A Simple Happy Birthday

“Where thou art, that is home.” —Emily Dickinson

A child can feel at home anywhere, especially if she is loved, accepted and treated well. And particularly when it’s a birthday, no matter where the party is held and friends are surrounding, you’ll see a glow of happiness on a child’s face.

Last week we had a party in our home. It’s what I’d call a “good ol’ fashioned” birthday party. Fourteen girls came to help celebrate my daughter’s 11th birthday. We played games for 2 ½ hours and enjoyed our homemade “Cold Stone” ice cream bar. A lot of laughter, silliness, competition, and genuine caring for one another transpired.

Some of our favorite games to play at birthday parties are:

Clothespins in the Jar
Cottonballs on the Shower Cap
Count the Candies in the Jar
Freeze Dance
People Bingo
Pictionary (w/white board)
Tasting Game
Whipped Cream Pies

Many of these games I played as a kid growing up.

It does take time and energy to organize such a party, but the cost involved is so little, and the payoff huge. The kids really enjoyed the home environment with such simple fun.

Last year my theme birthday dessert for my kids’ parties was the “ice cream trough.” This year I tried to think of something a little out of the box, yet inexpensive.

The night before the party, Abby was in charge of chopping up her own toppings, and setting them up in a Cold Stone fashion. Cold Stone is an ice cream chain where the clerks mix up your ice cream flavor with toppings as you watch. With Halloween candy in the stores, Abby had a huge variety for the girls to choose from.

Cold Stone was generous enough to sell us their cones in a dish (fifty cents), we softened our own tubs of ice cream in large bowls, and we mixed up the treats on a cold stone.

What were we missing? Hoppi and I singing behind the counter! (Cold Stone tradition when you go into their stores).

At the end of the day we had a very happy little girl. Abby saw the effort I put into planning this party, and I also pointed out the importance of keeping costs down. She is learning the value of home celebrations and that keeping things simple is advantageous.

But more importantly, she is learning that being connected to her friends and being loved in return is really the gift she is looking for. And I saw this as she genuinely hugged each girl after opening each gift.

Elaborate and expensive can be exciting, but sometimes good ol’ fashioned fun is all we need.

I’d love to hear some of your fun, simple birthday ideas!

21 comments on “A Simple Happy Birthday”

  1. Great post. I love your pictures, it looks live everyone had fun! Thanks for letting me know about it, I linked to it in my birthday post today.

  2. I got a little behind in reading blogs lately so I know I’m late with this, but thought I’d go ahead and share anyway. Our favorite birthday party was a “Kidnapped” or “Reverse Surprise Party” for my daughter’s 9th bday. At this party it’s the guests who get surprised, not the birthday girl (or boy). You call the parents of each of the guests ahead of time and let them know you’ll be picking their child up on the party day…VERY EARLY, so you’ll hopefully catch them still in bed. Mom or dad wakes the child up and tells them they’re going to a birthday party in their pj’s! The looks on the kids faces when they find out why they’re being woken up is priceless! We served breakfast and played some games. It was like a slumber party since everybody was in their pj’s and got to eat breakfast together, but we avoided the up-all-night part I always hated. My daughter is now 21 and she still talks about this party.

  3. The most memorable party we had for our son was on his 7th birthday. He is still at 21 a TOTAL Lego-maniac, and car fanatic, so we built the theme of the party around his likes. Each boy got a plastic “hard hat” with “Ryan’s Construction Company” labels printed on the front. Games included a building contest with empty boxes, a Lego building station where they could build, and an incredible obstacle course.

    The cake was “Mississippi Mud” decorated to look like a construction site. We had a little Hot Wheels backhoe on top ‘digging’ in a pit where there were mini marshmallows exposed that looked like rocks. Little sprigs of green tinted coconut around the edges made it look like weeds coming up, like they do on the fringes of a real const. site. The kids all LOVED it, and he still remembers it.

    The home made parties are always our favorites here, too!

  4. Great ideas! My daughter turns 11 in December and she wants a party. The shower cap game is a hoot – never heard of that one!

  5. It is always so inspiring to read what you are doing to help these girls stay a solid group of friends. They are so fortunate to have you!

