Party for Every Birthday??

Updated on February 19, 2013
R.M. asks from Evanston, IL
36 answers

Do you have parties for all of your kids birthdays every year? I hate to admit it but I hate having birthday parties!! The mess, the expense, the gifts that my kids do not need, the awkward conversation from moms who I hardly know but our kids know each other from school... plus my kids birthdays are in April/June/August so it seems like party after party. So I told my kids a few years ago that every other year would be a "no party" year and we would, instead, go on a mini-vacation with the 400 bucks I would be spending on a party and then have dinner with our family (grandparents included) to celebrate. Well that has only worked out for one kid, one year (I have 3 kids) as the other times they have begged and basically talked me into a party. Am I just being mean with this anti-party attitude or do others feel the same? We are coming up on the first b-day of the year and I am not sure what to do.

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C.N.

answers from Baton Rouge on

Until she was grown. Her friends came to the house, they played games, opened gifts, ate, and ran around in the yard until they went home. No venues with guys in giant rodent costumes, no inflatables, no pony rides, no clowns, no live bands, no goodie bags. Just kids, lots of sugar, and play.
As she got into her teens, the games disappeared and it was just her and her friends hanging out and celebrating, but I still provided cake and ice cream.
There were only two venue parties. Her tenth was at a local amusement park, at her request, and with the understanding that it would be a one-time deal.
For her 16th, we used the clubhouse a friend's condo.
For adult birthdays, I cook dinner, invite the family over, and the honoree chooses the menu.

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C.M.

answers from Washington DC on

we have one for every birthday. Mine are March and July birthdays (only 2 kids), but we still do it. It doesn't cost us anywhere near $400 though! Yikes, that's a lot to spend! We are doing my daughters birthday here at home with a movie night theme. We are just getting costco pizza and some popcorn and that's about it. I think the most expensive thing is the cake and that's because I order it from an actual bakery and not the grocery store (yuck!). So there are ways to make it cheap. I think total with all the food and getting paper plates and drinks and stuff we will spend about $200 tops and that's with inviting all the girls in her class plus her brownie troop (about 20 girls, but not all are coming, at least I hope not, lol!)
For my sons birthday last summer we did a pool party (free to use the community pool), and just got pizza and I made the sides. So again just the cost of the pizza and cake.
Just do it simple and easy. Birthdays don't have to be such a big huge deal :)

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S.G.

answers from Grand Forks on

We have a party for each birthday. We usually spend about $100 per party. I don't invite M.'s, just kids. We usually do a venue that costs about $10/kid (bowling, go-carting, mini-golf) and invite 6-8 of their closest friends and I make cupcakes and bring drinks and snacks.

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V.W.

answers from Jacksonville on

A big blowout birthday party every year is (at least, it is my opinion that it is) a relatively "new" phenomenon. When I was growing up, kids didn't have a formal party for every birthday. No kid did. Not even every other year. Most kids I knew (myself and siblings included) maybe had 2 or 3 at the most. A toddlerhood one, a grade school one, and maybe a sweet 16 type thing. It was really mostly a family thing.
We have tried to kind of stay with that as our base line. It does get expensive (and to be quite a hassle) to do big parties every year for multiple kids. Not to mention all the parties they are invited to by others. It can get crazy!

We did a 5th birthday party for both of our kids. And then our daughter had another "formal invites" party when she turned 7. We weren't at home when our son turned 7, we were on vacation visiting family, so we had a "big" family celebration at my parents' house.

Since then, they haven't really seemed that interested in having an official "party". We've let them decide to choose a friend (or a couple of close friends) and have a sleepover, or go to a water park for the day or something like that. But nothing where we were hosting a half dozen kids or more for 3 hours or whatever. Smaller stuff. When daughter turned 10, she asked 2 of her close friends to come over and spend the night. I had bought modeling clay for them and they made a stage set and made "characters" and then they made claymation movies with them. We have a pool, so the girls swam in the afternoon. They did the claymation stuff while I made pizza for dinner. Then, for dessert, they had the cake that my daughter helped me bake and decorate earlier in the day before the other girls came over. They spent the rest of the evening (until around midnight) videoing the stories they had come up with, and moving the clay characters around doing the stopmotion stuff.
The girls did bring small gifts for her. But it wasn't about that. It was the sleepover aspect, and they had a blast.

