The Birthday Survival Guide
The scary thing about having children is that they keep growing. You just about get your ahead around a certain stage and then BANG, they’ve changed again! Quite rude of them really when you think about it. Don’t they know us grown-ups need a certain period of adjustment before new milestones and stages?
Joking aside, those birthdays do come around with frightening regularity and of course as a parent it is up to you to decide how to celebrate it. Birthdays are important as they only come around once a year and it is the only day of the year that is just about that person. They don’t have to share it (unless they are twins etc) and birthdays are of course special events for everyone involved. Children remember their birthdays well (ok, maybe not the earliest years) which is why so many parents get bent out of shape trying to do birthdays “right”.
Keeping Up with Everyone Else
“Did you know that her down the road paid for a whole dance troupe attached to a famous circus to entertain her one-year-old daughter and her friends at the best venue in town?”
When you had planned on taking your eight year old McDonalds seeing or hearing about what other parents plan for their children’s birthdays can sometimes put you under pressure to do “better”.
It is important to remember that this pressure is something that you put onto yourself, no-one else. Would your son enjoy his favourite national football team captain coming for tea? Of course he would but unless he’s a close personal friend there’s no point worrying about that! The chances are he’d be just as happy with pizza and a water-fight in the garden with his closest pals so don’t worry about what other parents do or don’t so; at the end of the day what your child would love and what you can afford are all that matters.
It is important that while you remember that your child’s birthday is an important day that you also remember your budget. Many people save up for Christmas in advance or shop early for presents. It can be worthwhile considering doing the same for your children’s birthdays too, especially if things are a little tight money-wise.
Once you’ve set your birthday budget, that being the amount of money you have to spend on gifts, food and (if anything) a party/sleepover etc; stick to it. We know it’s so tempting to keep adding extra gifts on as you see them however you could end up spending too much. Also remember that what you do for one child you have to do for the others which could mean you inadvertently bumping up the average spend per child for this year and years to come.
Main Gift or No Main Gift
This is an individual choice, dependant on your child, what you can afford and what you usually do. Some families buy a big main gift for a birthday whereas others prefer for their child to have more presents to open. Obviously a larger gift means less to open so decide dependant on what your child is into. There’s no hard and fast rule on this one. What is wise to remember is that you really can’t buy a big gift, then feel guilty about the number of gifts they have to open so go and buy a load more. We’ve all been there.
What to buy your children on their birthdays can be a difficult decision! If they are into something specific, such as Thomas the Tank Engine, Superheroes, Lego or whatever then adding to their collection, adding themed bedding, clothing, toys and books makes life a lot easier. If on asking your child what they would like you get the stock answer “dunno” you might need to think outside the box a little.
Finding ideas for your children’s present box could be difficult if you didn’t have the internet or access to other parents. Thankfully the chances are you have both. The majority of websites which sell anything birthday related tend to feature age bracket filtering making it easier to look for gifts suited to your child’s age. Friends will be able to fill you in on what their sons and daughters asked for at the same age (and keep you in the loop as to what the latest Big Thing is).
A good old-fashion Google search for children’s gifts is usually pretty good for helping with ideas and if all else fails there’s always Pinterest!
When children get a little older it can be easier to buy more practical gifts as opposed to just toys and games. Older children (from around 8yrs) are happy with a mix of toys and games with more practical items such as clothing and similar. Young teens are also happy with practical gifts when they have specific hobbies and sports that requires such things too. The best way to gauge whether a practical gift is a go or not is to ask them!
Money or Gift Card Gifts
When it comes to buying for your own children you want to buy them something that they can open, something they can hold in their hand however what about if as a teen they ask for money or a gift card? This is certainly the end of an era however it certainly isn’t a bad thing. When children reach a certain age they are able to decide what to spend birthday money on and at least you know that they’ll get something they absolutely want. Make you knowing what they will spend it on is a requirement of them getting cash for a birthday for safety’s sake but if that’s what they really want, surely that’s what their birthday is all about?
