Free or Crazy-Cheap Children's Birthday Party Activities: Ways to Save Money on Party Games, Crafts, Food, Decorations

I love party planning, especially children's parties. But I don't love spending money. Not because I'm a cheapskate--I just see no reason to support corporate greed overpaying for birthday party supplies when I can make my own better ones. Here's a DIY party planner guide for free or cheap kids' party activities, games, crafts, food and decorations based on  KISS (Keep it simple, sweetie).

* DIY kids' birthday. Birthday parties for children should be fun for parents, not just kids. But they won't be if you're stressed out. If mama and papa ain't happy, ain't nobody happy. And you can keep yourselves and your kids happy if you keep it simple. Contrary to popular belief, kids are very easy to please. Most (regardless of age) would rather just play with friends at birthday parties than have a bunch of fancy trappings.

* DIY party decorations. Run screaming from overpriced d├ęcorations at Party City, etc. For birthday parties for children. DIY it. Use free printable party supplies. Check this blog for printables on just about any theme. Put the money you save toward presents. Your kids will enjoy gifts more than throw-away decorations and so will the earth.

* DIY birthday parties for children at a park, beach or playground. Some kid party venues charge $15 per guest. Parks are free and often have bathrooms and trash cans for easy cleanup. Park parties mean less wear and tear on your backyard, too. You can run over-rambunctious guests and circumvent potential behavior problems. Choose one close to home with a pavillion, in case of emergencies or bad weather.

* KISS--Limit guest list at kids' parties. My kids party planning rule of thumb is one guest for every year the child is old, including siblings and the birthday child. I don't recommend making kids invite their whole class to parties. It's awkward and hurtful as guests who are invited only because parents force it often feel left out. And please, speaking as a teacher, don't let kids distribute party invitations at school. That's a recipe for disaster.

* Award everyone (or no one) a prize for party games. Competitive games don't work for several reasons. It's sometimes difficult to determine who won. It encourages greed and ruthlessness. Avoid prizes and also keep little take-home goody bags simple. If you do prize bags, give useful stuff like school supplies. Pick those up SUPER cheap at back-to-school sales and squirrel away for parties.  Make-it-take-it crafts do double duty as party activities and treat bags. If you're giving out goody bags at the end, skip prizes.

* DIY kids' party food. Picnic foods are great for a kids party-- hamburgers or hot dogs (precooked and stored in foil-covered, disposable pans). Make huge sub sandwiches and cut into single servings. Or let guests make their own pizzas--Dollar Tree has mini pizzas 2/$1. Provide water bottles or juice boxes. Serve individually-packaged ice cream novelties. Make cupcakes instead of a cake. Let kids decorate their own. Pop in candles before serving so you can sing to the birthday child.


These party planning tips make for win-win kids parties

Free printable Halloween party activities, crafts, games

Halloween is creeping up and children of all ages, even the young at heart are getting ready for the fun.Here are free printable Halloween activities for parties, school groups, etc. 
Count down the days to Trick or Treat with dozens of free printable Halloween activities, coloring pages and crafts from Making Friends.com. Print free craft projects for all sorts themes. Making Friends has a really holiday activities, coloring pages, cut and paste, paper dolls, Trick or treat wrappers, worksheets, Halloween puzzles and mazes. Print word searches, crossword puzzles and word games, perfect for Halloween language arts lessons. Print Halloween card games, flash cards, dioramas, masks and pumpkin carving patterns and stencils.
Here free printable Halloween lesson plans, worksheets, games, coloring pages, activities and puzzles. Use for Trick or Treat themed math, reading, writing, literature, science, language, social studies and crafts. All Free Printables has free Halloween crafts, greeting cards, party invitations, decorations, cut-outs, coloring pages, masks, party invitations, name tags, treat bags, pumpkin cut-outs, book marks, picture frames and lots more. Puzzlemaker lets you create templates for printable Halloween worksheets, puzzles, mazes, jigsaws, dot to dot, Soduku, crosswords and activities galore.

Print Activities is another mega site for all your school and family activity printing needs. Look for units, printable worksheets and lessons focused around Halloween and trick-or-treat. Disney Family offers a plethora of free printable Halloween Disney activities, crafts and coloring pages. Coolest Holiday Parties has free printable Halloween party supplies. You'll find cards, invitations, treat and punch bowl printables, banners, place cards, name tags, wall hangings for a ghoulish party.

Stargazing party for kids: Eclipse and astronomy activities for children's backyard birthday party

Here's a fun and easy end of summer party for kids. To celebrate the solar eclipse, why not host an astronomy themed backyard birthday party? Enjoy a family stargazing campout  or backyard slumber party under the night sky. Here's all you need for this simple to plan, inexpensive (darn near free) stargazer fest.

Walk the beach if you can. Sleep on the beach if possible. That's the best sky panorama. Or just sleep outside under the stars. No need for a fancy-schmancy RV. You bring the backyard or apartment deck, Mother Nature does the rest.

Pitch a tent. Don't have a tent? Borrow one or make one by hanging a tarp over a suspended rope and securing with clothespins. Stay close to home in case rain drives you indoors.

Don't have expensive camping sleeping bags? Haul out old blankets and pillows and make a tent wall to tent-wall family bed. Plan on family pets nabbing the choicest napping spots.

Have a campfire. Campfires lend the ambiance. Portable fire pits are fairly inexpensive, like $35 at Walmart. Some communities allow you to dig your own (line it with a few old cement blocks). Collect brush and burn recycled paper to clean up the environment and do a little volunteer work too.

