a big candy wreath to hang on the door to really get their creative juices flowing? The options are just about endless, and they come with added bonus of being edible. There's a more than decent selection of appropriately-shaped candies, from lifesavers to a more than decent number of gummy items, so this might just be the ultimate option for the parent looking to throw a birthday on a budget.