  6. Great party ideas! We just had 2 birthday parties at our house. I’m going to have to save your list of games, because they look really fun. I posted our “spa party” ideas on my blog if you’re interested. Since I have 3 kids born within 3 weeks, I’m always looking to save money on parties.

  7. Many birthday blessings to your daughter. What a wonderful idea for a party. You are very creative. Looks like they all had a great time.

  8. What a wonderful birthday party!!!

    Happy Birthday Abby!
    (Where were you when I turned 40 in June??)


  9. That’s some serious fun, Sandy! What a terrific birthday celebration – Happy Birthday Abby!!

  10. great idea— I love your site!!

    how do you handle thank-you notes? That is my biggest challenge with kids— would love any tips!

  11. That still looks like lots of fun and I’m turning 27 this week. I love parties and surrounding myself with friends. I decided this year to invite any of my friends who wanted to to go for supper with myself and my husband and then to come back to our house for homemade desserts that I’m preparing this week. I’m really excited because there is nothing better than being in the company of friends. I’m truly inspired by your ideas. I think it’s great and I’ll probably try some of them out in the future on my girls birthday parties.

  12. Happy birthday to your sweet girl!

    We didn’t have a birthday party for Hunter this year. I just didn’t think he would understand it, and I wanted to save the fun parties for when he’s old enough to know what’s going on and to enjoy it.

    For youth activities, we used to play a relay race that would be great for bday parties. We would fill up two coolers with ice and water. Then we’d drop marbles into the coolers.

    We’d put the coolers on one end, and tin pie pans on the other end. The kids would line up barefoot in two lines with the pie pans at the head of their line, and the coolers about 100 feet away.

    They would have a relay race to run from the pie pan to the cooler, stick their feet in the ice water and grab something in their toes, hobble back to the pie pan, drop whatever they grabbed in the pan and tag the next person to go. Which ever team had the most marbles (not ice) in their pans won. You can even give different values to different colored marbles.

    It was fun. The kids would grab stuff thinking they were getting marbles, and come back with ice and frozen toes. It was very funny for the adults to watch!

  13. All of the games sound like so much fun. I don’t remember playing any of them. For my son’s 4th birthday party he had a space theme. We bought some disposable aluminum loaf pans and turned them into moon boots. All of the children then went on a moon walk in the yard following Keiran’s daddy as he created a vision of the moon for them. It was very cheap and yet probably something they’ll remember for years. It’s not often you get to walk on the moon.

  14. The showercap game is really fun and simple: put a lot of cotton balls on your table (see the photo), put shower caps on the girls’ heads (I bought 8/$1 at the Dollar Store), then place strips of masking tape or packing tape on the sides and top of head. Set the timer for 30 seconds and the girls have to move their heads around on the table to try to pick up as many cotton balls that they can! Hands behind their backs. When the timer is up, they take their cap and count the balls.
    Fun and Simple! :)

  15. Fantastic ideas — we have an 11th birthday coming up in a few months so I’m going to have to remember this!

  16. I dont have children (yet, and hopefully not for some time, lol!) but I love to hear when people put a lot of thought into their child’s birthday parties. So many people do the typical party it’s nice to see someone put some creativity into it. I think the kid’s appreciate it so much more, I know as a kid I did!


  17. Please explain the shower cap game! That looks fun.

    We used to do one with a candy bar, dice, and mittens. My favorite.

  18. You might have to explain some of those games! I’ve often been amazed at how much fun kids — even teens — have with old-fashioned, NON-electronic games! Sounds like a wonderful time and a great learning experience as well!!

  19. I luv the shower cap game–how funny! We always made our own Pin the Whatever on the Something (depending on the year) or our own pinatas. Homemade parties are the best!

  20. Oh how fun! What great pictures!

    Most of our birthday parties are done right here at our house, too. For someone like me who is a “reluctant entertainer” this might seem unusual, but I just like the idea of it better, as well as the cost!

    In years past, if our birthday girl picked a theme such as Strawberry Shortcake or Belle, we’ve done a pin the “hat” or “crown” on a home made poster, which my husband usually makes since he is the artistic one in the family!

    I can tell by this last picture just how much your daughter and her friends loved this party! :)

  21. that looks like a blast and i nearly forgot about some of those games!

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