Reclaiming the Home Birthday Party

As of Sunday, I’m on a mission to reclaim the old-fashioned, have-it-at-home birthday party.

It seems like every party we go to these days is a “destination” party: Chuck E Cheese, Bonkers, Little Gym, etc. And I definitely see the perks to having it off-site. Namely, you don’t have to clean up! Still, there’s just something about the experience of a party with activities and games that sets it apart. Besides, our house needs to be cleaned. And a party at home is definitely a party on a budget.

We negotiated with Alex for months about his birthday, and finally decided that he could invite as many friends as he wanted, on condition that no one brought gifts. (I’m really big on this one. I think kids have Too Much Stuff, and I was absolutely not going to have a party with the expectation that fifteen little kids had to bring my kid more loot.) Once Alex agreed to that, we began.

Bat Symbol

Need I say more?

Activity #1: When the kids arrived, we had them sit down at the table and make themselves superhero masks. I used dessert-sized paper plates and cut the masks out. Each plate makes two. We used glue, glitter, stickers and beads. Oh yes, and crayons. Cost: about $6.

Activity #2: Pin the Monocle on the Penguin. Yes, this one required some time in preparation from Mommy and Daddy. Most of which was done between 10 and 11p.m. the night before:

Delay timer on the camera is a wonderful thing. In case you're wondering.

The monocles I cut out from construction paper using my Creative Memories tools, and then mounted them on posterboard. Cost $1 and time.

"Blast! I've lost my monocle and I need it to defeat Batman!" (Credit to Christian for the drawing and the quote.)

This was also the only activity we gave prizes for. Cost: $5 for coloring books.

Activity #3: Treasure Hunt. “Treasure” being cake and ice cream. Christian gathered all the children and told them that the Riddler had stolen them. Then we divided them into two groups–we each went along with one to help decipher the riddles, which Christian had written on yellow and green folded construction paper with question marks on the outside. Here’s a taste of his first clue, which he read to everyone:

“So you’re trying to celebrate a birthday? Not if I can help it! You’ll never find your treats if you can’t solve my riddles! HA HA HA!” (Envision the best maniacal laugh you’ve ever heard. Five grownups nearly fell on the floor. My husband ROCKS.) “I like hot marshmallows just like anybody. But what do you need to roast them after you have your marshmallow and your stick? Be careful, it’s hot!”

And they were off to the fire pit. One group searched for the cake, the other for the ice cream. Cost: about 15 cents.

The cake is all me (but let’s not talk about having to make it twice b/c I forgot to grease the pans the first time…):

In the oven at the end of the treasure hunt

On the subject of money, I feel compelled to add that I went shopping for Wilton cake pans and assorted gadgets to make this cake. Apparently I’m about to embark on a new hobby (as if I have time for it): cake decorating. This is not a professional-looking cake, and yet I am very proud of it, because I managed to ice it WITHOUT pulling crumbs everywhere.

N.B.: black icing does not taste good. Consider yourself warned.

Also, the recipe is called “One Two Three Four Cake,” and although I’ve linked it on the web, it comes from Mary Meade’s Country Cookbook, and it is without question the best cake recipe out there, bar none. I’m also on a quest to reclaim baking your own darned (fill in the blank: pancakes, waffles, cakes, cookies)…it just doesn’t save that much time to use a box mix, and they are nowhere near as good!

Anyway, cost of cake and ice cream (not including the Wilton expedition, since I’ll use all that in the future): about $10. Cost of plates, cups etc: about $6.

Success of the party? Phenomenal! And now I’m all over doing parties at home.

Look online for party ideas in whatever theme you are planning. This was our best source for gathering ideas.

How about you? Have you done home parties?  Please share!