Why I Won’t Throw My Kid a Pinterest Birthday Party

By Rachel Tiemeyer
January 17, 2013

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I have a confession to make. My son just turned 6 this week. And…I dropped the ball, so to speak, on planning a big basketball birthday party like he had originally asked for.

There are so many moms out there who are far more creative than me. It’s easy to look at Pinterest (like this boy’s basketball party, which is awesome) and think that I’m failing when it comes to throwing my children cool birthday parties. My friend, Kelly, for instance, threw a birthday party in her backyard for her 3-year-old twins that should have been featured on HGTV. It was fun, intricate and impressive for adults and kids alike. She truly enjoyed it, too, because she is wired to serve her family and friends in that way. Me? Not so much.

I tried to have a big party when my first child turned one. It ended up being expensive, stressful for me, and he doesn’t even remember. Since then, I decided that our birthday parties need to be:

  • simple (because it wasn’t worth the stress to our family to make it complicated and the kids don’t seem to care)
  • inexpensive (out of necessity and because the kids don’t care)
  • relationship-oriented over theme/event-oriented (meaning the people will be more important than the theme/details)

As my kids get older and more opinionated about their parties, though, I feel pressured into creating something more complicated again. For instance, I kept thinking that my son’s party needed to be big and full of basketball-themed games, foods, decorations, and lots of kids.

But, as the time drew closer to his birthday this year, I realized my limitations–Christmas travel, caring for 3 small kids at home, a part-time job, several migraine headaches from too much going on, etc. I started to stress out about it, as every good mom should, right?

My mom came to the rescue by offering a brilliant, simple plan, though! We’ll call it the Simple Cheap Low-Stress Basketball Party (SCLSBP for short, k?). The modified basketball party plan involved no invitations, no decorations, no cake decorating, no cleaning of my house, no planned out games, and only two other kids. I can feel you judging me. 🙂

Here’s what I did and how much money and time I spent on the SCLSBP, in case you’re wondering.

  • Emailed two kids’ moms and invited their sons only two days before the “party”. ($0 for invites)
  • Using cookie dough from the freezer, I made a cookie cake. Piped “Happy Birthday” in icing on it and bought candles. ($3 for icing & candles)
  • Picked up my son and his two friends after school. Took them to our community gymnasium and played basketball with them for 30 minutes at the open gym. ($10.50 for admission)
  • Had cookie cake, water bottles, and opened presents in the snack bar area. ($3 for water bottles; 30 minutes)
  • Gave each kid a small baggie with goodies and some gum. ($6 for take-home bags)

Total Cost = $22.50

Total Prep Time = 1 1/2 – 2 hours (included emails, store run, wrapping gifts, goodie bags, and making cookie cake)

Total Length of Party = 1 hour (plus 30 minutes of driving kids to and from)

The Outcome = My son, the boys, and our family LOVED it! It was the perfect amount of time for 6-year-olds (and parents) and was a great way to get to know some new kids from school.

Are you a mom like me? A mom who loves her kids dearly. A mom who is barely keeping up with what I need to keep up with. A mom who is trying to save money and time. A mom who doesn’t really enjoy planning a big, elaborate party. If so, can’t we give ourselves a break? Can’t we pass on the Pinterest parties and still make birthday parties a blessing to our kids and the rest of our family?

What about you? How do you make birthday parties manageable for your family and fun for your kids?

Photo credit: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/

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5 replies
  1. Laura Smith says:

    I loved this!! Many years ago we established that you could have a “friend party” on your 5th, 10th, and Sweet/Super 16. We invite as many friends over as they would like, play games (appropriate for the age of the kids), decorate cupcakes, open gifts, sometimes a craft or project, etc. I usually plan for 2 hours, but we have had to come up with extras sometimes because we run out of planned things. Often kids are happy to just play together until their parents come to pick them up. I also make the birthday girl/boy whatever “cake” (Some want pie or one daughter wanted a veggie tray and dip!!) they want to celebrate with grandparents. I will also make what they choose for dinner (and sometimes we have gone out to dinner) as close to their birthday as I can swing it. I try very hard to put the focus on them and make them feel loved and special, but I also try to keep it controlled somewhat. The ‘off’ years, you still get whatever you want for a ‘cake’ and whatever you want for dinner, but friends are not involved, just the fam. I think the rent-a-rec-center, order in a bakery cake, pay for 10 kids to swim, etc. parties are insane and set a precedent that is impossible to continue for life, even if you don’t have as big a family as I do. Kids need to feel loved and special, but not like they are the queen/king and can demand whatever they want. I thought what you did was more than enough and everyone involved seemed to have a ball! I totally agree with Maggie’s use of Pinterest. I could lose myself on their for days, but I don’t becuase I don’t want to feel like a flunky. I think using it occasionally to augment what you are doing is fine. Thanks for dealing with yet another touchy subject. 🙂

  2. Maggie says:

    I love this post and am grateful for your honesty. I think that a lot of moms are compelled to “perform” at birthday time because they’re NOT being honest with themselves about their workload, in-home commitments, finances, etc.

    I am like you, as was my mom! My brother and I almost always had parties where we picked 2 or 3 friends to go to McDonald’s and then to Longwood Gardens, a popular local attraction. It was simple and memorable and NEVER overwhelming.

    I am low-key. My daughter turns 3 this year and I feel like this is her first “real” party, as she knows about birthday parties now, has been invited to a couple, etc. I am pretty sure however, that her birthday party will be celebrated at our usual Friday morning playgroup with moms and kids we both know well and love. And we’ll have a family party too.

    I love Pinterest dearly, but I try really hard to not pin things that make me feel like I am not doing enough. I try to keep Pinterest as an upper!! You can follow me if you want- my username is handmademama. Hopefully I’ll inspire you with practical, meaningful projects 🙂

  3. Mama Monty says:

    Thank you for this much needed reminder. Last week my son also turned six and informed us (on his birthday) that he wanted a party with friends. Fortunately we have “made do” with family dinners and cake up to this point. Tomorrow, however, we will throw him his first birthday party with six friends. Since we have a large yard, complete with abandoned boat and pirate flag, we have decided to go with a pirate theme. We also chose not to send invitations, but I can feel myself ready to launch into a pre-party cleaning, prepping, and purchasing frenzy. You post was exactly what a needed to remind me that the children will have just as much fun running around the yard pretending to be pirates as they would with goodie bags and organized games. And fortunately, they won’t care about the cleanliness of my house.

    • Rachel says:

      I’m so glad to hear that my post encouraged you to simplify the party! Playing pirates in a backyard like that sounds awesome. What kid wouldn’t love that? I hope you enjoy a less stressful party. Of course the kids will!