Inside: Learn why we don’t throw big birthday parties for our kids and what we opt to do instead.

This past week one of my daughters had a birthday. She turned 9. But you won’t find us hosting any big parties this weekend.

As we’ve worked to simplify various aspects of our lives, how we choose to celebrate birthdays has become a part of that.

Here are 5 reasons we don’t throw big birthday parties for our kids and what we opt to do instead.

don't throw big birthday parties

5 Reasons Why We Don’t Throw Big Birthday Parties

While not an exhaustive list, these are the five main reasons why we don’t throw big birthday parties for our kids.

1. I’m not good at it

I’m not a Pinterest mom. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Pinterest. I am just not a party planner at all.

I enjoy fancy, fun, and creative things, but I’m not great at actually making them. In part, because that isn’t my gift, and the other part is I don’t value that enough to spend the time on it.

If we are going to be honest, how many of us want to spend our weekends at kids birthday parties or hosting them? Of course, we sacrifice for our kids often but is eating cake every other weekend good for them either?

2. We’re very frugal

Kids’ birthday parties can be very expensive. If you are trying to rent out a local roller skating rink or play place, it costs a lot of money. Are there less frugal ways to do it? Yes. You can host it at a park, but providing food and things adds up.

I’m all about living within our means. We don’t have hundreds of extra dollars to spend on birthdays every year.

We’ve chosen to say no to the excess and instead opt for a simpler route for birthdays and Christmas.

don't throw big birthday parties

3. We don’t want to overdo it

I think we can overdo birthday parties. Parents didn’t use to throw one-year-olds huge parties. This has become a lot more common in recent years. We’ve moved away from simple and instead opt for bigger, which isn’t always better.

If we get them whatever they want for every birthday including the party they desire, we set up an expectation that does not align with our values.

One may argue that that’s what birthdays are for. I disagree. I believe it’s possible to find a happy medium. This is why I focused on not throwing BIG parties instead of no parties.

When we take things to extremes, we set their expectations so high that they are likely to end up disappointed. Even if I want to spoil my kids at the holidays and their birthdays, I won’t. Because it sends an inconsistent message.

It’s important to me to raise children who don’t feel entitled. I’m trying to teach them to live simply despite our consumer culture. In doing so, I need to be careful with the example that I set for them and the choices I make.

We don’t need to encourage children to be self-focused. That comes naturally. It takes intentional effort to pay attention to the needs of others instead. That isn’t to say we don’t celebrate them. We do. Just not by throwing a big birthday party.

don't throw big birthday parties

4. We like simple

So if we don’t throw big birthday parties, what do we do? On the day before their birthday they get to pick up the number of balloons as years old they are turning. This year we started giving them the option of cash instead of the balloons as ten balloons was getting to be a lot.

On their birthday day, the birthday girl gets to pick what she wants for dinner and requests whatever cake she would like. We ‘decorate’ the night before their birthday with a banner, balloons, and a few streamers. It’s very simple and would impress no one, but the girls really enjoy it.

Over the weekend we have a get-together with extended family where we enjoy a meal together and the kids play. We hang up the minimal decor at whichever relative’s house we are at that year (think 1 pack of streamers and a dollar tree sign). And that’s about it. It is simple and perfect for us.

Every five years the girls will get to have a party where they invite their friends. Even still I keep the numbers to a minimum. Both girls had five friends over on their fifth birthday.

It was basically a glorified play date. They ran around our house playing with each other and having lunch and cake. Refer to point #1.

This past year was supposed to be the second friend party for my oldest, but quarantines made that impossible. Instead, we went on a surprise weekend trip with just our little family and made many great memories.

how to deal with unwanted gifts


As far as gifts go, we keep those simple too. Typically something she needs and something fun to do. This year she got sneakers and four gymnastics lessons.

My mom’s gift will be a date with her where they will have breakfast and shop for something my daughter needs. It often ends up being shoes too. Goodness, kids are hard on their feet.

A couple of years ago, I got my in-laws on board with my new idea called a Fun Fund. They contributed to it. The birthday girl will get to decide what experience she wants to spend that money on. The only rules are they must get parental approval and have to take pictures during the experience to send to anyone who has contributed to the fund.

My daughter was thrilled to learn that she gets to pick something exciting to do. As a bonus, it helps teach them budgeting as she learns how far her money can go.

There are many ideas for experience gifts that can be given instead of toys.

I recently read an article about how travel is the new birthday gift and I think that’s a great idea if you can afford it. You always have better memories from experiences rather than things.

