Help me not spend $1000 on my kids' birthday parties! - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 45 Old 09-29-2010, 03:31 PM - Thread Starter
 
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So our two kids share the same birthday month. They both want to have parties at a jumpy house place. Assuming we do that and get the package that has pizza for the guests, it would cost about $1000 for both parties.

I'm trying to look at alternatives. The roadblocks we have are:

- Winter birthdays (might rain, so a party at the park or jumpy at our house would be a gamble)

- Small house

- Large classes (DS has 20 in his class, DD has 24). Most people at their school invite the whole class to parties. We could try to narrow it down, but it could result in some drama. One of DD's best friends is a boy and a couple of DS's friends are girls, so we can't go by gender.


We have talked about alternatives with the kids. They really want the jumpy place (and this would be on par with the other kids in their classes). They are sweet kids and I know they would accept an alternative, though it is tough because they seem to have their hearts set on it (and it really is what the other kids tend to do). On the other hand, $1000 is a lot of money! I'm wondering if any of you clever mamas have some ideas for us.
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#2 of 45 Old 09-29-2010, 03:40 PM
 
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Have it at home and only invite their true friends although you may not be able to hand out invites at the school, I am certain you have either these people's addresses or phone numbers. Have a sleepover with only a few of their closest friends.

Learn to say no. Just because "everyone else" is doing something doesn't mean you have to do it too.

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#3 of 45 Old 09-29-2010, 03:43 PM
 
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I am so relieved we moved to an area where the birthday party scene is WAY low key. Reading your post reminded me of what it used to be like *Stress*.


If you (they) are set on that particular place, and you are obligated to invite the entire class, the only alternative I see is that you have the party during NON-meal hours so you can forgo the pizza.

We have a winter birthday too, (and a small house) but like I said, bday parties are not the norm around here, so even though my dd would LOVE a huge blow out, we've pretty much limited it to a couple of girls from her class. Last year it was a gingerbread decorating party. That was a "negotiated" deal, though I'm really trying to phase out the party altogether. But it's SO hard to say "no" to our kids, though, isn't it??
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#4 of 45 Old 09-29-2010, 03:46 PM
 
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How old are your kids?

Can you do a combination party? I would think one party with 30 kids is cheaper than 2 parties with 15 each.

Non-meal time is a great idea to save cost.

Why not do a smaller party at home? Just invite their friends, not the entire class.

Or let each child pick an outing on their birthday and invite one or two friends along. You could make this the tradition instead of a large party.
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#5 of 45 Old 09-29-2010, 03:54 PM
 
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Holy cow, $1000?

Does your local YMCA do parties? They tend to be more reasonable than for-profit party places, and a lot of the party packages include swimming. Do any of your local parks have shelters or multi-use buildings? They could play outside if it's nice out, but have a bunch of games/activities that can be done indoors (marshmallows suspended from the ceiling by a string, they have to eat it with their hands behind their back... stuff like that). In my hometown, for example, when it's the "off season" (read: spring, summer, fall), you can rent out the skating rink/sled hill/tobaggan run warming shack for super cheap. Might be something else like that available in reverse.

I'd work on narrowing down the guest list, no matter what you choose. My parents' rule (arbitrary, yes, but any number limit is going to be arbitrary) was that we got to invite as many people as our new birthday age. So when we turned eight, we invited eight. Sure, there was "party drama" where people were or weren't invited to so-and-so's birthday party, but you know what? We all survived. I don't remember whose party I was or wasn't invited to. We all understood that everyone had a limit. Some kids had huge parties, some had no parties, some had small parties...

Now if the PARENTS are causing/perpetuating the drama, then they really need to call me because they clearly have far too much time on their hands and I have some work they could do.

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#6 of 45 Old 09-29-2010, 05:16 PM
 
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a party for the entire class at a party place is way too much. I personally always preferred parties with 10 or fewer kids at home, but that was always the standard in my circle of friends. Mostly the mom's would do a theme, so there was a fairy-tale party with a castle cake, a dog party, a clown party, etc. whatever the kid was into at the time. part of the fun for me growing up was getting to plan the party. choose games and crafts and what kind of cake I was going to have. you don't get to do that at a party place.

