host a children's party picture



How much are you prepared to spend on hosting a children’s party?

I know of one grandmother who forked out more than $400 for her grandchild’s first birthday. A birthday he is unlikely to remember.

The costs can add up really fast if you let them. But they don’t have to.



I was discussing an upcoming Goddess birthday with one of my daughters-in-law the other day and she suggested at home parties ended up being just as expensive as the ones hosted by companies that supply children’s parties.

I did a little research on a few party places around my local area and, of those, I researched, found that the minimum cost for eight children was $199 for one hour.

What if I told you could host a children’s party for eight for three hours for less than $100?

Want to know how? This is the first of a two-part article full of budget-friendly tips and tricks on how to host a children birthday party.




host a children's party picture


The first step is the planning and the immediate decision is where and when to host the party. If your home is large enough to cope with a bunch of little people, then that is the obvious choice.

However, parks are an awesome option if the weather allows. Some provide large covered areas to protect you from the elements.

The beauty of parks is they come with their own play equipment, with lots of room for children to run around.

The downside, aside from the threat of inclement weather, is that you may need to get there really early to save your space.

If a park is not a great option, reach out to a family member or friend who may be prepared to share their space for a few hours.

These options will cost you nothing.

When considering the date, watch out for events that could make travelling difficult on that day and consider the commitments of other family members who you would like to attend.

One of my sons celebrates his birthday early in January. I knew most of his friends would be away on holidays at this time so I used to host a pre-birthday party (I called them unbirthday parties) in late November each year.




host a children's party picture


The next decision is whether or not to have a party theme. I always like themes as it makes the decorating, activity and food choices easier.

When my own sons were young, I hosted themed costume parties for them each year. The kids loved dressing up and all the food, decorations and games were designed to fit the theme.

Choosing a theme also means you can recognise whatever interest your child has at that particular moment.

The theme doesn’t have to be in line with latest brand name trends. This can become costly. If your child loves a particular television show featuring specific fairies, make the theme a general fairy one.

I once spent $15 on an edible cake topper to suit a popular fairy theme when I could have made a beautiful fairy cake for a fraction of the cost.

I know of people who have spent literally hundreds of dollars to suit a theme around a popular television show when they could have made a cake featuring the colours of the main character.

Say your child is crazy for a particular show, such as The Wiggles, embrace the colours featured in the show for balloons and other decorations and think about creating Big Red Car pictures and giant yellow bows.

If Emma is their favourite character, have the party guests dress in yellow. They don’t have to dress up as Emma.

Or, you could opt for a more general theme such as flowers, rainbows or cars.

Once you’ve decided on a theme, it’s time for intensive planning. Saving money costs time, so start the planning early.



host a children's party picture


Make your own decorations, according to the theme. I’ll give you some ideas for decorating in part II of this post. Try using recyclables as much as possible as this cuts down the costs considerably.

If you are budgeting for a $100 party, allow a maximum of $10 for decorations and stick to that. You may have to use your creative genius to make this work.

The next thing to consider is how to keep the partygoers busy and safe for a few hours. I cannot stress the importance of having a good plan.

I usually do a little timeline from arrival to departure, estimating the time each activity will take.

Allow around 20 minutes from the start time for the kids to socialise freely while waiting for latecomers. At this stage, I’ll have a few snacks scattered around, such as popcorn, fruit kebabs and maybe even some raw veggies and dip.

I find the kids become restless after that first 15 to 20 minutes and the moment I see this happening, I start the activities.

Games often include the usual – pin the tail, pass the parcel, musical chairs, and musical statues. Sometimes we’ll add other activities, such as ring toss or bowling and treasure hunts and scavenger hunts.

It’s a good idea to mix the active games, like musical chairs, with quieter ones, such as pass the parcel.

As an art and crafts teacher, creativity is always on the menu and I design crafts suited to the theme. These activities can go from 30 minutes to an hour – depending on the group. I like to have a backup plan as little party goers are sometimes more eager to get back to partying than to enjoy the creative adventure.

