By Natasja VanderBerg, Family Care Advisor & Education and Communications Coordinator
My kid is turning six in January and hasn’t had a proper birthday party since he was two. He was sick on his third birthday, in 2020. Little did we know, that would be the last chance to celebrate his birthday in person for a few years!
We – like many parents – want this birthday to be special in a different way than the past few quiet, intimate celebrations. I don’t like loud, but I fully expect this one to be LOUD!
We’re newbies at throwing a birthday party, and don’t want to break the bank doing so. I asked some people with experience throwing birthday parties in Toronto for tips for affordable gatherings. Here’s the information I have gathered:
Location, location, … location?
There are several venues within the GTA that are not sooo expensive. A Help! We’ve Got Kids blog lists some in Toronto. The Child’s Life website lists venues across Toronto, Peel, York and Vaughan.
Hosting at a venue is often cost prohibitive. Some community centres have space available for a minimal cost. Some YMCAs have spaces available for gatherings. If you are open to having an outdoor party, meeting in a park is a great possibility. In the winter, you can gather for sledding or skating… or even rent a fire pit in one of the city’s parks (Just be sure caregivers stick around for each of these activities too!). Some conservation areas, such as Kortright, have birthday party options. You could set up scavenger hunt in a park, and then head for hot chocolate somewhere to warm up. Or you could go to a movie in a theatre for only $2.99 plus tax during Family Favourites. If you have enough space at home, you could host a at-home party with a craft or other activities. If your kid’s birthday is during nice-weather months, Geocaching with a group of kids could be fun.
Parents suggest avoiding a meal hour so that you can offer snacks rather than a meal. 2-4 pm seems like a popular choice, or even a mid-morning gathering.
In my (admittedly grumpy) opinion, loot bags are a waste of time and money, and most of the items end up in the trash within a few days. Of course, kids would disagree, and there are some goodies that might last longer. A New York Times article, 25 Kids Birthday Party Favors That Aren’t Junk, has some great ideas. Also, caregivers suggested homemade goodies, along the theme of the birthday party (if there is a theme). Unicorn cookies anyone?
As I am writing this, my kid is playing with toys from a loot bag and having a tonne of fun entertaining himself. So, perhaps a trip to the Dollar Store for some affordable goodies isn’t such a bad idea…
A few parents suggested exploring the possibility of used decorations. People sometimes post their used-just-once decorations on neighbourhood Facebook groups. If your kid wasn’t at that specific party, they’ll never know! And you’ll have saved some money – possibly getting the decorations for free – and reduced the environmental footprint of the party. I’ve also seen people ask for decorations on Facebook, with quite a response from people who are happy to see their decorations reused. An alternative to used decorations is making them with your child(ren) in advance. If your kid is excited about a certain theme, creating crafts and banners might be fun activities to do in the weeks leading up to their birthday.
Odds & Ends
A Parents website article, How to Plan a Budget-Friendly Kids’ Birthday Party, has 17 tips for throwing an affordable bash. Tips include baking your own cake and sending out digital invitations. The article also has a list of fun, no-cost activities.
It’s exciting to be able to have parties again. In all the excitement, it’s possible to get distracted by all the details and forget that kids – like us – are simply happy to be physically together. So, whatever you/we decide to do, I am sure it will be fun… and LOUD!