My daughter turned five this past week and ever since she turned FOUR, she’s been asking for a FRIEND birthday party. Last year, several of her preschool classmates invited her to their birthday parties, so we knew that when she turned 5, we would have a ‘friend’ party for her. Well, in the last few months, talk of her birthday party kicked into major overdrive and I often found myself telling her that we could NOT talk about it until AFTER Christmas! One holiday at a time, kid… It’s all mommy can keep up with!! 🙂
Even though she asked more than a few times to have her party at one of the many kid ‘fun spots’ (like Chuck E. Cheese or a local kid-friendly bowling alley) like her friends had done, I always planned to have her party at our house. While those places have some advantages, we have plenty of space in our basement and we didn’t want to spend the extra money. We are fairly ‘thrifty’ people, so if we don’t need to spend extra money for something, we don’t. Having the party at home definitely saved us money…and I could control the food and drink options, as well as the games! Plus, I’ve always liked hosting parties. It’s fun to get out my special platters and come up with a nice presentation of food! So, here is my “How to host a Real Food Birthday Party” blog post!
So, not only was this our first time hosting a ‘kid party’ at our house, but it was also our first time hosting a ‘real food’ party. I wanted my daughter and her friends to all have fun, but I also wanted to keep the food as ‘real’ as possible and hold true to our new ideals.
I had quite a few people ask me before the party what my ‘theme’ was going to be. I didn’t have one. I’ve never liked committing to themes because then it becomes more stressful for me when I have to go from store to store trying to find enough of everything to coordinate. Plus, those ‘character’ plates/napkins/etc. are pricey! I decided to go with a ‘color’ theme and my daughter was just as happy with that. (I love that at 5 years old I can still easily persuade her. I’m guessing that won’t last much longer!) She helped pick out lime-green plates, lemon-yellow napkins, and a pink tablecloth. I also found some cute little ‘snack cups’ that were colorful and would go along with this color theme. And I knew I could easily come up with colorful food choices!
We held the party this past Saturday from 2-4 in the afternoon. I choose this time purposely so I wouldn’t need to serve a meal, but could still serve up a fun snack for everyone. We invited all 15 of my daughter’s classmates! (I didn’t want to leave anyone out.) Nine of those RSVP’d that they could come, but one had to cancel the night before because their car got stuck in a snow drift. I’m telling you, this weather is just ridiculous this year! Luckily, even though the roads weren’t ideal, everyone else was able to make it safely to the party and we had a great time. (And the kids were even well-behaved the entire time…bonus!)
I broke down the party into 4 categories: games, food, cake, and goody bags. Here is how I kept this party fun, while also sticking to my thriftiness AND real food ideals!
Since the party was at our house, I wanted to keep all of the kids entertained, while also maintaining some type of structure. Nine 4-5 year olds, PLUS my almost 3 year old twin boys??? I knew things could get out of hand quickly if I didn’t have a game plan going into the party. After everyone arrived, the first game we played was musical chairs. It was fun to watch them start out because everyone kept trying to walk in different directions, but they eventually all got the hang of it and seemed to have fun! Thankfully, there were no tears when anyone got out (which was something I worried about beforehand). All we had to do was pull chairs from around the house and use music that was already in the CD player…easy and free!
Next, I took the kids down to our basement where I had an obstacle course setup! This was what my daughter was most excited about. There were stations set up throughout the entire basement using toys and games that we already owned.
There were adults to help the kids at almost every station and this was the order of our obstacle course.
- Shoot three baskets into the basketball hoop (they didn’t actually have to make the shots before moving on).
- Crawl through two long tunnels that I had attached together.
- Jump on the trampoline while counting to 20. (My mom helped with this station and said the kids did really good about getting off as soon as they were done counting.)
- Crawl through another shorter tunnel.
- Roll the bowling balls and try to knock over all the pins.
- Hopscotch/jump in the blue squares, while following the path I made (I used blue painter’s tape to mark the path).
- Throw three bean bags into the hole.
- Run back to the basketball station and start again!
The kids all did really well and got the hang of it quickly. It was cute to watch them all take the stations/tasks very seriously. They were the perfect age for an obstacle course like this one! I think they ran through the course maybe 3-4 times before we decided it was time to eat.
I kept the food very simple. I was most excited about the rainbow fruit platter and so was my daughter. She thought it was SO NEAT and kept saying over and over how much she loved it as she watched me assemble each color before the party. She even told me, “I will tell everyone it’s okay to eat this rainbow since it’s made of fruit.” (You know, incase anyone was confused!) 🙂 My kids love fruit and it seemed to go over well with all the other kids, too. In fact, there was NOTHING left of this platter when the party was over. The few pieces that remained were quickly eaten by myself and my kids!
I bought a block of cheese and cut it into little cubes for a basic cheese tray. (Some prepackaged bags of cheese cubes contain cellulose and potato starch to prevent caking.) When I was at Whole Foods last week, I bought some ‘non-GMO verified’ pretzels. Pretzels are more of a ‘treat’ in our house because it’s hard to find them with only ‘real’ ingredients. The Whole Foods brand is the closest I’ve found, with only five ingredients. I put the pretzels in fun little cups for each kid.
