But it is possible to throw an amazing, memorable party at home that the kids will absolutely love without having to bankrupt yourself. Children don't need inflatables or hired entertainers or a rented indoor playplace to have fun. They want their friends and family and a party atmosphere - and there's no reason you can't achieve that in your own living room or backyard. The key is in the planning.
I like to plan my kids' parties around a theme - it's easier to keep on plan and on budget if there's a plan in the back of my head when I'm shopping or searching out ideas online.
Invitations: You don't need to buy themed invitations from a party store - supplies can be purchased at the dollar store and your little birthday princess or pirate can help by decorating the invitation with stickers and glitter glue. Use your imagination - a scroll for a princess party, a treasure map for a pirate party, cocktail umbrellas for a beach party - be creative! Make sure the invitation reminds your little guests to dress up according to the party theme!
Decorations: Again, forgo the party store and consider the dollar store. Balloons, streamers, ribbons, confetti, plastic table cloths, paper plates and napkins, glitter, craft supplies. Fill the entrance and the area of the house or yard you'll be using for the party with as many balloons and streamers and tissue paper puffs as you can - a balloon arch for the birthday boy or girl's seat, clusters of balloons in every corner, swags across the doorway or the fence, anywhere you can squeeze them. Nothing gives kids a sense that a party is a party more than party decorations - remember, with kids "more is more." Coordinate a colour theme and tie everything together with one splurge like a couple of helium-filled balloons with an appropriate character on them, or a themed cake or pinata if you don't feel up to making them yourself.
Some easy, affordable party themes and ideas - and some fabulous photos for inspiration - that are guaranteed to get big reactions from your precious little birthday boy or girl:
Games & Activities:
Becoming buccaneers: set up a station for each child to outfit themselves with a pirate bandanna, eye patch, clip-on earring, sword and "stubble" using eyeliner (all available at the dollar store).
Treasure chest craft: let the little pirates' imaginations run wild decorating wood treasure chests from the dollar store with paint, glitter, gems, and stickers. Fill each chest with chocolate coin "treasure" for the pirates to take home with them after the party!
Treasure hunt: divide the children into teams and give each a bottle with a rolled-up treasure map inside. Each team follows the clues and map to find the hidden treasure!
Pin the patch on the pirate: each pirate gets a construction paper pirate patch, is blindfolded, spun in a circle, and has to stick the eye patch on a pirate poster (like Pin the Tail on the Donkey).
Walk the plank: set up a board as a balance beam for the pirates to walk along. Put pillows underneath to break the fall.
Shark attack: place "islands" of brown craft paper around the floor or yard. The pirates walk around the newspaper until "shark attack" is called, when pirates have to run to an island. One "island" is removed each round and torn smaller until only one pirate remains.
Games & Activities:
Royal Salon - enlist the help of another mom or hire a neighbourhood teenager to give the little princesses "makeovers" - a little princess make-up and a temporary butterfly tattoo on the cheek will make each little princess feel special.
Tiara craft - each child can let their imagination go wild decorating their own tiara with glitter and paint and plastic gems to wear the rest of the afternoon and take home with them at the end of the party.
Jewelry craft - plastic thread and brightly-coloured plastic beads with sparkles are a fun and easy way to make princess-worthy bracelets and necklaces for party-goers to take home with them.
Find the Glass Slipper game - treasure hunt to find Cinderella's missing glass slipper (a hidden high-heeled shoe) with a dollar-store princess prize for the winner!
Kiss the Frog game - each princess gets a big pair of construction paper lips, is blindfolded, spun in a circle, and has to stick the lips on a giant frog (like Pin the Tail on the Donkey).
Princess Bingo - create your own Princess Bingo set out of cut-up Disney Princess Valentine cards.
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