WASHINGTON — There are a lot of ways to do a kid’s birthday party, but most of them involve either selling a kidney in order to pay for it, or taking a week off from work (or sleep) to create a creatively themed and hand-crafted party. As parents, we were looking for something in the middle. So we asked for help.
After polling our brilliant (and sometimes snarky) readers on Twitter and Facebook for their opinions, we picked the most commonly mentioned ideas to discuss here. You’ll notice that we did not include some ideas that, while hilarious, may raise some eyebrows. For example, someone tweeted: “I give them rubber bands and death threats. What?”
We proudly present some reasonable options for throwing a great kid’s birthday party and discuss the main advantage (or disadvantage) for each idea.
Park or Playground Party: The main advantages of this type of party are cost (cheap), fun factor, and the idea that it is not at your house. Having a party at your house means that you must clean it within an inch of its life or risk getting “The Righteous Sniff” from your party guests’ parents.
House Party: You can save lots of money by throwing your child’s party at your house, and you can feel good about rejecting all the ridiculous over-the-top nonsense that some people think is appropriate for a bunch of three year olds. Unless you’re one of those people who get really into it and become all Martha Stewart - y with food and decorations. Or who hire clowns or rent ponies.
Granted, there will be some children who think it’s the best party in the history of ever, but others will be cowering in a corner, blathering something about the man with the big feet, and the rest will be gleefully playing in a pile of horse poop. We kinda have to go with the tried-and-true: handing them a bunch water balloons and going back inside to have a drink.
Chuck E. Cheese: There is only one advantage to holding your child’s party at the mouse’s hole, and that is that your child will be ecstatic and will get to go into something called The Ticket Blaster that is more exciting to elementary school-age children than Megan Fox is to deployed troops.
The downside? The Clorox Bleach bubble bath that is to come later. Think about it. They’ve spent the last three hours climbing around in a tube that no adult human can possibly fit into.
The last time that thing was cleaned was when it was installed. Kinda makes you want to take a Brillo pad to your tongue, doesn’t it?
Bouncy House Place: It’s not cheap, but many people think this option is worth it, because the kids have a total blast and you basically have to do nothing but write a check, show up, and smile while accepting the congratulations of all. It’s sort of like being a lobbyist, but without the earmarks.
Sports Party: You can throw at sports party at a gym, a Karate studio, a bowling alley, an ice skating rink, or at some place like Gymboree (if you have little bitties). Depending on where you go or what you do, it can be expensive, and there’s often a limit to the number of kids you can invite. It’s also a great way for your child to try out a new sport (without signing up for a whole season).
Laser Tag: These parties have the advantage of letting kids’ natural Lord of Flies instincts take over. In fact, the more ruthless, physically aggressive and conniving they are, the better.
Mall Party: This can include Build-A-Bear, one of the beauty/glamor shops for little girls, or something else. They cost a fortune but they are blessedly short. You can be in and out of Build-A-Bribe in less than 45 minutes.
The Movies: Treating a whole bunch of kids to the movies can be a lot of affordable fun, but also a lot like herding yowling cats. Because it is a universal truth of small children that, if they are supposed to sit still and be quiet, they will instead be wiggly, loud and may periodically spring from their chairs like demented jacks-in-the-box. Be prepared for that.
Pool Party: It is easy, effective and cheap. Take water, add kids. But make sure you have enough grown-ups around to keep every kid safe, or you’ll spend the entire time pacing around the edge of the pool like a Newfoundland, barking at them not to dunk each other.
Slumber Party: Perfect for those kids who hit that target age of seven to twelve. The upside is that it’s nice and small - three, maybe four kids. And it’s CHEAP (the cost is essentially zero). The downside is that getting your kids to cull down from the 87 they wanted to invite is only slightly more painful, whiny and loud than the Iowa Caucuses.
Also, bear in mind that at a sleepover party, absolutely no one will sleep, and you’ll spend the whole night listening to poorly muffled giggling, fidgeting, group trips to the bathroom, and a seemingly unending capacity to eat. And, right about the time that your alarm clock is set to go off, they finally fall asleep.
And, if all else fails, we have plenty of rubber bands and death threats. What?
Julianna Miner and Kristin Wilson Keppler write daily humor blog Rants from Mommyland. They also write for The Huffington Post’s Comedy Page and Nickelodeon’s ParentsConnect.com. Read more Maternal Ammunition in the Communities at the Washington Times.
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