Kids Birthday Parties: Smile-Worthy Ideas for Less

April 22, 2014

While I love celebrating my two boys getting older, some days I would prefer that they stay small forever. But since I don’t actually have the ability to make that happen, I need to sort out how to make their birthday more fabulous than the year before.

I routinely make their cakes from scratch in whatever form they want: Legos, Skylanders (twice), and triceratops (seriously -- I’m proud) have all been created. Most of the time it’s successful, sometimes…. not so much. Either way, they love what I do for them and walk away exhausted and happy.

There are so many choices out there with places like Jumpstreet and Chucky Cheese, but what about something different, simpler, and potentially more frugal? Here are some fun options that can benefit your pocketbook and possibly benefit some local businesses.

Recreation Center: Climbing Wall/Swimming/Gymnastics

Most rec centers have swimming pools, but some have the addition of a climbing wall or gymnastics program. This is a great idea for getting energy out of a group of kids and still having a place to eat snacks and cake either before or afterwards. Swimming generally is allowed for the day if you are part of a party and you get the party room for an hour. Look for places that have fun play areas in the water for kids rather than just a lap pool.

Places like The Link in Lakewood offer a split party for a few dollars more where you can swim as well as do gymnastics or the climbing wall. Cost ranges from $80 for 10 kids up to $190 for a whopping 40 kids depending on the birthday package. You do need to bring your own food, décor, and plates, but the entertainment is covered and safe. You are guaranteed a group of tired kids after a fun day.


My sons love going to the gymnastics places and I love taking them. It's healthy exercise and it gets so much energy out. I’ve tried several places for gymnastics birthday parties and they were all great. There are many scattered all over the state. For 12 kids, TIGAR Gymnastics and Cheer in Wheat Ridge offers a 1 ½  hour party with an hour in the gym and 30 minutes in the party room, gift bags, décor, a visit from their mascot, and some special treats and activities for the birthday child all for $199. This is the average cost for this amount of kids at one of these places, but besides food, there isn’t a lot that you need to do yourself (an added bonus).

Movie Party

You could take the kids to the movie theater and have a party there (which could be pretty costly), or you can host your own at home. Renting a digital projector starts around $60 or you could even purchase one starting around $100 if you think you might use it in the future. Throw a sheet on the side of your house and pull up some sleeping bags in the grass to play your child’s favorite of the moment or simply find a blank wall in the house for an indoor slumber party. Doing this at home leaves more room for you to prepare the food and cake and decorate and entertain on your budget.

Dance Party

Kids love music and they love to dance. If you are missing the hardwood floors in your house, you can always rent a dance floor for as little as $25. Just like the movie party at home, you can decorate your house anyway you like and save on paying for a venue. Get some crazy decorations and lots of balloons and create a little disco for the kiddos to rock out in.

Cooking Party

To change things up a bit for a smaller party (and potentially older kids) try a cooking party. Have a few recipes ready to have the kids help create for snacks at the party. You could even have them make cupcakes and decorate them themselves. As a take-home in lieu of a goody bag, you could have them decorate their own chef aprons that you can purchase for about $20 for four at a craft shop.

Buying a set of kid size utensils and kid safe knives can set you back around $60 but it could always be part of the birthday kid’s gift and they can share while they prep. My six-year-old loves to help me cook all the time -- almost to a fault. He grabs his chef hat and insists on helping me. This is an idea I might roll by him for his birthday this year.

Have you ever tried a less expensive birthday party that your kids loved? Share your ideas by leaving a comment!