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Debbie Woodliffe is an experienced writer currently based in the UK working for Affinity Agency. Debbie’s goal is to help others learn and develop through well-researched and informative content.
We all remember back in the day, cheap-and-cheerful birthday parties consisted of garden games, disco music and a cake from the supermarket. Those were the good old days. Nowadays, children (and parents) seem to have higher expectations. They like to have the coolest party at the latest trendy venue that will be the talk of the classroom, but sometimes the budget just won’t stretch that far. But all is not lost; with a bit of DIY magic and imagination, epic birthday parties can still happen!
So, here are ten fun and budget-friendly children’s birthday party ideas that could help you save money while making memories that will last a lifetime.
1. Arty Party
An art and crafts party is a great idea for those on a budget as taking the art back home with some cake can replace the need for party bags. All you need is to stock up on a few essential supplies, pick up a cake and plan a few art-related activities for the guests:
- Make sock caterpillars with old socks, buttons, and fabric scraps.
- Build mini Dolls houses with cardboard boxes.
- Make paper crowns with paper, paint, and tape.
- Do some good old-fashioned painting with canvases or cards and acrylic paint.
- Create collages with newspaper or magazine cuttings, glue, and card.
You could even suggest on the invites that children bring their own supplies to add to the stock – why not include a list of ideas on the back of the invite?
List useful items such as lolly sticks, cardboard packaging, glitter, paint and tissue paper.
2. Fancy-Dress Up
Fancy dress-themed parties are an inexpensive and fun way to add a little excitement and creativity to any birthday bash. Your child could pick a theme from a popular movie series or television program, and chances are you’ll be able to find inexpensive themed decorations in your local discount shop or supermarket.
Alternatively, make it a general fancy dress party, and the kids can wear whatever fancy dress they have at home – sort of like Halloween without the scaring.
3. Picnic at the Park
Why not host a picnic at your local park or playground?
You can ask other parents to attend alongside their children and bring other picnic items and blankets too. This is great for children of varying ages as all kids love a play park alongside some tasty snacks. Playgrounds are also really beneficial for child development, so that’s another bonus of this party plan.
No birthday party, no matter what age, is complete without a cake. Whether you are having a picnic to celebrate your child’s birthday or hosting a party at home, make sure to bring along a cake or cupcakes. Decorate them with your child’s favorite characters, and add candles for extra fun. And if your child has a favorite character, do not forget to bring an inflatable in the shape of the kid’s favorite character. Inflatables with customized designs will serve as decoration, and your kid will enjoy playing with them throughout the day. If you are having a picnic, don’t forget to bring along plates, cups, and utensils, which can come with personalized pictures and designs as well.
If you have younger kids, they will be able to keep themselves busy for hours, and you’ll only need to play party host when it comes to providing refreshments. If you have older kids, they will need less observation, and you’ll have a chance to have a catch-up and bite to eat with other parents, win-win!
4. Throw a Splash at Indoor Swimming
Many rec centers and local pools offer party packages for children these days, so it can be a fun and inexpensive way to go. After all, kids love splashing about in the pool, and it will keep them busy for hours!
It’s also a hands-off approach as all you will need to bring is your kids, swimsuits and some inflatable pool toys or balls to play catch with. Ask your local rec center about their packages, find out what food spreads they offer and whether they’ll provide a cake or not.
Alternatively, it won’t be as time-efficient, but it’s likely to be more cost-effective to make the food and cake to bring along yourself, so make sure to ask if that’s allowed.
5. Host a Treasure Hunt
Treasure or scavenger hunts are super easy to put together and are a great idea no matter the weather, as they can be done outside or indoors. First, decide on a theme with your child – is it nature-related, will you hide balloons or treats?
Some ideas include:
- Hunting for insects in the garden
- Hiding words or letters to reveal a secret message
- Finding objects in a certain color
- Finding items in nature
- Searching for treasure
If your child has a birthday near a seasonal event such as Halloween or Easter, you can create the hunt to match that specific theme. Hide chocolate eggs or toy bunnies for Easter or use flashlights in the dark to discover creepy objects during the spooky season.
Related: The 34 Best Board Games For The Whole Family
6. Throw a Pizza-Making Party
Who doesn’t love a pizza party? What’s even better is that you can make the food the main attraction – saving money, extra effort and providing fun at the same time. All you’ll need is:
- Enough dough for one small pizza per child
- Base sauces such as tomato or barbeque
- Plenty of grated cheddar or mozzarella cheese
- Toppings such as mushrooms, pepperoni, ham and pineapple
As this is a food-based event, be sure to check ahead of time with parents for any allergies or dietary preferences. The easiest way to do this is to provide a space for notes on the invites.
7. Have an At-Home Cinema Party
Whether your child is obsessed with superhero movies or a die-hard fan of wizard franchises, a themed film-marathon party is a great way to go and provides hours of entertainment. For younger kids with shorter attention spans, pick one or two movies (or series episodes) with snacks and food in between.
For older children, depending on the length of the films, you could pick up to three. Make sure the environment is cozy, comfy, and have access to plenty of snacks and drinks, and let the good times roll!
Step up your themed party by decorating the room with DIY movie props or fairy lights, and you can even encourage guests to come dressed up as their favorite character from the movies.
8. Traditional At-Home Party
A simple, rustic, at-home party is an inexpensive and easy way to get your children’s friends together and ensure a good time all-round. Simply decide on some games, let your child choose some buffet food options and have fun!
Here are some popular party games you can DIY easily:
- Pin the tail on the donkey
- Musical hoops
- Food-related challenges
- Dance challenges
- Pass the parcel
Offer traditional party favors filled with toys, sweets and some of the cake for guests to take home. You can buy party favor packs as handy and inexpensive kits from discount shops and supermarkets.
9. Go for an all-inclusive package
While hosting a party at home is a cheap way, once you’ve added up the cost of the decorations, food, and party favors, it might be the same cost (or similar) as that of an all-inclusive package. Many venues offer party packages that don’t cost the earth, for example:
- Bowling alleys
- Sports venues
- Indoor soft-play centers
- Function rooms
- Paintball or laser tag
The best thing about an all-inclusive package is that it’s completely taken care of for you. You won’t have to worry about catering or providing entertainment, and there’s no big clean-up afterward! Ask your child for a few ideas and research party packages on different websites to see what works with your budget.
10. Host a Garden Carnival
This party idea is perfect for the summertime when the weather is warm and the sun is shining. Carnivals are known for their range of fun activities that are entertaining, engaging, and basic to set up:
- Ring toss
- Face painting
- Bean bag toss
- Can knockdown
- Three-legged races
- Apple bobbing
Throw in a BBQ, serving burgers or hotdogs served with chips and slaw and it’s all sorted. Just make sure you have enough volunteers manning and judging the games.
There are plenty of options to suit every budget; all it takes is a little planning, your time, and some thriftiness to give your child the best party of all! Which party option will you try?
You might also be interested in: 60 Summer Activities For Kids [The Whole Family Can Enjoy]
Fun & Budget-Friendly Children’s Birthday Ideas:
- Arty Party
- Fancy-Dress Up
- Picnic at the Park
- Throw a Splash at Indoor Swimming
- Host a Treasure Hunt
- Throw a Pizza-Making Party
- Have an At-Home Cinema Party
- Traditional At-Home Party
- Go for an all-inclusive package
- Host a Garden Carnival