The Real Truth About Kid Birthday Parties

Sun Valley Mag Kid's Birthday Party Ideas

Pinterest is propagating this evil lie that kids love elaborate birthday parties involving a minimum of 27 adorable crafts, all of which can be made with things that you already have in your cabinets, plus $400 at Joann Fabrics or that hell that is Michael’s.

This is not true.

Kids, especially little kids, don’t care. The best one year old birthday party we ever went to was at a bar.

But kid birthday parties seem to be getting more and more ornate. Birthday party is the new bridal shower. Coordinated colors, photo cookies, carved cakes, picture booths, mounds of take-home loot….

Need proof? Just look at these simple ways to decorate a kid birthday party, including making photo cake toppers, sewing party decorations together, and adding personalized accents to gift bags!

Gift Bag Decor Pear Tree Greetings

Or you can make a five-layer rainbow cake (photo at top).

Looks cute, doesn’t it? But you’re going to need to buy extra cake pans and way more food coloring than is currently on the shelf at your grocery store. Then six hours later you’ll have a beautiful rainbow cake that kids will see for 30 seconds as they throw pieces at their mouths.

Stop the madness!

What’s that you say? Some people love crafts? Some people don’t swear and get resentful while sewing together coordinated banners cut out with craft scissors?

More power to them! And I love attending their children’s birthday parties. But it’s not a good idea for me to teach my children so many four-letter-words while I craft it up over here at chaos central.

If you are on the fence about hosting a kid party worthy of the Pinterest hall of fame, keep these things in mind:

  1. The kids just want, in this order, 1) cake, 2) cake, 3) cake, 4) maybe singing, but probably not, and 5) play time.
  2. Plan to pull one all-nighter for every three crafts you choose.
  3. Pencil in an extra 2-3 trips to the craft store, and add on 30 minutes to each trip as a cushion for the fact that everyone in front of you will be returning merchandise and it will be the checker’s first week (plus Michael’s doesn’t actually have clerks, that I’ve seen).
  4. Make sure to book a spa day for right after the party. You will need it.

Are you a kid party fanatic? Does your child get a party every year, or do you skip a year or two?

My follow-up post will be on how to keep kid birthday parties simple, so share your thoughts. I’d love to include them.


Photo credits: Rainbow cake from; Decoration banners from Pear Tree Greetings. For the record, I would love to attend parties hosted by the incredibly tired parents who have made these crafts.


19 responses to “The Real Truth About Kid Birthday Parties

  1. This was GREAT! So funny and spot on!

  2. We have a rule: you can have as many kids as you are turning. For example, turning 2? Great. 2 parallel play buddies. 4? 4 friends. Period. And last year it was more like a play date because we all met at Playdate PDX for pizza and playing. Heavenly.

    • I like your style, Shannon! And you bring up a key point–hosting a party that is not at your house is wonderful, because you don’t have to clean up your house before or after.

  3. Yes! I don’t even have kids and I am appalled by the birthday party lunacy on Pinterest (also the bridal shower/wedding/baby announcement lunacy… but that’s another rant). Good for you, for staying down to earth and not buying into the madness. My future kids will always get a nice homemade cake (because I genuinely enjoy baking), and can have a bunch of friends over, but I will draw the line at scrapbooky/professionally photographed invitations and crafting theme decorations!

  4. Treating Pinterest as a set of life/motherhood requirements is certainly unwise and exhausting, and it’s great you’re freeing non-crafty people from the pressure to pretend to be crafty people. There’s no shame in being non-crafty! Take the kids to the park, have cake, and it’ll be a great birthday!

    But as a former little kid with a mom who went to extreme creative lengths (on a very tight budget! a couple weeks after Christmas!) to give me awesome, themed birthday parties for 13 years, I have to say: If you ARE a crafty mother, your hard work and enthusiasm will not go unnoticed or unappreciated. I felt very loved at my parties because I knew my mom had put so much heart into making it a special day for me and my friends, and I loved getting to see and share in her creativity. If I have kids some day, I hope to throw them Pinterest- and memory-worthy parties just like my mom.

