A creative but budget-friendly kid’s party

by Grace Bonney

A few months ago we threw a birthday party for our son, Ike. The folks over at Real Simple kindly posted it but I thought I’d share some of the details here.

Mostly because I wanted to show that you can do a creative but stylish kid’s party all on a budget (and a little help from creative friends*). We went with a vintage campaign theme, playing off our son’s name and the political slogan “I Like Ike”.

Location: We held the party at a local park that required a minimal rental fee.

Décor + Fun: Tables were covered with kraft paper and “centerpieces” were mason jars filled with treats and little toys. We also had a little photo booth backed with a vintage shower curtain and a few props.

We also made a “voting booth” out of a refrigerator box and some simple fabric bunting.

For the adults we made a fun presidential trivia quiz. And each table had different crafts for the kids with wood pennant signs from our local craft store and covered with standard label paper.

Food: Because the party was away from our home and outdoors, we kept it as easy as possible by prepackaging the food in kraft boxes for the adults and tote bags for the little ones. I did have some special help from a DC caterer Design Cuisine but this is something you could easily do on your own.

Favors: I always like to have fun but practical favors at a party. For Ike’s party I had some custom rubber stamps made with each child’s name. I used this stamp service.

It was a fun and memorable party and I especially liked it because we were able to make it cost-friendly but still be very creative.

*I’m very fortunate to have some creative friends who helped me with this party including Ritzy Bee and Kate Headley Photography.

[photography by Kate Headley Photography]

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  • love all the ideas. Ellie wants her party at the park this year. July in Alabama, yikes. It will be a hot one. Pre packaging the food is such a great idea.

  • Got my little girls party next month – no chance of having it in the park! And no chance of such great photos – she wouldn’t stay still – Ike is so cute!!

  • such an amazing idea. i keep hoping someday i’ll be able to get it together to have a more organized/great looking kids party. this is inspiration for sure.

  • This party is amaaaaaaazing, and I’m so impressed by all the thoughtful details! But I’m force to admit, it’s kind of upstaged by your adorable son. What a cutie!

  • My son’s bday is on the 4th of July and I’m always trying to find ways not to emphasize the red, white, and blue aspect. Thanks to you, I want to punch it up.

  • Thanks everyone for your sweet comments about the party + our little guy! : )

    Muoi and Kersten: The script font is Buttermilk by Jessica Hische. That particular stamp was 2.5″ x 1″.

    Pam: I use them for my shop and get large quantities and buy from US BOX (search for mill cloth bag) or you can also get them on Ebay for smaller quantities.

    Good luck!

  • Wow, this does not look like a children’s party at all. It looks like the child was the last person the parents thought about. Sorry, this appears more like a concept party the parents wanted to have and the childs birthday was the convenient vehicle. I do think it looks fantastic but, seriously this looks like a parents showcase indulgence.

  • Very pretty! But I don’t get the “budget-friendly” headline? Is it a cultural thing? Over here, renting a venue for a child’s party and decorating it for that amount of money would be considered anything but “budget”. If someone has the patience, please fill me in… Great photos.

    • anna

      the party is just over $100 with everything included, so i think that’s pretty budget friendly for most american parties that involve a group of children.


  • Oh wow, such a nice kids party, really like all the thought that was put into it and really original, completely different from most kids parties, love it…

  • This is adorable and great for making a really memorable party! To the person who thought it was more of an adult concept party… I agree that it is… but the parents of all these kids needed something to do too. ;) I will say that calling this budget seems kind of nuts to me– I’m pretty sure from the post that the $100 budget was for decor/location, not for food, which presumably added quite a bit more (correct me if I’m wrong). My mind would have been blown as a kid if my parents had ever spent $100 decorating a party for me– I would have been impressed by a party where decor, cake, and presents added up to as much as $100! That said, when I throw a big party for my (adult) friends I usually spend about $50 -100 on decorating, so I think this is primarily an example of how to throw a budget-friendly party sophisticated enough to impress your adult friends AND their kids– which isn’t a bad thing at all. And did I mention it’s adorable?

  • The design is stunning but I completely agree with Simon. I’m all for making a big deal out of birthday parties for kids, but would let the child pick the theme. Not even Michael J. Keaton was crazy for voting at age 3 (or so, guessing from the picture of that darling kid). It’s great that they got well-deserved attention from Real Simple for the fantastic design. If this was a staged photo shoot I’d say job excellently done. But for an actual kids actual birthday? That makes me feel incredibly sad. (Also, I count closer to $200 before food, drink, cake or presents, and not including the expense of a lot of materials (mill cloth bags, etc.) that they already had.)

  • I cannot imagine what 3-year-olds would do in a make-believe voting booth. I also cannot imagine the disaster of three-year-old fingers fumbling with tiny beads and wide elastic on a slatted picnic table, and don’t see how this activity lends it self to creativity (except for the creative places that toddlers can think to put the beads.) This feels much more like a photo shoot than a child’s celebration.

  • I think this is a great idea, even for adults! I’m planning on doing this for my husband this year. Can you tell me where you got the presidential quiz from? I would love to have something like that. Thanks!

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