The Kids’ Birthday Party Pendulum

Birthday Pendulum | A Simple Haven

I swing wildly on the kids’ birthday party pendulum.

Wait, you didn’t know there was a kids’ birthday party pendulum?

It goes like this: On one side, the I just-threw-this-together party. Simple, with little planning, decor, or theme. Costs tend to be minimal, but also depend on whether or not you get last-minute inspiration and hit up Hobby Lobby the night before.

(Also on this side: the no-party party. Just a quiet dinner with family).

On the other side? The I’ve-been-pinning-on-Pinterest-since-her-last-birthday party. Generally a clear theme reflected in decor, invitations, favors, and activities.

Typically more expensive, but planning ahead allows for spreading out party supply purchasing over months before the event–so you don’t realize you’ve spent hundreds on baby girl’s first birthday unless you audit yourself.

(Hubs, are you reading this? Don’t freak, I’ve never spent hundreds on a party).

Bun 4bday | A Simple Haven

So, like I said, I swing between the two.

Bun’s first birthday? Huge hoopla. 30+ guests, full lunch served. No discernible theme (unless you count “scraps of fabric”) but there was a fantastic Martha Stewart lemon curd cake and a baby Julia trivia game.

Buckaroo’s second birthday? Sorry, buddy. The one family we invited over for cake had travel plans, so you just enjoyed the company of Mommy, Daddy, big Sister, and your new trucks.

But actually? He thought everything was lovely. (His words, of course).

bun 4bday11

Frankly, my kids don’t care which side of the pendulum I’m hanging out on. As long as they feel loved on their special days, they’re fine.

And having spent time on each end, I’m not going to promote either as best.  As in most things, it’s the heart behind what I’m doing/not doing that matters.

So I’ve come to feel the freedom to embrace different approaches in different seasons of life.

I’ve learned that I will rarely have the energy to do anything extravagant for Buck’s December 23rd birthday.  Unless I plan waaay in advance. For now, that’s fine. He’s two, has zero birthday party expectations, and very few little friends.

And last year, we kept things small for Bun’s birthday, too: just a day filled with some simple favorite things, a quiet family dinner, and “strawberry cake.” (= Strawberry shortcake? In any case, that’s what I made).

I love keeping birthday celebrations small and simple. For me, there’s less temptation to stress and make it about more than my kid feeling loved and special.

But this year?

Bun Bday | A Simple Haven

Come January, I packed Christmas decor away and promptly created a new Pinterest board for my little big girl’s April birthday party. I can’t say why, but I had visions of tea parties, pink decorations, and fanciness dancing in my head.

We’d invite a few little friends and their mommies, eat cake off of china (because I like to live dangerously), read a favorite story together, and bust up a piñata (because, really, who doesn’t love a piñata?)

Bun bday2 | A Simple haven

I wanted to make something fun and pretty for Bun–because she loves fun and pretty. And it brings me joy.

I used these sweet invitations and after getting inspiration from Emily’s tea party, bought a roll of pretty wrapping paper to use as a table runner.

Bun 4bday collage

I made a few decorations with my mom, who was visiting the week before the party.  Had she not been in town, I’d have brought out the same scraps of fabric I used for Bun’s first birthday party.

As it was, I made new scraps of fabric decor. A woman of habit, I am.

Scraps of Fabric Banner | A Simple Haven

We served the little girls a variation of this cake, some cups of fresh fruit, and pink lemonade. The mommies had coffee and snacked on bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheese and sweet potato chips with guacamole.

bun 4bday13

Bun and her guests did story time, colored pretty pictures with glittery crayons, made impressive efforts to demolish the piñata, and went home with packets of flower seeds to sow.

Birthday princess

It was fun and pretty with out feeling crazy. Bun loved it.

Bun bday3 | A Simple Haven

This year, the fancier side of the birthday pendulum felt just right.

How do you celebrate birthdays?




About Jenn

Jenn is a mommy of three and wife to her best friend. She enjoys good books, dinner guests, elevenses, and proper apostrophe use.

  • I just loved this, Jenn. I want a spring tea party now. = ) We’ve kept it simple for the first couple of years – the babes don’t care/don’t know and it’s been better all around. But once they get older, a little more fuss is enjoyable. I love your fabric scraps, are they just tied on to a ribbon? And that ribbon crown? Perfect.

    • Yes, my big girl totally hasn’t been aware of all the party fuss-until this year, I think. She loves to decorate and “be fancy” so I think she enjoyed the party. 🙂

      Yes, the scraps of fabric are just knotted on the twine. Really easy, but it probably took a couple BBC shows. 🙂 The ribbon crown was a last minute thing–about 15 minutes before the party, I thought “what I really should do right now is make a ribbon crown. ” Ha.

  • Oh yes, I swing on this pendulum also – for sure. I actually think swinging between the two is probably the best of both worlds – the kids get a few super fun parties (and we get to have fun planning them) but nobody expects it EVERY year. Follow the inspiration and the season of your life = perfect plan.

    • Oh that’s a good point, Jennifer! I know, I don’t think I’d want them expecting it b/c goodness knows momma doesn’t always have it in her to throw a fancy party :).

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  • What a pretty party! I do this too. I just went all out for my son’s 5th birthday party – dinosaurs! giant cake! bounce house! But he has lots of friends and was happy to have them over. My daughter will be three this summer and hasn’t had a real party yet. 🙁 Poor girl. Maybe this is the year? I better start planning if so!

    • Oh, a bounce house! My daughter would flip out, in a good way :).

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