The Evolution of Birthday Parties
December 3, 2012
The Evolution of Birthday Parties

Julie Samrick
Kid Focused

Being in the birthday party phase of life (we're in the thick of it having four kids under eleven), I've noticed some changes in how kids celebrate their big day today.   Here are five ways birthday parties have changed over the years:
1. Supersized
Gone are the days of celebrating a child's birthday with "pin the tail on the donkey" or a homemade cake for a few friends at home. Yes, even birthday parties have been supersized in the 21st century.  These parties come equipped with common staples like bounce houses, award-worthy experiences, and themes adhered to so strictly and so imaginatively that Martha Stewart would be proud. Even if these birthday parties aren't planned for as part of a family's household budget, they've certainly been given plenty of time and attention.
2. The Younger the Better
By my third child's first birthday, I discovered that 12-month-olds don't remember the hoopla.  So, I consciously cut myself a break. 

Instead of planning a huge party, think of it as a continued celebration of the baby's arrival.  First birthdays are a great way to reconnect with family after new mothers start to feel somewhat normal again. But parents should take it easy on themselves and only plan what they really want. Just remember, the baby won't remember any of it.  By our fourth child, we simply ordered pizza and were sure to snap a few pictures for her memory book. We were all happy.
3. Kids Don't Know Any Better
Kids don't know any different from these lavish parties, so they shouldn't be blamed for acting entitled to them. Last year, we held a simple birthday party at home. The kids played simple party games and ate chips around my dining room table.  I thought they had a really nice time. However, one little boy asked, "This is it?  There's no bounce house out back?" That's just been his reality. It's been most kids' reality.
4. More Politics
I had a solid group of friends from first through 12th grade.  Our sleepovers were revolving doors - a constant rotation of whose house we'd all plunk down in.  Different house, pretty much the same people, but the group grew larger as we got older and met more kids.  Everyone was invited. Today, guest lists and how or why kids get invited to parties seem much more exclusive and complicated.
5. Awkward Moments Spoil the Laughs
Several people with daughters have told me about a new party trend they're seeing lately where up to half the kids are invited to spend the night after the party, but the other half are sent to the door with goody bags and a parent who's picking them up.  I hear time and again, "It's very obvious to all the kids that some were chosen to stay longer," or, "It's awkward."
However parties have changed, it's important to remember why we're having the party in the first place - to help kids celebrate their special day. Don't let politics, time, or money get in the way of that.  It's always OK to keep it simple.

Julie Samrick is a stay-at-home mom of four young kids and the founder of Kid Focused, a site devoted to children and family issues.  Subscribe to the free Kid Focused newsletter delivered weekly to your inbox and connect with us on Facebook too.  Permission granted for use on

Posted by Staff at 7:05 AM