Sign up

Birthday Bashes on a Budget

Party-planning expert Lisa Kothari, author of "Dear Peppers and Pollywogs...What Parents Want to Know About Planning Their Kids' Parties" has gathered her tricks and tips for a  birthday party on a budget.


"Parents can easily throw a fun and impressive kid's party on a budget if they just get a little creative with the theme," says Kothari. "Think about what your kids really like to do, what activities really make them happy. Then, build-out a few other themed ideas and before you know it, you'll have yourself a successful party."

A Messy Party!

What's a perfectly easy, fun, budget-friendly toddler to four-year-old party theme? Throw a Messy Party. Kids love to make a mess, so why not give in and make a whole party out of the theme! If it appeals, let's get down to the nitty gritty ideas that will bring the mess alive:

Send off invitations that are hand-stamped with little hand prints inviting kids to get ready to "Make a Mess!" Add all of the details.

Definitely buy balloons and streamers, but make a mess out of them; hang them all over the place in no set pattern.

For the activities, this would be a very good party to hold outdoors where clean-up will not be a problem. Set up 3-4 mini-tables where the kids can enjoy making a mess.

Have the kids paint pictures with chocolate. Yummy!

Place bowls of frosting, sprinkles, and candy decorations on another table with pre-made sugar cookies and let the kids decorate them on their own.

On another table set out paint, roller brushes, and butcher paper for the kids to make fantastic creations.

Play Dough and modeling clay placed on another table could be another opportunity to make messy creations to take home.

Have a bunch of stamps and water-soluble ink out and have the kids stamp their arms and legs all over and stamp one another!

Place a pile of dirt in one area of the yard and have the kids make dirt creations using twigs, rocks, and other natural elements.

Make a traditional round cake, ice with vanilla frosting and then drizzle different colors of icing into your own messy masterpiece. Add candy toppings as an added bonus.

Send them home stamped-up with their messy creations, their chocolate picture, Play Dough creations, and a cellophane bag of frosted cookies (ones that you made before the party that look pretty and yummy).

Make-Your-Own Outrageous Cookie Concoctions!

"Outrageous" is the key word here! A fabulous budget-friendly party idea that is super simple to put together with little time is to invite your kid's party guests to be "Silly Cookie Bakers" for an afternoon. Before the party begins, make up a simple batch of cookie dough -- these days, you can even buy the ready-made dough if you prefer to save even more time. Provide each kid with their own bowl of cookie dough, and this is where it gets interesting! Simply open your refrigerator door and cupboards and start pulling out the condiments.

Here's a good starter list:
1. Ketchup
2. Mustard
3. Chocolate Syrup
4. Ranch Dressing
5. Steak Sauce
6. Cherries
7. Yogurt
8. Cheese
9. Peanut Butter
10. Balsamic Vinegar
11. Jam
12. Pesto Sauce
13. Tomato Sauce
14. Relish

Whatever condiments you have sitting around your kitchen, pull them out and have them on the table with the kids and their bowls of cookie dough. Now the kids can go to town making up their very own cookie concoctions. They will have a blast choosing what they want to add and how much. They can be as yummy or gross as they want to be! (This is great for a party with both boys and girls -- the boys will get a kick out of making the cookies as gross as they can be!)When they are done, place on trays and bake 'em up... Yummm?

When they come out and have cooled, the kids can frost and place candy sprinkles on them. Wrap each of the kid's cookies up in colored cellophane for their take home goody.

One note: you may want to warn the kids' parents that these cookies are strictly for their kids' enjoyment!!


For more of Lisa Kothari's party etiquette advice, check out her recently-released Dear Peppers and Pollywogs...What Parents Want to Know About Planning Their Kids' Parties, available at for $9.95. Also be sure to visit Lisa's website at before you plan your next celebration!

Calgary’s Child Magazine © 2020 Calgary’s Child