Entertainment for Kids Birthday Parties On A Budget

Kids birthday parties can be quite stressful for parents. When you consider that according to Reuters, 26% of parents admit to spending at least $500 for their child’s first birthday party and the number often goes up as children get older, it’s not surprising!

Providing entertainment for kids birthday parties is probably the most expensive part of party planning, but the fun can still be budget-friendly. From do-it-yourself games to outside vendors, parents have a lot of options and owe it to their family’s future to make an informed decision.

As parents to four kids (a son, daughter, and twin boys), we’ve had 25 years of experience with birthday parties. Some years we’ve entertained at home with just the immediate family and other times, we’ve had big bashes inviting everyone we knew. We’ve learned a lot over the years and know that with planning and creativity, kids birthday parties can be a blast, but don’t have to break your family’s piggy bank either!

Kids Birthday Parties Don’t Need to Be Expensive

Unless you are Kim Kardashian, Matt Damon, or some other celebrity with disposable income, a lavish reputation to uphold, and children to spoil, you should not feel like you need to go overboard with your child’s birthday party. After all, you don’t really need to impress the Joneses.

Some parents seem to live vicariously by throwing lavish parties for their children. I do not recommend it!

A birthday party is not about how much you spend. It is about celebrating your child’s birth day and making your child feel extra special…contrary to what some might believe, that doesn’t come with a high price tag.

You can get balloons, streamers, and party favors quite inexpensively from discount stores and clearance bins from party suppliers. Or you can skip all that stuff and focus on the main items only: cake, presents, and F-U-N!

Click here to go to Amazon to purchase the balloons we always use at birthday parties!

As well, you don’t have to spend a ridiculous amount on a birthday present either! Most times the present gets tossed aside and rarely looked at later after an hour at best!

Kids truly can have as much fun with toys from The Dollar Store as they can with toys from FAO Schwarz!

Sometimes big parties are cultural such as a child’s Bar Mitzvah or Quinceañera, so these extra special birthdays are understandably more costly than the other years. Have you had the pleasure of being invited to one of these, or perhaps you have been the host of one for your child?

This is an extreme example of a child’s birthday party hosted on a cruise ship!

However, just because this birthday has been dubbed ‘extra special’ that doesn’t mean the Bar Mitzvah, Quinceañera, Sweet 16, or other ‘extra special’ birthday should cost as much as a car or wedding! In fact, according to a recent study, spoiling a child to this extent has been shown to have negative effects on their future! Should a birthday be the cause of such ramifications? I think not!

Unfortunately, setting this tone is only going to get worse for your family. If you set a precedent of lavish spending one year, it won’t be long before the next extra special birthday comes, or the younger sibling meets that milestone, too, and the spending needs a bump due to inflation!

This is our granddaughter Kayleigh celebrating her 4th birthday with a cake that cost less than $30 but made her feel extra special all the same!

Entertainment is Essential for Kids Birthday Parties (this is what they’ll remember)

Your child will be fine with kid-centric, interactive DIY entertainment but probably wouldn’t enjoy Michael Scott’s version.

When you ask your kids about their favorite birthday parties, they will rarely remember guests, presents, or cake. They’ll think back on the ones where they had the most fun. Those memories of doing something are what sticks out in their minds when they’re past 3 or 4 years old (before that, they won’t remember anything anyway!).

This is why entertainment matters for kids birthday parties. All you need to remember is that Kids want to have fun. Now again, this doesn’t mean the FUN has to be expensive. Don’t let anyone fool you!

As our kids have grown up, whether for birthdays, holidays, or other, we’ve tried to focus on making memories rather than getting things. Sure, they received presents over the years….too many to count even for our thrifty minds! I have no idea what they received for those birthdays, nor where those presents are now. Fortunately, in comparison, we focused more on the doing, than the gifting.

For birthdays, spend more on the FUN. Some FUN costs more money than others…and some FUN costs much time and effort. Kids appreciate your time more than anything, trust me!

This means you can:

  • Let them pick the vacation spot
  • Take them to museums
  • Go to zoos
  • Host a Painting Lesson
  • Enjoy Horseback riding
  • Have a Camel ride
  • Pet some reptiles
  • Or give a pet-that one can and should be memorable!
  • Play football
  • Watch a favorite movie
  • Build blanket forts in the living room
  • Bake the birthday cake together!

Obviously some of these are more costly than others in time and money, but you get the idea. Whatever you decide to do for your child’s birthday, the ‘doing’ should be the main focus.

