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Kids’ Birthday Party Ideas: $500 a Year in Gifts?!

Posted by on Feb. 9, 2011 at 10:28 AM
  • 12 Replies

By May 1, my friend Annie will have either attended, or dropped her boys off at, nine birthday parties this year. Nine afternoons watching 4- and 5-year-olds pin the tail on the favorite animal of the birthday child and bludgeon each other trying to crack open piñatas. And that’s at the survivable parties, the ones parents give for their kids at home.

Annie’s not complaining - she’s too sweet for that, which is probably why she and her popular kids keep getting invited to all these parties - but if it were me, I’d demand a margarita, a bottle of Advil, and a stipend to pay for all those gifts.

Annie, I hate to break it to you, but if this keeps up, your kids will go to 27 birthday parties in 2010. She tells me she aims to spend about $20 per gift, more like $30 if it’s a close friend or both her older boys attend. So at this rate, she’ll shell out at least $500 this year for gifts, not including wrapping paper and cards.

It’s not that I begrudge kids their birthday celebrations; it’s the excess I loathe. Maybe I’m still suffering PTSD from the 11 kids who went berserk at our house during my daughter’s party last year. More likely, it’s the regret over lost Saturday afternoons I’ve spent at Bounce U, a brick barracks filled with inflatable houses that the kids flop around on. It’s usually beautiful outside. Inside, the parents are prisoners, trying to make small talk over the relentless Bounce U soundtrack, with its inaudible lyrics and a bass line that could rattle windows, if there were any:

THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP: “How does Johnny like school?” THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP

“What?” THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP

“Is he having fun at school?” THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP

“Oh, we’ve been staying out of the pool. I’m thinking of signing him up for swimming lessons this summer, though.” THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP

You don’t have to tell me - I sound like a geezer. After the bouncing, all 20 kids and their parents get shepherded into the party closet room for pizza and cake. Two hours later - which somehow does not include time for opening presents, even though it might allow kids an opportunity to practice their “thank yous” and “you’re welcomes” - we’re all spit out back in the parking lot, blinking as our eyes adjust to the sunlight.

I know, I know. It’s about the kids. We all want to make our little ones feel special on their birthdays. But parents shell out $450 for a premium party package at Bounce U (though if you want to go at off-peak hours and invite fewer guests, you can get in for as little as $129). If each of the 25 guests spends $18 on a gift for their “friend,” the kid is getting $450 worth of loot. I guess that makes it a wash.

Rather than exchanging $900 worth of presents, pizza and bouncing, couldn’t we all just close our wallets, go to the park and have a little cake? Maybe do the relay race where the kids dress up in adult-sized clothing and try to run? That one cracks me up every time.

I e-mailed around to my wise friends, looking for some hope. And the not-so-subtle subtext of their responses (after they first crossed the Butlers off their party invite lists) was, “Get over it. This is part of being a parent.”

I’m working on it. One thing that helps is giving cool gifts for $15 or less. We often go with books. We’ve also learned that every 4-year-old adores a flashlight, and kids of all ages love a Stomp Rocket. Give a diary with a lock on it for a 5-year-old girl? You’ll be her hero. Even if you’re not springing for a party at Bounce U.

Got ideas for birthday party gifts, $20 or less, that a birthday boy or girl will love? Tell us by signing in to add a comment below, or send me a note by using the ‘Contact Sarah Lorge Butler’ link at left

by on Feb. 9, 2011 at 10:28 AM
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Replies (1-10):
Wish2Be
by Michelle on Feb. 9, 2011 at 10:53 AM

 You should submit this to your local Guest Columnist section of your newspaper !

Its a great read, funny, logical, and inspiring :) Well done !

As for gifts under $20 ! I am awsome at that stuff. Necklace/Bracelet kits ($10) to girls age 7-10 are a huge hit. Boys like wallets ($12) especially the cool cartoon comic ones....makes them feel like big boys - maybe stick a $5  in it ! Ages 7-10. For a girl between 4-5 ...they love those felt coloring boards that come with markers ($5 each ) or dress up accessories like those plastic heels and tiaras ( $5-$15). Boys between 4-5 like stuff like balls ($5) or Cardboard forts they can color ($15-$18). Anyone under 3 years old...they get a book or something with wheels that can easily be pushed around :)

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RACINGMANIA
by on Feb. 9, 2011 at 10:59 AM

this was an article I read online thought it was nice to share

Quoting Wish2Be:

 You should submit this to your local Guest Columnist section of your newspaper !

Its a great read, funny, logical, and inspiring :) Well done !

As for gifts under $20 ! I am awsome at that stuff. Necklace/Bracelet kits ($10) to girls age 7-10 are a huge hit. Boys like wallets ($12) especially the cool cartoon comic ones....makes them feel like big boys - maybe stick a $5  in it ! Ages 7-10. For a girl between 4-5 ...they love those felt coloring boards that come with markers ($5 each ) or dress up accessories like those plastic heels and tiaras ( $5-$15). Boys between 4-5 like stuff like balls ($5) or Cardboard forts they can color ($15-$18). Anyone under 3 years old...they get a book or something with wheels that can easily be pushed around :)


eustacejessica
by on Feb. 9, 2011 at 11:06 AM

 that was a cute article!

LilMissCupcake
by on Feb. 9, 2011 at 12:19 PM

i love our dollar tree they have some really nice stuff for $1 and thats usually were i get gifts at that or i might buy some clothing for really cheap but usually not we dont have money and sadly enough most people know that but even if we were rich im not going to just blow my money

mommyof3-2008
by on Feb. 9, 2011 at 12:21 PM

this is great

onecuteladybug2
by on Feb. 11, 2011 at 1:51 AM

Thanks for sharing!

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iam4you2
by on Feb. 13, 2011 at 6:29 PM

This is wonderful

karischub
by on Feb. 13, 2011 at 8:49 PM

Thanks for some new ideas. I try really hard to find cool gifts for $15 or less. Also, wrapping paper, cards and gift bags are outrageous but you can get them for $1 a piece at dollar stores, the grocery store, or discount places like Roses and Big Lots.

ilovemyboys84
by Gold Member on Feb. 13, 2011 at 8:51 PM


Quoting karischub:

Thanks for some new ideas. I try really hard to find cool gifts for $15 or less. Also, wrapping paper, cards and gift bags are outrageous but you can get them for $1 a piece at dollar stores, the grocery store, or discount places like Roses and Big Lots.

same here i shop thru clearance toys when i see them and try to get them when i can and put them away for nieces/nephews bdays

Aqua_Jen
by on Feb. 13, 2011 at 9:37 PM
I never thought about how the gifts add up. I do regift bags and wrapping when possible. Is that tacky?
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