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Over-the-top kids' birthday party.

Are Parents Going Overboard on Kids’ Birthday Parties?

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Catered lunch, 50 guests, and an extravagant venue… for a 3-year-old? Yes, there is a trend toward parents going overboard on kids’ birthday parties. Some parents, but by no means all of them, seem to host one over-the-top party after another.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with trying to give your child a memorable birthday.

So how do you know if you’re doing too much, and how can you focus on a simpler, more memorable celebration? 

Here’s what you need to know about hosting the best birthday party for your kid.

Signs of going overboard on kids’ birthday parties

There may not be one clear cause of over-the-top kids’ birthday parties, but we suspect social media plays a part. 

When everyone else posts pictures of the brilliant kids’ parties they’ve hosted, it’s hard not to try to top them, or at least match the extravagance. After all, doesn’t your kid deserve the same amazing celebration?

All kids deserve the best we can give them, but that doesn’t mean they need or even want a fancy party. Children want to know that we love and care for them.

When you start party planning, here are a few signs that you might be going overboard:

  • You spend more than your budget.
  • You work harder every year to top last year’s party.
  • You focus on what others will think of the party.
  • You find yourself convincing your child to agree to certain decorations, activities, or guests.

By holding back and throwing a party that is meaningful for your child, you’ll help prevent some of the consequences of over-the-top celebrations:

  • Your child feels disappointed if a party doesn’t live up to expectations set by previous years’ parties.
  • Your child seems overwhelmed at their own extravagant party.
  • Your child receives excessive unneeded or unwanted gifts or starts to focus more on presents than having fun.

Tips for throwing a simple yet memorable birthday party

Of course, we understand that throwing a more subdued party may be easier said than done. What exactly should you focus on?

We recommend taking some time to talk to your child about: 

  • Reflecting on growth and milestones from the year
  • Spending time with friends and loved ones
  • Appreciating experiences instead of material objects

Then, when it’s time to plan for the party, here are some tips you can fall back on to help you keep things simple and meaningful.

Invite your son’s or daughter’s closest friends

One of the temptations of going overboard for kids’ birthday parties is to impress the parents of other kids. You might be tempted to prove that your parties are just as good as (or better than) theirs.

Resist the temptation to invite everyone your child interacts with throughout the week at school, sports, and other activities. Even if your kid was invited to someone else’s (amazing) party doesn’t mean they have to be invited to the party you are hosting.

Instead, ask your child who their closest friends are. Who do they love spending time with? Focus on how they can have a special day with the people they care most about.

Pick one or two activities your child enjoys

Over-the-top kids’ birthday parties, especially ones with lots of guests, can cost significant money. You might also feel tempted to keep every minute of the party packed with one activity after another so no one ever gets bored.

But if you sit down and talk to your kid, what do they want to do for their birthday? 

Here are some ideas of activities that would be affordable for 1-5 guests instead of 30:

  • A trip to the movies with drinks and snacks
  • Tickets for a museum, theme park, or sports game
  • Dinner at a fancy restaurant
  • Manicures or spa treatments
  • An overnight stay at a hotel with a swimming pool

Let your kid help with the food and menu

Have you ever asked a five-year-old what food they want at their birthday party? The answer probably isn’t a fancy catered lunch from the trendy restaurant down the road. 

Also, who cares if your kid wants macaroni and cheese, chocolate chip cookies, and blueberries? Chances are that the majority of other young guests will be just as happy with those food choices, too.

You can also involve your child in planning the menu or even preparing the food. It’s easy to ice cupcakes together or go to the store and pick out a collection of ingredients for ice cream sundaes. Your child will love being involved.

Play the role of the birthday photographer

If you’re hosting a kids’ birthday party to keep up with other parents, you might find yourself trying to mingle with adults and manage a big, extravagant celebration. 

For a simple yet memorable party, think about what your child needs and wants from you on their birthday. Spend time with them and help them make and capture memories. 

Take the part of the birthday photographer and take pictures of your kid with their friends and relatives. Don’t worry about obsessively capturing everything, and don’t be afraid to put the camera down every once and a while, but a collection of photos is perfect for remembering a meaningful birthday.

Help your child create a birthday wishlist

You should be aware that part of going overboard on kids’ birthday parties is spending lots of money on presents. It’s like a subtle competition to see who can find the best gift.

Help navigate unneeded or unwanted gifts by letting your kid create a wishlist on a site like Giftster. They can add the gifts they want, including experiences and preferences. Guests can mark what they’ve purchased so you can avoid duplicates.

You can also use the opportunity to help your child create a well-rounded wishlist that focuses doesn’t focus exclusively on “things.”

At the end of the day, remember that your kid’s birthday party is about them celebrating a new year and new memories. With that as your focus, you won’t have to worry about going overboard at all.

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