Beautiful Birthday Parties on an Affordable Budget
Long gone are the days when kids’ birthday parties meant celebrating in the MacDonalds private ‘party room’ (the good old 90s) where we were all content with a Happy Meal Toy and getting a picture snapped with the legendary Ronald MacDonald (yes, me and Roshni circa 1992).
Nowadays, a kid’s birthday party includes bouncy castles, kiddie salons, on-theme dessert tables, food carts, and personalised goodie bags for every guest. With lots of pretty photos of kids parties making and breaking the internet thanks to the likes of Stormi Jenner #stormiworld there seems to be this unspoken pressure for parents to throw lavish parties that might break the bank.
While there is nothing wrong with wanting the best for your little one’s birthday party (I am totally guilty of that), there’s also so much that can be gained from considering affordable birthday party ideas let alone the satisfaction you will feel of pulling the whole thing off yourself, you go girl.
First things first, find a theme
This is the starting point for planning any children's party, and this will dictate the theme of your food, desert, possibly entertainment and your venue. There are hundreds of ideas all over the internet, some of our favourite themes are:
Farmers's Market, Tractor / Train (Transport) Theme, Princess Tea Party, Peppa Pig, Paw Patrol, Superhero Theme, Fireman Sam, Teepee Boho Sleepover, Chef/Cooking Theme, Winter Wonderland, Cinema Party (with an inflatable screen), Pool Party (for older kids), Halloween (becuase who says Halloween just has to be for one night), Animal/Jungle theme, Painting Party
Choose a venue based on your budget, number of guests and party theme
The venue for your kid’s birthday party will usually depend on your budget, the theme that you want for the event and the number of guests you plan on inviting.
Some affordable party venue options are:
The ultimate way to have an affordable venue is to hold your child’s party in the comfort of your own home. Celebrating a kid’s party at home will not only save you money, but also make your little one’s party intimate. A laidback pyjama party and a classic tea party are some good examples of birthday themes you can perfectly execute at home. I recently held a ‘Princess Tea Party’ for my daughter’s fourth birthday. Due to Covid we only invited five of her friends and we set up TeePees with cushions and laid out rugs on the floor for a picnic. It turned out perfect!
If you want a venue with more space for play time, head to your local park if the weather permits and explore more adventurous outdoor birthday themes for your child’s birthday. Open spaces will give you more room for creativity when it comes to theme-based DIY party decors. Set up a few nice picnic blankets, get some nice balloons and flowers in vases and you can create a chic birthday picnic and you can make it as intimate or as large as you want. Likewise, kids aren’t very particular with how a venue looks as long as they have enough safe space to play.
Children's Class Space
Many children's class venues at local town centres or leisure centres are able to be rented at a very small cost for birthday parties. As these spaces usually hold kids classes they can be much more flexible than other options and easy to clean up.
Food is another major aspect of a kiddie party that you need to consider carefully. If meals aren’t part of the venue package you’ve booked, a caterer for a kids’ party can be pricey depending on the amount of guests you have. The following are tips when it comes to food:
Make the party food yourself
Preparing some or all of the party food on your own is a wise way to make it more affordable. This way, you can also control the ingredients going into the food and make the snacks a little healthier. You can have a lot of fun with homemade foods especially if you want them on-theme. Pinterest is your go-to here. Mood board all the foods that go with your chosen theme, and then select 3 or 4 that you feel confident enough to execute. For our yearly kids halloween party at home, we prepared home made mini pizzas with cut up black olives for spider decorations, we also made a homemade Tzatziki dip in the shape of pumpkin with carrot and cucumber crudités.
Create a drinks station
I invested in a few large glass water dispensers a few years ago and have used them at every birthday and picnic we've done at home. You can get some beautiful rustic looking dispensers these days, simply cut some fruit, add in some basil leaves and ice cubes, and create drool-worthy fruit infused waters. You can also inexpensively buy wooden crates to act as risers for all your food and drink, this creates a beautiful look for an outdoor kids birthday party.
Create a desert station
This often becomes the focal point of the party, the place where you invest the most in and usually where you cut the cake. With customised cookies and cupcakes costing close to $5-6 a piece sometimes, it's easy for a desert table to become THE most expensive element of the party, with a lot of wastage - because how many cookies and cupcakes can one even eat. Here is the trick - buy half from your local Carrefour or supermarket, in a design that is on-theme. Usually I stick to a plain colour if buying from the supermarket, and I will add things like cupcakes, donuts and cake-pops. Then I will add some customised cookies and cupcakes. You can also buy plastic or glass sweet jars, filling them up with marshmallows or candies just to create a beautiful look. You can even fill them with toys (such as mini cars) if it goes with your theme. You can also fill your table with some low-cost savoury items such a popcorn.
