Pinterest parties: It’s time to take a break from the perfectly curated child’s birthday spectacular. While there’s nothing wrong with themes or crafting, not everyone wants to stay up until 2am making party favors and Instagram-able snack spreads. All kids deserve to be celebrated, yes, but hear us out: Birthdays can be special, magical, and unforgettable without requiring a Cricut machine—sometimes it’s just fine to throw a low-key party that doesn’t break the bank. Here are five ways to minimize birthday stress, throw a party your kid will love, and actually have fun!
Birthday parties don’t need schedules.
Dakota Jackson, a special events planner for D&S Events in Virginia, which she runs part-time with her wife, says: go rogue. “The biggest unnecessary thing parents stress about is keeping a strict schedule. Kids won’t necessarily remember what they did, but they’ll remember how they felt. If everyone seems to be enjoying an activity, don’t force the group to start the next thing you planned. And if something isn’t a hit, don’t be afraid to move on quicker than expected.”
Make your kid’s party low-tech.
“Younger kids are happy to just be in a room with other kids! If you blow up some balloons and tell them to keep the balloon in the air, they’ll play for a long time,” says Jessica Ashley, founder and lead event designer at Jessica Ashley Events in Virginia.
Another easy crowd-pleaser: hand out glow sticks, kill the lights, and throw a glow-in-the-dark dance party. Old school classics such as musical chairs and heads-up-seven-up are also great go-to games.
Plan activities your kid will love.
“Overall,” Jackson says,“way too much energy goes into trying to create unique experiences.” Instead, she suggests starting with something a child loves and building the party around that. For example, if the child is a sports lover, consider an afternoon of soccer at a sports complex, bouncing at a trampoline park, or a friendly mini-golf competition. You can also bring in some help. Hire an entertainer who can bring in exotic animals or science experiments for a couple of hours of birthday learning and fun.
Go out for an experience rather than hosting a party.
Rather than hosting a party, have your child invite one or two friends out for a special event, like a day at an amusement park, an overnight camping trip, or to see a performance or sporting event. Not only does this give parents a pass on party planning, but “a smaller group of friends might create more intense memories together,” Jackson says.
Don’t get stressed out—your kid will sense it!
Most importantly, Ashley says, parents should take a breather. “Kids want to share in the joy with their parents. If Mom or Dad is stressed out, kids can totally sense that.” Don’t let the goal of a “perfect party” get in the way of the whole point of the day—celebrating your child in a way that’s fun and happy for them.