Hi there, I'm a British subscriber. I read your "Happy Birthdays on a Budget" with great interest. My kids have left home, so I feel I have left those days behind. However, I would like to share with you some of the ideas I had that resulted in successful kids birthday parties.
One of my themed parties for my daughter, when she was about 8 years old, was a back to front party. For this, I thought up every idea I could for a traditional British Birthday party and skewed them. In the days before goody bags, we used to take a piece of birthday cake home with us, wrapped in a party napkin. For this Back to Front event, I handed the guests a piece of wrapped cake as they stepped in through the door, and asked them to piece the cake back together on the plate. I then let my daughter blow out the candles, and the party began. We have a traditional game called "Pin the Tail on the Donkey." For this, each contestant is blindfolded, turned around three times, handed a paper tail picture with a pin through it, and guided to a large picture of a donkey. They then have to try to pin the tail as near to the correct place as possible. At the B.T.F. party, I had a sheet of tail pictures, and a paper donkey that I handed to the child to pin to a tail.
For Blind Man's Bluff, a blindfolded child tries to catch the other players that are not blindfolded and guess who they've caught. I blindfolded all the players except one. Well, at least, that's what I told the children. I blindfolded all of them, and they staggered around catching and guessing for ages.
For Sleeping Lions (a game designed to calm children down by getting them to lie still), I exhausted them with a game of twitching lions during which I caught out anyone who stopped moving while lying down on the floor.
We played Wrap the Parcel. A gift wrapped in one sheet of paper was wrapped with new layers every time the music stopped at a particular child. One boy went home with a monstrous parcel containing a very simple gift, with many layers of paper for him to unwrap.
Musical Statues was played backwards as well. During the music, the children stayed completely still. Action was only taken once the music stopped. The children really caught on to the idea, and it revived the long lost art of a simple traditional party with games remembered from the days when that was what made a party exciting. Some of the now 22-year-olds still recall that party.
My sister recently held a Native American Indian treasure trail and party. She spent very little, yet sent some 20 happy Indians home with "medicine pouches" they'd made themselves from craft materials.
My sister and I have both themed parties around popular toys. We have had a Barbie and Action Man (G.I. Joe) party and a My Little Pony Party (very pink). We have also had parties based around popular ideas, such as pirates, fairies, etc.
If you use your imagination with food, this can be produced economically as well. At an Ugly Bug Ball, the children made their own insect sandwiches. These were made with a long bread roll, breadstick legs, cherry tomato eyes, cucumber scales, etc. A hot dog stand served simple food at one party, followed by a mini cake stall.I'll stop here as between us, we have five children, and I've clocked up 22 years of parenting on the cheap. My sister is just starting.
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