I also made a strawberry-banana smoothie and poured it into several little Dixie cups. These actually seemed to go over the least well! I think part of it was because they were a little too thick for drinking without a straw. It was a fun idea in theory, but I don’t think anyone really liked them! Oh well, at least they still looked cute. 🙂 If you go the smoothie route for your party, I highly recommend getting some straws for easier sipping! (My boys drank the leftovers for breakfast the next morning…so, thankfully, nothing went to waste! They sucked them down–with straws!–soon after they woke up. My boys sure love their smoothies!)
And as far as drinks? I served water. I know this might be ‘boring’ to some people, but water is really all we drink around our house. My kids drink a small amount of fruit juice for breakfast (mixed 50/50 with water) and they occasionally will drink milk, but other than that, it’s water for us! Serving water was an easy way to save money, as well as not send every kid home hyped up on sugar. Artificial lemonade, pop, and other popular kid drinks are a pet-peeve of mine (I just don’t see any reason why kids should ever drink them), so I kept things simple and easy and just served water. Not one kid complained. 🙂
I purposely chose not to bake a regular cake for her birthday party. I knew cutting a cake would be time consuming (and messy) and I think cupcakes are more fun anyway. 🙂 As I was thinking about what type of cupcakes to make, I realized that ‘mini cupcakes’ would be even better! I know that my kids hardly ever eat sweets and whenever they’re served cake, they typically just lick off the frosting and then leave the actually cake portion on their plate. So, I decided that it would be less wasteful to make mini cupcakes. If the kids liked them and wanted another one (or two!), that would be okay with me. Some kids ate just one and others had several! ha! I made my cupcakes following my basic ‘a little bit healthier’ chocolate cake recipe. It’s made with white whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose flour. I also used organic cane sugar in place of regular sugar. The frosting was made using all real ingredients as well (organic butter, organic whole milk, organic powdered sugar, organic vanilla extract, and cocoa powder). It’s still ‘cake,’ but, unlike the store-bought versions, these cupcakes didn’t contain any artificial ingredients or preservatives!! To give each mini cupcake a pop of color (to go along with our theme), I topped each one with a Simple Truth Candy Coated Milk Chocolate Drop. They are made from natural ingredients and contain no artificial food coloring. And, besides, what kid doesn’t like an extra piece of candy??? 🙂 One of the kids came up to me after eating probably his third mini cupcake and told me, “You’re a good cook!” I thought that was so sweet of him. And when I told his mom he said that, she replied, “Wow! That is quite a compliment. He is very picky.” So, I will take it! Made my day right there!
My daughter thought the mini cupcakes were a great idea because they were “so cute!” And I was even able to get 5 candles in one to sing ‘happy birthday.’
Notice the crumbs on her plate… By the time I went to get the candles, she had already devoured one whole cupcake! At least I knew they were good. 🙂
Thank you “Goody Bags”:
As far as the goody bags went, I knew I wanted to have them, but the biggest thing I didn’t want to do was fill them with artificially-filled candy/snacks and those cheap little toys that kids love (for one day), but most parents secretly hate. They quickly get scattered all across the house and drive parents like me crazy. (I have a hard time with random little toys and things that are impractical, in general.) So, instead of cheap toys, I put one container of bubbles in each bag. It’s a little out of season for these, but we had gotten them practically for free recently and had enough for each kid, so that worked out well. Hopefully, the weather will warm up soon so everyone can go outside again and use them!
I had planned to buy individual bags of Annie’s Homegrown Cheddar Bunnies, but when I went to the grocery store to buy them, I saw that the individual bags of Barbara’s Bakery Snackimals Animal Cookies were on sale for just 49 cents each. They are made with organic grains and without any artificial ingredients or additives. Again, these are a treat that I don’t buy for my kids very often, but for a special occasion like a birthday party, it’s something fun and different that I knew my kids would be excited about. I also found some Stretch Island Fruit Co. all-natural fruit strips while in the grocery store. My daughter wasn’t so sure about these when I first showed them to her (simply because she had never seen them before), but I let her try one and she quickly gave it the ‘thumbs-up’ and said it tasted just like cherries! (Which was good, considering I bought the ‘orchard cherry’ variety.)
I wrote a little ‘thank you’ message on the outside of each bag and then my daughter decorated them with some stickers. My boys decorated some bags as well…but those didn’t make the cut. 😉
So, there you have it. Our “Real Food” (and low cost) birthday party. It was fun, kid-friendly, but also free of any artificial ingredients, food colorings, and excessive amounts of processed sugar. You wouldn’t know it from all the pictures, though…check out all these awesome colors and cute kid snacks…
So, now that we made it through the FRIEND party, this upcoming weekend is the FAMILY party!! We celebrate all three kids’ birthdays with our families on ONE day because my twin boys will turn three in just 11 days! And here we go with the party planning again… Stay tuned! 🙂
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