One of our biggest traditions over the years has been a family-only birthday party. Our entertainment was our child picking a movie for everyone to see and their favorite dinner either at a restaurant or something homemade.

They also enjoyed picking out their own birthday cake or making a request for their favorite Mom or Sister-made treat.

Lexi had a blast making me these luscious and eye-catching flower cupcakes! And we all enjoyed eating them!

Especially as our daughter grew up, the homemade dinners and sweets were irreplaceable! She painstakingly made pies from scratch and decorated cupcakes for everyone. These memories of our family time together has become even more cherished as the years go by!

This has been the most beautiful bouquet of flowers I’ve ever received!

DIY Birthday Parties for Kids

Do-it-yourself or DIY is all the rage now. With Youtube, Pinterest, Etsy, and more, you can learn to do just about anything, including organizing, decorating, and entertaining a child’s birthday party.

Even Martha Stewart offers advice for the beginners to plan your child’s birthday party. Although her budget is more than the average person has for sure, she provides step-by-step instructions for doing it yourself. From setting the budget in the beginning to selecting a theme to making the invitations, and then finally executing the plans, Martha has confidence the average person can do it! And so should you!

DIY is certainly a way to lower birthday costs and even with the entertainment piece, if you do it yourself, you’ll save money. And more than likely, the DIY birthday party will be just as good as any vendor! And if it somehow turns into a fail, well that will one day become a sweet memory, too!

Your Home (or a Family/Friend’s)

I decorated the walls of our living room with an inexpensive birthday streamer and a few balloons for the twins’ 4th birthday when we lived in Burbank, California.

One way to save is by hosting the party at your home. This is probably the most cost effective birthday party you can have for your child. After all, you have already covered the mortgage or rent, right?!

For one, by having it at your home (or the home of a family member or friend), you will undoubtedly keep the guest list to a minimum, that is, assuming you will probably not have unlimited space. The less people you have, the less food you’ll need, the less party favors and so on, you’ll need…resulting in a lower budget party.

Also, ‘DIY at home’ means you aren’t paying for a venue space. This is a huge savings! Rather than have a party at Chuck E. Cheese or Dave and Buster’s, for example, where they up-charge everything in part to pay for the overhead (location), you’ll save money off the bat having it at your own home.

More than likely, you’ll probably make the food yourself (or enlist help from some good friends and family potluck-style) when you host the party at your home. Everyone knows this is cheaper than ordering it or having it catered. But even if you have pizzas delivered, you’ll still save over the option of having the party somewhere else.

If you choose to have it at your home or the home of a family member/friend, you may also decide to take charge of the entertainment. This doesn’t mean you have to be a self-taught magician or learn how to make balloon animals before the big day (though with Youtube, you probably could learn both quite easily).

You can host the party in your living room, moving furniture to accommodate your guest list. You could cordoned off rooms you don’t want to include or just let everyone spread out as they feel comfortable. You don’t need to live in a palatial mansion for this to work! Just be creative with the space you have.

Children would have plenty of fun ‘camping’ in your living room. Set up tents or make-shift ones with sheets or tarps. To make it even more decorative, you can use inexpensive table cloths for this purpose. If you opt for this option, be sure to include ‘bring your own sleeping bag & stuffy’ on the invitations to make sure everyone has what they need!

If you prefer not to have the party INSIDE your home, you might decide to use your back yard if available and weather permits. The back yard (or front) could be perfect for a Camp-A-lot-Birthday party!

If you don’t want to go the camping route, you can still take the party outside. Instead, you can organize some yard games and play music. You can incorporate balloons for some ‘ball games’ or races. If weather is warm, you could even make water balloons, have super soaker team sports, or set up sprinklers to ramp up the fun factor.

As an add-on, or in lieu of camping, you can do a build your own crafts at your dining room table! Crafts activities don’t have to be complicated or expensive but can be quite easy to manage. Beads, feathers, paints, glitter, buttons, string, popsicle sticks….and a kid’s imagination can easily fill an afternoon with fun! And, the end result also offers ready-made party favors!

After all, it’s about them doing something, remember, and having friends along for the fun, makes it even better!

Click here to go to Amazon to purchase the balloons we always use at birthday parties!

You can also find great craft materials at Amazon. Click here to see our recommendation.

The Park

Now if you don’t have space at home or just prefer not to have everyone at your house, you can have the party at a nearby, local park. Usually you can find space at a park free of charge.

