Kerrigan: “Mom, how about a True party?“
Elle: “What’s that?“
Kerrigan: “The one with Budhabee cat (Bartleby) and the magical wishing tree!“
Elle: “Oh! I don’t know about that amore, but I’ll try.”
I showed her how to turn old boxes into something more.
I was excited to create a DIY True, the Rainbow Kingdom, party. I have an idea on how to pull off a Wishing Tree. Though I know it would be hard, I was still ready to do it. But in the back of my head, I was secretly hoping she would change her mind. Eventually, she did.
It has become a tradition to let her pick the theme for her birthday. Just like last year, she picked Doc McStuffins for her third birthday party, which was easy because the character was popular. With True (a show on Netflix), not so much! I just got lucky because she changed her mind and decided Spiderman was more appealing. But choosing the party theme was only a small piece of the pie, the real challenge was to have a fun party for a four-year-old on a tight budget.
A few weeks before she turned four, I had this idea to split her celebration in two, one at school and another one with our clan. But as we draw near to her special day, I realized the logistics would blow our budget and would take a lot of time to iron out. So, I sat her down and broke the news. Of course, she was upset for not having a big party after seeing how fun it was to celebrate a birthday at KinderCity.
Here’s how we managed to have a small but fun party.
Our birthday tradition
Becoming a year older also meant she could do more. Not that I insist that she helps out, but I do show my appreciation whenever she tries. We planned the party together, and I made sure she knew the details, including the things we needed for the party. I wrote a list of supplies we needed and took her shopping with me. From getting crepe papers to buying grocery, the birthday celebrant was heavily involved in her small party.
She would say:
“Mom, I think it’s better if I help.”,
whenever I’m crouched down cutting the letters for her birthday banner.
So, I would let her glue the pieces together, turning it into a mom-daughter DIY birthday project.
The crepe paper was P 12 per piece, the balloon stick was P 40 with ten pieces per pack, and the balloons were P 85 for pieces.
Our in-between activities during our DIY breaks
How “small” is a small party and how much is a tight budget really?
Once you sold the idea of having a party at your daughter’s grandpa’s home, you must have a good reason why you need to cancel. In my case, I told her the truth. We were just in a tight budget. It helped that I give her a certain budget whenever we use tokens to play in the arcade. Somehow she understood that there’s a cap to our spending so she must use her budget wisely. She knows that there are other uses for the money and better ways to a fun party. So, with less than P 5,000, I used whatever scrap materials I found at home and bought inexpensive party supplies to stay on budget.
Venue: Her school
From a big house party at her grandpa’s house, we downsized to having a lunch treat for her classmates in school. I added a few activities like a cute spider piñata and a villain game too for a touch of the Spiderman-theme. But it turned into a generic superhero when I realized how expensive it was to include Spiderman on everything.
When I realized how difficult it was to create a Spider piñata, I tried negotiating again...
Elle: “How about let’s just make another building and this time it’s yellow!”
Kerrigan: “But, Mom! It’s not a building party!“
And here’s the result of our 3-day hustle…
The food was very simple: spaghetti, chicken nuggets, hotdogs with mallows and two flavoured ice cream for dessert. Our party props were all repurposed scrap materials lying around at homemade special with a bunch of balloons.
Nope, it wasn't her first time to see lit-up candlelight on a cake, but she was ecstatic to have hers.
She didn’t expect any gifts but she got lots anyway!
A birthday party is about celebrating a milestone and what comes with it are people who are happy to celebrate with you. When I told her that she could have her party in school, I gave details on what we could have to celebrate with her classmates and teachers. I skipped the part that she might receive gifts because I was hoping she would focus on having fun with the people in her second home. And she did. She didn’t even look at the pile of gifts she had in the classroom, but when we were in the car, Kerrigan asked if she could open one.
We had a little deal in place. Kerrigan could open one gift before she goes to her nap and opens the rest as soon as she wakes up.
To make things even memorable, we read each card together so she would know from whom it came from.
We played with all of her toys as soon as they were open. We built her cardboard home, named her new bear, Mindy and played buyer/ seller with her new cash register.
While shopping for party giveaways, I caught her snuggling this keychain.
“Do you want it?”, I asked.
She answered with a “yeah” with glimmering eyes.
“Okay, you can have it. It’s my birthday gift for you.”
I think she nearly cried from happiness. She went to sleep holding her Balterby.
You’ll know you did well when…
Ultimately, as a parent my hopes were for the kids to have an awesome time in spite of the simplicity of our lunch treat for them. And for Kerrigan to see any budget-challenge as a chance to be creative.
The challenge would always be about how to give our kids something that they would truly appreciate, and sometimes a big party won’t guarantee that. When in doubt, ask your kid and let your creativity do the rest.
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