When Jonah turned 10 last October it marked the end of kid birthday parties in the Stein house.
Back when the kids first started celebrating birthdays, I realized that planning parties wasn’t my forte so I put a cap on the party years. Ten seemed like a good age to end them.
And I have to say, I’m not sorry the parties are over. I’m not the creative type, so it was always a struggle to come up with inexpensive and fun ideas. We never splurged for moon bounces or laser tag. My kids had a choice between a pavilion at the park or a party at the house. So we’ve had our fair share of both. Looking back, we did have some pretty successful parties despite the lack of budget and creativity.
The most successful party ever was Lilly and Adam’s 8th birthday at the tire playground in Patapsco Valley State Park. It rained like crazy but that made it all the more of an amazing adventure. We had the playground to ourselves, and my husband took the kids on a muddy hike they will never forget.
Maggie’s “wild” animal party was another of my favorites. Our babysitter’s friend worked in a pet shop, and she brought cages of animals for the kids to see and pet. It was a low-budget animal party with rabbits, guinea pigs and even a snake.
There have been outdoor movies that ended up indoors thanks to rain, puppet show parties put on by my aunt and her collection of puppets, a cartoon breakfast party where the kids came in their PJs, and dozens of parties in various park pavilions — one after which everyone went home sopping wet and freezing cold thanks to a nearby stream.
If you are looking for fresh party ideas, check out our recent article 9 great places to party for every age and budget. Though some of the more expensive party ideas sound pretty cool — like the paddleboarding party — I still prefer a simple park pavilion party on the cheap.
In my experience, kids don’t need fancy meals and expensive entertainment. Give them some open space to run around and friends to play with and any party will be a roaring success — no matter how much effort you put in. At least that’s what I’ve learned in the 30-plus birthday parties I’ve thrown over the past 16 years.
FranklyStein is a blog by Chesapeake Family Magazine editor Betsy Stein who lives in Catonsville with her husband, Chris, and four children, Maggie, 16, Lilly, 14, Adam, 14, and Jonah, 10.