You may need to send someone early to hold your spot, depending on the time of day or year (for example, Saturdays are more popular as well as summer months). And some parks might offer the opportunity to reserve tables and grills.

You can do just about everything you’d plan at home for a kid’s birthday party at a park, with a few tweaks.

Pack your food like you would a picnic in coolers or boxes. If it’s warm, you may need to bring ice and more drinks to keep everyone hydrated comfortably. If you want pizza, ask one of the parents to pick it up along the way, but it’s also possible to have it delivered straight to you there, as well.

Clean up at the parks is super simple! Trash cans are plentiful; you don’t have to worry about stains or anything getting broken either.

You’ll certainly have plenty of space to spread out for yard games. Most parks also have playgrounds with swings, slides, see saws and other outdoor structures for FREE entertainment too.

Add in a football/soccer/basketball, some balloons, or the super soakers from home, the fun is limitless!

Click here to go to Amazon to purchase the super soakers we recommend for use at birthday parties!

You can decorate for the birthday celebrations at the parks as well. Get some bright cardboard or poster board and markers to make birthday signs; cover a table with a colorful or themed cloth and hang some of those balloons, too. Bring along a boombox or speakers for your phone to play music to keep the mood festive. The atmosphere is set!

With a bit of effort on your part, a birthday party at the park will make any child smile, and still be friendly on your pocket book!

Community Center/Neighborhood Rec Room

If you live in an HOA neighborhood or a condo/townhouse/apartment building, you probably have access to a community building at little to no cost. If so, this a an excellent alternative to hosting a birthday party at your home.

Even if the service comes at a nominal fee, it is usually low enough to not off set the budget because it is already factored into your cost of living at your home!

If you don’t have access to one of these buildings, it is most certain that your local Parks and Recreation Association will have several community buildings for use by those who live in the area.

Usually these are complimentary, but just require a reservation. Sometimes you will need to put down a security deposit to off set any unforeseen damage or cleaning cost afterwards.

Again, depending on the day, time, and month of the birthday, you may find availability issues and need to make your reservation well in advance.

Sometimes planning and preparation are the main ingredients to fun, but inexpensive birthday entertainment.

Like with birthday parties at the park, you can do just about anything at the rec or community building that you can do at your own home. Rec/community buildings usually have a kitchen and lots of open space for congregating, so it’s a very suitable, budget conscious alternative and worthy of consideration.

Kids Birthday Parties Vendors

Now whether you host the party at your home, park, or rec/community building OR choose to use a venue such as a pizza place or skating rink, you might find a vendor fits in your reasonable birthday party budget for entertainment. You can definitely pair the two!

There are all kinds of vendors available for kids birthday parties. Magicians and clowns have been traditional favorites. Nowadays you can find those, along with much more to entertain your birthday child and guests.

Most often you will be able to bring a vendor directly to your home, or any place within reason.

Monkeys, Snakes, & Sloths- Oh My!

Alexis enjoyed a dream visit with a sloth for her 19th birthday.

Even though we’re probably quite conservative with our kids birthday parties budget, we have had our share of vendors for their celebrations. Some have been better than others, but all were over priced! And if you stack them up against other birthday celebrations we’ve had, they aren’t in the top ten!

Looking back, we’ve had a variety of animal vendor experiences. The first venture into this led us to an actual performing monkey.

For our daughter’s second birthday party, we brought a vendor to our karate dojo. The lady trainer dressed flamboyantly along with her two monkeys, to be exact, and all three put on the show.

The monkeys rode tricycles and did some flips. They let the children shake their monkey paws. And the trainer shared some monkey trivia. I’m sure the presentation was about as good as a monkey show could be!

But you know what, our 2 year old wouldn’t have anything to do with it! She was much more interested in the cupcakes and karate pads!

I believe this little hour show cost us close to $300, too, if memory serves me right. The guests were impressed for sure, and our older son remembers the demo quite well. We made sure we got some pictures to prove to her that we aren’t making it up, but was it worth the cost and did it actually celebrate our birthday girl? Um, that’s a big no!

The next time we tried a vendor was for our older son. We took him and some friends to a reptile house. He was probably 8 at that time (but I am not 100% sure). What I do remember is that he was scared the whole time! We made sure he touched the snake but he wasn’t thrilled about it. And again, it wasn’t quite the welcomed birthday celebration we anticipated for him!

