Tips for Having a "Minimalist" Kid's Birthday

Marie Osborne

Marie Osborne
Published Apr 10, 2024
Tips for Having a "Minimalist" Kid's Birthday

It's a couple of people doing something fun and easy. That’s the way to go.

When my son turned one, Pinterest was just exploding, and there were all of these posts about first birthday parties with cute themes and crafts and snacks and decorations. I felt overwhelmed but also obligated to provide my child, my tiny one-year-old, with an over-the-top birthday party with all of the trimmings: handmade decorations and specially designed snacks and desserts, themed decorations in every corner of our home, and all sorts of things that he has no memory of, but I broke my back over. Luckily, as the years went on, I felt less and less inclined to provide elaborate birthday parties. I shifted gears and went all in on being a minimalist birthday mom.

Let me explain to you the great gift that is a minimalist birthday party. To be honest, you’ve probably been to them many times in your life; you just relegate them to your childhood. Do you remember the 80s and 90s? When we celebrated birthdays without themes or were content with handcrafted decorations or professionally designed food displays? Those were the good old days when birthday parties were simple. Minimalist birthday parties don’t have to be a thing of the past. We can have them now. 

Here are some ideas:

Party at the Park

Public parks are the way to go. I had a park party for my twins’ birthday twice. We just ordered pizza and told everybody to show up at a park. They played on the playground, ate pizza, sang “Happy Birthday,” ate cupcakes, and that was it. I didn’t have to decorate anything. I didn’t have to create a theme. We just played, ate, and sang. Public parks are perfect for minimalist birthdays because all the fun is included already. There is a playground, the great outdoors, picnic tables, and friends. What more could you ask for?

Simple Day at the Salon

Maybe you have a kid who wants something a little bit special. One year, I took my girls to a salon, but before you get the idea that it was some grand affair, I basically just called ahead and asked them what their price was for a kid's nail polish. It was six dollars per kid. That’s it. I brought 4 little girls to a salon. They sat and had someone else paint their nails, and they felt so special. No decorations. No huge guest list. Just a small, easy outing with a couple of friends.

Minimalist at the Museum

Another birthday that we’ve done several times is a minimalist museum birthday. I did not book a room or pay the premium to have a special museum-themed birthday party. We just picked a couple of their friends and paid to go to a museum. That’s it. Afterwards, we had donuts outside. They had a blast, and I did very little work. I did not have to decorate my house or create any themed anything. They got to play all afternoon and have donuts with their buddies. 

There are a million different ways to have a minimalist birthday party, but basically, keep it as small and simple as possible. As they’ve gotten older, we’ve expanded on our approach. More recently, my son had three friends over to play video games late into the night. My daughters took two friends to the movies for their birthday party. It's a couple of people doing something fun and easy. That’s the way to go.

The Many Reasons to Keep It Minimal

So why would I want to have a minimalist birthday party? Well, aside from saving my own sanity, I think it’s really important for us to show our kids that not everything is grand and amazing every single time they have a birthday. Sometimes, when we make everything “special,” nothing is “special.” Our expectations of fun get bigger and grander and more out of control leads to discontentment. Keeping it simple keeps kids grateful. 

Another important reason is because of the cost. Big, elaborate parties cost quite a bit of money and time, not just for us, but for our family and friends, as well. It can also switch the focus from celebrating your child to spending money and showing off. We have to ask ourselves, What is this costing me and those in attendance, in time, money, and energy?  

Another thing to consider is the precedent you are setting. Once you’ve kind of gone down this path of creating elaborate birthday parties, they just seem to get bigger and bigger and bigger. When does it stop? As far as our family goes, my kids have now come to expect that our birthdays are pretty low-key. We will invite a few friends and do something fun, but there’s not gonna be all kinds of decorations. There’s not going to be all this time spent cleaning our house and getting things all in order and turning our family upside down just for one day. 

When we lower the expectations and simplify things, it makes our birthday parties much more relaxed. Our celebrations are not so much about making sure everything looks perfect. They are more about just having some good old-fashioned fun.

An added benefit I’ve noticed from our minimalist birthday parties is that we have a lot less clutter in our home and a lot less stress in our lives. When we really made the switch to having more minimalist birthday parties, that included inviting fewer friends, which meant fewer gifts, which meant less clutter and stress. My kids get just a handful of special things from their friends and family for each birthday, and they love getting less. Their rooms are not suddenly filled with mountains of toys and crafts and clothes that they have no idea how to keep tidy or put away. We don’t have all this stress after the birthday trying to figure out what to do with all the presents and all the decorations and all the other things that have gone into this elaborate day.

When my son had his most recent birthday, he only had three friends over. They each got him a book or a shirt. That was it. He really enjoyed all of his gifts, and he didn’t have a hard time putting them away or keeping track of them. Our house was not turned upside down for days on end because of all of the gifts, decorations, and things. Keeping it minimal for the birthday party keeps it minimal for our lives.

I really love the fact that we have these minimal birthdays, and I’ve had friends compliment us on it because it makes their lives less stressful as well. They know that their kids are not gonna have some wild expectations for their own birthdays. We’re not creating a community that is suddenly trying to one-up each other with more and more elaborate parties. We just celebrate our kids and enjoy the passage of each year with minimal fuss. 

Minimalist birthday parties really are the way to go for so many reasons. The next time you are planning a birthday for one of your kids, do your best to keep it small and simple. (You can thank me later.)

Photo Credit: ©Rahel Daniel/Unsplash