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Inexpensive Parties for Young Children

Updated on February 18, 2013

The Bigger The Better?

If you turn on the TV at any given moment, you're bound to see one of these commercials. Giggling children and smiling (almost giddy) adults all enjoying a Birthday party at the latest and greatest pizza/lazer tag/princess/race car establishment in town. What fun these people seem to be having! The Birthday boy has never been happier in his life! Nothing could ever top THIS birthday party. That is, until next year, when Junior gets to ride in a real limo and has backstage passes to see his favorite band - The Twiggly-Wigs!

There are Other Options

As much as we love and adore our children, they don't need a big, budget-busting party in order to live a fulfilling life. My own children have endured several simple parties, and I worried with each one whether I was depriving them. Several years later, I can proudly say that I haven't heard a complaint from a single one of my children(not about their birthday parties, anyway). In fact, a few nights ago when I was brainstorming what I wanted to put into this article, my kids all regaled me with their versions of their birthday parties from past years. I sat and listened as they described their favorite ones. Their memories are of "awesome" blow-outs with "ginormous" cakes and "way cool" party games. Ahhh! Isn't that the reaction we as parents are looking for when we plan these parties?

You don't need a lot of money to have a great party. Really, the only thing that's really required is a great imagination, some creativity, and the willingness to work. Keep in mind that just because the party is less expensive, there's more work involved. Sorry folks, no writing a check, sitting back, and watching your little princess frolic with the fairies. You are going to have to do a lot of work - prep-work, leg-work, clean-up, etc. With the money you save, you can splurge for a massage on your own birthday.

Here are some of the parties that I have thrown for my own children. These parties were made from a hodgepodge of ideas I found online and in magazines. Do what works for you and your children.

Hot Wheels Party cake
Hot Wheels Party cake

Hot Wheels Party

We had this party for our little boy who was turning three. His favorite toys were his "cool cars", so a car themed party seemed perfect.

Cake - Store bought cakes can be beautiful, but they're often pricey. A cake mix in a box costs just a few dollars, and in my opinion, tastes quite delicious. For this party, I made a 13x9 cake. I frosted the top to look like grass and a road. Then, I carefully placed two clean cars on the "road". I am far from a cake decorator, but I think it turned out pretty well. My 3 year-old loved it!

Games/Activities - "Hot Hot-Wheels" This is a variation of the Hot Potato game, using a car instead of a potato. The kids stand in a circle and pass the car around the circle until the music stops. Whoever has the car when the music stops is "out". Keep going until you have a winner. "Race-Car" Using blocks, make a race-track on the floor or outside on the pavement. Make a start-line and a finish-line. Young boys will enjoy moving the cars along the track and through any obstacles they may find. This activity can keep the party-goers busy for much of the party.

Treat Bags - Before the party, print out pictures of different types of cars(race cars, antiques, etc.). Give each child a brown paper bag and a glue stick. Let them choose their favorite cars from the pile and glue them onto the bag. Young children love to paste, and pasting pictures of something you love(cars) is a bonus! Give them markers to let them finish their creations.

Pinata - A Pinata is certainly not necessary, but it's always a hit with the kids - no pun intended. I found a race car pinata at the local party store for around $12.00.

Ready for the tea party!
Ready for the tea party!

Tea Party

Before I give you the ins and outs of this party, let me say this. This party was a huge hit! The average age of the guests was six years-old. During the party, I heard one little girl tell another child, "I can't believe it! We're at a REAL tea party!" My daughter is now fifteen, and she still talks about this party as her favorite.

Invitations - Send out invitations with these instructions, "Come in your fanciest clothes. Feather boas, festive hats, and sparkly shoes are perfect for this party." Of course, you can create your own instructions. This is just a suggestion.

Set-up - Extend your table with extra leafs if possible. I happen to collect tea pots, so I had several on hand. If you don't have a facy teapot, ask around. Many people have one or two in their cupboards. Make sure you have plenty of tea-cups and saucers for the guests.

Cake - Cupcakes with pink frosting.

Food - Finger foods like mini quiches work best for this party. Make sandwiches and cut them into fun shapes - stars, hearts, etc. Place small bowl of mints around the table. SUGAR CUBES on the table are a must! Some of the kids will be more excited about the sugar cubes than anything else.

Drinks - I had two teapots on the table. One pot contained decaffeinated tea. The other had lemonade.

Activities - Make-up table with mirror - The girls can apply their own make-up.. Necklace making station - I used fishing line and beads. The guests can string the beads onto the line and make necklaces or bracelets. Fashion Show - The girls will be in their finest, fanciest party clothes. Give each child a moment to shine. Make it like a real fashion show. Let each girl walk in the room and pose while you describe what the child is wearing. Little girls love this!

Beach Pudding Cup

I couldn't find a picture from our party, but this is close. It looks like they used a marble instead of a gumball, and they don't have a bottom layer of crumbles.
I couldn't find a picture from our party, but this is close. It looks like they used a marble instead of a gumball, and they don't have a bottom layer of crumbles. | Source

Beach Party

WAIT! Don't scroll past this one just because you don't live near a beach! We had this party for our daughter in our backyard. A beach is not necessary, and to be honest, I would be a little worried about having a party with a bunch of young kids at the beach. But, I digress....

Invitations - Make sure you instruct the parents to send their kids in something that can get wet.

Set-up - In your backyard, set up several lawn chairs. These will mainly be for the parents. Lay beach towels on the ground for the kids. Set up a couple water sprinklers for the kids. Several inflated beach balls thrown about the yard will add to the beach effect.

Cake - Actually, we didn't have a cake. Instead, each child made their own "beach pudding cup". I used crushed vanilla wafers for the ocean floor. The "water" was vanilla pudding. More crushed vanilla wafers was used for the sand. A cocktail umbrella and gumball completed the beach scene. The children enjoyed making these themselves, and they were a yummy treat.

Games/Activities - There are plenty of games and activities to be played at a beach party!. The kids will come expecting to get wet, so make sure you oblige them. Some examples of fun activities include water balloon toss, beach volleyball in the sprinkler, water-gun battle, slip n slide.

Treat bags - Look for beach pails at the dollar store. Write each child's name on a pail. If you want, you can add a pair of sunglasses, candy, silly straws, etc to each pail.

Spiderweb Game

Working hard to find the end of their web!
Working hard to find the end of their web!

Spiderman Party

Action hero parties are always a huge hit with little boys(and girls). We threw this party for our son, when he was turning six. My husband was between jobs, and we had very little money. My son is now fourteen and says that this was his favorite party.

Cake - This was the one big "splurge" for the party. We bought a Spiderman cake from the local grocery store. Stay away from stand-alone bakeries. They are far too expensive.

Games/Activities - Spiderweb game - Use black yarn as the spiderweb. String strands of the "web" in a convenient area. We used our backyard. Use as many strings as there are children at the party. Overlapping the strings, wrap them around fence-posts, play structures, bushes, etc. At the end of each strand, tie a small toy. The object is for each child to follow their string, holding it at all times, until they get to the end of it. This was such a fun game for the children. The giggles were worth the work. Silly-Web Battle - Cans of silly string can be used as spiderwebs. The children can pretend to be their eight-legged hero as they shoot the "web" at each other.

Treat bags - Hand out cans of silly string at the end of the party, and your guests will leave happy and ready for their next battle.

Let the Party Begin!

Whichever party you choose for your child's next birthday, just remember to take the time to enjoy the day yourself. These parties require a bit of work and time, and it's easy to get caught up in the chaos and forget to enjoy our child's big day.


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