Thursday, February 9, 2012

Quiet, Intimate, and Memorable Birthday Parties

A birthday party is now like a wedding or a corporate event – a big production number.

There are all kinds of “suppliers” vying for space in a child’s special day and a slice of the proud parents’ budget.

  • There are caterers, coordinators, and stylists making sure that the venue looks beautiful and picture-perfect.
  • There are magicians, bounce inflatables, face painting and hair salon services to keep the young guests entertained.
  • There are booths that churn out photos as a souvenir of the event. (I like this a lot, I admit!)
  • And there are emcees who scream into the microphone, trying to be heard above the too-loud background music.

It’s loud, impersonal, and over-stimulating. It’s not uncommon to find young guests covering their ears or hiding under cloth-covered tables!

While I love catching up with friends in their children’s big birthday bashes (please don't strike me off your guest lists!), I personally like another kind of party for my kids. One that is small, intimate, and quiet – save for the children’s laughter.

We follow the do-it-yourself route, trim the guest list, and ignore the party suppliers. Here are some ideas on putting together a quiet, intimate, and memorable birthday party for your little one.

Invite a Natural Group

It is important to me that my children are comfortable in their own birthday party, and that they know and interact with all of their guests. With seven cousins, four aunts, three uncles, and four grandparents, we have a natural group who our children enjoy spending time with and who are comfortable with each other.

Other than your extended families, you can also consider your close friends’ families, or neighborhood playmates, kids and adults who know each other.

Little T and her cousins painting some ballerina magnets

Turn Down the Music, Ditch the Emcee

Turn down the background music, or turn it off altogether. Even big parties in big venues can benefit from keeping the sound system at a minimum. Guests don’t have to shout to hear each other. I love the hum of conversation, bursts of laughter, and squeals of delight heard in a party not enveloped by pulsing music.

On the matter of emcees, you obviously don’t need one for small parties. With guests numbering 50 and above, you can still make your child’s birthday party more personal by being the emcee yourself. You don’t need to entertain your guests, just welcome them and let the party run its course.

Last year, my husband and I were uniformed hosts to Little T's Rainbow Party. 

Let Them Play

I consider children’s parties as extra-special play dates. I prepare some games but generally plan for unstructured play time for the kids to enjoy each other.

For Little T’s second to fourth birthday parties, we arranged our outdoor toys in the backyard and let her and her cousins run about.

For an indoor venue like a clubhouse or a function room, you can just bring some of your child’s favorite toys and see the kids come alive. Some ideas are:

  • Small slides
  • Toy kitchen set
  • Ride-along cars
  • A sturdy tent or playhouse
  • Inflatable pools filled with balls for a ball pit
  • Trampoline

For Baby Boy’s first birthday, which with around 80 guests admittedly was not a small party, I borrowed a giant mat and placed different kinds of musical instruments on it, and that was it. The kids had a lot of carefree fun, experimenting with the egg shakers, drums, one bell jingles, rhythm sticks, etc.

Prepare Simple, Creative Games

For our small backyard parties, I tweak favorite childhood games to fit our theme.

For our ballerina party, we played
Pin the Ballerina’s Tutu

For our rainbow party, Stop Dance became Musical Rainbow
(pick a ball and freeze when the music stops)

For our treasure hunt game, the leprechauns
had to hunt for four-leaf clovers to
get their pot of gold (giveaway)

Choose Generic Themes

Our themes are usually generic: music, ladybug, rainbow, and ballerina. They are easy to modify and the internet is full of beautiful ideas for decorations, games, and activities. It will almost feel like school craft with all the crepe paper, Japanese paper, and cardboard you are bound to use!

Crepe paper for "curtains" for the cardboard ballerinas

Rainbow decor

Mount Your Own Shows

The party scene is now full of magicians and balloon shows that some children think it's standard fare. Oh wait, it has become standard fare! In the spirit of fun and creativity, we mounted our own "shows". Last year, my husband was the balloon expert.

This year, I asked my nephew who is passionate about magic to do his own show. It was a huge hit! He showcased his talent and thrilled his younger cousins (and gushing mom and aunts).

The magician and his assistant

The enthralled audience

Consider Several Small Celebrations

Should your budget permit it, it is also a great idea to throw several small parties or get-togethers with specific groups as guests. We had a week-long celebration for Little T's birthday this year! We played chaperone to her neighborhood friends to an hour at an activity center and treated them out to dinner, served cupcakes and Yakult after her Kindermusik class, and had a ballerina party with our extended family.

I hope these ideas will put some magic into your child's special day!

Make magic!

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Mariel @ The Learning Basket said...

Hi! I'm glad you like the party ideas! And how exciting to have twins! Twin fun I'm sure! The beach, ice cream factory, and petting zoo sound like a wonderful celebration for your wonderful girls!

The Frugal Nanay said...

I love your party ideas Mariel! I have been looking around and compiling simple birthday ideas for my twin girls. We just recently celebrated their birthday with a weekend birthday at the beach with side trips to ice cream factory and petting zoo! Keep it up and nice to meet you!

Mariel @ The Learning Basket said...

Now that I know that "<3" means "love" in your phone, I can already say, "I'm glad you agree!" :D

orangeuglad said...

<3 intimate gatherings, especially for the little ones. 

Chris said...

my kids also loves intimate birthday parties. we never really had any "big" parties every year. we usually just invite her closest friends and cousins.

that is a great looking cake! where did you order it? :) 

and nice shirts too!! :) are they personalized? 

Mariel @ The Learning Basket said...

Small parties are so nice, right? My sister in law made the cake, and the shirts were gifts :)