Now the last time we’ve used an outside vendor was just a few years ago when we took our daughter for a personal visit with a sloth. This was at an animal sanctuary in North Carolina.

To know Lexi is to also know her obsession with sloths. If there was such a thing as spirit animal, the sloth is hers.

She was turning 19 and instead of concrete presents or a party, we decided to gift her sloth-time. She was super excited and certainly enjoyed the time; it’s no doubt a fond memory even now. But to be honest, I think meeting her spirit animal wasn’t all she thought it would be. And it also left her with a bit of animal welfare concern (not that the facility was improperly ran).

So, what has all this meant to us in regards to outside vendors? In the case of animals as entertainment, we recommend a serious pass. All of these animal encounters were quite costly and had a hard time living up to the hype.

Karate for Kids Birthday Parties

Most assuredly our most recurring birthday party entertainment involved martial arts. Given our close connection to the best karate instructor around, it makes sense!

Karate birthday parties are popular for a reason. Read more about karate birthday parties here.

They’re quite reasonable in cost when you factor in the interactive nature of them and all that’s involved. Karate instructors provide entertainment that goes beyond any other vendor you can imagine!

Martial Arts Instructors are enthusiastic and personable by nature; they include as many guests as you have willing and in attendance in their instruction, and usually tell a few good, albeit dad, jokes through it all.

Most karate instructors also provide the guest of honor a uniform or ‘special’ belt, extra lessons beyond the party, and a spotlight for them to shine, making him or her an assistant or Black Belt for the Day during the fun.

It’s not uncommon for the birthday child to get to break a board, either!

So for less that any animal vendor we’ve tried, about half the cost, all of your guests get to enjoy a half hour to an hour long class, and your birthday child gets the added extras, too.

It’s not surprising that many people repeat martial arts birthday parties year after year. We have!

On Site Versus Online

With the advancements of technology and ease of online communication platforms such as Zoom, more vendors are utilizing the online format for their party entertainment. yet, it naturally works for some vendors better than others.

Online classes have soared in the recent years, and martial arts instruction is no exception. Online karate birthday parties are particularly suitable for Zoom.

Dynamic karate instructors can command a class in person or online. With the right tone, structure, and accommodations or tweaks, the online class can be even more inclusive than in person and children as young as 2 years old can participate.

For example, online instruction includes use of items easily found in a person’s house such as newspaper, pillows, and fruits like bananas. You don’t need specialized martial arts equipment at all!

Online karate birthdays are inclusive of people who live far away as well. Because anyone with an internet connection and the Zoom link can join, family and friends who wouldn’t normally be able to attend the birthday party due to distance can now participate!

Even though martial arts vendors are generally less expensive than other vendors already, online martial arts birthday parties are even better for your budget!

Not having to travel to the birthday child’s home or having to host the party at a dojo helps the karate instructor keep his or her overhead costs down. In turn, he or she is able to pass on that benefit to you.

With prices sometimes as low as $99 per session, I’ve seen online karate birthday parties at 75% cheaper than other vendors!

Wrapping Up Kids Budget-friendly Birthday Parties Entertainment Ideas

Birthday PartyBudget-FriendlyInteractiveEase on YouTOTAL
You Entertain @Home54211
You Entertain @Park 55111
You Entertain @Rec/Community Center4419
Vendor @Your Site Choice or Theirs2439
Karate Party In Person 35412
Karate Party LIVE Online45514
Rated 1-5 with 5 being the best.

Kids birthday parties should be a fun, happy, stress-free time for families. After all, you are celebrating an important occasion for your whole family, not just the birthday child.

You should not be concerned with overspending or going overboard on your child’s festivities. With proper planning and organization, and sometimes a bit of personal muscle and elbow grease, your child can have a fun, exciting birthday celebration full of budget-friendly entertainment.

Let’s recap some highlights mentioned above:

  • Entertainment is essential for memorable kids birthday parties.
  • Entertainment should be budget-friendly.
  • You can DIY your child’s party and entertainment without special training.
  • Martial Arts Birthday Parties are cost-effective.
  • Online Karate Birthday Party Entertainment is the most budget-conscious entertainment, sometimes 75% of the cost of other vendors and at least half the price of onsite karate parties.
  • Online Karate Parties have the added bonus of including long-distance relatives and friends, making it an exceptional choice.

If you would like more information about providing entertainment for kids birthday parties or have specific questions to ask, contact us for more details. In the meantime, we have some low-cost birthday parties in our grandchildren’s future to plan!

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