Ideas for a No Stress Low Cost Birthday for a 4Yr Old Only Child

Updated on June 18, 2010
K.W. asks from Venice, CA
18 answers

My daughters 4 birthday is coming this weekend and I kind of dropped the ball this year- last year i went all out with a party.
I am a single mother , back in school l and money is very tight. Also don't know of may kids to invite because she is out of preschool for summer break or she could have had it there.
I am sending her to a summer day camp but that doesn't start until after her birthday so we can't invite those kids, that leave the little girls in her ballet class but there are only 3 girls left in the class as many are gone on vacation...there are 3-4 kids in our apt. building she plays with but not sure they will be able to attend with such late notice. Ii am worried about inviting people so late and having no one show up. My friend who was going to host it at her house just told me she is ill and also needs to go out of town this weekend!
There's a place called Giggles n Hugs which is sort of a play place here that has food and toys, face painting, live music and tvs for the adults i was thinking of taking her there and letting her play and they supply birthday cupcakes and lemonade- there will be other kids playing maybe she can make some new friends! or maybe taking her to the aquarium in Long Beach- she has been wanting to go for a while and she could wear her princess dress like she wanted. I did get her gifts about 6 or 7 gifts so she will have plenty of presents and some other adult friends of mine would probably show up i just feel like i failed this time. Is a big birthday party necessary every year? is a small celebration with close friends and family a bad party?? any other ideas for a low cost low stress small celebration

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So What Happened?

Well, her birthday was officially on Friday, so she got dressed up cute and we went for a Mommy and me birthday lunch at Giggles and Hugs, she had lots of fun and got a pre birthday cupcake. I was going to bake her a doll cake because she wanted a " snow white " cake, but i was exhausted so I just bought a pre made cake and stuck miniture snow white and dwarfs on top!
Then On Saturday, her dad came and we went to the LB aquarium ( I found a 2 for 1 coupon), she had a blast and her favorite thing was petting the sting rays, she must have did that for almost an hour!Then we went to the beach for a bit too. When we got home around 6:30 she opened her presents ( loved the pillow pet!) and blew out the candles on her cake etc. So she had a good birthday overall! Thanks for the tips!

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answers from Madison on

Instead of worrying about planning a short notice party, just make a special day for her. Go to the aquarium and out to lunch or dinner at somewhere she would enjoy. Bake a cake together. I bet she'd be very happy just having an extra special day with you. :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

The only really important thing is to make her birthday special. Does she have a special friend? Maybe let her take 1 special friend and do something fun. the aquarium sounds fun or the giggles place. or just supper and a movie with you. it will only be a big deal if you make it one. i would suggest asking her what she wants to do. my middle son never wanted a party and the youngest either but the oldest always wanted one. go with what she wants.

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answers from Philadelphia on

I wish birthday's were simple like they used to be. My mom said when she was a girl, her mom would open the door, call all the neighborhood kids in for some cake, and that was her birthday party!!!!
If I were you, i would do something similiar... invite the girls from your apartment building over for some cake, and to play, and voila! Instant party! I would say to the parents "it's my daughters birthday and we are having cake on __ day at ___ time if you'd like to come!"

for my daughter's summer birthday, we have been reserving a pavillion at a state park (for FREE!!!!). last year, i went to the dollar store and bought the huge bubble wands ($1 eash), they make great bubbles. the kids played on the playground, played with the bubbles, and had some cake. it was perfect.

This year, I found some patterns for some simple paper kites, so I will have the kids decorate the paper, I will turn it into a kite, and they can run around! I'm also going to bring the bubbles again this year since it was fun last year, and again, we have the playground. Simple, fun and cheap!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Milwaukee on

you don't have to have a big party for your child...going to the giggles n hugs sounds like a blast for a 4 year old. maybe ask the 3 other gilrs from your building if they could go with and call it a party!! or just to have a mommy and me day is a great gift too. my 8 year old son loves thoses kinds of days!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

on my daughters 3rd birthday I took her out for a special day with mommy. sibling was with grandma. we went to the mall and she picked out a necklace from a kids store, she rode the train, she made a build a bear (gift from grammy), had lunch, and then we even saw a kids movie together. She did have a party with friends and family later, but honestly I think she enjoyed the mall with me better. Next time I would bring a special cupcake along for lunch. I am probably going to do the same thing for my youngest without the party!


on my daughters 3rd birthday I took her out for a special day with mommy. sibling was with grandma. we went to the mall and she picked out a necklace from a kids store, she rode the train, she made a build a bear (gift from grammy), had lunch, and then we even saw a kids movie together. She did have a party with friends and family later, but honestly I think she enjoyed the mall with me better. Next time I would bring a special cupcake along for lunch. I am probably going to do the same thing for my youngest without the party!


answers from Los Angeles on

I'm with Jen D. on this one. Wholesome and simple! Cake with candles, a couple friends to play with, some balloons to make the park, or your living room look festive and you're ALL set!
One of the best parties I've thrown to date was on a SHOESTRING budget! I challenge myself now to see how low in cost I can go and still keep it fun.
I and my husband blew up a bag of balloons from 99c Only store and I tied ribbons to them and stuck the bunch in a tree ($2) , Vons makes DELICIOUS cakes and I took my son to pick out which design he wanted, he picked the pirates. And then I got a huge pizza cut into little square pieces. We went to Griffith Park next to the pony rides where the train goes by, there are picnic benches and shade. We were there for hours and hours. I invited adults and kids, although not very many, and we all had a GREAT time. It probably cost us $70! And instead of party favor bags (which I, personally, don't like since they are always a bunch of junk) I got some cute little chunky plastic trucks at the 99c store and each kid got one. They played with them there and then got to take them home.
Good luck! Whatever you end up doing will be GREAT!



answers from Los Angeles on

A big birthday party is absolutely not necessary every year. I think we all feel too much peer pressure to have big parties, but try to ignore it. I think a lot of parents have "every other year" birthday parties for their kids. Even if just the two of you have a special outing (doesn't have to be an expensive amusement park) and you treat her like a birthday princess, she will probably really enjoy that.



answers from Los Angeles on

I vote for the aquarium, since it's something she's been wanting to do. You DON'T have to give a big birthday party every year. My daughters each had one; the other years were family celebrations.

