A lot of people don’t think that the words “Minimalism” and “Kids” can belong in the same sentence.
I mean, kids are supposed to add a lot of expense, stress, and… well…stuff to your life! And even if you were able to declutter all of your things while having kids at home, what are you supposed to do about birthdays??
Birthday Parties tend to focus on the accumulation of stuff and almost seem to have become a display of who can throw the most elaborate party these days.
So how could you navigate birthday parties as a minimalist mom?
Well, as a mom of two little kids, I can tell you that being a Minimalist with kids is not only possible, but it will reduce the amount of stress and expense in your life as well!
So I’m going to show you how this Minimalist, Budget-Conscious family does birthdays without missing out on any fun!
1. Skip The Decorations
Setting up and tearing down decorations takes a lot of time and money… and usually the child couldn’t care less about them.
Sure, they make a cute backdrop for the photos… but are they really adding to the enjoyment that anyone is having at the party?
Unless your child loves to decorate and enjoys seeing the decorations, just skip it!
And if your child does love to decorate, give them a small budget and let them do the decorating themselves or with the help of a parent.
It may not be Pinterest perfect, but it will bring them joy.
We have never done any more than one bag of balloons blown up that we got at the dollar store, and our kids didn’t notice anything missing.
2. Forget the Party Favors
Kids don’t need a reward for coming to your child’s birthday party. Playing with their friends and eating yummy food is already fun!
Party favors can also be surprisingly expensive, especially when they are usually very cheap trinkets that will be played with a couple of times before they end up cluttering up your friend’s house.
Trust me, the kids won’t miss them and the parents will probably thank you if you skip the party favors!
3. Go Potluck Style for Food
Some people may find this tacky, but we have never had a party for either of our girls where we provided all of the food for everyone.
We have done everything from grilling at our house and asking everyone to bring what they want to grill plus a side dish for everyone to share, to having a picnic at a park and asking everyone to bring their own picnic lunch, to having a take-out party and telling everyone to bring their favorite take out!
The take-out party kind of happened by accident, but it was a huge hit!
I wasn’t planning on having any party for my oldest daughter’s second birthday, but a bunch of our family on both sides ended up being in town on the day we were going to celebrate. Since I was planning on getting take-out Thai Food (her favorite) for our family anyway, I just told anyone who wanted to join to bring their favorite take-out from anywhere they wanted.
My aunt loved it because she isn’t a big Thai food fan, and she wanted The Spaghetti Factory instead! Everyone got to enjoy their favorite take-out while spending time together and celebrating.
4. Ask for Help With The Cake
Or if you aren’t much of a baker (like yours truly!) ask a friend or a relative who is good at baking to make it for you.
My mom is the resident baker in our family. She makes amazing-tasting, gorgeous-looking, gluten-free, refined sugar-free cakes and pies for every birthday party.
Several of our friends also love to bake and make beautiful desserts as well and one of them has brought a dessert a couple of times for birthday parties.
People who love to bake will take it as a compliment if you ask them for help!
And if you don’t have any relatives who like to bake, grab a box cake at Wal Mart! My grandma made those for every birthday growing up since they were the cheapest option. And you know what? They were delicious!
5. Have the Party at Home or at a Park
I know it’s super cool to rent out a bowling alley, or museum, or trampoline park for your kid’s birthday… but it’s also super expensive!!
Not only is it expensive, but it also tends to overwhelm the birthday kid and can lead to a lot of meltdowns.
A great way to simplify is to host the party at home.
We have had birthdays at the park, at a splash pad, at our house, or at a relative’s house (which was super fun because they had a pool!).
One of my daughters’ little friends just had an at-home High Tea Party complete with crafts and the adults serving the tea for the kids. The girls had a blast!
You can be really creative and have a special party without all the extra bills.
The kids usually have the most fun when the party is the most simple.
6. Limit the Guest List
A great way to cut down on the stress for the birthday party is to keep the party small.
If your child is more introverted, like my younger daughter, they may enjoy and even prefer having only one or two special friends at their party.
If your child is an extrovert, like my oldest daughter, you may need to give them a limit on how many people can join… or you may decide they can have as many people as they want, but you may want to ask that people don’t bring gifts to limit the clutter that will come into your home, or ask people to contribute to the food to save you time and energy, or host at a park to minimize cleanup or all of the above!
Or you can offer them more time (like a full day or weekend) with one really special friend.
7. Ask for No Gifts
I know it may seem a little awkward to ask for no gifts, but it isn’t hard at all once you get the hang of it!
In my experience, most parents are relieved to know exactly what is expected as far as gifts go and are happy when they don’t have to run to the store and spend money before the party.
We have had No Gift Parties in 3 different ways:
- We spelled it out! Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want your child’s birthday party to be like. We created a Facebook invitation for my oldest’s 3rd birthday and I simply wrote on the invite, “No gifts, please 🙂 She just wants to spend the day at the splash pad with her favorite people!” This is the best approach if your group of friends is used to doing a lot of gifts for parties.
