Friday, March 27, 2009

FIVE already! Or, how we throw a child's birthday party

My sweet Monkey 6 recently turned 5 years old. I can't believe it! Here he is, just 2 1/2 years ago . . .

And now he's getting so big!

I've thrown a lot of parties over the last 14 years, and I just wanted to share with you what I've learned. We keep things pretty simple: food, games, cake, goodies. Keeping it simple ensures that everyone, from birthday child to mom, has a lovely time at the party, without breaking in the bank.

Parties can be expensive, or they can be reasonable. I try to shoot for reasonable, but with a large family, I suppose it's all relative. We typically opt for hosting parties at our home, or in public spaces -- parks and lakes are perfect places to host parties. Reserving a pavillion or picnic spot is usually very inexpensive, and many times, your deposit is refunded afterwards.

We celebrated Monkey 6's birthday at a local park. I love hosting parties at the park for many reasons: we can all enjoy the outdoors, there's lots of room for kids to run around, a playground for them to explore, and my top reason -- no house to clean up before or afterwards! We had about 35 guests at this party.


I believe in feeding everybody. I've been to parties where only the kids are fed. I understand that, to a point, and I appreciate that parties can get expensive. But I believe that everyone is at the party to celebrate the birthday child's special day, so everybody should get to participate and enjoy themselves. At this party, we had CiCi's Pizza -- inexpensive, and pretty good. Sometimes we do make-your-own subs, or grill burgers and hot dogs. I also like to have snacks and fruit, but I skipped that this time, and I don't think anyone missed them.

As for paper goods, I let the birthday child choose a theme, and I buy a few themed items, such as dessert plates and some napkins. Then I buy larger plates, cups, and napkins in a solid, coordinating color. I like the way it looks -- more customized, and it's much less expensive. I like to use fabric as table coverings, too. (Forgot that for this party, though.)


The old-fashioned games are still a hit with my kids. (You gotta try the Cheeto Head Game -- it's hilarious!) We always have a Guess How Many game. . . usually how many pieces of candy (or whatever) are in a jar. Some of the adults take this guess very seriously. We played Wrap the Mummy:

Even the teens liked to play. . .

A three-legged race, with a Girls vs. Boys Extreme Race encore (everyone is tied to everyone else, and they try to run in one line):

The boys won!

We had a scavenger hunt:

And our family favorite, a pinata!

During my super-mom delusional days, I made fantastic, huge, intricate pinatas from scratch with papier-mache, and covered it in the traditional method with folded-and-cut tissue paper. Insanity. They were cool, but insane, nonetheless.

Monkey 6 wanted a dinosaur-themed party. We couldn't find a dino pinata, so we purchased a High School Musical megaphone pinata, turned it on its end, and transformed it into a volcano. Monkey 1 did a fabulous job on the transformation!


In addition to the 12-pound pinata, we made dinosaur eggs for party favors. We handed these out at the end of the party, and the kids smashed them on the ground to find their hidden treasures!

Sorry about the blurry pic. It's the only one I have, and I'm lucky to have it -- one of the kids snapped it. They really do look like rocks. The kids and I doubled the recipe, and whipped these up in just a few minutes! We hid little plastic animals inside the eggs. We picked up the plastic trinkets at the thrift store -- they sell them by the bagful for a dollar or two -- and thoroughly washed them before we used them. I do recommend setting the eggs on a wire rack or screen to dry, and a full week is needed to do so. (Pssst -- these would be cool for Easter, too!)


Sometimes, we purchase a cake; sometimes, we bake them at home. My daughters wanted to make his cake this time, so they came up with a dinosaur scene, complete with erupting volcano:

My little boy had a wonderful time.

I think we all did.


  1. Wow, Connie - what an awesome party, looks fantastic! I love this last shot at the end, is this Owen? What a beautiful smile.

    You did a fantastic job, the dino eggs were a great idea.

  2. Thanks, Sophie! No, that's Nolan, Monkey 7. He'll be 3 in May... another party! ;)

  3. Sounds like my kind of party! I love the homemade ones the best. Even though they can be alot of work, they have the most memories.
    Happy Birthday Monkey 6!

  4. That was a long post! Great pictures, looks like everyone had a nice time. Your children are adorable too!! :) Thanks for sharing...

  5. Great ideas! We're about to throw our very first 1st birthday party. Those are great tips. Thanks.

  6. Hi I just stumbled upon your blog and I really love reading it! Especially this post! Everyone looks like having a good time and I know it's late but happy birthday to the lucky little boy!

  7. This party looks really fun! The place is refreshing, and you can all practically do different sorts of fun activities there. I love that you came up with the cute piƱata and the old fashioned games for the kids and the young adults. I think it’s also best that you had pizza that day. Saved you a lot of trouble from preparing food, right? Anyway, all the elements in this party are perfect for the fine weather and for that very huge location.

    Nita Digirolamo

  8. Thank you for your kind words, Nita! I love outdoor parties... the kids can run and play and burn LOTS of energy. And yes - the pizza saved me from a lot of kitchen-time. I'm learning to Keep It Simple, and I end up having a lot more fun that way! :)


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