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


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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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