Part 1: Fifth Birthday Preparation

Behold an empty room. In two days it will be filled with squealing 4- and 5-year-olds crawling through cardboard catacombs. It’ll be exactly like our third birthday party, except easier because this time I’m not attempting to blot out the sun.

Photo of our living room emptied of everything except a pile of cardboard boxes.

Geez, why do we still have those curtains?

I’ve been storing a few of those boxes for two years (flattened ones out-of-view).

Invitation List

This birthday saga began with our daughter drawing up a list of desired attendees.

  • 11 friends
  • 4 younger siblings likely to tag along
  • 11 parents (after elementary school begins parents start doing drop-offs)

Surprise! We can’t handle 26 extra bodies in our home, especially with our 14-month-old son running around trying to do everything he shouldn’t.

So we asked her to narrow the list to 5. She picked the kids she sees most often.

Store-bought invitations strike me as tacky and I didn’t have the time to make some, so we went easy-tacky with phone calls and e-mails.

We resolved to invite the six remaining kids next week for play dates while the cardboard fort is still up.

“Sorry we didn’t invite you to the party. Want to play in our fort?”

Is that kosher? Will parents be offended by an after-party? All the play, but none of the cake?

The Big Day’s agenda:

1. Craft project making construction paper books containing magazine photo clippings.

2. Cake and ice cream. The homemade cake will be shaped like a book.

3. Book exchange. Attendees bring one wrapped used book for my daughter. She is giving each of them a book in return as a party favor.

4. Playtime in the cardboard fort.

I have mixed feelings about doing cake and gifts in the middle of the party instead of at the end, but it allows parents to leave as early as they wish. Two of the kids are a bit squeamish and we don’t know if they’ll like cardboard tunnels.


Someone I talked to about this party said I pamper my kids. Hmmm…

We are spending a lot of time organizing an inexpensive party at home while other parents spend a lot of money exporting their party to a gymnastics place or bounce house-type venue. Is there a difference? Are both signs of pampering?

We figure age 5 is where our daughter will begin remembering pivotol moments for the rest of her life. We’d prefer she remember her parents working hard together on something that is important to her.


13 Responses to “Part 1: Fifth Birthday Preparation”

  1. paul says:

    Why not call them both the party, instead of a didn’t make the cut party? It sounds like your all geared up anyway.

    June 10th, 2009 at 1:16 am

  2. Jennifer says:

    I wouldn’t call it pampering. I would call it giving them the best of childhood while teaching them so many finer points in life like “money isn’t everything” and that it’s important to use your imagination.

    No, you don’t pamper your children, you show them the fun side of life and keep them focused as the center of your life…as it should be!

    June 10th, 2009 at 6:10 am

  3. Allison says:

    I am also failing to see the pampering part. How is an inexpensive and creative birthday party thrown at home pampering? Good parties should be as much for the guests as for the person being honored. This sounds like a great party that everyone will enjoy not just your daughter.

    I think birthday parties can also be used as an excellent learning experience. From early on my parents involved me with the planning and implementation of my birthday parties and what I learned from it was how to be a good and gracious host while throwing a creative and fun party on a budget.

    June 10th, 2009 at 9:52 am

  4. KGS says:

    I sympathize with the “too many guests, too small a house” problem– and that’s primarily with local family members, let alone friends! We’ve always had our daughter’s parties at a big park near our house, and thanked our lucky stars late January is nice where we live.

    I suspect people (mostly parents) will not like being told they didn’t make the cut for the “real” party and are being offered a consolation prize. I’d either make the play date a *completely* unrelated event centered on the fort (with no mention of its previous function as birthday-zone), or do two complete parties.

    June 10th, 2009 at 9:54 am

  5. Dallas says:

    My baby is 2, and we have only had “at home” birthday parties. The “themes” were things she loves, first year was rubber duckies, and second year was music. I don’t think you’re pampering at all (like, is pampering a BAD thing???)

    As far as the after-party-party: Perhaps just let the parents know there wasn’t enough room, so “We’re stretching out the party. Just one day to celebrate isn’t enough. We’re partying in shifts”, and just have some cupcakes on hand for the playdates. I’d also have a happy birthday sing-a-long, with the birthday song included along with other kid songs.

    Personally, *I* would not be offended by not being invited to the “real” party. Then again, I don’t get my panties in a bunch about that kind of thing… and folks that do… well… they would probably get their drawers bunched about most anything, and there’s no pleasing folks like that, IMO.

    Y’all have fun!

    June 10th, 2009 at 10:59 am

  6. Bess says:

    My inlaws did a party like that for my brother-in-law when he was a kid, and everyone is still talking about it today. So, I think it’s great. Hard work for a cheaper but more fun party makes for great memories. I wish I was as good. I’m doing the whole gym party thing.

    June 10th, 2009 at 11:46 am

  7. Teacher Jennifer says:

    “We figure age 5 is where our daughter will begin remembering pivotol moments for the rest of her life. We’d prefer she remember her parents working hard together on something that is important to her.”

    YES! Your effort in creating a meaningful party will build and shape her strengths, making a life-long impression. Good job, you two!

    June 10th, 2009 at 2:23 pm

  8. Jennifer says:

    Oh, one more thing on the “number of friends” thing. A good birthday party guildeline is one child per age they are turning plus one as the maximum,

    So, you are inviting a good number for the first party. Heck, I would just say that the second set didn’t get cut, but they get to come to the second party! Wish I would get two parties for my birthday! Plus, all the things would have been tested out and so they are getting the best of the best! It’s really not a bad thing and, in the end, everyone on both days will have a blast and that’s all that really matters, right?

    June 10th, 2009 at 3:19 pm

  9. KGS says:

    Please let us know what you decide to do about the second round party and how people react– I’m really curious! As someone who’s just navigated the morass of a sibling’s wedding and a large graduation party, I’m newly sensitized to the many ways people find to get offended about invitations/parties, so I’m really interested in how you handle this. Hopefully your daughter’s friends’ parents are saner than my more distant relatives… Anyway, I’m sure all the kids will have fun no matter what, and that is what this is *supposed* to be about, after all!

    June 11th, 2009 at 9:43 am

  10. JenRae says:

    what is wrong with using a little elbow grease and imagination? geeze! I think the party sounds great!

    I was totally against having a party at a party place, but my daughter’s birthday is in March, and our house is too small if it’s not nice out… so I caved. My other daughter’s birthday is in the summer though, so her party will be at a park, and I made kites for the kids to decorate and fly. can’t wait!

    June 12th, 2009 at 8:00 pm

  11. Jessica G says:

    My baby is turning 5 in a few weeks and I am thrilled that we get to have a summertime party. Summer parties can be so easy. We are doing the same thing we did last year. Our church has a bouncy-house (borrow) we fill up the kid-friendly little pools and pull out the sprinklers (easy) and give the kids bubbles as favors (cheap). The only thing we spend money on is renting a snow cone machine for the day ($50) which is completely worth it!

    Now for my 2 year old – she is a February baby. I think cardboard forts may be in our future!

    June 13th, 2009 at 8:07 pm

  12. Carrie says:

    I can’t wait to see pictures of the fort!!

    June 14th, 2009 at 12:22 am

  13. skeeter says:

    I wouldn’t go with the sorry you didn’t get invited to the first party line… We used to have a school friend party and a family get together to make sure it wasn’t too crowded

    June 15th, 2009 at 11:45 am