Seeing I’m at the 9-month pregnancy mark, I had no choice but to keep my Mateo’s birthday party very simple this year. Skipping a party was out of the question, as he was turning 4 and very much aware that his big day was coming up. He’s also our leap year baby, so the fact that this was his first ‘official’ birthday made it all the more special.
Birthday parties can be fun, inexpensive, and not overly complicated – an approach that fit the bill for me on this particular birthday. There were a few steps I took to simplifying the party, which I’ll share below. (A quick poll I took on Facebook showed that many of you were interested to hear how it went, so, voila!)
Just a quick note first, though. I seldom write about my children’s birthday parties because I find them a bit of a ‘hot topic’. Everyone has an opinion on the subject: must-have’s, do’s and don’ts, and the many expectations.
If you ask me, there are no cut and dried rules on how much sugar to serve, if there will be gifts or no gifts, goodie bags, Disney themes or hired clowns. I think just as every child is unique (and every budget, for that matter), no one should tell you how to customize your child’s party. So, no judging. Zilch!
In my home, I try to make the day as memorable as possible for the birthday boy, even if it means bending the whole foods/sustainable living/seasonal eating rules a bit. The parties are homemade, thoughtful, and we have a great time. What more is there?
Our bare-bones guest list for Mateo’s party was 20 people – that’s a handful of friends, cousins and immediate family, the bare minimum I could get away with while still staying out of trouble.
The very first way I simplified the party was to invite everyone for 1:30-3:30 for “Cake & Punch”. This is the first time I’ve omitted lunch/brunch and I rather liked it. Guests didn’t expect a meal and I had plenty of time in the morning to put my feet up and play with the birthday boy.
Also noted was that my kids ate a far better lunch pre-party than they ever did at former parties. Something about not having the distraction of friends, perhaps? Anyway, as they brought me their empty soup bowls, I felt a little better about all the sugar I knew they would consume later.
Homemade cake is the only non-negotiable item when it comes to my boys and their birthdays. They don’t care about decorations (perhaps this is a boy thing), don’t need organized games, (they make up their own, both indoors and out) and their only request for their big day is the cake flavor. Which, by the way, is always chocolate.
Since I don’t spend much time crafting cute decorations and the like, I’ve always been able to spend time on creating a custom cake whether they are turning one or five. This year, I knew it had to be much simpler than previous cakes.
I remembered seeing Rosie’s Rainbow Doodle Cake and knew that would be a perfect amount of work. I could pull together a layer cake, and even cover it in rolled fondant icing. Then for the decorating? Why, the kids, of course.
They did a fabulous job.
The edible markers work beautifully on the vanilla fondant and the end result is a personal, custom designed cake that the kids feel proud of. You can get full directions and a host of layer cake recipes over on Sweetapolita. Thanks you, Rosie, for the inspiration!
One 8-inch layer cake isn’t going to feed 20 people, so I exercised a key step in keeping party planning simple: delegation. I asked my sister to bring two-dozen cupcakes, and she came through with the most amazing salted caramel cupcakes. Thanks, Miranda!
I also made a quick batch of Brown-Butter Rice Crispy Treats from Joy the Baker‘s new cookbook. Incredible.
With sweets covered, I added three bowls of fresh fruit, to balance things out: grapes, clementines and strawberries. Not quite seasonal, but all specially requested by Mateo. And it was his day, after all.
Drinks for the children consisted of milk or lemonade (again, at Mateo’s request) from concentrate. You could certainly could make it from scratch, as citrus is in season now, but again, I’m trying to stay off my feet!
Grown-ups benefited from a happening coffee bar, manned by Danny and his brother, who were using our Breville Barista Express to turn out coffees for everyone, latte art and all. It was a snowy, blowy day, and it was nice to have a steaming cup of joe to wrap one’s hands around.
Happy Birthday Mateo! I can’t believe my baby is four.
Let’s hear your tips for simplifying a child’s birthday party!