  5. I am a lazy birthday party mama. One year we took 2 friends with us to the park Down the street after eating grocery store cupcakes. The next year we took cupcakes to daycare for snack, sang happy birthday, and called it good. This year we had two friends over to spend the night and ate grocery store cupcakes. We also generally have a family dinner with our friend-family at a restaurant of the kiddo’s choice (or takeout). I so do not do kid birthday party crafts. (For our weaning party, I did make one computer printout banner. But that’s the exception.)

  6. I understand what your saying, but hay! If you have the money for it, go ahead! I like it for the ideas it gives and shows how you can draw your own conclusion for your own theme and it doesn’t have to be spectacular or a spectacle. I always say the simplest parties are always the best parties!

  7. That was brilliant! We don’t have birthday parties past the many all-nighter first birthday luaus, but I’m very guilty for crazy cake making. Since we don’t do big parties, the cakes just get grander and grander. Maybe I should take a hint and tone it down!

  8. Thank you for saying what so many of us want to shout, the birthday party thing is out of control! Our best times have been a few friends at the Science Center, Bowling and Go Cart races. I can’t get into the crafts and pressure…

  9. As someone who loves to do kid parties, when inspired, it is such an insult to tell the host that they must have gotten the ideas from pinterest. It is a great starting point, but I take great joy in finding a way to make it my own. For T’s first birthday, I came up with basically all the farm ideas on my own and all I heard was how I must have gotten x, y, or z idea from pinterest. 😦 For S’s train party, and I only used two general ideas that I found online (the centers and the crossing gates/front walk). Yes, I pinned them, but only as a reference and a way to brainstorm. I don’t do what I do so that people will comment on it. I do it because it makes me happy and the kids seem to really enjoy it. If you are going to comment on it, don’t insult me by saying that none of it came from my own ideas.

    • Really interesting point, C! Totally had not thought about the fact that Pinterest makes people think that every great idea comes from pinning it to some board! Also great point about doing things that you enjoy precisely because you enjoy them, and not because other people–or Pinterest–are pressuring you to do it.

  10. Amen! We’ve got cousins and too many close family friends to keep parties teeny tiny. But we just go to a fun place (rec center pool, Pump it Up) and let the kids play. I do not stay up all night Martha Stewarting my tookus off, because I know the kids won’t care if the place settings match the center piece! So long as there is cake and playing, they are happy, right??!!

  11. This is such a complex issue for me because having people over and organizing other people’s fun is such a stressful and unnatural thing for me. Would guests cheerfully ignore my clutter and mess and watch TV or read a book in a corner? Talking optional. That’s my idea of a good time. Normal parties befuddle me.

    So Pinterest has really helped me emulate what civilized people do without having to fully out ourselves as clueless Neanderthals with a poorly decorated cave. To that end, we often end up wandering the over-lit Michael’s aisles in search of party legitimacy but that stuff never matters or comes together as well as I had hoped. And you’re right, the kids don’t seem to notice one way or the other.

    My big party tips is to only be friends with awesome people who will either ignore my ineptitude or lend a helpful hand. Also, buy store bought cupcakes. Ain’t nobody got time to bake.

  12. We go pretty middle of the road on our kids parties. They are simple, pretty unstructured and at home. A few decorations, food and play time. My three year old would never forgive me if I forgot cake (which I buy because I don’t own any baking tins and don’t plan to any time soon). The bit I really don’t get about kids parties is the goodie bag the guests get at the end. We didn’t provide goodie bags the first year that we were in the US because we didn’t know that was expected but then when we noticed that every single party (without fail!) had a bag for the kids to take home at the end we obliged the following year. I real struggle to get the point of them though. Most of them are filled with, to be a little blunt, lots of cheap crap that breaks or is a choking hazard for our youngest. They seem a total waste of money to me. And what’s their purpose? Are they supposed to be a thank you for coming? Seriously isn’t a party and cake enough?

  13. Pingback: her creative heart | kate schell

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