Choosing to Have Simple Kids’ Birthday Celebrations

My daughter, Amaris, will turn 1 year old in less than a month. What a bittersweet milestone!

It has become popular to celebrate kids’ birthdays with elaborate parties. Here are things to consider when deciding whether or not to take part in this trend.

Though it may be trendy to celebrate a child’s birthday with an elaborate party that includes a bounce house, mobile petting zoo, food trucks, and party favors, we’re choosing a much simpler approach. We’ll go on an outing as a family and enjoy some sweet treats.

Why the simple celebration? I don’t feel comfortable with the concept of extravagant birthday parties for my child. Don’t get me wrong—I love her more than words can express and I want her to feel special. I don’t want her to feel special simply because she’s a year older, though. I want her to feel special because she knows her father and I love her and because she is the blessing God gave us when we prayed for a child. Moreover, she’s loved by God and uniquely created by Him (Psalm 139:13-16). These things are communicated to her through the time we spend with her and the life-giving words we speak to her, not by a clown who can make intricate balloon animals.

The sometimes obscene cost of extravagant parties is also a concern. According to U.S. News & World Report, 70% of parents spend at least $300 on their child’s birthday party, with 14% spending over $1,000! Is this really a wise use of resources? I certainly want my child to have wonderful memories from her childhood, but these memories can be made affordably. Additionally, we want to model spending that demonstrates the eternal significance of how we spend our money (Matthew 6:19-21). Rather than spending an exorbitant amount on a party, we’ll use our money for things we believe have more significant impacts: a college fund for our daughter, a family vacation, donating to charity, etc.

I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with traditions. In fact, traditions act like a glue that holds families together, so we should definitely have these! There’s also nothing wrong with having a party, using special plates and napkins, or even having a bounce house. In the years to come, I’m sure we’ll have some modest parties to celebrate her birthdays. I just believe that we should check our motives. Am I hosting the party for my child or for myself? Am I trying to keep up with the Joneses? Am I trying to one-up other mothers? Am I trying to compensate for times when I’ve been impatient with my child or haven’t given her as much attention as I should?

We should also consider the impacts that extravagant birthday parties will have on our children. Will my daughter become so focused on the activities and gifts that she loses focus on what really matters? Will she expect something bigger and better each year? Will she feel prideful about her parties when she attends the more humble parties thrown for her friends’ birthdays?  

If, after considering these things, you feel that an elaborate birthday party is appropriate, then go for it and have fun! If not, then do whatever sort of celebration you do feel is appropriate.

How do you celebrate the birthdays of your children? What factors help you decide whether to have a simple or elaborate celebration?

Shared on the following link-ups:

Saturday Soiree, Weekend Wind Down, Shine Blog Hop, Think Tank Thursday, WholeHearted Wednesday, Tuesday Talk, Titus 2 Tuesday, The Art of Home-Making and Monday’s Musings.


  1. I love special parties, but special doesn’t have to mean expensive. We usually throw a huge bash for first year birthdays, but costs can still be kept down if you host them at home and prepare most of the food yourself. We usually alternate between having parties out and at home. Just because the party is outside the home doesn’t mean you have to spend a ton either.

    • Hi Leslie,
      I think it is so wonderful that special can take so many different forms! I absolutely agree that special doesn’t have to mean expensive.

  2. When I was growing up, our birthday celebrations were usually just with family. When my boys were young, we would often have their friends over for cake and games (remember pin the tail on the donkey?). I’ve seen some pretty over the top parties thrown by friends and neighbors…things like limos and mobile carnivals. I’m sure the kids enjoyed these things, but kids usually like cake and ice cream and running through the sprinklers, too.

    • I do remember pin the tail on the donkey, Rosie. In fact, I think we played that (or some variation…another animal perhaps) at many birthday parties when I was a kid. The simple things can be very fun!

  3. Amen to simpler celebrations. These over-the-top parties just reinforce the idea to children that the whole world revolves around them, which, of course it doesn’t. And I’m not spending an entire mortgage payment on one party! As a kid, we got cake and one present. The biggest wow was if Gramma could join us for dinner and that my mom let the birthday kid pick their favorite meal for dinner.

    And really – is a one year old going to remember a big hoopla? My oldest spent the entire party (a simple family picnic) playing with the ice cubes in the cooler. Had we had the clowns and balloons and bounce house and all that other nonsense it would have been money wasted.

    • Hi Jill,
      Just like your oldest playing with ice cubes in the cooler, I’m sure Amaris will be more interested in the box holding her gift than she is in the gift itself!

  4. We have baby #7 on the way, and we simply can’t afford the time or money connected with big parties. As our children get older, they can invite one family over for a meal and cake. If family can come, they do–but all of our family is long-distance so it doesn’t happen all the time. We shoo the children outside or to their rooms to play with each other. They have a blast. I make the cake. Sometimes we have some decorations. Usually not.

    And best of all, it’s really low-stress and all-fun for everybody–parents, too.

    • I’m glad you mentioned the stress aspect of it, Jody. There is so much pressure on us as parents already…I can’t imagine taking more on by trying to plan the “perfect” party!

  5. It was like this post was meant for me. My daughter will turn one in January and I have already been finding ideas and themes. It is not really that I want to keep up appearances I just want to be able to show her that we put some effort into her birthday’s. It was always a big thing in our family and while I definitely do not agree with spending a lot on birthday’s I love the aspect of family getting together to celebrate. Most of our birthday’s were done at grandparents with cousins and cake and that was special beyond words. Thanks for the reminder that it doesn’t have to be extravagant to be extra special 🙂

    • I’m glad you came across the post, Rhiannon. I love family getting together to celebrate, too. (We’d do this if our families weren’t so far away.) Family time, cakes, and fun activities (with a theme, if you want) can be special and affordable!

  6. I agree! My son is 15 months old. When we had his first birthday party it was just with family, I made a few decorations with scrapbook paper and balloons (very inexpensive), and we served cake, ice cream and drinks. It was just a nice time to get together with loved ones and celebrate our son’s life. Like you, I think his birthdays will change over the years, but we won’t be shelling out hundreds of dollars for his parties!

    • Hi Emily,
      That sounds like a great celebration. At the first birthday, I think half the fun is watching the little one eat cake! Using scrapbook paper for decorations is a great idea!

  7. This is so counter-cultural! But really good to think about. Not only does having an elaborate party early on cost a lot, it sets an expectation for big parties in the future. One thing about the first birthday is that I like having some sort of celebration because I feel like I’ve reached a milestone! Its mostly a celebration for us to mark getting through that first year of a new normal! It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive, but I do like having some sort of way to mark the occasion. Congratulations and happy birthday to your little one!

    • Hi Kacie,
      It is a significant milestone and I certainly want to celebrate it! (I love that you call it the “new normal.” This is so true!) But, as you say, a celebration doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive.

  8. Thanks for sharing. We make our kids birthdays special by letting them help us plan it. They can pick out their theme and we take them to the store to let them pick out supplies. Making the day about them and giving them honor at their special time is more than money can buy.

  9. Such a wonderful idea and post!! I think once we step outside of today’s society and do what is right for each of our families, it makes things much simpler and less stressful.

    We do something very similar for our 6 kids, they get the day off of chores, get to choose dinner and desert, and get extra TV time. We do this as a family and with some of their close friends joining us for dinner if they want!! They all look very forward to it and really it is just as special day to celebrate them with love.

    • Hi Nicole,
      That sounds wonderful! Even though it is simple, I bet each child looks forward to his or her break from chores and special meal.

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