5. Clutter

The final reason we don’t throw big birthday parties is because we don’t want the clutter. I don’t want to create party favors to hand out to kids. I realize there are creative ways to do this where they aren’t total junk but refer back to #1…that’s not my thing.

We also don’t want the random gifts that come with hosting a birthday party. Well-intentioned guests bring toys or other items for the birthday girl. Sometimes they aren’t things we would choose to have in our home, but always it is just too much stuff.

I’ve seen people try to avoid this by requesting no gifts or donations to a cause, but usually, that’s been met with mixed results where gifts were still given despite their best efforts.

Birthday parties also tend to clutter up our schedules. If our kids went to every birthday party they are invited to, we’d be spending lots of weekends at kid’s birthday parties. And that just isn’t how I want us to spend our weekends.

I’m protective of our time and our schedule. Family time is important to me. Having downtime is important to me. I simply cannot keep up with all the birthday parties. If I am hosting them, I’m contributing to it. We vote no.

don't throw big birthday parties

What We Do Instead of Throwing Big Birthday Parties

I realize that as I am doing this with my kids, I am pretty much recreating my own childhood. My parents did the same five-year party thing for us.

I knew my friends had bigger birthday parties and had them every year. And I am sure that I asked for more parties than I got. But I made it through just fine. I’ve come to appreciate the simplicity of it.

So where will you find us this weekend? We’ll be having a gymnastics-themed bbq at my sister’s house. The kids will be doing lots of cartwheels and the birthday girl will enjoy food cooked by her favorite chef, her uncle. It will be simple and it will be lovely.

Update: I wrote this post about four years ago. In recent years we have continued to keep the girls’ birthday parties really small and have focused on experiences instead.

We’ve loved that their birthdays are a time that we celebrate them while spending quality time together as a family. Is there anything important they’re missing out on? I don’t think so.

How do you celebrate birthdays in your home? Share it in the comments section.

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  1. This is great. We don’t do parties either right now…haven’t totally figured out the future yet, but we are invited to soooooo many parties. It exhausts me. Do you have set rules to decide which ones you accept and decline? I’d love to celebrate with everyone, but it’s getting to be nearly every weekend, something our time and finances just can’t keep up with.

    1. We don’t have rules exactly. I just say no to many of them unless I know it is a close friend. I have heard of parents saying you can choose x number of parties to go to. I think that can work too!

  2. Reading your blog makes me feel totally understood and completely sane. This. ALL of it. It’s exactly what we’ve done with our family birthday celebrations all the way through. Our girls LOVE our simple, low or no-cost birthday traditions, and look forward to the little things like waking up to walk through and count the streamers hanging on her bedroom doorway – one for each year – and picking out a special “birthday cereal” with colors on the box for a treat. Our big girl will be turning nineteen this year, her first birthday away from us, and she has hinted that I ask her college roommate to bring her a dollar-store balloon and hang a birthday sign like the one we have used since she was three. We will never regret spending time together as a family, building memories out of traditions.

  3. Yay for you! So completely agree. I’ve found that kids don’t really appreciate the fancy, pinteresty things, anyway. They just want things that make them feel special, like getting to choose the cake flavor and dinner menu, and sitting in a special chair under a canopy of dollar streamers! Let’s spread the word! 🙂

      1. Just left our grandson’s 1st birthday party and it was nauseatingly over the top. They hired an Elmo, a balloon marker, had gobs of decorations, piles of presents, and 3 cakes plus the 50 cupcakes I was asked to bring (and spent 2 hours making look like Elmo). When the guest of honor woke up, he was completely overwhelmed. I felt sorry for him. I can’t help but wonder what this is doing to his little psyche moving forward, but I feel helpless to change this. There will be a lot more overboard parties to suffer through. They even had a destination baptism for this kid 🙄

        1. Wow, that is interesting! And yes, I agree that something like that would be completely overwhelming for a one-year-old. That would still overwhelm me! I’ve never even heard of a destination baptism before. Fascinating.

  4. I want to echo the previous readers’ comments in that this is the best thing for the kids. You are right that, the more you lavish on them, the more spoiled and entitled they become. It’s now the norm for kids to have their own smart phone, computer/laptop/tablet, smart phone, and get a car as soon as they’re old enough to drive it.