My personal opinion is that kids that EXPECT a big party every year have been taught to expect it. And kids live up to what we expect (or down to it). So talk to your kids about what is reasonable and rational, and give them some choices. Don't cave if they whine. Just because it is going to be their birthday doesn't mean that suddenly they are in charge of the household. Sure it is "their day", but it is still YOUR household.
__________
ETA: But I want to clarify. Not having a party doesn't mean we don't have a cake and sing happy birthday. We ALWAYS have a cake (even if it is a cookie-cake, because that is what they sometimes prefer) and blow out candles and sing Happy Birthday. ALWAYS. We just don't always have balloons, and invite non-family members to come help celebrate.

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L.A.

answers from Austin on

You are the parent you get to decide, but gosh, they are children..

If they want a party, why not give THEM the option.

I know lots of parents I know that are not into sports, but their children are. Children that are into dance, Cheerleading, band, Orchestra, Debate.. their parents drag themselves, but because it it their children's wants, they make it happen.

I always offered a party, sometimes our daughter wanted to and sometimes, she wanted to go and do something else, with a friend or a few..

Their time with you and wanting you around goes by so fast. The more you get to be around them and their friends.. and the other families.. the less you will regret, when it is time for them to leave for college..

Parties for kids can be as simple as Cake Ice Cream and just letting them play.. No hoopla necessary..

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M.F.

answers from Portland on

Yes, every year, from 1st year on.
I have never heard of not having birthdays, seems strange and foreign to me...

We don't always go crazy, several years have been just the 3 of us, but we ALWAYS do something.

This year, 1st grade, she took cupcakes for her class, we had a family party, and, on the weekend after, she and her friend went to a movie.

Would you want to have to share your birthday, or anniversary, with someone else?
I think it's a little mean, honestly.

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K.A.

answers from Phoenix on

Only if DD wants it. If she doesn't, then I think a happy dance is in order!! We have done trips for the last 2 birthdays (DD turned 5, then 6). I think we'll probably have to do a party this year, but we're keeping it simple and as stress free as possible, because this mama doesn't like entertaining!!

Seriously, though. A party does NOT have to cost hundreds of dollars. 1/2 the time the kid don't even interact at "venue" parties because it's a free for all. I loved my "Sweet Sixteen" birthday party, bowling with friends. Since when did going broke become the norm? I don't get it. Pizza, cake and a playground should be enough for any kid. When I was older, we did slumber birthday parties. I can't recall ever going to a high priced party as a kid. They were either at the local pizza place (not like Peter Piper, it was a regular pizza joint), McDonald's, someone's house, or the park. I long for those simpler times!!

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S.H.

answers from St. Louis on

they're kids....let them have their Birthday.

you don't have to spend $400. Make it special, but not $$$driven....& I think you'll be happier!

a simple party at home with fun & games, no goody bags....& you're still "having a party" & making memories in the process.

Your kids are NOT asking too much here!

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M.P.

answers from Portland on

I suggest that your children want to do something with friends that recognizes it's a birthday. You don't give their ages but the older kids get the more important their friends are to them. You can have a very low key party with a few friends without spending $400. Neither my daughter or I have ever spent more than $100 or so.

The policy in my daughter's house is that once the child reaches 12 they will invite 2-3 friends for a dinner out. It seems that her friend's families have similar ways of celebrating. One friend had a slumber party with 3 friends. Another had 3 friends come over to her house for the afternoon. It wasn't so much a party as girls hanging out with their attention on the birthday girl.

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C.S.

answers from Las Vegas on

I'm with Victoria. I remember having a home made birthday cake with my parents and sisters. I have one picture of a birthday party, which was probably my 6th birthday. I don't know why we didn't get birthday parties because my dad sure did like to party for everything else.