Please don't get sucked into this mindset that says every birthday (or any other occasion that is special to you or your daughter) has to be a major production. I think that pressure comes more from adults wanting to 'keep up' with other adults than from the children themselves. As others have said, the most important thing is to show your daughter your joy in the fact that she is a part of your life.

Have fun in Long Beach!



answers from Kansas City on

Just make it a special day! It's okay to do either thing, a big party or a small one, as long as it's special for your little one. Do something fun like paint nails or take her to a movie and she can wear her princess dress! Don't stress just have fun!



answers from Los Angeles on

If the kids can come, do it at a local park either from 10-12 or 2-4 (if they don't nap anymore). That way, you can keep the cost down because you don't need to pay to rent the space and you don't need to serve a meal. You can get away with just cake and drinks. If you want, you can also provide some fruit or another small snack.

Giggles & Hugs is nice, but it'll end up costing you a lot of money in the end. Plus, if you are inviting adults who don't have kids, they aren't really going to like it there.

Also, remember that her party can be in a couple of weeks if that means more of her friends will be able to come. It doesn't need to actually be on her bday.

Don't feel at all like you failed! All she needs to be happy is for her mommy to recognize her birthday and make her feel special that day. She doesn't need a big party with tons of gifts.




answers from Los Angeles on

If every year is a big celebration, guess what is expected...! The important thing is to do something to let your daughter know that you are soooo happy that she came to you on this day - __ years ago.
~ Mix it up!
Without spending a lot of money you could make her birthday last a week or longer by doing all three. Go to the aquarium together one day! Do juice and a treat with her ballet class. Have her neighbor friends over all in princess dresses on another day - All with a Happy Birthday song in there somewhere.
or ask her which ONE she wants to do...
I always start a birthday day with pancakes and candles in the pancake. The birthday song and a card/letter from me that gives specific things I've noticed in the past year of her growing up or things I am thankful for in our relationship (sometimes the examples are only from the past month if i didn't jot anything down or write the letter when I am tired! I'll have to get better at that as she gets older!!). It is just a celebration with our family and it is so intimate and special. The rest of the day is gravy :-)
PS - Don't be sad you didn't plan anything 'well enough' to make a big day this year. When the time comes for her to appreciate a big party - she'll be full of ideas on just how you can make that happen - and if your smart you'll let HER do all the work! lol Enjoy your time with you growing baby!



answers from Minneapolis on




answers from San Antonio on

I have had the party at a local park and it costs nothing but hot dogs, chips and kool-aid. Sprinkle in some balloons and a cake, a pinata for fun and I was done. No cleaning, cooking, etc. That's for future ideas, but it is absolutely not necessary to have a big party every year! Teach your dd that time together is extra special, too, and can be more fun. I love the aquarium idea.

Don't feel bad. You are human mother with human needs and limitiations. You are a good mother and birthday parties don't make or break a person. :)



answers from Washington DC on

I would take her to the aquarium since its something that she wants to do. As for celebrating with her friends, just take cookies or cupcakes to her ballet class as snack.


answers from Austin on

I like your plan.. Go for it.. Giggles and Hugs in a princess dress!



answers from Los Angeles on

Hi1 Sounds like youi already have a lot on your plate. If you haven't invited anyone yet, give yourself permission not to. A birthday is really a celebration of love for your child, you and she can have that together. Make it a special day just you two and go to the aquarium like she wants. Give her presents throughout the day so she can enjoy them. Ask if they do anything for birthdays at the aquarium, maybe she can get a little something at the gift store. My daughter is 10 and she does not remember her 4th birthday. I would have a hard time telling you what we did. What my daughter does know is that I love her and that every year she will get a cake, hugs, good wisshes adn lots of love on her birthday. Everything else is gravy.
I know single parenthood is though. The best thing you can do for yourself is to not expect perfection. In another few years when you are done with school, have a better job and can give her more, she will not remember her 4th birthday. She will just remember that you loved her through them all.
Good luck.



answers from Los Angeles on

I know of people who don't celebrate, but do take their kids to an amusement park or somewhere extra special for their birthday. My parents always did a HUGE celebration for birthdays and now that I have a child, I think differently.
My daughter is 3, and last year, I decided to just invited my closest friends who have children my daughter's age, which were only 3 children. My daughter had the best time! This year, I am doing the same thing. This time, there will be 6 children, the same 3 from last year and 3 more whom I met recently, but, who are the same age. I have a huge family, with cousins with children who are a couple of years older or more, but, I that would mean lots more money and a longer longer day!
Whatever you decide to do, just make sure she knows it her special day and nothing else will matter.



answers from Los Angeles on

I remember my Mom used to take my younger siblings, during the week usually, to McDonald's for a happy meal in the playland and made cupcakes, She would only invite a few kids and they all thought it was coolest thing.

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