    Meanwhile, because my family was poor (and my birthday often landed during March Break, the Canadian version of Spring Break), I almost never had anything resembling a birthday party. At most, I’d get a cake (probably from a box) and a couple gifts, probably a novel and an article of clothing or a puzzle. There were exceptions, like when I turned 13 and my sister bought me a session at a professional photography studio, but most years I did almost nothing of significance.

    The thing is, I was generally okay with that. Sure, I often wanted more of my friends to come over, but I never wanted anything overblown and fancy. I just wanted to spend time with people that mattered. And if I didn’t happen to have anyone over one year, that was okay.

    What I wanted most, and what all children want most, is time with parents. It’s not stuff. They might SAY they want stuff, but more than likely, it’s because their friends have stuff and they want to be like their friends. What they really value, what they really NEED, is time.

    Because buying stuff is easy. Especially when you make a comfortable income, it doesn’t take much sacrifice to buy stuff. It doesn’t even take that much thought, a lot of the time. What really has value, what takes real sacrifice, is TIME. Nothing will tell your child that you love and value them more than giving them your time.

    Therefore, simply spending the day with family is, in my opinion, just the right thing to do. The only things I would do differently would be to skip the cake (I would still make a treat, but it would be a healthy one) and spend time out in nature, not just around the house. That would make the whole experience supreme. 😀

  5. Here in the U.K. Birthdays are BIG. My daughter has two children and every weekend they are at some birthday party or other. I never did a birthday party because it is also not my gifting. My younger sister out of 5 girls is Top Class at arranging and running birthday parties. Money would be a big issue for me. Our children are all grown up and now we go out for meals or have a take out meal delivered. Life has changed and even the take out meals are no good. Even sitting in MacDonald’s we get COLD FOOD. Something I don’t like. My youngest daughter has a 40th Birthday in November 22nd, and wondering what she can do. She is a fun girls and arranges vacations and because it is before Christmas she would arrange an adventure in Wonderland. But sadly cancelled because of Covid 19. We will probably have cake and a favorite meal. But sadly she was meant to be in America and married but because of the Virus everything shut down she will be at Home in the U.K. for her Birthday. Because I don’t like clutter I have already told my FAMILY No Gifts. Give something to Charity instead. It is getting far too expensive and also my siblings have large families and have to cater for the many children and grandchildren so now we are adopting opting out of giving gifts. The Love is still there. Children only will be catered for. I give money instead no matter how small the gift of money it is still useful.

  6. Thanks for sharing this. I was feeling bad for not throwing my son a bday party, but you’re right, all of those things. But mostly, I’m just not good at it and we don’t want to do that every weekend 😂

  7. Let me just say i LOVE your decision to make a site like this about the specific content that you have made it about!! All of these things are very important in life & alot of times people dont realize it or they dont Know what to focus on! So you may be helping others greatly!! It’s awesome, today is my daughter’s birthday she is 9, and i came to the internet to seek reassurance on my decision to not have a overly expensive big party! I did for awhile because of my specific situation of having 3 children but only having 1 & not because i did ANYTHING wrong as a mother just a terrible family member who did terrible things , but that made me feel like i should be “extra” with the one i had i now have all of my children and CANT AFFORD to do over the top stuff if i want to treat all of them EQUALLY! Not only that your statement about kids feeling entitled well thats my 9 year old! She is overly spoiled and now im trying to reverse that!!! She thinks after she misbehaved all year she was still getting a huge party nomatter what! So i want to thank you for this article because like someone else said u made me feel SANE and understood!! Keep up the great work 😊

  8. Thank you so much for this article. I am in the midst of planning my daughter’s 18th birthday. It is a special milestone and I do want to make it awesome, but I think you hit the nail on the head. It’s about enjoying the moments with her friends and doing things that she would like. Prior to reading this article, I was looking into limos, party buses, fancy restaurants, airbnbs… you name it… because I thought that was the norm. However, after reading your article, I feel like it is OK to create an experience where it’s about her and her friends…. It’s about creating the memories… The comment about feeling “entitled” is real. By doing “over the top all the time”, I think it does set up unrealistic expectations for them in the future. They would need to really “make it” to continue to be “happy” and that’s not the message or experience that I want to create. I agree that the concept of keeping it “simple” got lost over the years. Keeping things simple and memorable should be our goals!! Thank you for this…

  9. This blog post offers a refreshing perspective on birthday celebrations for children. Emphasizing simplicity over extravagance, it highlights the importance of meaningful experiences over materialistic indulgence. It’s a reminder that the true essence of birthdays lies in creating cherished memories with loved ones rather than extravagant parties. A thought-provoking read indeed.

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