If you don't want to have a party, then just plan things how you want it and teach your kids to appreciate what they get.

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A.V.

answers from Washington DC on

We have one for each birthday. After a few years there's little to be said to the parents b/c the kids can be dropped off. Most of the time it's just a house party with a select subset of friends, not an all out extravaganza. It sounds like your kids (at least some of them) may be extroverts and you are an introvert, so I'd enlist help from someone who likes chit chat and hosting parties so your kids get the party and you have someone else to help you/interact with other than the other moms you don't know. You can do a lot of "party packages" for $400 so if you don't like the mess, pay someone else to clean up. We did a few parties where we did laser tag for a set number of kids and nobody even came to the house.

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C.O.

answers from Washington DC on

R.M.

YOU are the parent. Why did you cave?! You set a rule and your kids were able to make you cave. No means no.

No, you are not being mean. They don't need a party every year. My kids haven't had one for two years in a row.

This year, my oldest son is getting one. He is turning 13. My youngest is getting one as well as he is double-digits and we usually do "big parties" on double digits....we didn't get to last year when he turned 10. This year, since he's 'railroad tracks' we will.

Stand firm. No means no. Stick to your rules and what you set up. Children do NOT need parties every year.

Birthday's are a big deal in our home. We don't "need" parties. It is THEIR day. They get what they want for breakfast, lunch and dinner - KING FOR THE DAY!! We have a cake and ice cream as well...you can celebrate that way as well!

Good luck!

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M.O.

answers from New York on

I have a party for my son every year, and my M. had a party for each of her two kids every year -- until we were in jr. high or so.

What I do NOT think you need to do is a "destination party," where you shell out a whole lot of $ to have the kids entertained somewhere, or a "guest entertainer" party, where you pay someone to come and give the kids a thrill a minute. Have the parties in your house or in a public park, with balloons, streamers, pizza, a cake, and some pre-set games. We always do a fishing game (PM me for details -- it's fun) and a scavenger hunt. But I've seen people just reserve free space at a park, get an ice cream cake, and let the kids run around on the playground -- that's the whole party.

So, I say a party is pretty important. It's a chance for your kid to bask in birthday glow among his/her friends. But you don't need to one-up other parents or give the kids the experience of a lifetime. Limit what you're willing to do for a party rather than limiting the parties themselves.

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C.C.

answers from San Francisco on

Maybe you can talk your child into a "party" where s/he invites a BFF, and you take them to go do something fun. For instance, my older daughter chose 3 friends and I took them to go get manicures, and then we came back to our house for cake and ice cream. As birthdays go, it was very low-key, but the birthday girl had a blast, so she was happy. One of my daughters was recently invited out to lunch and a movie for her BFF's birthday - her M. just took the two kids. It seems like a much more sane way to celebrate than 30 screaming kids, no? (I say this as a M. who was talked into a 30-child party at one of those wall-to-wall trampoline places within this past year... OMG, if I ever do that again, it will be too soon!)

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D.K.

answers from Sioux City on

We normally don't have any birthday parties. We have day trips with just the family. One of my daughters has a birthday in July and we normally go borrow Papa's jet ski and go tubing. Two of my kids have birthdays in Sept. so we go camping and they pick the spot. One child, the youngest, has a birthday in Feb. and that birthday gets a cake on the table with just family. She likes parties, but is content with just her immediate family and an Aunt and Uncle. We do have a crazy tradition of always having a family favorite cake and for the youngest we put it in a horse shaped cake pan. We always have the candy tape ball as well. I buy a couple of bags of candy and tape them to a ball. The kids have some kind of system worked out with dice and you each get to work to free candy. What ever you free is yours.

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B.C.

answers from Norfolk on

We had 4 friends parties for our son from 4 through 7.
That was enough.
We go out for a special meal or do something nice.
For his 8th birthday we did a tour of a Naval base and he really enjoyed looking at the ships and aircraft carrier.
A celebration is not always about getting heaps of gifts.
There are lot's of ways to have fun and celebrate and you don't have to go broke doing it.