Entertainment and activities for the kids
Unlike children’s parties from decades ago where a simple party at Pizza Hut with a few balloons and an entertainer was the norm (mine circa 1993, shout out to my mum), birthday parties nowadays aren’t complete without enchanting performances and exciting activities. Depending on your budget, you can either go for one outsourced activity or two to three. In our experience, the best outsourced services for a children's birthday include: bubble shows, magic shows, balloon making, a live entertainer for games, bouncing castle, mobile soft play, a rentable electric train (much more affordable than you think if you use Rent Sher).
Whilst the above are definitely fun, you can have so much fun with things you have at home. I always create a little play area consisting of toys we have in the house, things like plastic toy bikes, toy kitchen, sand pits. Whilst your kids may be bored of playing with the same toys day after to day, to your party guests they'll be fun and exciting. Look around your home, for all the different toys you can use - ball pits work wonders as do any toy vehicles.
Cutting down on certain expenses doesn’t have to mean settling for a boring birthday party. For my daughter’s recent party I decided what was really important for the party and what I was able to forgo on. For me, an on-theme desserts table is a must, more for the photos than anything. I don't care much for an entertainer as I just like to hire a bouncing castle and I genuinely like to bring back to life the good old kiddie party games like Musical Chairs, Musical Statues and Pass the Parcel. My kids absolutely love it (they request to play it on a random Wednesday at 6pm). These games are made fun by the music and as long as you have a bit of Justin Beiber or even CocoMelon, they are bound to get into it.
Another idea is to let the kids entertain each other by hosting a talent portion where each guest can showcase their talent in exchange of a birthday prize. I also make a ‘Colouring Station’ where I lay out a table and chairs and my Art Cart (a Little IA Mama Hack) and print some online colouring sheets (in line with the party theme) for the kids to colour in at the party. If this is your only entertainment for the kids it will totally work - it keeps the kids occupied and looks like a lot more effort than it actually is. You can extend this too a play dough station, or slime station - all you need is some glitter, some slime and a few bowls.
You’ll be surprised at how affordable it can be to create fun for children!
With the desire to get those perfect photos documented on social media and for memory’s sake, it’s not surprising that parents nowadays give special attention to the styling of their children’s parties, I am totally guilty of this. Whether you’re setting up a huge Mickey Mouse backdrop and desserts table or a Bohemian-inspired kids lounge with TeePees, decorating a kids birthday party will also be a big chunk of your expense.
It isn’t necessary to hire an event stylist or get a party decoration package if you don’t want to. You can head to Pinterest search online for birthday party ideas and you’ll find a lot of sites offering DIY kids birthday decoration tutorials. Think of your party in "areas", have an area for food (drinks and party food), an area for activities or play, an area for a photo op (such as a desert table, or balloon arch) and an area for kiddie seating.
Stick to your chosen birthday party theme and decide on the DIY decorations that will best represent your party theme. Buy some colourful materials and use your creativity in designing tassel garlands, pompom crafts, and even origami designs. These days there are even Youtube tutorials on how to create your own balloon arch. Etsy also has lots of personalised pieces for parties, but you will need to order in advance as many are very affordable but made to order. You can also use websites such as Creative Market to create personalised labels for water bottles, which can be printed at home.
It’s also a good idea to let your child help in preparing the party decorations. It will be a fun bonding activity for everyone.
Fresh flowers can really add up for a party, and nowadays many home stores do beautiful fake flowers in little glass jars, some of which you cannot even tell are fake without touching them. Have a look at some inexpensive home stores!
The days of paper invitations are now long gone and that is one expense that we can say goodbye to.
When it is time to formally announce your kid’s birthday you don’t need to be a graphic designer when there are free online design platforms like Canva and Paperless Post to help you out with evites! This will not just help you cut down on costs, but also give a personal touch to your child’s invitation.
Prepare the party favours for kids
From customised character goodie bags to personalised backpacks, going home presents for a kiddie birthday party are also a huge expense for parents.
If you think about it, party favours or giveaways are not a requirement for kiddie parties. It’s just your way of thanking guests for making time to attend your child’s celebration. However, if you feel compelled to give the kids something to bring home which I always do, you can turn your decorations, party food or party activities into party souvenirs. We tend to get personalised cookies for our desserts table and after the party, each child gets to take a bag of those goodies home. I am a big fan of balloons so I tend to go all out with them at birthday parties. Whenever it is going home time, I attach a balloon to each party bag so that they can take it home with them. All kids love balloons. Do you know one that doesn’t?
It's definitely not easy to find going home gifts that aren't overly expensive, yet still something kids will use for more than just a few hours before it gets tossed into that box at home we all have consisting of a million toys and lost parts. Things I have given out or in turn received that I have loved include: personalised water bottles, lunch bags, lunch boxes, pencil cases, colouring books, personalised story books, personalised name stickers, personalised rucksacks.