When our daughter was young, my husband got laid off. We had to make do on one (small!) income for awhile. It was popular at the time to hold children’s birthday parties at a theme restaurant, or have a destination party, like a water park, and send the guests home with over-the-top goody bags. We certainly couldn’t afford anything like that, so we hosted our daughter’s 10th birthday party at home, on a shoestring budget.
To invite guests, we sent eleven, homemade, yellow and white invitations, making sure they fit in the envelopes we already had. The party was set for mid-afternoon when cake and a drink would suffice, no need for pizza or submarine sandwiches. Plain, white, paper plates did the job; we didn’t have enough stoneware. We did have enough forks even if they didn’t all match. But really, do kids care if the forks match? Small, plain cocktail napkins and yellow paper cups rounded out the settings.
All eleven guests came. With my daughter, that made 12 children. They divided up into groups of 4 and played board games for 15 minutes with 5 minutes after each game to come together to chat and award prizes. With three groups of 4, and three rounds of games, I needed 9 prizes. I got a multipack of party store prizes for a total of two dollars plus tax. (They were those blowout horns if I remember right.) The kids played games we already had on hand: Yahtzee, Trouble, and Slapjack.
A homemade cake with 10 small candles and a couple of two-liter bottles of store brand soda filled the kids’ stomachs and gave them a satisfying sugar buzz. (Actually, it was a giant cookie baked in a pizza pan because my daughter wasn’t too fond of cake but loved cookies.)
For the goody bags, I picked up three packs of 20 dice from the dollar store. I divided them into sandwich bags we already had on hand. Each bag got 5 dice, and I printed out Yahtzee-inspired score cards. After running colored paper through the shredder, I put the resulting colored bits in the bags to make them more festive. The colored paper was a combination of yellow paper left over from the invitations and advertisements mailed to “Occupant.” Our daughter added “Thanks for coming!” notes in the inside front of each bag.
The kids had fun. The cost was low, both in stress and money, and our adult daughter still remembers that yummy cookie “cake.”
p.s. We are afraid to deprive our 10-year-old children for fear they won’t understand. One of the kids invited to the party had a father who had also been laid off. For a birthday present, that little girl drew my daughter a picture with a ball point pen on ordinary paper. Through two moves, all the way through college, and into her adult life, our daughter held onto that picture. Ten-year-olds DO understand what’s important in life.
Make this day even better. Consider:
- A good children’s book is like a gift of adventure for the mind. Take your child or grandchild to the library for a free adventure, and pick up an adventure for yourself, too.