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S.B.

answers from Kansas City on

We do, but only for family so far. Our dd is 6, and the only kids at her b-day party were family or close friends of the family. We defiantly don't spend 400 dollars on it, probably less than 100.

And if you don't want a bunch of toys, pick a charity. A friend of mine has people not bring presents and if they want to bring something, a gently used book that they donate to a children's hospital.

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S.T.

answers from Washington DC on

i really disliked the chuck e cheese and macdonald playland parties, but that was what my kids liked when they were little, so we sucked it up and did it. when they got older we offered adventures with 1-3 close friends (theme park, fancy restaurant, climbing wall) and sometimes they chose that.
but it was really up to them.
khairete
S.

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L.G.

answers from Austin on

I always loved giving my kids the party that they wanted because they did not want anything big. We would have it at our house and they could invite the number of their age plus 1. It always seemed manageable. We did fun snacks and drinks and then had a pan or two of brownies. My kids were into sports so I got the tube frosting and made a basketball court, baseball diamond, etc. with their name and candles. We added ice cream, chocolate syrup and canned whipped cream. The kids loved it. We found fun games to play. My kids also had favorite games they had learned at school. Water balloons are great for summer as are other water games. the kids always decorated a plain brown lunch sack with stickers and markers when they arrived. Then I filled them with fun little goodies that followed the theme. The total party was less than $30 - $40, but my kids had a blast with their friends. Now you can go online to get fun ideas that are inexpensive.

As our kids got older, they had a few close friends and they would either all go to a movie if there was one appropriate or rent one, come over for brownies and ice cream and maybe even have a sleepover. They made their own fun (facials, taking and printing photos, dressing up or for the guys, it was usually video games).

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N.W.

answers from Eugene on

Sure, we had birthday parties for our first child every year.

Every other year for our second child.

The third child had one birthday party when he was little and one as a teenager.

Kid number 4 has only had one birthday party in his whole life, and he is 16.

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T.S.

answers from San Francisco on

Well I love parties and celebrating the kids' birthdays but we never spent a bunch of $ or invited a bunch of kids (or parents.)
Just do what YOU are comfortable with and that's what both you and your kids will learn to expect.
Even when we got a bounce house ($125) we were still well under $400. Of course we only invited actual friends (between 6 and 12 kids, depending on the age/event) not the whole class/school. And it wasn't a parent party either, nor a meal, it was old-school: games, presents, cake and ice cream, that's it (goody bags were nothing more than a few stickers and pieces of candy.) Never had a single complaint, my kids also mostly got invited to all their (actual) friends' parties, they always had a blast.

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R.R.

answers from Los Angeles on

Yes, a party for every birthday. It might be a special dinner, cake, ice cream and balloons with immediate family at home, at Chuck E Cheese, a pool party with BBQ, pizza, movies and a sleepover, but always something.

Growing up I had one "party" when I turned 6, being the eldest of 11 children I knew why, money. But each and every one of us always had our choice for dinner, a cake (the twins each got their own cake, Dad always said they were two different people), ice cream or jello and some gifts.

As the parent, you set the tone. Don't make them $400 dollar mini-extravaganzas if you don't want to. My soon-to-be 4 year old is in preschool and wants a Jake and the Never Land Pirates party, he's getting one, but I love doing them, as I love the challenge of saving money on them, lol. I'm printing the invites off Spoonful (Disney), baking the treasure chest cake, using the candy "treasures" (aka candy necklaces and bracelets from the $.99 Cents Store, Ring Pops, and gold wrapped chocolate coins) in the cake for the goodie bags, making "spyglasses" from paper towel rolls covered in pirate scrapbooking paper, and adding some glow stick bracelets ($1 for a canister with 15 of them at Target) to round the bags out. (I might cave and buy or make bandannas.) We're having it at a nearby park (free entertainment and no time constraints) and I bought his Jake toys for gifts at 70% off at Target the end of January. I am serving some food, pepperoni bread, fruit skewers, and pirate tea, but the party isn't costing me hundreds of $$$, and everyone will hopefully enjoy it.

