Come to the aid of the party

Lavish birthday parties for children have inspired a backlash by a Minnesota parents’ group. Birthdays Without Pressure is trying to persuade parents to cancel the stretch limos and keep it simple, reports the St. Paul Pioneer-Press.

There was a time when a child’s birthday was marked by a gathering of a half-dozen kids at home, with a cake, ice cream and a few games.

Propelled by working parents with disposable incomes, today’s parties have become like miniweddings, with lengthy invitation lists, themed decorations and planned activities lasting three hours or more.

One mom in a western suburb hired a monster truck and demolished a car for her son’s seventh birthday. Another mom planned a lizard-themed party for her 4-year-old with a face painter, a magician and a reptile petting zoo.

I specialized in the backyard birthday party with a door on the grass for a table and rhyming clues for the treasure hunt. When I was feeling lavish, I bought a pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey game. And I recommend ice cream cake. You’ve got your cake, you’ve got your ice cream, you save a step.

About Joanne


  1. When we are tight on cash, the birthday child gets to have a friend over and choose what we have for dinner.

    When we have a little more money, its Chucky Cheese for 4-6 of her friends.

  2. Chuck E. Cheese serves the most dreadful pizza I’ve ever tried to consume in the loudest, most nerve-jangling atmosphere. With a giant rat circulating among the crowd.

  3. I think the few neighborhood kids and cousins has as much fun at my son’s party last summer on the generic Slip N Slide (less than $10 at Wal*Mart) on the front lawn as they would have had with a reptile petting zoo.

    One year when I was feeling rather extravagant, I rented a Cessna ($100) and a pilot friend of mine flew my son and me over the area to see the sights (Capitol Bldg, our house, his school, relatives’ houses, the mall, etc). Later that day it was snacks in the carport with squirt guns for the neighborhood kids.

  4. Catch Thirty Thr33 says:

    When I was younger, for my birthday I was assured a pepperoni pizza, having a friend or two over to do whatever, cake (a RARITY in my family, it being run by health nuts), ics cream, and one, MAYBE two, gifts. Oddly, I don’t feel the least bit deprived by that experience!

  5. Yes… we dread Chuck E. Cheese also, but what are you going to do, they’re our kids and we love them.

    The worst part of the night is always when the kids discover that 1567 tickets only buys a pencil eraser at the counter.

  6. GradSchoolMom says:

    Expectations. That is the downside of big birthday bashes. I have a feeling that birthdays will be a real downer for these children when they grow up and no one even knows it is their “special” day.

  7. I think it is sad to look back and not to be able to remember at least one special birthday. One of my friends just planned an elaborate party for her daughter who turned sixteen. She plans to make at least one birthday really special for each of her three children. I guess I must be the only one who enjoys Chuck E. Cheese parties. It makes me feel better since they stamp the kids hands and check to make sure they leave with the people who brought them. I must admit I actually like their pizza.

  8. I have seen parties of all sorts here. My kids have come home from some parties with $100 of party favors or store gift certificates, and other times it is a handful of candy bars. I think the trend here is for parents to sit back and hire entertainment to keep the kids engaged with minimal effort (a phone call or two) on the parents part. But there is also a concern that one lives up to the standard of what other kids are doing for a birthday party. One mother even brought a facepainter and a storyteller to her children’s school room and decorations for the classroom at our school. After that, our school put a moratorium on anything more than just treats.

    Personally, for a very nominal cost, but a bit of my time – I can bake a cake, decorate my house, make party favors and get supplies for the traditional party games or other actitivities.

    I think this is really a parent issue of laziness and keeping up an image. And as another writer noted, the kids will suffer with inflated birthday expectations when they are older.

    I think it is sad that other parents in