Parents cut back on kids’ parties

Lavish children’s parties are going downscale, reports ABC News.

Linda Kaye, a New York-based party planner for over 25 years, said that lately she’s seen parents — who had typically not batted an eyelash at $1,500 price tags for their kindergartener’s party — less willing to “go all out” on their tot’s celebrations.

. . . “Before [the economic crisis] they’d say, ‘Johnny wants Barney at the party, I don’t care how much it costs,’ and now they’re settling for Barney on their child’s birthday cake instead,” she said.

. . . Jessica Gottlieb, a mother of two from Los Angeles who contributes to the Silicon Valley Mom’s Blog, said she’s shown up at birthday parties and been “aghast” at what she’s seen.

“For one 2-year-old’s party, the parents brought in an entire theme park,” Gottlieb recalls. “They did pony rides and a little roller coaster and a carousel. And it was catered.

“It must have cost more than my wedding,” she said.

I raised my daughter in affluent Palo Alto during the boom years. I never met anyone who spent that kind of money on a little kid’s party.  It’s wasted: Kids don’t want catered food. They don’t need Dad to rent out a theme park for their party.

My party specialty was muffin pizzas with each guest customizing her own.  For simplicity, I served ice-cream cake. There was a treasure hunt with rhyming clues and sometimes Pin the Tail on the Donkey. Goodie bags contained stickers. Little girls love stickers. No clowns, magicians, face painters or folk singers. Our venue: The back yard.

About Joanne


  1. I think it’s the parents who want the catered food. 🙂 One of my mum’s big successes for my birthday parties was “put together your own burger” but it meant a lot of work for her and Dad.

  2. Clearly, Joanne, you were an unfit parent!

  3. I never had a birthday party (well, other than within my own family) as a child. To whom do I apply for restitution?

    (That said? Even as a kid Chuck E. Cheese scared the bejeezus out of me.)

  4. Our kids had “theme parties” at our house, but the themes were just what you’d expect: whatever they liked out of the Oriental Trading Company catalog. The girls loved assembling the party favor bags from the piles of cheap doodads that they ordered along with the hats and paper plates. Now the girls are teenagers, and their birthday parties are smaller, less noisy, less color coordinated, and probably about the same price.

    However, several years ago one my girls did go to some birthday parties at the house of a friend with wealthy parents, and they did have clowns and magicians and etc. That was when my daughter asked my wife how people got money, and my wife said, “you have to work hard and be lucky”, which made my daughter a little sad. She later told us that she liked her parties as much, which was good, because we didn’t have a half-acre yard to use, or the money, and we wouldn’t have done it anyway…

  5. Brandyjane says:

    I have quite a few students from wealthy families. Many of the parents want to go all-out for school holiday parties (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentines, Easter), with tons of food, several expensive crafts, games, etc. I teach sixth grade. My kids don’t want all that. They want some cookies or cupcakes, and then they want to be left alone to play and socialize. A few of them – usually girls – like doing crafts, so I let my homeroom moms come up with one cheap, quick, and simple craft. It’s a major adjustment in thinking for some of the parents, but after the first party, they usually come around to my point of view.