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I've been to childrens' birthday parties that clearly cost in excess of $500 when the price of the venue, activity, food, cake and loot bags are factored in. I don't want to spend a lot in order to ensure my child feels like a million bucks on her special day. What are some ways that you can throw a great kids party without over-spending?

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Having done a party at an indoor playground (it wasn't as bad as $500 but still wasn't cheap), I'm thinking of trying some other ideas, here are some ideas that I've tried and come across through friends:

  • Host the party at home
  • Build the loot bags with items from a dollar store [you would be surprised how impressed kids are with key chain flashlights or FM radios]
  • Bake a cake [from scratch or mix :-) ]
  • If it's summer consider a splash pad [A friend of mine did this and I was surprised how much the kids loved it]
  • Order pizza [Party size]
  • One friend had a reptile themed party - it was in their home and the reptiles curator went to their home [not for the faint of heart]
  • Try a pool party [depends on the private rates if you go to a community pool]
  • Rent a hot game for your console if you have an X-box, PS3, Wii

I'm assuming you are doing this for kids 5 to 12.

  • When I was growing up, we often had pool parties at the nearby best western hotel. I can't imagine it was too expensive. And when you're a kid, having pizza in the hotel conference room and then swimming in their pool does seem pretty high call imo – user606723 Aug 17 '11 at 20:51
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We have 4 kids, and the best party our kids have had was one we hosted at home. My wife did a Legend of Zelda themed party since that is my son's favorite game. She made a little maze in the garage out of storage boxes. They had to throw balled up socks at targets. We did a toy bow and arrow shooting range (one bow). There was essentially a 3 page script of events, stations, and tasks involved. We had 4 rooms of the house decorated, and two stations in the back yard. We had a Legend of Zelda music CD so different theme music was attached to different events.

The other 3 kids each played a role, as did my wife and I. It took a lot of planning, but now 2 years later it is still the best party ever (as far as all 4 kids are concerned). Of course that leaves us with the colossal task of topping it!

It wasn't by any means a free party, but the key was that we put a lot of thought into specifically what would make it a great party for him.

Some other friends of ours did a similar themed party they hosted at home too. Their son is into D&D, so they had a few different dungeon exploring themes, with their other son helping out too. It was really cool. They also had a multi page script with puzzles, clues, etc.

Some tips:

  • Pick a theme and then look online. There are usually a lot of resources.
  • Make stuff yourself (cake, goody bags, etc.)
  • Get all the guests in on the theme. Tell them to dress a certain way.
  • Make elaborate invites.
  • Play a role at the party - Like the Queen, fair-godmother, wicked witch, etc. Be in costume too. (even if it is cheesy!)
  • Let the kids do something at home you normally wouldn't let them do.
  • Get other kids, extended family or friends to help out.
  • Plan different events and activities. Our kids are really into the Minute-To-Win-It type challenges at school. Most of those are cheap to put together, and if everyone takes turns and cheers for each other it will fill a lot of time and be great fun.
  • Make the plans in advance. Ask your kids what theme they like and what sort of events might revolve around the theme. The anticipation and involvement can really contribute to the excitement.

Now if you are taking time off of work to plan a party like this, then it may be cheaper to pay the $500 to host it somewhere.

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