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Birthday Parties Outside of The Box

I’ve been planning my boys’ birthday parties for eight years now, only because my oldest is eight. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t have any event management skills. I am, however, very crafty. What I’ve learned over the years is the best parties are the ones you plan in advance. Yes, it’s true; I plan six months out. You don’t need to plan that far out in advance, but give yourself at least a couple of months to plan for your child’s birthday party. Why? Because the more organized you are, the more fun everyone at your party will have.

Party theme. What do your kids really love? (Perhaps it’s Lego, fishing and treehouses.) Every theme will have a color scheme too. Stick to your scheme and your party will look like a million bucks! And don’t forget to add colorful labels to the birthday party décor! Once you have chosen the theme for the birthday party, you’re ready to move forward with other planning.

Party budget. If you don’t set a budget, you may end up breaking the bank. And then you’ll need to figure out the ‘spouse need not know the payment plan’ to offset the cost of the birthday party. It is important to discuss a budget with your partner to save yourself from a potential spat later on.

Party agenda. Start with the guest list, invitations, arrival time, eating time, playtime, party time, what time you are serving the birthday cake and, if time permits, time for opening presents. The invitations can be simple cards you find online and print out, you can purchase invitations in store or design them yourself. Figuring out the arrival time of guests is critical, as this will determine what type of food you will be serving. For example, are you having snacks and cake only, or do you need to feed your guests lunch? 

Tell the adults on hand what is expected and when.

Here is an example birthday party agenda:

12Noon - Guests arrive
12 to 12:30pm - Playtime
12:30 to 1pm - Snack time
1 to 2pm - Entertainment
2 to 2:30pm - Serve the Birthday cake
2:30pm - Cleanup time

Eat cake! The cake is really the star of the show. If you can bake your child’s birthday cake, kids love it! Kids love homemade cupcakes too. But if you know baking isn’t your thing, find someone who can create a masterpiece for you. Remember, the cost of the birthday cake needs to fit into your budget too. For my son’s fishing party, we went with Tanya Pridge from The Cake Shoppe in McKenzie Towne. She blew me away with her creation. In the consultation, I showed her a picture of my boys fishing off a dock. One was wearing a red ball cap, and the other was wearing an orange ball cap. Tanya asked  if there was anything else I wanted included on the birthday cake. I said, “Yes, our dog, Priddis!” And boy, did she deliver.

Party fun. Having some type of entertainment can help keep your party guests occupied. There are so many talented entertainers in Calgary from magicians to balloon artists to farm animals to reptiles that will come to your home or other birthday locale to make your child’s day extra special. For my son’s Fishing Party, I chose to book Calgary Reptile Parties. The kids loved it (and thankfully, Calgary Reptile Parties left with every reptile they came with).

Making your child’s birthday magical and memorable depends on how much time and effort you are willing to put into it. Remember to plan fun into your parties and stick to your agenda.

Here’s a breakdown of my son’s fishing party where the budget and activities worked out swimmingly!

* To create your own party invitations, create a 5 x 7 PDF and bring it to Staples for printing on 100-pound stock. It costs 69 cents per copy. Staples can fit two invitations per page.

* To complement the fish theme, I bought a fish wall mural for $20 at Party Central. I used the mural for the tablecloth and created a fish tank backdrop.

* From the Dollar Store, I purchased six pieces of folded cardboard for $2 each; six birthday centerpieces for $1.50 each; and three packages of three blowup fish balls for $1.50 each. I also bought blue and green plates, cups, forks and napkins.

* From Michaels, I bought several bags of seashells for about $20.

* A fun activity for our party guests was a game of Pin the Fish in the Pond. To create your own, I used a 20 x 30 poster. Staples can print and laminate the poster.
The cost was about $30. You can also design the fish that get pinned to the board by creating an 8 x 11 sheet full of fish. Staples will print on 100-pound card stock at 69 cents per sheet. Cut out your fish and Staples can laminate them for approximately $2.68 per page. Cut out your fish for your board.

* We booked the entertainment with Calgary Reptile Parties’ VIP Package for $185. This included a one-hour informational and educational session with a variety of reptiles, photos and a one-of-a-kind T-shirt of the birthday child holding a reptile. There are many great local companies who will make your child’s birthday extra special! For a complete list of entertainment that comes to you or your birthday party venue, see the Birthday Guide in this issue.

* I purchased 10 goodie bags from Party Central and spent $30. There was a range of items in the goodie bags, from reptiles to fish to ring pops to tattoos.
* The cake was made and purchased from The Cake Bake Shoppe in McKenzie Towne.

The budget for this birthday party (not including the cost of the birthday cake) was $328.45. I have left out the cost of the cake as some may be making a homemade birthday cake or cupcakes.

Christina is a recognized broadcaster and storyteller. At home, she’s mom to two young boys who love her creative side to birthday parties. For more information,

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