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#7 of 45 Old 09-29-2010, 05:24 PM
 
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no way. how much is ONE party where they each get to invite like 5 kids? i would offer them the choice between a joint party at the bouncey place, with very limited guests, OR they each get to have their own separate big party but it's just cake at home (or a park or other free public place). obviously, they will have to agree with each other on the decision. if you need a free indoor place other than your own home, what about a grandparent's house or aunt/uncle's house?

i would try to sell my kids on an alternative location, taking the, "everyone had their party there, what about X?" if there is a cheaper party place like the zoo, the aquarium, an arcade, bowling, etc . . . but if it were something like that i would absolutely make them combine the party and keep it small.

i also like the solution some families do, which is to choose between gifts versus party, but there is still no way in hell, and i mean absolutely no way, that i would spend $1000 or even $500 on a b'day party.
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#8 of 45 Old 09-29-2010, 05:24 PM
 
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My daughter is also asking for a jump house party. I've simply told her no. She'll be 5 and we've been to two of these. IMO they are entirely too stimulating. I'm happy to take her and a friend to such a place, but not keen on the party scene. Her teacher actually advocates against these types of parties (quietly). I've told dd 1) we'll be at home and 2) she can invite as many friends as years old she is turning. She has since turned her attention to what cake I'll be baking for her!

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#9 of 45 Old 09-29-2010, 05:39 PM
 
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Is it possible to rent one of those blow-up jumpy things for less money and have it at your house or some community center with indoor space and then have all the kids you want for cake and punch? I understand about winter birthdays - we have February here.

Could you save the jumpy house idea for the big birthdays? Like the oldest gets it this year, but the younger one has to wait until that age? I also agree with narrowing down the guest list. That's just the way it has to be. Kids learn to live with it.

I rented a room at a community center for $30/hour and I was THRILLED to have my kids B-day there instead of in our house. It was great. I rented it for an extra hour for decorating and clean-up. We did the pinata, had party games, opened presents and ate cake - then packed it up and left. I loved it! I didn't have to clean my house, worry about toilets, etc.

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#10 of 45 Old 09-29-2010, 06:12 PM
 
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Wow - you guys have expensive bounce house places. Around here, thy are about $250 for a party that includes 20 people. I brought a cake from Costco for about $16 and called it a party. I scheduled it at a time when pizza wouldnt be expected. It included all paper products and I am pretty sure they included juice. I don't remember bringing anything to drink but somehow the kids had juice. That would bring the total to about $300 for one party so it would be about $600 for both kids in your scenario. I'm glad the bounce house market in my area is cheaper. LOL
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#11 of 45 Old 09-29-2010, 06:15 PM
 
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Can't you look around a bit for other interesting, but cheaper place? I was digging around last year and found an indoor playground that's quite decent. They charge only $200 for as many kids as you want, and you can bring your own pizza and drinks.

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#12 of 45 Old 09-29-2010, 06:31 PM
 
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We have a small house and winter birthdays, too. Never in a million years would I invite the whole class or even consider spending more than a mortgage payment on a child's birthday. Step away from the madness and tell the kids that this is how it's going to be:

Pick 5 friends to invite only.
Have the party at your house.
Plan one or two very simple activities (assemble your own pizzas, decorate cupcakes, etc.)
Make the cake yourself.
Don't hand out goody bags. Or, if you must hand out something, go to the thrift store and pick up some used books. Wrap them nicely for the kids to take home.

I've been doing this kind of party for years. Believe me, everyone will have a good time.
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#13 of 45 Old 09-29-2010, 06:51 PM
 
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[QUOTE=zinemama;15897345]Don't hand out goody bags. Or, if you must hand out something, go to the thrift store and pick up some used books. Wrap them nicely for the kids to take home.
[QUOTE]

That is a good idea. I have done homemade playdough/swamp gunk, cheap bubbles (you could probably get a good deal on those right now), or helium balloons (decorate with them and then let each kid take one home). The kids were happy, the moms thanked me for no candy/cheap plastic crap, and it was less expensive.
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#14 of 45 Old 09-29-2010, 07:05 PM
 
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Heck yeah. Making their own play dough could be a fun birthday party activity, depending on the age .

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#15 of 45 Old 09-29-2010, 07:12 PM
 
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Just say NO.... those to little letters work all the time.

Really 1k for a party?? Folks really need to lower thier expectations.

If and only IF they really want the bounce house I might offer to take the kids and 2 friends on a day for 'open jump' or something and call that the 'party'. So 2 friends each to open jump then out for lunch somewhere.

There is no way I would have 2 classes of kids to the jump n play.
1. just too may kids and too much $$
2. you are going to get too much junk toys(IMO)
3. over stimulation and wound up kids
4. too much to keep track of
5. what expectation are you setting for next year?

What I probably would offer is to have 1 kid per bday year (so a 6 yr old gets to invite 6 kids) over, for a party at the house. Winter b'days are fine, and if you invite 6 and 3 show thats fine too. Have a couple hr party, make a cake and call it a day.