- We didn’t specify that it was a birthday party. One year, we just sent out a text to our friends saying that we wanted to go to the park and spend the day and anyone who wanted to join could. People obviously found out it was her birthday when they got there, but it took some of the pressure off me needing to coordinate food and make it a “party.” Everyone brought their own picnic lunch and we had a great day.
- We didn’t give a lot of notice. One year we didn’t plan to have a party at all and had thought we would just spend the day doing special things with our family. But when we asked my oldest the day before her birthday what she wanted to do, she said she wanted to eat in the backyard with all of her friends. So I shot a quick text to all the parents and asked if anyone was free to come over the next day. Amazingly everyone was! I didn’t specify “no gifts” since it was such short notice and I figured most people wouldn’t have time to get anything anyway. Only one friend brought over a gift and everyone else just brought homemade cards (which she loved!).
8. Go Simple With The Gifts
I know that we all want to give our kids the most amazing birthday ever, but more gifts won’t accomplish that.
Giving the child too many gifts will overwhelm them and lead to everything only getting played with for the first week or two until they are left on the floor of their room.
Simple gifts are often cheaper, they encourage imagination, and they tend to get played with longer than more flashy and expensive toys.
Simple toys will generally garner a more subdued initial reaction from the child, but they get so much more enjoyment from them down the road.
This year for my oldest daughter’s birthday we built on something that is already a passion of hers (like I talk about in This Post) riding her bike!
We got her a water bottle holder, a basket, and her grandparents got her a bell. She was thrilled with the additions to her bike and will get a lot of use out of these simple gifts in the coming months (or years!).
If you want some ideas for how to give simple gifts to your children and more minimalist gift ideas for your kids, check out The Best Intentional Gift Ideas for Children.
9. Get Relatives to Collaborate on Gifts
If you want to get your child a larger gift, but your budget doesn’t allow for it, see if you can get your family members that would normally buy your child a gift to go in with you on the one item.
We have done this several times with our family when we wanted to buy our children larger gifts like a Strider Bike or a Museum Membership.
Even if each set of grandparents and aunts and uncles only contributed $10-$20, it still made the larger present much more feasible for us to be able to pay the difference.
10. Have An Amazon Wish List For Each Child
If you want to be intentional about the gifts your child receives, start an Amazon Wish List for them.
You can let any grandparents and aunts and uncles who want to give the child a gift know that they have a wishlist. And you can even let them know which are the most desired items.
I have a wishlist for each girl and every time they express a repeated interest in something (I don’t put every whim they have on the list. then I go to Amazon and add it.
Then when their birthday’s come, I know exactly what would bring them joy to receive and I have an answer when grandparents ask what they want.
11. Have a Fiver Party
If you have a group of friends that are used to giving gifts, throw a Fiver Party as a less expensive option for you and your guests, and a way to get a more intentional gift for your child.
When you throw a Fiver party, you ask your guests to bring a $5 bill instead of bringing a present.
Be sure to let your guests know what the bigger gift will be!
If you want to throw this type of party, simply put on the invitation “No gifts please, (insert child’s name) just wants to spend special time with friends. If you want to get them something, please bring $5 instead… (insert child’s name) is saving for a (insert the desired item)!
I recommend using Facebook or texts to invite people instead of spending money on paper invitations. Then you can save money and the environment at the same time!
12. Have a Special Birthday Week Instead of Focusing on One Party
We started this little tradition when the Covid-19 Pandemic hit right before my younger daughter’s 2nd birthday. Since she is my introverted child, she didn’t necessarily mind not being able to get together with friends, but we still wanted to make her birthday special.
So I got the idea to ask her what she wanted to eat every evening for the next week. She listed off all her favorite meals (including K-Loaf twice!) and we had a week full of special meals and desserts… and lots of K-Loaf!
It made it feel like we were celebrating all week instead of just one day, and this has now become a little tradition in our house!
Plus it is a lot cheaper to just make special meals instead of having a big party, and it will take care of your meal planning for the week!
13. Let Them Be King or Queen for The Day
If you want to go simple but want to make your child’s birthday special, let them be King or Queen for the day.
Let them choose what they want to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And let them pick the special activities for the day (if they have expensive taste, give them a list of approved activities!).
If your child is someone who needs time to think things through, give them the options in advance so they can think it over.
Fun ideas you could include would be going to the park, going on a family bike ride, hanging out in a hammock and reading together, painting nails together, going to the library, making a fort in the living room, baking a cake together, going on a hike, doing crafts, the sky’s the limit!
14. Set Realistic Expectations
If your child is used to having lavish birthday parties with tons of presents, sit down with them before the minimalist birthday party.
Let me know that this year will be a little different.
Explain to them why you are going to have simple birthday parties now. Let them know if you are just wanting to simplify your life, or if you are getting your budget under control. Be sure to explain the benefits of a minimalist party too like getting the larger present that they really want, and getting to choose how they want to spend their special day (or week!).
Children are usually much more understanding than we give them credit for.
If you want to get started simplifying your life, grab my Simplifying Mom Life Quick Start Guide and get started today!