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5 Rules for Simple and Fun Kids' Birthday Parties

How to Avoid Kids Birthday Party Overload

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Happy little boy celebrating birthday with friends at home
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A kid's birthday party should bring joy and excitement, not stress and financial strain. In some communities, a kid's birthday party is an excuse to spend too much money on a lavish event that your child won't even remember. Avoid kids' birthday party overload by following these five guidelines for keeping your kid's birthday party simple and fun.

One Friend for Each Candle

Your baby is turning one and you want the whole world to rejoice. I understand that your kid's first birthday is an exciting milestone.

Remember that it's always easier to have a bigger party than the previous year. It's not so simple to scale back -- you risk disappointing grandparents and other close relatives who attended previous get-togethers, not to mention your child once he's big enough to notice. If you start small, you give yourself room to grow.

Many parents allow only one playmate for each year of your child's life. Your preschooler will have just as good a time playing with three or four close friends as if you invited the entire class. Even younger children won't care how many friends attended. Older children and teens can enjoy a sleepover or an intimate outing to the mall more than a big event with a dozen guests.

You shouldn't feel obliged to invite every child who ever invited your kid to his birthday party. That kind of birthday party escalation will leave everyone in the neighborhood broke. Instead, arrange individual get-togethers or offer to host a playdate as a thank you to the parents who invited your child to a party.

Buy Reusable Decorations

Shop for decorations with an eye to those that can be used year after year. If you get a "Happy Birthday" sign that's sturdy and gender-neutral, it can last for years to come. If it's decorated with Blue's Clues footprints, good luck hanging it above your tween daughter's seat at the birthday table.

You can still have a theme party by lacing the goodie bags with Star Wars or Dora paraphernalia and choosing a few theme balloons, while keeping cups and tablecloths festive but un-themed.

Think about buying in bulk for the remaining goodie bag items. If you've got 84 stickers or temporary tattoos, they can work for siblings' birthday parties or future years.

Limit Gift Giving

You're spending enough money on decorations, food and party games. If you live in a small house or apartment, you may also be paying to rent a party room. You don't need to bust your budget further by buying lavish gifts for your child.

Your kid's birthday party naturally invites friends and relatives to give presents. So limit yourself to one item that you know your child really wants. (Bonus points if you can resist giving a gift at all -- the party can be your contribution!)

Similarly, don't go overboard with goodie bags or gifts for attendees. Think about the per-person cost when you're planning and keep it reasonable.

Keep Cleanup Simple

As much as I care about the environment, a kid's birthday party is not the time to bring out your china plates and glasses. Disposable cups and plates will make cleanup a breeze and remove the possibility of accidental breakage.

When you're planning party games and activities, think about how much work they will be to set up and take down. Choose those that will make your life easy and mess-free.

Accept Help Gracefully

If your child has doting grandparents, aunts and uncles, put them to work! They can help set up decorations, organize goodie bags or even run a party game or two. Once your child is old enough, he can help plan and set up activities.

Your child's caregiver is another source of possible help. She may look forward to the opportunity to work at the party, both to make extra money and to attend an important event in her charge's life.

Make sure you broach the subject gently, though, so that she has the option of declining to work. She may prefer to simply attend the party and enjoy the festivities with the other guests.

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