Birthdays     Party Guide    

Happy Brrr-thday!



Cold-weather parties on a budget

If you’re like me, you have children with birthdays that fall during the winter months. Growing up, I was unaware this could be such an issue. My brother and I celebrated our birthdays in the summer, and my parents gave us fun-filled, simple outdoor birthday parties complete with ice cream and time in the pool with our friends.

Times have surely changed. My son recently attended a birthday party at an indoor fun park, complete with 30 classmates, pizza, video games, and go-carts. Thinking I would consider such a venue for my own child, I dared to ask my new mom friend what was the cost breakdown per kid.

I didn’t have to do the math to calculate that $30 per child was more than my husband and I could afford. So I got creative — and you can, too. Once you create a realistic budget, you can decide if your child’s party will take place at your home or an outside destination. And with a little thought and preparation, a wonderful time can be had by all — for under $150.

Hosting a party at home? Here are some do-it-yourself ideas to get you started:

Bring the movies home

Why not make some popcorn and host a movie night? Great films like “The Muppet Movie” or “Free Willie” would appeal to kids of all ages. Set up chairs and have cake and beverages on hand. This is sure to be a hit!


“Our boys have really enjoyed sleepovers. We move furniture and put up tents in the family room and the kids really feel like they are camping outdoors.” — Michelle Castro, Newburgh


Sleepovers

Are your children school-aged? Let them invite over their best buddies for a memorable night of movies and snacks. Have them decorate paper bags and serve popcorn, pizza and cake. Ask friends to bring their pajamas and sleeping bags and with a little music and supervision, everyone will have a ball.

Michelle Castro, a mother of two from Newburgh, said, “Our boys have really enjoyed sleepovers. We move furniture and put up tents in the family room and the kids really feel like they are camping outdoors. They tell ghost stories and watch movies. I give them apples and popcorn.”

Pottery party

For a one-of-a-kind craft party at your home, look to Nicole Jurain Pottery. A party for up to 10 children ranges from $50 to $100, depending on your location, plus the cost for craft supplies. You can choose from jewelry making with polymer clay, ceramics painting, or even origami. “I can design a unique birthday party for your child, depending on their level of skill and interests. There is so much to choose from, and I look forward to each time,” Jurain says. Contact Jurain at 845-419-3830.

Snow much fun!

Baby, it’s cold outside! But, who said we can’t play in it? With a little planning and a hill in your yard (or a friend’s yard), you can enjoy the winter landscape, even if the weather does not call for snow! Snow-making machines range anywhere from $75 to $125! Ask your guests to dress warmly and bring sleds and let them play in the brisk air for an hour. Let them warm up afterwards with homemade cookies and cocoa.

Make music

If you’ve ever been to the Albert Wisner Library in Warwick or the Greenwood Lake Public Library, then you’re probably familiar with music therapist and early childhood music educator Melinda Burgard.

Burgard offers a “Do-it-Yourself Birthday Party” package, which includes her CD, entitled “I Can Do Anything,” along with specific movement ideas (or plans and goals for each song) to entertain and make your child feel special as you become the entertainer. Also included a variety of pictures and printouts that your child and their friends can color at the party. All of this will cost you only $25. For more information, visit melindasmusic.com.

If you’re willing to stretch your budget a little, Musical Munchkins has great entertainers that can come into your home or a place of your choice and have a blast with your child and their friends. They have musical games, live guitar music and plenty of instrument and props (such as streamers, scarves, and hoops). Your child will also receive a free music CD of Musical Munchkin songs. This is geared towards children ages 1-5 and costs $195 for up to 15 children. For more information, visit musicalmunchkins.net.

Get wild

The Everything Animals Resource and Activity Center is a nonprofit animal welfare and education organization dedicated to building better citizens through programs that focus on respect, compassion, kindness, and personal responsibility. Animal “ambassadors” will visit your home for a 30- to 45-minute presentation. You can select from a variety of themes and each performance will include five live animals, a group puzzle, life-like puppets and a simple game or craft. A home visit for up to 20 children will cost $125.00. Serve some cake or animal-themed refreshments and you’re good to go! For more information, visit everythinganimalsresources.org.

Pat’s Pals is also a great way to get wild with your child’s birthday party, and they customize the event to appeal to the birthday child or theme. Your little guests will be both educated and entertained for one hour with Pat and her featured friends. For more information, visit patspalsllc.com.

Winter is a wonderful time and I’ve always felt blessed my children were born in these months where everything seems so magical, just like childhood itself. Parties on a budget during this season can be educational, creative, and fun! Here’s to happy celebrations and precious memories — and take lots of pictures!

When staying at home isn’t an option

 “There is a much to be said about the convenience of having parties outside the home,” notes New Windsor mom Tracy Hecht. “You can invite more friends, and the set-up and clean-up are usually included, as well as the decorations and the paper goods.”

If your child enjoys art, look to Michael’s Arts and Crafts, with locations throughout the Hudson Valley.

“Last winter we did a party for my 3-year-old daughter at Michael’s in Kingston,” says Nikki Rogers of Saugerties. “It was totally affordable at $50 for the classroom, and then you choose a craft (anywhere from $1 per person and up). You can bring in your own food and drinks, and they provide a person to ‘work’ the party. It was an awesome party! We did a fairy theme and made ‘fairy houses,’ which were tiny bird houses that they kids painted and decorated. It was quick, simple, cheap and fun! Oh, and I didn’t have to clean my house beforehand.”

Laura Licata Sullivan is a freelance writer who lives in Campbell Hall with her husband and three sons.