I Want a Balloon! Reasonable Preschool Birthdays

One of my very first blog posts was about the minimalist third birthday party I threw for my older son. That was my peak of fanciness so far. This year, we haven’t lived here as long and I don’t know any of my son’s school friends or their parents, so we just skipped the party when Big Brother turned four this week.

I gave him a fourth birthday in line with his expectations. When the subject of his birthday came up, he said, “I want a balloon! And a cake! And deco-wations!” Note what he did not ask for: presents, a party, or even a whole bunch of balloons. So I made a cake and bought a banner and some balloons. (He only asked for one, but let’s live a little.)

He specifically asked for sprinkles. The #4 candle is leftover from Mr. FP's 34th, and I will try to save it for Little Brother's 4th as well.

He specifically asked for sprinkles. The #4 candle is left over from Mr. FP’s 34th, and I will try to save it for Little Brother’s 4th as well.

Since I haven’t even unpacked all their Christmas toys yet, I didn’t buy this kid any birthday toys. I did decide to get him a present: a kid-sized Klean Kanteen water bottle, so my four-year-old won’t have to carry a sippy cup around to school any more. I like the idea of a useful present that’s related to his getting more grown-up: not another toy, but more interesting than underwear. I don’t post pictures of my kids’ faces on here, but please believe he was very excited and wanted to drink out of it immediately.

12 ounce Klean Kanteen water bottle with green sport top.

Now if I can just keep him from losing and/or dropping it…

Happily, other relatives had similar ideas. Grandma FP sent a check and Granny FP (aka my mother-in-law) sent a book and a pair of binoculars, which were also a huge hit.

Besides the banner ($1.75),* the present, and the ingredients used in the cake (all staples), the only other thing I bought was wrapping paper ($4.47 for large roll). Big Brother was with me in the store and wanted to buy Spider-Man paper. I explained that there was not nearly as much paper on that role as the regular birthday paper rolls, and showed him the rolls he could choose from. A lady passing in the store noted approvingly that she wished she had done a better job teaching her kids about the value of money and that I must be on the right track.

I’m not saying don’t have a party for your kids. I’ve done them before, and I’m sure I will again, but it was as much for me as for him. But please don’t get caught in the trap of extending adult/societal expectations onto your kid. He probably just wants a balloon.

*Normally I would have made one, but this one was quite cheap, and our printer is broken (which makes it more difficult, of course) and I’m awfully backed up on chores already. Sometimes it’s okay to give yourself a pass.

How have you celebrated birthdays for your babies and preschoolers? How do you manage expectations?


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About frugalparagon

I'm a part-time librarian and mom to two small boys. I blog about striving for the long-term goal of financial independence while running a tight ship at home.

7 responses to “I Want a Balloon! Reasonable Preschool Birthdays”

  1. Tarynkay says :

    My mom turned 63 this summer. I bought her an ice cream cake and a 6 and a 3 candle. I guess she felt like this was very extravagant, because after she blew out the candles, she wrapped them up for me saying, “Well, Brendan turns 36 this year, and Lev will turn 3 and then you will turn 36 next year and then in a few more years, Lev will turn 6, so you should get a lot more use out of these.”

    • frugalparagon says :

      LOL. A woman after my own heart. I don’t think that 3 candle will last all the way through our 30s, but we were 30 when Big Brother was born, so the second number will track and we can use each candle 4 times!

  2. Amy K / RelaxedGal on the MMM forums says :

    My daughter turns 4 next week, and she is SO EXCITED! I can’t quite tell what she’s excited about, I think just being 4 finally (all of her friends at daycare are already 4). I definitely feel pressure to make the party stellar. Most of her classmates invite everyone to their parties, and they’re held at a big play center/bounce house/etc. with an hour to play and then pizza, cake, and ice cream. One was instead at a church community center, but they had a reptile show! And then the parting gifts… oy!

    I’ve succumbed to a lot of the celebration creep leading up to her birthday party this Sunday. She asked for an Under the Sea themed party, just like last year. She wants to make the cupcakes the day before and frost them the day-of, just like last year. She almost asked for the same guest list, but I really badgered her on that one so she dropped the boy that isn’t in her class anymore in favor of a girl in her class now. In theory this should be a pretty easy on the wallet party: I still have last year’s cupcake stand, last year’s fish decorations and ring-toss game, and I even had enough invites left from last year’s package of 8. Our rule is “you can invite as many kids as years you are turning old.”

    So how have I gone over the top? I picked up a themed plastic tablecloth at Oriental Trading, paper fish to hang from the ceiling, plastic fish rings to decorate the cupackes, notepads and beanie babies and plastic beach buckets and tissue paper for the parting gifts. I’ve probably spent $40 so far. We’re going to order pizza for lunch, another $40-$50. We’re making the cupcakes ourselves, the party is at home, I just need to Deep Clean the house!

    As for gifts – Oh Man we’re going to be overrun! 3 friends are coming and all bringing gifts. 3 sets of grandparents and 3 sets of aunts/uncles means 6 gifts there. Out gift to her is kids’ headphones ($15), which is a gift as much for us as for her – it will avoid arguments over turning down the volume on her tablet when she watches videos in the car/on the plane. They are volume limiting so I don’t have to worry about her hearing, and they’re smaller sized so they won’t fall off like adult ones seem to do for her. So 10 gifts, plus one guest hasn’t RSVP’d so I don’t think he’s coming, if so she’ll get his swag as well.

    • frugalparagon says :

      Yikes! It’s tough when you have to deal with community expectations. Sounds like you managed pretty well and didn’t break the bank. You’re lucky that she wanted the same theme :-).

  3. Mrs PoP says :

    Love the “milestone” gift.

    This is how 90% of my birthdays were from ages 0-20. (Well and beyond, too… But I was an adult and in charge then.). Just a cake at home and a small gift. I feel like that’s way more normal than a giant party. =)

    • frugalparagon says :

      I always had a party, but I think expectations were simpler in that time and place. Little Caesar’s pizza, cake, ice cream, maybe a movie if it was a sleepover. I had a friend who had a skating party one year and a tennis party the next, and I remember my mother grumbling that they were one-uppers.

  4. Mrs. Frugalwoods says :

    That’s awesome. I love how frugal your kids are! I like that he asked for a solitary balloon–that’s just too cute. You’re totally setting your kids on the right track!

    My sister has decided that each of her kids will get a bday party when they turn 7, but not before. Her oldest is 7 so she hasn’t decided on the milestones past that yet, but, I really love the idea of simple celebrations.

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