Back up plans include treasure hunts and scavenger hunts and if you don’t want to do the crafts, you could fill the time with those.


host a children's party picture



A typical party plan for me would look something like this:

11 am – arrival and welcome, social time

11.20 – Pin the Tail (or the star, eye, hair, necklace – whatever) on the ? This depends on your theme.

11.30 – musical chairs

11.40 – pass the parcel

11.50 – musical statues

Noon – lunch

12.20 – ring toss

12.30 – arts and crafts or treasure and scavenger hunts

1 pm – bowling

1.15 – gift opening and thank you. The kids love to see their own gifts be opened and this is a great chance for the birthday child to say thank you.

1.40 – cake and birthday song

2 pm – home time

Some activities may take a little longer, some not as long. A little free time in between is fine but keep it small to contain the mess and stress. When dealing with children, flexibility is a must. You might find you run out of time to do all the activities, but as they are costing so little, it doesn’t matter.

Let’s look at the cost of these activities.




Pin the Tail:

The last kids’ party I held was early this year – my annual fairy party for the Goddesses and some of my fellow grandmothers’ grandkids. As it happens, there were eight at this party. Pin the Tail became Pin the Star on the Fairy’s Wand.

I used a large sheet of coloured cardboard (truth be told it was the same one from the previous year, I just used the other side for the new fairy picture). One of the Goddesses drew the most beautiful fairy on the cardboard. She also drew dozens of pictures on plain printing paper to use as wall decorations. Kids really love to get involved in the decorating process. We used a cookie cutter to trace star shapes and cut them from paper and sticky tape to attach the stars.

Consider your theme (if you’re having one). If it’s The Wiggles, you could draw a wacky version of Emma and do Pin the Bow on Emma. If its flowers, draw a big flower and have Pin the Bee on the Flower. For cars, you could have Pin the Car to the Road.

Materials and cost

Cardboard – I used A3 size – cost = less than $1 per sheet.

Markers or coloured pens, scissors, paper – I’m going to assume you already have these on hand, so cost = $0

Sticky tape – you probably have this on hand but you can buy a small roll for $1, so cost =   $1

Prize – cost = $2                                                                           Total cost = $4

Attach the picture to a wall. Blindfold the child playing, using an old scarf, towel and clip – anything you have on hand. Twirl them a few times then lead them towards the picture and hand them the star shape (or whatever shape you are using) to attach to the picture. The child who gets their shape closest to where it belongs wins a prize. (I’ll offer tips on prizes in part II of the post). It’s a good idea to be prepared by having the child’s name already written on the shape before the game begins.

Musical Chairs:

I’ll assume you already have access to music. It can be a CD player, computer or your smartphone – whatever. I like to download children’s songs for this, but you can use the music you already have on hand. If you don’t have enough small chairs, try stacking a few large pillows. Or you could use footstools or even tree stumps if outside.

Materials and cost

Music – cost = $0 unless paying for downloaded music, which is optional.

Chairs, cushions, footstools – if you don’t have enough, try borrowing some. Cost = $0

Prize – cost = $2                                                                              Total cost – $2


Start with seven chairs, one less than there are party goers. Place them near each other in a row. When the music starts they need to walk around the row of chairs. When it stops they need to sit on a seat. If they aren’t fast enough there will be no spare seat and they are out. Take a chair away each time and continue until there is only one child left and that child wins the prize.


Pass the Parcel:

An oldie but a goldie. It originated in England and offered only one surprise gift for the lucky player who opened it. I like to ensure each child gets a gift. I make use of the free local newspapers for the wrapping. The kids don’t care. For them, it’s about the treasure inside and the surprise of who will get the next chance to unwrap. If you don’t have access to newspaper, use some of your child’s old pictures as wrapping paper. You can’t keep them all and this is a great way to reuse them.

You will need eight gifts – one for each child. Refer to my tips on prizes in part II for ideas.

Materials and cost

Newspaper or scrap paper – cost = $0

One gift per child – I allow up to $1 to spend on each gift.     Total cost = $8.