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#16 of 45 Old 09-29-2010, 07:22 PM
 
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I agree with PPs who said, keep it small, simple and at home. If your kids are truly compelling you to have a bigger party somewhere, maybe look into a kids' gym. Our locally-owned one (don't know how it compares to Gymboree or other franchise) only charges $250 for a 25-kid party. You can get a sheet cake and be done for less than $300. If your kids HAVE to have separate parties and invite the whole class, that's still $600 compared to $1000.... Although I think it's still an outrageous amount of money to spend.

I definitely agree that home-grown parties with fun themes are the way to go. When I was growing up, most of us had the SAME theme every year, and honestly, it made the parties more memorable, b/c C's dad always did magic tricks (like a whole magic show, not just a few sleight of hand tricks), D's dad had a big beard and chased everyone around pretending to be the Big Bad Wolf, M's dad promised a special prize for the kid who could get the tennis ball away from the family dog (we all got yelled at by our moms for coming home dirty, but were forgiven once they saw how well we slept!), S's parties always had healthy snacks including little cups of peanuts which we would try to toss into each other's punch cups at the table.... It goes on. And none of that cost any extra money. Just the price of balloons, cake, and peanuts.
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#17 of 45 Old 09-29-2010, 07:30 PM
 
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my bro and i had the same and we always had combined birthdays.

yeah that meant we had 80 kids between school and outside school friends... but it was less stress on our parents.

for dd her bday is a way of me giving back. since we have a tiny place adn cant have others over for playgroups i have huge bday parties. anything from 50 to 100 people. still i can budget in $200 for the party.

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#18 of 45 Old 09-29-2010, 08:18 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks everyone for your help so far! I agree it is way too much, which is why I am trying to figure out a good solution. What's funny is the bouncy house place is one of the less expensive options around here! (Less expensive than Chuck E Cheese, etc. - at least for a large party. Other places are like $15-$20 per child).

That is a good point that we don't need to do it during a meal time. The cost for a regular party without food is $315 for up to 25 kids. But then we still need to buy/make the cake, bring drinks, other snacks, maybe do favors, etc. Maybe I can get the kids to each invite 4 or 5 friends. But I know word will get out and I don't want the other kids in their classes to feel bad. Ds is in 1st grade and dd is in PreK. I think it is more of an issue with Ds because those kids are used to everyone getting invited (last year the class was only 12 kids, so it was much more reasonable to do that). The other issue is that a couple of the boys in his class just did some damage to another friend's house during a party, so there is that risk as well.

Ds came up with the idea to go to his cousins' house for his birthday instead of a party. Sadly the airfare would bring us back to the $1000 range for a trip like that.

Hmm... maybe if each of them invited 2 friends from school and then also invited the neighbors it wouldn't be such a sticky situation at school (not enough kids talking about it for word to get around). We might be able to make that work for a party at home, maybe rent a bouncy house (and hope it doesn't rain!).
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#19 of 45 Old 09-29-2010, 08:23 PM
 
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Honestly, whether word gets around or not should not factor into your decision. You have to do what's best for your family and your budget, not keep up with the Jones's.

Maybe some kids in the class expect to be invited to every party. Maybe they will feel bad. They will get over it. (And I'll bet the parents will be happy not have to buy a gift and shlep their child to yet another party for someone the kid doesn't even socialize with on a regular basis.)
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#20 of 45 Old 09-29-2010, 08:49 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zinemama View Post
Honestly, whether word gets around or not should not factor into your decision. You have to do what's best for your family and your budget, not keep up with the Jones's.

Maybe some kids in the class expect to be invited to every party. Maybe they will feel bad. They will get over it. (And I'll bet the parents will be happy not have to buy a gift and shlep their child to yet another party for someone the kid doesn't even socialize with on a regular basis.)
This. And you know? Some parents might welcome a break from the ridiculous expectations. YOU could be the new trend .

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#21 of 45 Old 09-29-2010, 10:16 PM
 
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Holy Crap! You are talking about doing two parties right? So that's $500 per party? That's still a LOT.

Some thoughts...

I have a child who's birthday is 12/29. Her party is always done over Christmas break, which means a lot of families are gone, or have family in town, and can't come to a birthday party. Which means that even if I invited the whole class (she's 14 now, that doesn't happen anymore,) only like 5 or so show up. You said winter birthdays but didn't say when in winter. If you can schedule something over winter break, you are likely to end up with fewer kids (and therefore having to pay for fewer.

Can you do a combo party? How close in age are the kids? I assume pretty close if they both want the bouncy house party. My brother has 3 kids, two of which have birthdays within a week of each other, he's been doing combo birthdays since the youngest's first birthday party.