Tell your children what you can and will comfortably do for their birthdays and stick to it. You're not being mean.

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K.A.

answers from San Diego on

We don't have parties every year. It became far too much of a hassle to worry about. We have birthdays that fall around holidays as well so we would run into no one being in town or being busy with family to come anyway.
Everyone gets their trip to Disneyland for their birthday. They get their button, get a larger pick of what we do etc.
We do get together for dinner with our local family which is my parents, brother, sister in law and niece. My in laws try to come down from out of state once a year around my youngest's birthday because she was born in the summer.
On their actual birthday they get to pick what we get for dinner out.
The kids don't miss anything by not having big birthday parties. They get to celebrate still. I sure don't miss them either ;)

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C.T.

answers from Santa Fe on

We now tend to invite 3-5 of their best friends...so these are parents we know very well and are friends with. We plan something fun we like to do anyway. Last year our daughter and her 3 friends all got a horse riding lesson. Two local teenagers and their M. met us at the horse stables and the kids had a blast. Our daughter loved it so much she wants to do the same thing this year! Last year my son had his 3 best buddies over for a sleepover. This year he wants to invite his best friends to go camping...so we will make a fire and set up tents and a local campsite. He is so excited to make smores and have his friends sleep in a tent with him! Our kids are 3 and 8. Maybe when they are older we will do things like have them invite one friend and we'll take them to the inside water park or the theme park in Albuquerque. Or we could go to the zoo or aquarium there. I wish their birthday's were in the summer...then we could go rock climbing outside or rafting or something we really really like to do! They are spring/fall babies though.

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E.C.

answers from Detroit on

I had a party for every birthday until I was 12, with a summer birthday most were simple backyard parties. My son is 10 and has had a birthday party for 7 birthdays. Twice we've taken a trip and another time we went to the Thanksgiving Day parade & football game.

But we have both been only children, so that makes things easier.

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M.P.

answers from Raleigh on

I put an end to that madness this past year. My brother died right before both my kids' birthdays (they are a week apart), so we didn't do a huge blowout party. I just didn't have the time or heart for it. You know what? They really didn't seem to mind. The family came over, we decorated the house, went outside and played, and they were just as a happy. We also took them to a water park and they had a blast. I'm done with these parties for every birthday. It's just too much.

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M.T.

answers from Phoenix on

Its are kid decision.If they want a birthday party,we don't get anything expensive,because its expensive to use the party place,buys a cake,order pizza.Its your decision because its YOUR day:)

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K.C.

answers from Philadelphia on

For my kids' b'days, I let them choose whatever they want. My oldest usually chooses to go see a movie with his best friends, followed by dinner. My 12 yr old daughter usually chooses to invite her best friend to come out with us for a special dinner (this year, she asked me to take her to the mall with her BFF, then dinner at CPK). My 10yr old daughter usually chooses a big party for herself and all her friends (last couple of years, that's meant almost 20 girls at her party). If the older two wanted a party, I'd throw them a party.

Deep down, secretly, I'm extremely thankful that the older two aren't into b'day parties. And I'm looking forward to my youngest outgrowing them, too. They're, quite frankly, a hassle. My kids have b'days on 10/23, 10/30 and 1/3, so between that, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years, by the time it's the middle of January, I'm freakin' exhausted.

It's their special day, happens only once a year, so my thought is, yeah, let them have what they want. It's not forever.

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A.T.

answers from New York on

You are not being mean, my son stopped at 7, my youngest at 9. It got to be too much for me.

