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bday parties for four year olds....

Hi--I'm usually on the NJ board and thought I'd post here for input on this one.  My daughter will be four in the end of September.  Her bday parties, to date, have been low-key events at our home, including our immediate family and godparents and their children (which winds up being 40 people).  Our home is small, though we have a big backyard (which is useless b/c it always rains on our events!).  I tend to like these small, home parties-we order pizza and salads or I cook and make a cake --no clowns, pony rides, etc., or rented gymnasiums, etc. I was going to do that for our daughter's fourth, too, but she keeps getting invited to childrens' parties at gyms, pottery places, etc., and now is telling me she wants to invite her entire preschool class to her bday.  We're not in a financial situation that allows us to rent the kids' gymnasiums or other public party places.

Just wondering--is it a local thing to have full blown bday parties, and how best to explain to a four year old we won't be doing that for hers, but instead having just family at home? 

Re: bday parties for four year olds....

  • When is her birthday? Could you do it at a park? A local rec center? It's possible to have a fun party without spending a ton of cash but it's much easier to do that in the spring/summer/fall. As an alternative would the preschool let you bring in cupcakes on her birthday (and maybe a pinata?). That would at least include her friends.
  • Can you invite a few of her friends to your house? She may say that she wants her whole preschool but I bet she'd be OK with just a few friends there. (And if not, then she can learn that that's how your family does things.) My DS was 4 when he stopped being OK with just-family parties and started asking to have his friends there.

    Even three other kids can really make a party seem exciting for a preschooler, and that's enough to play games like musical chairs or pin the tail on the donkey.

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  • I agree with pp that a good compromise would be letting her invite 2-3 friends to her party.

    Alternatively, you could do an at-home party for her classmates. You could choose an inexpensive craft project for them to do and order pizza.

  • I dont have kids but 4 seems awfully young to be suggesting the type of party you say she'd want and who she'd want invited.  Has school even begun for her to know all these children very well?  I think 4 is ridiculously young to be spending hundreds of dollars on some huge birthday party.  Then again, with no kids, what do I know. 

    I do have a 4yr old N though and his last birthday party was a pool party and it was DH and I (only uncle/aunt on dads side), grandparents and a few of BIL's friends with kids.  At most there was 25 people there.  So I guess no, its not common in our area to have a full blown bday party that young.   Do not feel bad you cant afford such party- honestly what person remembers back to their 4th bday?!

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  • She's at an age where birthday parties with friends are becoming important. She's asking for her friends, and I think it would be nice of you to accommodate that request.

    That doesn't mean you have to have a big party at bounce house. You can have it at your place. Or a park or community center (at our CC, you can rent a room for 3 hours for $30.).

    Have simple games and crafts. Cake and some other snacks. That's all you really need. See what you can find on the internet for inexpensive party ideas.

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  • Have it at a local park and do it mid-afternoon and just have cake and a few light snacks. You might even mention at the bottom of the invitation that cake and ice cream will be served that way no one will be expecting a big meal. I think 2-4 on a Saturday afternoon would be a great time to do that type of party. Look around at your local parks and find the best playground and reserve a pavillion.  If you want to serve a meal, do hotdogs with chips. You can beat them cost wise.
    Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ~ Elizabeth Stone
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  • The big honking party is not necessary. The general recommendation is one child invited for every year old the child is, not a huge blowout with forty kids.

    I would do three things. One, very little effort, at day care where I bring treats on the day closest to the child's bday, so the daycare has a 'party' for your kiddo (no presents, no invitations, just cupcakes for your kiddo at school. She'll be thrilled). Another, smaller one at your house for her and her four closest friends, with homemade cake, hot dogs, chips, soda, pin the tail on the donkey, etc. on the Saturday or Sunday nearest her bday.  And then I'd have the family party, pared down to just immediate relatives. 

    I did this for YEARS with both my kids.  Everyone was happy.

     

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  • This reminds me of the year my mother invited my little brothers ENTIRE kindergarten class to his birthday party, which she also hosted at her house. It was f**** insane. She was a mess, I would not recommend this. Some people actually dropped off the invited kid and then asked if the older siblings could stay also (i.e. free babysitting service!!!) 

    Sue_sue's advice was perfect.  

  • DD1 just turned 4 in May, so my experience in this area is relatively fresh.... There were 14 kids in DD's preschool class last year. Of those kids, 8 turned 4 in April, May, or June. Six of those kids had birthday parties, and the norm among this group is to invite everyone. 

    There was a range of party styles but the DD1 had a blast at each and every one.  The kids get along well, and none of the families around here tend to go too big with fancy parties or expensive amusements. No clowns, pony rides, or gyms here. These kids are fine to play on a climber at a local park and then regroup for cake and ice cream; maybe it's weird, but they don't seem to expect much in the way of a formal activity. They just want to play. Also, I think only one of the parties included lunch, and that was just a couple of pizzas and some watermelon.

    In the end, the suggestions you've gotten here are pretty good. Whether it's a few friends or a group, there are lots of ways to have fun without going all out, money-wise.  One family did a scavenger hunt with very inexpensive treats, another had a ball party with all different kinds of balls. 

