Are children’s birthday parties worth the expense (and the headache)?

April 25, 2019 by David Riedel

As the parent of someone who recently turned 4, I have a strong (and unpopular) opinion about birthday parties for children. Here it is: Birthday parties for any kid 4 or under is a waste of time, money, and it will crush your soul.

Lots of people out there will read that last sentence and think, “This guy’s a monster.” But lots of you identify with it.

Here’s the thing about kids, especially young kids.  They could have a good time at an insurance seminar. We gave our 4-year-old about 10 of gifts (too many, but what’s done is done), and what is his favorite thing to play with? The kazoo that looks like a trombone. The books, music, and stuffed animals have gone virtually unnoticed. (The bubble machine looks like a hit but it’s been too cold to go out and use.) When he was 3 he spent more time playing with the boxes and wrapping paper than his toys.

The parties this year? We took him to visit a grandparent, an aunt, uncle, and cousin over the weekend. Another grandparent and great-grandparent came over on the day itself. My mom and dad will be visiting in a few weeks (spring in the northeast for them may as well be winter in Antarctica). That’s been the running theme for each party: Grandparents, a cake, gifts, all at home or at a family member’s house.

When our now-4-year-old was a wee tot of 2, the parties started. The first was a backyard barbecue. It was for the parents, clearly, who had hired about three or four babysitters and various entertainers. The mother told me the whole thing cost about $1500 and she still spent the party chasing around after her kid.

Hard pass.

When our now-4-year-old was 3, he was invited to a party at a bouncy castle. Would you like to guess how many kids needed first aid after the bouncy castle? Six. There were a dozen attendees. The location’s rates start at $55 per hour.

That’s a long of saying there are much better things to spend $55 an hour on, or $1500, or whatever the number ends up being. And here’s the most important thing think about: Your kid will not remember it. You may. The kid won’t. And what do you want to remember? The grandparents ooh-ing and ah-ing or the trips to the emergency room?


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