7 Ways To Super-Size Your Kid’s Birthday Party on a Small Budget

by Jessica Graham
Super Size Your Kid's Birthday Party on a Small Budget photo

You want to make your child’s special day extra special, but that doesn’t mean you need to spend a fortune to do so. These party ideas are perfect for super-sizing some frugal fun.

My son requested a birthday party at a local bounce house. I almost swallowed my tongue when I saw the price tag. The cost was $400 for 15 children for two hours. This seemed especially expensive given the fact that I have three kids. My family alone would be a large portion of the guest list!

I want my children to feel special and celebrated, but I don’t want it to come at so high a cost. Here are a few party ideas that allow you to “go big” without going broke.

1. Make a modified Pin the Tail on the Donkey.

Blow up a picture of your child to 11″ x 17″ or larger. (You can do this reasonably inexpensively at Costco or by ordering a black and white engineering print from a print and ship place like FedEx.) Now cut out paper crowns or flowers or even tails and have all the guests pin these on the picture of your kid.

This is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser, and if the picture is silly, it is the better!

2. Over decorate.

There is nothing sadder than a party with one or two lonely-looking decorations hanging from the wall. Dollar stores are great places to have helium balloons filled inexpensively. Another option is to purchase a helium tank (the small ones run less than $25) and fill an entire room with balloons.

Do you know that old joke about how kids love the box the present came in more than the present? Well, balloons make good presents! Let everyone play with the balloons (balloon volleyball is especially fun with helium balloons) and then have your guests take them home as party favors.

Bubble machines also make big impact decorations. Just be sure to use this for outdoor parties or put it outside the front door so that guests can make a grand entrance.

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3. Go on a scavenger hunt.

Send your guests on an old-fashioned scavenger hunt or update this game by making all the clues “Tweet-able” (140 characters or less). Find unusual hiding spots like the inside of shoes or under a bag of peas in the freezer (no one ever looks there).

If your party-goers can’t yet read, use pictures instead of written clues.

4. Play up the presents.

Don’t just pass out the presents to the birthday girl or boy. Instead, make them work for their gifts!

Wrap presents in bubble wrap or multiple boxes or have the guest of honor wear gloves or oven mitts to open their gifts. This provides delayed gratification and adds to the fun!

5. Make a mystery meal.

While it’s a tradition in many families to allow the birthday boy or girl to choose the meal(s), you can add a fun spin to this.

Serve the meal in courses (appetizer, soup or salad, main course, dessert) and draw names from a hat to see which course comes first. Everyone, of course, will be hoping for the cake first and salad last.

6. Enjoy B-I-N-G-O.

This isn’t your grandmother’s game. This is personalized birthday bingo. Do an internet search for a “free bingo card generator,” and you’ll find a list of sites that allow you to customize bingo cards for free. All you need to do is print the cards out.

As a hint, print these cards on card stock so you can use them for multiple years.

Have the words on the cards be the party’s theme, such as hobbies/interests of the birthday child or even nicknames. Make the cards using photos instead of words if you’re feeling incredibly ambitious. When it’s game time, don’t hand out bingo chips. Instead, use small candies like M&Ms or Skittles (but have extras, on hand, for hungry players).

7. Find Waldo.

Have you ever searched for that elusive little guy in the red and white striped shirt with black-rimmed specs? Well, instead of looking for the book character, hunt for your child or rather his/her photo.

Cut out five to ten pictures of your child and hide them throughout the house. Plant your child in unlikely places like on the front of the cereal box, under the toothpaste, or sitting on top of a roll of toilet paper. The sky is the limit!

Reviewed February 2023

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