Sing camp songs. Ultimate Camp Resource has lyrics for all the old camp songs we learned as kids (and some we'd like to forget). Focus on songs about the sky, stars and nature. Play astronomy trivia. Check skymap.com for ideas.

Teach fire safety to get some learning time in. Have a bucket of sand at the ready to douse the flames and first aid kit. Discuss wildfires and caring for the environment. Show kids how to outen fires correctly.

S'mores and hot dogs are camping haute cuisine, but you can simply roast marshmallows if it's easier. Make your own roasting sticks by whittling down tree branches. (many pointed ends means more marshmallows). Teach knife safety and whittling for good survivalist-scouting lessons.

Dress warm. Summer nights can be chilly. Young children may wet the bed (or sleeping bag) if they get cold, even if potty-trained. Make sure they're bundled up. If it gets hot they can peel. Wearing long clothes means kids won't need as much bug repellent.

Have kids make stargazer survival kit (another great scout activity) Pack in waterproof container:
flashlight, cheap notebook (to draw stars, constellations, night sky), water bottle, midnight snack, field glasses, portable telescopes, cuddle toy (just in case) and umbrella. Allow nothing digital except a camera to take pictures (no texting, movies, TV, games).

Print an interactive night sky map from Your Sky that you can personalize for day and area. Here are free printable star charts, night sky maps and constellation maps. Here's a kids astronomy activities link with printables. Help kids track stars and learn the names of the constellations they're seeing. Provide notebooks and pencils and let them draw stars and constellations.

'Counting On' Joe Duggar, bachelorette Kendra Caldwell share odd bachelor party

Duggars, bachelorette parties, stag bashes and co-ed sleepovers: which of these don't belong? If you said the duggar family, you're wrong. People magazine showed the Christian morality experts of "Counting On" engaging in some pretty worldly activities since the fall of "19 Kids and Counting."



Joseph Duggar and his girlfriend, Kendra Caldwell shared a bachelor party. Joy-Anna Duggar and Austin Forsyth had a joint stag party with a co-ed slumber party. Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar were onboard for the unorthodox premarital events.   'Counting On' Joe Duggar, bachelorette Kendra Caldwell share odd bachelor party

Mothers Day gifts, Teacher Appreciation presents from recycled valentines

Little Miss took her neatly-labeled valentines to school and arrived home with reciprocal Valentine cards from friends. So now, what to do with these prized missives? Clean freaks will toss when she isn't looking. Sentimental (ahem, packrat) parents will urge saving. Artsy (messy) moms won't know what happens to valentines because they will filter into general room litter. None of these is very satisfying considering cost, work and love put into valentines. Here are five cheap, homemade crafts using recycled and repurposed children's valentines. Perfect to use as gift crafts for Easter, Teacher Appreciation Month, Mother's Day, Father's Day or Grandparent birthday gift.



Scrapbook/Journal: Give child a cheap notebook (picked up at back-to-school sales and squirreled away by practical mama). Provide scissors, tape, crayons and pencil. Label the page with school year and teacher. Show how her how to arrange valentines, collage-style. She might cut pretty bits from

each or line them up like gallery next to each friend's picture. Add stickers or decorations.



Pirate Treasure Box: If Johnny B Goode made a particularly nice valentine box for school, save and use to store special stuff--treasures, awards, collectibles, tchotchkis, trinkets, medals, feathers, rocks, keys, bits of a disused bird's nest---so dear to a boy's heart. Or decorate a box using valentines, old maps, scrap aluminum foil, colored plastic, pictures, recycled bin fodder to and magazines. Water down school glue and paint over decorations to to "laminate" or decoupage. He could use his box as a "mailbox" too.



Jewelry box: Repupose old pasteboard, metal or wooden boxes. If decorations are peeling, scrub them off, down to basic box shape. If box is wooden, sand down blemishes. If metal, clean rust and grime with scrubber or Mr. Clean white sponge. Dry thoroughly. Paint box or decoupage valentines on with thin glue. Glue on flowers, faux gems, sequins, ribbon or lace if desired. If clasp is broken, glue a button on the bottom of the opening and a loop of yarn to the top. Loop yarn over button to close.



Picture frame: Buy a wide-edge photo frame or cut your own. Measure opening to fit picture and cut from cereal box. Cut inner edge with decorative scissors. Paint frame or cover with plain covered fabric or wrapping paper. Cut pictures from valentines or magazines. Use decoupage method to decorate edge with cut valentines.



Bookmarks: Decorate cardboard strips cut from dry goods boxes. Paint with fabric paints. Decoupage valentines on bookmark and write message ("Grandma-You're my Valentine Year-Round", "Dad I'm always thinking of you.") Give as Mother's Day, Father's Day or Grandparents' Day gifts.

Any of these would make a lovely gift for a lonely senior friend or shut-in. Why not pay it forward in the upcoming Easter holiday? Find a lonely old person and share your time and talent. You can find more recycled crafts at my blog Green Crafts.


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Freelance writer, Top 100 Yahoo! Voices, Yahoo! News, Shine, Michigan, Detroit), blogger, teacher, mom of 4, happily married 25 years. Graduated GVSU 1986, psychology/general education and special education. continuing ed up to present. Certified MI teacher. Writing Michigan history mystery, children's Gothic fantasy. Areas of expertise: education, relationships, mental health, nutrition, history, world cultures. Passions: faith, Catholic church, sustainable living, interfaith initiatives, living simply that others might simply live. Working on MA in EI education. 

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