Wrap the first prize and follow up with several layers of paper, before adding the next prize. Continue doing this until all the gifts are wrapped, with several layers of paper between each gift.

Have the children sit in a circle on the flow. The birthday child holds the parcel and starts to pass it around the circle once the music starts playing. When the music stops, the child who is holding the parcel gets to open one layer, which may or may not contain a gift.  The game continues until the entire parcel has been unwrapped and each child has a gift. NOTE: It is up to the music player to ensure each child gets a prize.

Musical Statues:

The only requirement for this is music. Have the children dance, but once the music stops they must be still like statues. The last one to be still is out. Continue until only one player is left and they get the prize.

Materials and cost

Music – cost = $0

Prize – $2                                                              Total cost = $2

Ring Toss:

This is a fun way to promote coordination in children. I have a cheap wooden set I bought years ago. For the fairy party, I topped each wooden post with a flower, to help fit with the theme. The great thing about this is it’s easy to make your own from recyclables. It can be as simple as a cardboard roll and paper plate rings or plastic bottles and rope rings. It will cost you next to nothing to make.

Materials and cost

Ring toss set – homemade cost using recyclables = $0

Prize – cost = $2                                                   Total cost = $2

The aim of this game is to throw the rings so they will land over the posts. The child who gets the most rings on posts wins the prize.


Another fun game that can be played indoors or out. Use a regular ten-pin bowling scoring method, or come up with your own way to score. Once again, you can easily make your own set from recyclables – use plastic bottles or even toilet rolls for the pins. If you don’t have a ball on hand, make one from scrunched scrap paper and tape. It will cost you virtually nothing to make.

Materials and cost

Bowling set – homemade cost using recyclables = $0

Prize – cost = $2                                           Total cost = $2

The child who gets the highest scores from knocking down the bowling ‘pins’ wins the prize.

Scavenger Hunt:

A great outdoor activity. Have a list of things you’d like each child to find and collect. Makes them nature finds, such as leaves (you could name a specific colour during autumn), sticks and rocks (you could specify shapes and sizes). All of these treasures are free, thanks to nature. You could type and print out a list for the kids, or print pictures for those who can’t yet read. Or you could keep it simple by saying they each need to find three things, perhaps a long green gum leaf, a forked twig, a smooth rock. The first child to find them all wins the prize. Just be sure you have all these finds in your party area before you start.

Materials and cost

Nature finds – cost = $0

Prize – cost = $2                                                               Total cost = $2


Treasure hunt:

Always a hit with the kids. Think about how much they enjoy Easter egg hunts. This doesn’t have to cost much. During the last fairy party, I had the kids decorate rocks with old nail polish and a bit of glitter. When it was dry, I hid the rocks in the garden for them to find. You could do the same with sticks and have them decorate them with paint or wool. Or you could make your own treasures. The cost will depend on you.

Materials and cost

Painted rocks – rocks are free. The nail polish is old but allow around $3 for embellishments if you want. Cost = $3.

The treasure found is their prize, so there’s no need for another.   Total cost = $3

Total Cost of Activities = $25.

So far, we’ve spent $25 of our budget. Come back next week and I’ll show you how to stick to the budget even after adding decorations, food, drink, the cake, craft activities and party bags. I’ll even throw in a free printable children’s party checklist.

Have a gleeful week, Tamuria.




  • I feel like a hundred dollars a bit small for a children’s party but you made it feel like its more than enough! I’m planning for my son’s 1st birthday party and I will definitely stick to this guide of yours thank you!

  • Yours all idea is very helpful and also important but the amount of money is much less. I refuse to look at money for the happiness of my children. Especially in the case of children’s party equipment.

    • Hi Mr Smith. I’m glad you found the information helpful. I agree with you, relying on spending money for children’s happiness is not the way to go.

  • I am really impressed with so much detail on Hosting a children party was included here. I’m also curious to learn more on this. Thanks a bunch for sharing such nice information!

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