Do you have to pay for the actual bounce house party? I usually do young kid's birthdays at CEC, and will be doing that for my almost 2 year old in November. However, after having just one party where I wasted $200 on a party of only 4 kids (because of the CEC requirements on numbers of kids) I stopped doing the actual CEC party. They don't care if you bring in a cake or not, so I started just bringing a cake in and only ordering enough pizza for those who actually showed up (always less than expected, see my previous thought.) Use the coupons that CEC puts out like twice a month and it's much much cheaper.
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#22 of 45 Old 09-29-2010, 11:02 PM
 
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And suddenly the $100 b-day party we're having for my ds this weekend doesn't seem quite so expensive to me. Thanks!

Quote:
Originally Posted by happysmileylady View Post
However, after having just one party where I wasted $200 on a party of only 4 kids (because of the CEC requirements on numbers of kids) I stopped doing the actual CEC party. They don't care if you bring in a cake or not, so I started just bringing a cake in and only ordering enough pizza for those who actually showed up (always less than expected, see my previous thought.) Use the coupons that CEC puts out like twice a month and it's much much cheaper.
That's what we've done the past 2 years and we'll do it again this weekend for his 7th birthday. We have the party at 10am on a Saturday morning (nobody is at CEC at 10am!). I get there at about 9:30 and set up how ever many booths I think we'll need (I bring table cloths, banners, balloons, cake, etc). DP brings ds right at 10:00. Around 10:30 I order pizza. They play, eat, open gifts, play for a little while longer and we're gone by noon when the place starts getting busy. Usually by 11:30 or so dp has to take ds out to the car (he has autism and sensory issues so as much as he THINKS he wants a CEC party he gets overwhelmed very quickly once others start coming into the place). I clean everything up and usually ask the parents if their kids want to stay longer. If they are keeping their kids longer than I'll give them any extra tokens we have so they can continue to play. Total cost for decorations (we do let him pick a theme every year- this year just happened to be a theme that has been discontinued so I had to search hard to find what I needed!), cake, pizza, drinks for kids and adults and lots of tokens is around $100.

eta- as far as inviting the whole class.... we did that last year. It was okay but still too many kids for ds to really enjoy himself. This year he will be inviting two boys from school (twin brothers), 2 girls from school (one RSVP'd no b/c she'll be out of town, don't know about the other), 2 of his cousins who live in town, his teacher (how cute is that?!? He insisted on inviting her because "she's the best teacher ever mama!"), a family that are good friends of ours (mom, dad and their 7 kids... but I think they're only bringing 3 or 4 of their kids but even if they bring them all they are SUPER well behaved children), the only babysitter we ever use (again, a family friend) and her boyfriend, and dp's parents. So total we expect (including dp, ds and myself) 9ish kids and 12ish adults.

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#23 of 45 Old 09-29-2010, 11:15 PM
 
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I have 3 kids with winter birthdays all in about a one month period. For a long time we did combined parties, then as they got older we let them invite just a few friends. Friends they played with outside of school so that we handled invites outside of school. When my youngest wanted to invite school friends I told her she then had to invite all the girls from her class (not the entire class). This was 12 girls and, of course, not all ended up coming.

We like YMCA parties. I work at the Y so I get a 50% discount, but still its reasonable even at full price. For up to 12 kids with 3 hours of playtime (Gym, multi-purpose room for party and swimming time) it was $25 for me. We did it during a non-meal time and just provided some snacks and cake. I HATE goody bags so instead we had crafts, at my DD's party they made beaded friendship bracelets. It was really cheap in comparison to other parties we've been to and I think we got a lot for our money.

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#24 of 45 Old 09-29-2010, 11:27 PM
 
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Based on what you said, you are going to make your decision on what 'everyone else is expecting'. I can not make my decisions that way. i can not afford to make my decisions that way. And based on that your kids will be invited to 25 parties this year?? I highly doubt that.

I still say invite 1 kid per year and take what you get. Have the party at the house and the kids just need to learn to deal with it. Possibly take a fun day and go to the bounce place as a family outing or a special event.

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#25 of 45 Old 09-30-2010, 12:34 AM
 
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How about a party at your house and then take both kids and a best friend each to the bouncy place on another day?
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#26 of 45 Old 09-30-2010, 08:54 AM
 
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Wow that is way to much to spend! Even 630 (the second quote without food) is to much to spend on children's birthday parties. Specially if you know of children messing up other people's houses. What would happen if they messed up the bouncy house? Imagine how much it would cost to fix that?
I agree with others, limit to the child's actual friends and have it at home. So what if it gets out, I don't mean to be mean but you aren't required to invite the whole class to have a party. When I was growing up I had one birthday party where I was limited to 15 friends and every other year I was allowed to invite two friends out to dinner on my birthday.

