Why I Don’t Do Big Birthday Parties for My Kids (+5 Alternatives)

Breanna | May 18, 2021 | ,

Planning a party? Well, in case you haven’t looked, Pinterest boards all over the internet are full of cake ideas, balloon bundles, fancy centerpieces, and cutesy homemade snacks. Birthday parties have become the biggest events of the season and talking points for the following year. Parents have even traded in grocery store sheet cakes for three-tier pieces of art that are comparable to wedding cakes.  

No, parties aren’t like they were in the ’80s, ’90s, or the early 2000s. They have themes, not just your kiddo’s favorite cartoon character, and everyone is reaching for the perfect Instagram picture to post afterward. Appearances, appearances…

Not in my house though! Sure, I tried to be one of “those” moms the first go around. My daughter was born near Halloween, which happens to be my favorite holiday, so we did a spooky theme for her big day. Guess what, much to my naive surprise, that silly 12-month-old didn’t remember a second of it (gasp). Which brings me to my main points, why I don’t do big parties for my kids! 

  • They won’t remember the party so much as their loved ones just being there and being present 
  • Parties are expensive and they don’t care about decorations. (A bunch of cheap dollar store balloons will do. Trust me.) 
  • I don’t like contributing to the “one upper” culture 
  • We can take that money and spend it on an experience (mini vacation, lessons, one big present, etc.) 
  • Less pre-party stress = more fun at the actual party 

Are you hearing me yet? Still not sold? It’s okay. I get it. You probably want to go all out for the first party or like the idea of planning the event. Planning can be fun for some people. I’m just not one of them. We do simple gatherings with dinner, a simple cake, and only our closest relatives. However, if that’s not your style either, let me offer you some alternatives!

5 Alternatives to a big birthday party 

A trip to the zoo or children’s museum 

Zoo, children’s museum, aquarium…Those are all good choices to swap in for a party. For one, your child will remember the moment their minds are filled with wonder more than their belly filled with pizza or finger foods. It’s educational and offers bonding time as you share the experience together. Plus, after you pay admission, you’ll still have leftover funds to pick up something in the gift shop. 

Mini vacation for the weekend

Live a few hours away from a fun destination? Plan to drive 3-4 hours for a weekend away with the family. If you live near the beach, that’s fun, but also get creative with your destinations. Maybe you can look into a water park, amusement park, dude ranch, state park, or an interesting Airbnb. Get out of your comfort zone and make it a trip that you’ll remember for a lifetime. 

Rent out a gymnastics gym and skip the decorations 

Still want a “party” with friends? Well, consider renting out a gymnastics gym, community pool, or a skating rink for you and your group. Most venues allow for pizza and cake. This way you can have the best of both worlds without messing with a ton of decorations, cleaning your house, and too much pick up afterward. Plus, the kids can get out all that excess energy from the cake by playing until they collapse into a sugary puddle. 

Trip to the movies with friends 

Most of us have avoided movies for the last year. Some kids might not even know what going to a movie is like after living through the pandemic. But it’s still a classic in terms of “going out.” Treat your kiddo and his/her friends with a movie night. Most theaters have party rooms set aside for cake and pizza too. So again, you get the best of both worlds. 

Shopping spree 

If you want to go really low maintenance, take the money you would spend on a party, including decorations, cake, presents, and wrapping paper, and bring it to the store. Let your kid have the money and tell them they can pick out whatever their heart desires as long as they can pay for it with that money. This way, your kid gets what they actually want and they begin to understand money and how much it’s worth. 

little girl shopping for toys
A shopping spree, they get exactly what they want and learn some of the value of it!

Of course, do what makes you and your family happy, but don’t get too caught up in the constant comparison game we see on social media. Your child’s party is for him/her and their loved ones, not for Instagram likes. 


Breanna is a former therapist turned writer. She earned a master’s in psychology in 2015 but ultimately decided she would like to be more present for her family. Currently flexing her writing skills as a stay-at-home mother of two toddlers (with another baby on the way), she enjoys writing in the parenting and home/DIY niches. She also writes fiction and has been published in a handful of literary magazines and a fiction anthology. In her spare time, Breanna enjoys blogging, painting, running, and drinking an absurd amount of coffee.


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