Birthday party ideas that won’t break your Piggy Bank

If you're feeling the pressure to keep up with the elaborate birthday parties your child attends, take a deep breath. Kids' parties don't have to put your bank account in the red. There are some great birthday party ideas that are not only affordable but unique. Next time, throw an affordable party for your child that will still have the other moms talking.

Remember, less really is more — especially when you're watching your wallet. Don't go all out in all areas. Instead, splurge in one area. Take a birthday party theme and decide which particular aspects of the party will make your child the most excited. Is it the cake, the games, a bounce house or a cool entertainer?

In case you haven't heard, favor bags are out. There's no need to send the kids home with trinkets and candy their parents are probably going to throw away. If you still feel like you need to give the children something to take home, goodies from a piñata can be a fun gift bag substitution.

Your local dollar store is full of fabulous party decorations, balloons, plates, cups and games. You don't need to spend hundreds of dollars on things you can find for one dollar!

Interesting party themes can create a world of difference. Some of the most loved themes for kids' birthday parties include:

  • Carnival Parties
  • Zoo Parties
  • Picnic Parties
  • Explorer Parties
  • Costume Parties
  • Princess Parties
  • Wizard Parties
  • Character Parties           

Two of today’s most popular character parties are Harry Potter or Hannah Montana themed parties. Request all guests to dress-up like the chosen character. Give theme based prizes for some games like merchandise relating to Harry or Hanna. Play themed music for an added touch!

If your child loves science, tailor the party around a science theme. A scientist's party theme is a great idea to make kids aware about famous scientists and their inventions.

Decorations are an integral part of every party. Balloons and streamers will  make your party more festive and colorful. Party decorations should match the chosen themes.

Games give your birthday party life. While cake, ice cream and presents are loads of fun, if you don't have a way to entertain the guests the party can quickly turn into a major yawn-fest! What’s more, it’s best to keep kids with sugar-highs occupied.

With a little creativity you can adapt any of the party games below to fit your theme. For example, Blue loves to find clues. The traditional Scavenger Hunt becomes Blue's Treasure Hunt.


This all-time favorite requires substantial room and good parental supervision. The children take turns to try and break a hanging container that has candies and other small goodies in it. To make your own piñata, you can do something as simple as decorating a paper grocery bag with paints or crepe paper and then gluing and taping the top shut once the treats are inside. Run a string along the top edge before shutting the bag. You can also make a fancier one using a balloon and paper mache. The fun thing is that these can be decorated to match any theme. Alternatively, you can purchase a piñata. Give each child a simple brown bag to collect their piñata loot or have your child decorate the bags with crayons.

Fruit Basket

Seat guests in a circle on chairs. One person says, "I'm grateful for people with blue eyes". Everyone with blue eyes stands up and changes places. While everyone's scurrying for a chair a parent takes one away. The person left standing is out and the last person to sit down goes next…"I'm grateful for everyone who's wearing tennis shoes". Repeat.

Hot Potato

You can use virtually any item for the "potato". For character parties use a stuffed toy of the character and themed music.


Here’s another oldie but goodie that promises gigs of giggles! Have one child come up to the front of the group and whisper the name of an animal or something to do with your theme to him or her. The child acts out what you whispered while the rest of the kids try to guess the charade.

Farm Buddies

Whisper the name of a farm animal in each child’s ear. Tell them that there is at least one other person that is the same animal as they are. Throughout the party they may ask each other yes and no questions to try to figure out who their "Farm Buddy" is. At the end of the party tell everyone to go sit by who they think their buddy is. Go over the clues with the kids until they figure it out and everyone is sitting next to the correct buddy.

Birthday Dinner

Players sit in a circle. The first player starts by saying, "At my birthday dinner I like to eat hamburgers". The next player must repeat "At my birthday dinner I like to eat hamburger…" and add another dish. This continues all the way around the circle with each player reciting the dishes in the exact order they have been given and then adding a new one. If a player makes a mistake they slide out of the circle and the game continues. The person left who can perfectly recite the birthday dinner menu wins.

Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger hunts are always a big hit birthday parties. Hide theme inspired items in the yard or designated rooms and make it a team effort!

 Regardless of which themes or games kids choose, make sure their special day is filled with love, laughter and friendship. Because that’s what birthday parties are really all about!

Mona Chabra is a freelance writer from Sewickley.