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Kids Birthday Parties That Are Fun and Frugal

Out of ideas to entertain children? Here are a few of mine.

I’ve got birthday party planning on the brain because two of my kids’ birthdays fall three weeks apart in September and October, right in the middle of the Jewish holidays and the back-to-school crunch.

The boys like to do something different for their birthdays each year and I often find myself scrambling for novel activities that are fun and don’t cost a fortune.

Here are a few of my favorites:

For kids under 4 years old we’ve always had low-key parties. Dinner with the family and cupcakes for dessert is a great party for a 2-year-old.

For the under-5 set, parents generally expect to stay, so we’ve had some parties at home with a bouncy tent and maybe an art project and a piñata. These parties are fun but when every guest comes with their whole family, a few friends turns into a lot of people quickly.

Having a party for this age at a local park also works well if you are worried about space in your yard. You can rent party space at some parks like the and even have a bouncy tent delivered there, or you can do it without the rental and just set up a picnic and invite everyone to come and play in the park with you.

As my kids have grown a little older we’ve had drop-off parties with fewer friends but more adventurous activities. I’ve had two parties at the Santa Monica Pier’s Pacific Park. I organized one through the park using their party facilities. They provide a space and food plus wristbands for the kids, but you need to have at least 10 guests. I once held a party there for fewer kids and just brought our cake, found a bench to eat it on, bought all the kids wristbands and we had just as much fun.

Of course there’s always the bowling alley party. We’ve been to a few of these at and the kids have a great time. What’s not to like? With the bumpers up and even a stand to roll the ball from, even very little kids can get in on the bowling, plus everyone gets to wear those snazzy shoes. If you do it on Sunday morning, parents can drop off their kids and go to the across the street.

Rockreaction indoor climbing gym makes for a unique celebration for older kids. It gives you access to a party room where you serve your own food and are treated to an hour of climbing with expert helpers.

A friend once had a great and unusual party by renting a room at a karaoke place on Sawtelle for a few hours. I know karaoke may be something you associate with grown-ups having a lot of drinks, but kids can have just as much fun doing it with pizza and soda.

There are a lot of great places to go out with kids but there are also ways to make staying home with them just as fun. One year we had a bunch of kids sleep in a tent in our backyard. They were up at the crack of dawn, but they thought it was an adventure. We roasted s’mores with them over a fire in our little chiminea, and it was almost like camping but I got to sleep in my own bed.

Finally, what’s a birthday party without a cake? I like to bake, but fancy cake decorating is not my thing. I grew up on Baskin Robbins ice cream cakes for birthdays and find that they are still a hit with the kids. Chocolate cake with mint chip ice cream is our family favorite.

Whatever you do, the important thing is for your child to feel that marking his or her birthday with family and friends is special. My other best trick? Have your children write the thank you notes as they open each present while they are feeling grateful and excited about the gift.

Happy birthday to you!

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francine nellis September 21, 2011 at 06:25 AM
that karaoke party sounds genius!

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