The Birthday Celebrations
Oh yes, the birthday celebrations. This is the part of a child’s birthday that often causes the most angst (and has the potential to cost the most). Thankfully you probably have more options than you realise.
1. The All Bells and Whistles Package
This is the party of all party and everyone in your child’s class gets invited (it wouldn’t do to leave anyone out). You book a hall, you arrange the food, you get a bouncy castle, cake, do games, get entertainers in and of course you must not forget the party bags for people to take home. This type of party is great fun for the kids and often exhausting and costly for you!
If you go for a big party such as this it might be worth telling your child that they only get one of these big parties. Tick the box, make the memories and then as they get older concentrate on something smaller, particularly as when they grow their circle of friends tends to become smaller and more defined.
2. The Home Party
This is less stressful (slightly). You move from a big hall to your front room. You still do party games, have cake, food and party bags but it is a significantly smaller (and cheaper) event than one that involves entertainers and bouncy castles. If the weather s good children can play outside with bubbles or do garden games. Generally speaking it all lasts no more than two hours.
With a home party, particularly with it being a smaller event you can really get creative and make it a themed event. It could be a princess party, a TMNT party, a Minecraft themed party, anything!
Sleep Over Parties
The beauty of this type of party is that it is mostly suited to older children, you can only squeeze in one or two children at most and (in theory) they’ll sleep for the majority of the time that they are there. A sleepover could also be themed: they could have a Grease-style sleepover (without any alcohol or sneaking out of the window), a gaming party (Xbox Minecraft gaming until you take the controls out and tell them to go to sleep); the sky is the limit.
This is particularly budget friendly as at worst you take you everyone out for pizza and at best they make their own with toppings you give them. This is great for your child and their best friend and friends and is very easy to arrange. It is certainly a more laid-back birthday celebration yet no less enjoyable for it.
Not everyone wants a party and not all parents want to host them, no matter how big or small the party. You might decide to have a special family tea, to go out for dinner, go to the cinema or bowling as a family. As long as the day is made special in some way we’re sure your child will have a wonderful day.
Nicki, a member of the ParentsNeed team has this to say:
“I think parents who host parties are heroes. There’s absolutely no way I would, or have ever taken sole responsibility for keeping over-excited thirty children happy in a fairly confined space, particularly given that they will probably at some point be running around on a sugar high, follow by the inevitable crash. Heroes!Neither of my sons have had a birthday party as such with friends, either in a hall or a proper “party bag” affair at home and neither of them are any the worse for it.
My eldest has recently had a birthday and his best friend slept over. They watched DVDs, played Pokemon, messed about with Lego and had some bonus digital time. The next morning I made a fun breakfast and took them into town to a shop that does crafts and similar. They both decorated mugs to show their favourite Minecraft characters and made funny coasters. That was that. Both had a fabulous time and it was very easy on me.
My youngest had a tea party with his friend whose birthday is five days after his at our house last year. I filled the lounge with balloons, and let them run around with them when we got in (this was just after school), then they had a cold tea, cake and she went home with a gift (she’d left one for him too). It was fun, exactly what he wanted and he talked about it for ages.
Recently my ten-year-old asked me why we didn’t have “big” birthday parties. I told him that preferred to spend the money I could spend on a party on presents that he could use all year around and he could absolutely see the sense in this. He was just curious.
If you ask either of mine about any of their birthdays they’ll tell you what wonderful times they’ve had which is what it’s all about”.
When it comes to birthday survival (for us parents) it’s all about taking a step back, embracing the fact that this year is over and a new and exciting one is starting. We also need to put away any misgivings about the “right” kind of birthday celebrations. There are so many options for birthdays these days, from huge parties to quiet family affairs and children enjoy all of them. We’re sure that whatever you buy or organise for your child’s birthday will go down fantastically.
Just make sure you save us a slice of cake!