Lukka enjoying a Big Al's burger and onion strings!
Last week I did Lukka's yearly birthday interview and this week I'm sharing what we did for his 8th birthday, as we stretched it out over the weekend. We don't do massive parties (mostly because of energy levels and finances) but we do like to give our kids a treat and celebrate them with things they like or want to do, and who with. When Lukka asked for a friend party this year, we knew we'd have a small willing crowd, I just had to come up with some activities for us to do that they would all enjoy, and also do it cheaply.
One of the first things I did in preparation for the party was to look on pinterest and find some cheap and easy outdoor games. I found one that used pool noodles, balloons, and baskets that I thought would be fun and appropriate. Balloons cost about $1-2/bag and pool noodles are roughly $2/piece. I cut all the pool noodles in half so I'd only have to buy 4 for all the kids in attendance. I can take care of the baskets with our laundry baskets. The day was hot and the grass outside popped almost all our balloons (!), so while that game was a complete bust, I let them smack each other around with the pool noodles for awhile, and Stefan joined in. They totally loved that.
Friends feeding the local duck crowd
The second thing I had on hand was silly string. This activity was the most expensive thing we did all weekend, but it's sort of been a family tradition to do silly string on your birthday. I was a little scared to see how this ended up, because we're in the backyard of our neighbor's house who we rent from, but I was able to quickly find a solution. Each can cost about $3.50, and I bought 7 cans. That's pretty pricey for a very short activity, but we tried to stretch it out. The kids loved having the silly string fight and when it was over (and the yard was covered), I told them all we were going to have a ball throwing contest, but they'd have to quickly 'gather and add' all the string they could find to make their balls bigger and heavier. In the end, nearly all the silly string was cleaned from the grounds in ten minutes, and the kids loved throwing their balls to see which got farthest in the backyard. Score!
Onto the next activity, we took a walk to the local ducks. Less than a block away is a farm that has goats, ducks, peacocks, doves, pheasants, chickens, a pony, and a cow, and you can get right up to the fence and feed the animals. I had a small piece of bread for each child to take and showed them how to make tiny little pieces to throw to them so their piece would last a long time. They mostly followed through, and really enjoyed petting the goats and feeling their horns, and feeding the animals.
Friends at the park
We walked on a few more blocks to a local school and let the kids play on the jungle gym for over 30 minutes. This park is big and has a great 'obstacle course' that you can't really see from the photo, but they were all --aside from the birthday boy -- really happy to play here for quite a long time. We had about 5 blocks to walk back to our house for food and after they had been playing for a solid two hours, they were finally ready to chow down.
At the house I told the kids to go outside and drink a cup of water, and munch on the 'appetizers' (baby carrots, cucumbers, and apple slices), ensuring they would get the healthiest part of the party food in them first. Worked like a dream after all that ruckus play! That also gave me time to cut the cake, get the chips, and pop going while Stefan roasted the hot dogs. The kids went through all their food and I was shocked that all the food I bought was eaten. I thought for sure we'd have leftoveres, but with one party size bag of chips and a 12 pack of hotdogs, and 6 canettes of Sprite, there was literally nothing left except a few slim slices of a Rolo cake ($8 at Walmart!) that I handed to the lingering parents as they came to pick up their kids. Lukka loved all his gifts and was super excited to open them. We felt like the 3 hours our guests were here just flew by, and I think everyone had fun. Parties don't have to be expensive, in fact, we've never spent more than $50, and even that sounds like a lot. The silly string killed me this year, and I think I may leave it out next time, but for a kid party with a full meal, activities, and play I feel like I definitely managed!
Lukka flying a kite at the Birch Bay Kite Festival
On the following day after the party, we went to church and then to Lukka's favorite restaraunt in Blaine, WA--Big Al's, for a big, juicy burger and onion fries, which he loves (see above photo) and we rarely go to. I randomly saw that there was going to be a Kite Festival in Birch Bay at the time near when we'd be done with lunch and ready for something else to do in the afternoon. The festival was free and my son LOVES kites. He loves designing, building, flying, and watching them, and this was too good to be true.
When we got to the festival, we realized all the free kits that I had read about on the website were gone, and the only thing left was the $5 kits and $10 t-shirts. It was nearing the end of the day and we don't usually carry any American money. They wouldn't take Canadian (we knew, but we had to ask!) and I only had $2 US on me. The nice lady running it said 'ah, what the heck!' and gave the kids a free kite kit to work on with what we had. How generous of her. When she found out it was Lukka's birthday, she then went on to give him a free Kite Festival t-shirt, and a free kit for himself, as well. She really helped make his day special, much to the slight embarrassment of his mom. Ahem.
It was a perfect time to spend as a family and celebrate Lukka, who felt so loved that he even told us 'this was a perfect weekend for my birthday!' and we couldn't be happier we were fortunate enough to help him celebrate in ways that we know he enjoys. Happy Birthday, Lu!
Inexpensive Party Tips!
*Use what you have around: we had the local farm attraction, a park not too far away, and a backyard at our disposal.
*Simple Foods: veggies, fruit, and water always offered before anything else will work if kids are super hungry, hot dogs, buns, and chips are always enjoyed by most kids, and are dirt cheap party foods
*Scan pinterest for inexpensive party ideas: The game cost me $8 total, and even though the grass blades popped most of the balloons, the kids loved playing with them while they lasted and were ecstatic to take home their 1/2 pool noodle in lieu of a goodie bag
*ONE party dessert: I could have had candy, cookies, and cake, but do we really need all of that? Nah. My beautifully decorated and chocolate-on-chocolate cake (like he requested) that I bought at Walmart fed 16 and cost me $8. Totally worth it.
*Rethink the goodie bag: I'm not saying goodie bags are terrible...they aren't! They're usually awesome, kids love them, and they are full of amazing toys, candies, stickers, and the like, but I just can't shell out tons of money for things that are just going to end up in the trash. I'd rather give out something practical. It must be the INTJ in me. Final cost for 1/2 pool noodle each: $1/person