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M.G.

answers from Seattle on

This past year we held a friend party for my 9 year old's birthday. I don't think we'll be doing that again unless it's something we all decide on. Typically my children get a special cake I make from scratch as well as a gift or two. We don't feel that a party is ever mandatory but a celebration in some way is always a given. I quit having birthday parties at age 8 myself because I found them to be annoying, quite frankly people never showed up on time and that leaves a child hanging and that is not worth it. I would definitely go with whatever you'd like to do there's no sense in doing things just because they are or are not the norm for some.

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J.M.

answers from Philadelphia on

we never had parties growing up except for 1 and 5 i believe. I LOVE doing a party each year for my daughter.

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S.G.

answers from Los Angeles on

For the most part, we do a party every year. Usually it's a backyard pool party. Sometimes it's a sleepover. A few times we've held it at special places. And sometimes, we opted for a special trip instead of a party - a theme park, concert or play - and sometimes they got to bring a friend.

I'm sorry to sound mean, but most of your excuses for NOT wanting a party are pretty selfish - the mess, the awkward conversations, etc. Suck it up for your kids' sake. If it's truly about the gifts, then state "no gifts". Or do something wonderful and teach the children about helping others and ask them to bring something to donate to a local shelter in lieu of gifts. If it's about the expense, and that's a hardship, then that's a different story.

Good luck!

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K.H.

answers from Boston on

We do one every year, but I know plenty of families that don't. I think it is fine if you don't want to have an all out party each year. With that said, you can do plenty of things to make the birthday child feel special. One of my friends has 5 kids, so they don't do parties due to the expense. However, she allows each kid to have a friend or two over for a birthday playdate (e.g. have a friend over, but no gifts, decorations etc). Also, having parties at home can definitely cut down on the expense. Pick a time mid day and say "cake and ice cream will be served" so people don't expect a meal. Just play a few games (or let the kids play), do cake/ice cream, open gifts and send the kids home. If you don't want to have people over the house, allow your kids to invite a friend (or more if you prefer) to go somewhere (movie, bowling, indoor playplace etc) as a non-party party. Good luck with whatever you decide.

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J.K.

answers from Wausau on

Until I was older and too cool for such things, I had a birthday party every year. But my parties involved having my grandparents, aunts uncles and a dozen cousins and maybe a couple friends over and we played together. There was cake and sometimes a meal, but there were no organized games, goodie bags or themes. "Birthday Party" was the theme! After a few ridiculous parties with my own kids, I reverted back to what I grew up with and they love it.

In March, my son will be 11. I've rented a block of time at a low flat rate at local business that caters to gamer geeks so that he and a bunch of his friends can get together and play together. I'm bringing in snacks and beverages; he wants cookies instead of cake. Barely any set up, no cleanup, minimal cost.

I've sometimes felt like I was overspending on a party, but I've never been close to $400. You don't need to be extravagant for it to be special.

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A.N.

answers from Las Vegas on

My son is 4, and we have only had one birthday party so far, his third. We will probably do another for his fifth, since he would like one and it has been a while. We don't live near family, but he does have a lot of good friends. If we did live near family, we would probably do a little family get together every year there wasn't a birthday, but normally we go on a trip instead. Last year we went camping and to a really cool cave, and one year we were on a cruise. I think it is more special to not have a birthday party every year, and although I loved all of the planning and everything for his 3rd birthday, I would get burned out doing it three times a year (ok, once a year would burn me out, which is why I don't do that).

Maybe you could just invite their best friend over to the family dinner for their birthdays without the party. I think if they see that they get something else really cool (like the vacation, maybe let them help pick out where you go or what you do), they will be more into it.

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C.M.

answers from St. Louis on

Yes we do one every year for our two kids...they are only 3.5 and 5.5 so with the exception of my daughter's 1st two birthdays and my son's 1st, we have them together until they are old enough to ask for them to be apart!

Sometimes they are at our house or my parents (who have a pool). Other times we have done it at a play place (Monkey Joes).

This year they want to do a Faux Slumber Party...and I am excited to do this at home because it'll be fun but also cheaper than at a venue!

We also have a large extended family so we usually do lunch with my parents and sister and they get gifts apart from lunch/dinner with his parents/aunts/uncles.

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