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#27 of 45 Old 09-30-2010, 09:11 AM
 
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I don't know if this helps but when I was growing up we alternated years between party and dinner with one friend. So over two years it was cheaper/easier.

If you go for the larger party it sounds like your main issue is indoor space. Some ideas might be church halls, rec centres, friends' basements. Where I live there are some local stores - quilting, book and bakery - that have meeting/teaching spaces.

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#28 of 45 Old 09-30-2010, 09:50 AM
 
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You say you want to invite the entire class. Have you watched the kids interact at other parties where the entire class is involved? They don't all play together - they separate into groups of friends. The friends play together.

I invited the entire class once (10 kids) and they didn't mingle. And one kid was downright um...not behaved well. Never again. I invite friends only. It goes much better and those are the kids DS will end up playing with anyways. Why entertain that many extra kids/adults when your child doesn't care about socializing with them?

I think there are two issues here. First, you feel compelled to invite the entire class. Second, you seem to think you have to spend more than you are comfortable with. Now, if you wanted (and could) invite the whole class to a $1000 bash, hey go for it. I've certainly spent that much on a birthday party so who am I to judge - but it was what I wanted to do. But you don't want to, so why feel like you need to? This year I dialed back, did a much simpler party (which was good since it got rained out and I had to move it inside at the last minute) and DS still had a fantastic time. This year I think I spent...I dunno, maybe $250-300. He had just as much fun as the year I spent mega bucks.

And I never do goodie bags. I refuse.

Throw the party YOU want to throw. Your kids will have a great time. All they want to do is play with friends and eat cake.
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#29 of 45 Old 09-30-2010, 10:08 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChristyMarie View Post
You say you want to invite the entire class. Have you watched the kids interact at other parties where the entire class is involved? They don't all play together - they separate into groups of friends. The friends play together....

Throw the party YOU want to throw. Your kids will have a great time. All they want to do is play with friends and eat cake.
We had a big party at the beach this year with about 22 kids and I think it was fun. No, they didn't all play together all the time but we enjoyed it more than I thought we would. Mind you, we kept it pretty casual - advantage of a summer birthday.

That's just to say - a big party can be something you enjoy. But if it's stressing you out financially or emotionally then no I wouldn't do it just 'cause everyone else is. So I agree with the last paragraph totally.

~ Mum to Emily, March 12-16 2004, Noah, born Aug 2005, Liam, born January 2011, and wife to Carl since 1994. ~
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#30 of 45 Old 09-30-2010, 10:46 AM
 
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I ended inviting over 45 children to DS's birthday party last year, and over 100 guests including parents were present. I could not imagine not inviting both classes in his section, church friends and other friends. I don't really encourage the idea of a "best friend" (when it happens it happens) and I am not willing to hurt the feelings of another child to save money. My mantra is... If I can't afford to invite all of DS's friends, then I can't afford to have a party.

One would think from posted comments that many parents choose Jumpy place parties to keep up with the Joneses, but I don't believe that. The vast majority of the parents at my son's schools could easily spend $1000 on one birthday party (and it has been done) but most chose jump places because that is what the children want. I don't know any parent who actually wants to throw their child's party at Pump It Up. I am one of the few parents who says no. We attended at least 8 PIU parties last year and my son STILL wanted to have his party there. So far this year he has been to two and guess what, he wants to have his party there this year. My answer is still no. Last year there were 26 children in my son's section and 13 in his class.

We were invited to a birthday party for every child in his class that had a non family birthday party, and to a few of the parties for children in his section. In all we attended close to 20 birthday parties last year. Not including church and other friends. Just school friends.

DS's school will not allow invitations to be sent or distributed from school unless ALL children in the class are invited, and they are not allowed to talk about the party unless all children are invited. It is physically impossible to prevent talk, so parents know that all children in the class must receive an invitation. I love the school's policy, because it works well to prevent bruised feelings, and children often don't understand that they were not invited because the host parents could not afford to invite the entire class.

OP, Have the party that your children want at 1:30pm. Serve juice and chips and a cheap grocery store cake. I did that for birthday party #3 @ Gymboree and only spent about $325, but I spent $90 of that on a cake. I served Simply Lemnonade and Terra Chips so I spent a little more than average for refreshments. Lays chips and kool-aid lemonade would cost less than $10.

Many Jump places reduce the fee if your party is during the week. We have been to a few parties that begin at 3:30 in the afternoon.

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