5 Reasons Not to Throw a Birthday Party for Your Kid (and How to Celebrate in Other Ways)

5 Reasons Not to Throw a Birthday Party for Your Kid (and How to Celebrate in Other Ways)

Here’s proof that your child’s birthday can be special without a party.


By Leah Maxwell

Birthday parties are a fun tradition in theory, but they’re definitely not for everyone. If the thought of not hosting a party for your child makes you worry you’re a grumpy old birthday Grinch, read on for some reasons to go with your gut and skip the festivities for a celebration that better fits your family and lifestyle.

1. Your kid doesn’t like birthday parties. Some children pale at the idea of being the center of attention, or of spending an afternoon in a swirling mass of sugar-high peers, and that’s not something to ignore. If your birthday boy or girl says he or she doesn’t want a party, believe it and honor that request (but ask again next year, just in case those feelings change!).

2. You don’t have the budget for it. No one should go into debt over a kiddie party, so if you’re having a hard time paying the bills, or even if you just can’t justify the expense of hosting right now, let go of the idea that every child needs a formal birthday party every year. Financial peace of mind is worth way more than cake and ice cream, and there are plenty of other ways to make the day feel special (see below).

3. Your guest list is too long. If you can’t figure out how to diplomatically reduce your guest list to a more manageable number, consider skipping the party and opting for an alternative celebration that keeps things small enough to handle with a smile on your face.

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4. Your kid doesn’t need more stuff. We all know that even if your invitation tactfully states “no gifts, please,” a handful of people will still show up with presents. If you really can’t stand the thought of extra gifts, your best option may be to skip the party altogether.

5. It’s not worth your sanity. If the thought of planning a party makes you want to run screaming down the street, take that into account before you spend weeks (or months) trying to pull off something that’s making you (and probably everyone else) miserable.

How to celebrate instead:

-- Decorate your child’s room while she’s sleeping. Waking up to a floor covered with balloons or a ceiling hung with streamers is a tradition kids will look forward to every year.

-- Let your child invite a friend or two to see a movie, spend the day at a local amusement park, or have a sleepover.

-- Allow your child to dictate the dinner menu (even if it means having waffles and cheese sticks with a side of tube-style yogurt). Finish up with cake and ice cream for dessert, complete with candles and the birthday song and maybe some party hats and noisemakers.

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-- Start a new tradition. Maybe you go to the same restaurant every year, or you take a birthday hike, or you go see a birthday movie, or you spend all day in your pajamas playing board games and eating snack food. Rest assured the day will be special because you’ve made it special in your own way.

-- Take a vacation. If your child’s birthday falls around a convenient break, how fun would it be to take a trip and celebrate somewhere new each year?

-- Host an online guest book for people to share stories and photos of the birthday boy or girl. This is also a great option for kids who don’t have family close by or who recently moved away from friends.

-- Buy a large gift instead. Given the choice between a birthday party and a video game system or an electric guitar or a car, a lot of older kids would probably rather have a big present.

-- You might say you don’t want to throw a birthday party, but maybe you just don’t want to throw a traditional birthday party. Think outside the box and make it what you want it to be. You don’t have to go crazy with décor and themed food and goody bags and a clown and a DJ. Maybe invite some friends to a park for pizza and a piñata and call it good. You get to make up your own rules!

Important tip: Talk to your kid about his/her expectations. If you’re not planning a party, make sure that’s clear, so it doesn’t come as a shock the day of. You definitely don’t want your kid thinking that your lack of party planning means you’re doing it in secret. “Surprise! We’re not throwing you a party!” = the worst possible outcome.

Have you ever skipped throwing birthday parties for your kids? What did you do instead?


Leah Maxwell is a book editor, freelance writer, cereal addict, wife, and mom to two young boys. She has been blogging at A Girl and a Boy since 2003.

Image ©iStock.com/Dean Mitchell


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