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Make the Most of your Money... Throwing a Great Kids Party Without Throwing Away Your Money

Updated on October 16, 2012

Coming up with great birthday party ideas.

Throwing a memorable party for your favorite little 5 year old can easily put your monthly budget into a tail spin. Between the entertainment centers with their bottomless coin slots and the latest animal or bounce house rentals that require a location large enough to have them a party for your sweet pea can cost more than you can afford without dipping into their college fund. It doesn’t have to be that way. Check out these suggestions and create a party your child will remember for years to come.

Scavenger Hunts

Take some time before the masses arrive to write and hide clues for your party goers to find. This kind of activity can be done at your home or in a local park. This idea can be used for any age group just be sure to keep your age group in mind when you plan your clues. Your hunt could keep your entire group together and end at a finish line with cake and ice cream or it could divide your group into teams and allow them to compete to be the first to figure out all of the clues. A good tip for making teams is to provide enough prizes for everyone to get one upon completion of the hunt. Allow your fist place team to pick first, the second place team pick second, etc. This way there is a special reward for being first but everyone still gets a treat.


This activity can kill 2 birds with one stone, entertainment and food. Get your party goers together at the beginning of the party to mix the ingredients for whatever cake or cupcakes you want to bake for your guests. Pop them in the oven and move onto other party activities. Allow them to cook then cool. Bring your guests back to the kitchen and decorate your party treats. If your invitees are a little young for cooking, pre-bake your treats and allow the kids to decorate them as one of your party activities.

This was a combo pool/ decorate your own cup cake party.  This little cutie is 3 years old but the guests ranged from 3-13 and everyone loved decorating their own treat.
This was a combo pool/ decorate your own cup cake party. This little cutie is 3 years old but the guests ranged from 3-13 and everyone loved decorating their own treat. | Source

Pool Party

Whether you have a pool of your own or not you can have a pool party for very little money. If you are not lucky enough to have you own pool perhaps a friend does. A community or city pool can also be an option. Community pools can often be used for free and most city pools charge just a couple of dollars per person. If you’re city pools are like the ones around me kids under 5 are free and they have special areas of the pool geared toward little ones. Be sure to have plenty of moms or dads stay for the party. This shouldn’t be too hard since a day by a pool is a treat for most people. Have sunscreen on hand and ask ahead of time about food. Some pools have designated areas for food. To prevent ending up with overly rambunctious kids have a few pool games planned just in case.

Play Games

Dress-up Relay

This is a fun active game you can accomplish with some old clothes and a little bit of space. Get two sets of extra-large clothes. Try to include a hat, shirt, jacket/sweater, pants/skirt, and shoes. Split the guests into two teams then separate the teams into two groups each. Have the groups stand across from their teammates. Pile the clothes in front of the first person in each team. On the “GO” the first runner should get completely dressed then run to the other half of their team, take the clothes off so the next runner can dress and run back. Keep it going until everyone has a chance. This relay race is fun for everyone because you do not need to be super athletic to perform this activity.

Objects on a tray

In this game simply place a good number of items onto a tray. Keep the tray covered until you are ready to start the game. Have the guests sit in a semi-circle with a pad and pencil/pen. Lift the cover off of the tray and make sure everyone gets a good chance to see all that is on it. Recover the items then give the participants time to write down as many of the items as they can remember. The winner is the person who can remember the most items from the tray.

Make a Pinata

This activity can double your child’s fun. Before your party set aside time to build a piñata with your birthday kid. They will love building and filling it. Then at the party the whole group can enjoy getting to that candy.

Theme party ideas.

Kids like to dress up any time of year. Pick a theme like superheros, pirates, princesses, knights of the round table, or let it be a free for all and give out prizes for most creative or most likely to make people laugh. Have a photo spot or other way to get lots of pictures. Take plenty of group shots as well as individual ones. If you have any photo editing skills have the kids pose in front of a green screen and take time after the party to place the character on an appropriate background. You can send copies of the fun images with the thank you notes.

Arts and Crafts: C-R-A-Z-Y or structured

Throw down a tarp in the kitchen or somewhere outside and pull out the art supplies. Get totally crazy with huge sheets of paper and washable paints. Tell the kids to come dressed to get messy and let them finger, hand, feet, elbow, ‘whatever’ paint. Or keep it neat and organized with themed cut outs, stickers, paint, a little glitter, and glue. Let the guests make their own scrapbooks. Be sure to take plenty of pictures for them to put in their creations.

A few tips to make your party go off without a hitch

1) Plan several activities. Don’t be a slave to a rigorous schedule but by having multiple activities will allow you to fill your party time with plenty of fun. If you don’t get to all of your activities save them for next year. The average attention span of children will usually fall into a 10-30min span. The younger the group the shorter the attention span. Also consider transition activities for younger children. This will help them to ‘unplug’ from one activity and get into another.

2) Check ahead of time for food allergies. Some of your guests may have nut, dairy, gluten, or other allergies. A little research will give you an opportunity to hop online and find foods everyone can enjoy.

3) Have a rain plan. Outdoor parties are great for reducing clean up at your house but when the rain comes you don’t want your little one’s heart to break while his friends are sitting around your living room bored.


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    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Tesol 

      5 years ago from Asia

      A very good article full of great tips. I agree with your scavenger hunt suggestion, as I too have written about this easy to arrange game. What you say about getting the kids involved in the preparation is also VERY true ... kids love to be involved, just look at decorating for Christmas or Halloween!!

      Shared, up, useful and tweeting.


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