  • My neighbors with kids who are 4-7 were just talking about this the other day. They mentioned that their kids were getting "Inflatable Castle/House/Other Jumpee Thing Fatigue." I'm guessing an old fashioned party with a few friends and games or crafts would be a blast!
  • I'm also from NJ.  If you do research, there are a number of low-cost options.  If the most important thing for your dd is that you invite her whole class and NOT have it at home, you can rent/reserve space at a church or community center for very little money.  You will also find that parties are a huge range of prices, from $125 to over $500 (and the more expensive options are not always the most fun!). 

    I also think that having outside parties is a lot less "keeping up with the Joneses" than families (women) who don't want to spend a week cleaning and preparing for a party - - they would rather enjoy their child's party than host.  It's just a choice - not any kind of status statement.  Or it's the kids wanting a certain kind of party that their friends have.  When DD was younger and had a home party, by the time I rented a table, hired two babysitters to help me serve, got all of the decorations, favors, etc...it would have been just as inexpensive to go someplace else (and a lot less work!). 

    If it makes you feel better, as dd has grown older, she has definate ideas of who she wants at her party, and it's not the whole class (since she doesn't want boys, and since she has friends that are not in her class this year).  For her last party, she had around 8 friends over to our house and they played karaoke, gave themselves facials, and painted their nails (she turned 9, but the whole beauty thing made her feel grown up).  It was a LOT of fun! 

     

    image "Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self esteem, first make sure you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes.
  • you said immediate family is 40 people...who does this include. I have 2 nieces, and we used to be invited (so the kids aunts uncles cousins grandparents) to birthday parties for them...but as they got older they now invite their friends (which does include their cousins and by default some aunt/uncles but not us since we don't have kids)

    Point being, maybe not 4 but probably by 5 you should begin to back off family and include more kids.

  • I like what OPs have mentioned about allowing a few friends. DS, age 4, recently attended a party where the kids got to decorate their own cupcakes and decorate picture frames. Mom of bday girl was later going to provide copies of a group pic of all the kids. She also kept the menu simple-big trays of mac-n-cheese and hotdogs. DS had a great time! Good luck!
    Anniversary Baby Birthday Ticker Ticker
  • Just tell your daughter the truth - - that her birthday is for family and your friends (the godparents, who I presume are not related), not for her and her friends.

    Seriously - - if you don't invite every last aunt and uncle to the party, you'll probably have enough money to have an event for her class.  Kid friendly food and kid-sized portions are generally more economical than adult food and portions. 

    In fact, if you hold the party at a kiddy place, that's more than excuse you need not to have the whole d*mn family tag along.  "So sorry, Lulu's birthday is at a kids gym this year, we're not having a family party."  The devoted grandparents might show up anyway, but that's just two-four people.

    If you are on a budget, look what your county / town has in terms of resources.  Zoos, community centers, skating parks, parks, etc. are often county or town controlled in NJ.   It's not that expensive to throw a party at one of those places.

    Also, don't feel compelled to provide pizza, ice cream, etc.  Kids are happy with juice boxes and a slice of cake and some chips.

  • I guess we've done "full blown bday parties" since DD was 2... if that means inviting her class. It hasn't been a big deal, the whole class does not show up, not even half the class. Plus I don't feed them lunch, only cake and a fruit plate. We did bounce parties for her 3rd and 4th bdays, but pp was spot on - I did it so I didn't have to clean. But I don't think badly of the parties that are at people's houses... if anything I'm jealous that they are that together, clean, and organized. One of the best I've been to just had a bunch of bubble blowing and a bubble machine and the kids played in the yard.

    Also, party places around here don't charge for adults, only for children. So if most of your 40 family members are adults, they won't cost anything (if you time it to avoid serving a meal).

    - Jena
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  • image jen5/03:

    I guess we've done "full blown bday parties" since DD was 2... if that means inviting her class. It hasn't been a big deal, the whole class does not show up, not even half the class. Plus I don't feed them lunch, only cake and a fruit plate. We did bounce parties for her 3rd and 4th bdays, but pp was spot on - I did it so I didn't have to clean. But I don't think badly of the parties that are at people's houses... if anything I'm jealous that they are that together, clean, and organized. One of the best I've been to just had a bunch of bubble blowing and a bubble machine and the kids played in the yard.

    Also, party places around here don't charge for adults, only for children. So if most of your 40 family members are adults, they won't cost anything (if you time it to avoid serving a meal).



    We did our at home party for DS's 1st. I spent around 1k and it was mostly family, just a few close friends (I did hire a photographer for 3 hours).

    This year I'm seriously considering having it at the children's museum. 16 kids + adults are FREE = $195. It's usually $11pp to get in. You are allowed to bring in your own food, drinks, and cake. DS started preschool this year, there are 9 other kids in the class and we plan to invite them plus a few other kids that we know. I probably will have it during a meal time, but I will just bring sandwich trays and fruit cups + cake/cupcakes.

    I spent months preparing for DS's birthday last year and for 2 weeks before the party all I did was prepare for it. I was so exhausted that I couldn't enjoy the party. I have no desire to have an at home party ever again, lol.

    Monkey Joe's, the big bounce house here is expensive for parties, but there are a few independent places that only do parties on the weekends. You get the entire facility for 90 minutes for 15 kids and it's $200-250. I can't see pizza and cake for 40 adults costing less than $200.
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