This week marks another year for me. It’s just a few days away, but I still haven’t made plans.
I remember when I was younger, I truly looked forward to celebrating each birthday. My mom used to hold birthday parties for me in the village clubhouse, or in a nearby members’ club.
But my favorite was my Jollibee birthday party. I used to love the mascot Hetty Spaghetti, with her blonde spaghetti noodles hair. Never mind that she had hotdog bits and pieces mixed in—I still thought she was the prettiest thing ever.
I don’t remember much from those parties, other than a blackout in the middle of a magic show at one party (my birthday being in October means that typhoons and power outages are always part of the equation), and singing “Somewhere Out There” for my guests during another. But I do remember that they were always fun!
I loved trying to grab the last chair while playing musical chairs, and squeezing with my partner on a tiny newspaper for the newspaper dance. There was the ever-present pabitin, and the never-ending “bring me” game.
Giveaways were pretty standard things, a paper bag with candies and chocolates, though I do remember a time when live colored chicks became a trend, and I would bring one home from a party every now and then. We ended up having a few baby chicks for a while. Of course, none of them survived, and thankfully for the chicks, the trend didn’t either.
Nowadays, many children’s parties are on a whole new level, even rivaling those of grownups when it comes to the preparation and production involved.
There are so many options to make your child’s party special that it’s easy to get carried away, until you see the total cost and realize you’ll have to sacrifice her tuition for the year!
But in reality, we don’t even have to spend to make a birthday special. A birthday is special for what it is, whether you spend money or not.
There are different ways to celebrate a birthday without having to spend too much.
For instance, children below 3 years old usually don’t even realize that it’s their birthday, so you can opt to simply have immediate family over for lunch and cake. And with everyone important being there to celebrate, it will be a special day, thanks to all that love.
If your child is old enough to know it’s his/her birthday and wants to do something special, you can always suggest other activities, aside from having a party.
Take the day off or reserve the whole Saturday and line up some of your kid’s favorite activities.
Prepare your child’s favorite food or make a reservation in a restaurant he/she enjoys. Depending on your budget, you can invite some of your kid’s friends or keep it as a special day just for him/her and your family.
A fun way to start the day and set the mood is to wake the kid up with a birthday song and some cake!
A lot of little girls, for instance, love princess themes, and there is a princess club at Bonifacio High Street in Global City where you can spend a few hours together. Or you can make your own princess day by getting creative at Carolina’s fabric and accessories shop.
Little girls also love art projects and all things shiny, so you can try going for an arts-and-crafts day at home after a trip to National Book Store. You can buy art materials, and with a little glue gun at home, your daughter, with or without her friends, can have a royal or arts and crafts day to celebrate her birthday.
If your little boy is anything like mine, his interests probably lie in animals and moving objects such as trains and planes. Spend the day with the party animals in the zoo!
There is the Avilon Zoo in Montalban, Rizal, which is huge! Or you can opt for the Avilon Petting Zoo in Tiendesitas, Libis, Quezon City.
You can also check out the Mind Museum at Global City for the dinosaur bones and some scientific facts and fun! It’s a wonderful learning experience, and the exhibitions, such as the ongoing Leonardo da Vinci exhibit, are world-class. I am really happy and proud that there is something like that in Manila.
You can also visit various museums. My son’s favorite in Manila is the Philippine Airforce Museum beside Naia Terminal 3. The Aviation museum charges P20 per ticket, but the hour or two you spend there with your son and his friends, checking out the different old planes, is worth much more than that.
After a certain age, the appeal of princesses and animals starts to wear off. A fun option to keep in mind for kids who want to have a celebration is a swimming party.
Find a good friend or relative who has a swimming pool, make the necessary arrangements and, voila, instant party—just add water! The kids will be entertained for hours with hardly any effort, but make sure you or someone capable is around to keep an eye on them.
With some homemade rainbow bread sandwiches, barbecue, ice cream and a cake, your child’s birthday will be very happy.
Birthdays are also a good opportunity to teach our children to share with others and to learn the value of the real treasures in life. It would be a good experience for him to celebrate the day by going to an orphanage or shelter and, instead of expecting gifts, to be the one bearing them, such as food and other basic necessities.
You can try explaining to him that since God has already blessed him with the best birthday gift—a loving family and comfortable life—it’s his turn to give to those who are not blessed with as much.
If you decide to have a traditional children’s party, there are party suppliers and planners you can choose from. They can handle everything for you—from the party theme to the decorations, food, program, prizes and giveaways.
All you will have to do is show up. Give them your budget, and they will work around it. Some reputable suppliers you can contact are Party Perks (tel. 0917-8780877), Jelly Bellies (0917-5312433) and Clowning Around (0917-8424171).
You can also opt to go à la carte and choose different items from different planners, since they sometimes have different prices for almost the same things.
Or you can order the things you cannot source or do yourself (such as specific party acts) from the party planner and choose to do the rest yourself. It will take more time and effort, but will definitely save you money.
If you choose to DIY, head to Divisoria. You can buy everything there—balloons, decorations, supplies and prizes—and still have enough money left to treat yourself after.
My friend recently hosted a birthday party, and rather than ordering costly personalized bags/container giveaways, she bought the eco-friendly P10 bags in Divisoria and, with a glue gun, feathers, sequins and a little creativity, sent the guests home with cute loot bags.
You can hunt around 168 Mall for some goodies to put in the bag, but it would also be great to fill it up with homemade cookies and cupcakes.
A little Photoshop and a few minutes online and you can very easily find the characters and graphics you need for invitations and even thank-you cards to attach to your loot bags. Just don’t forget to check the copyright of the photos you use and acknowledge your source.
Then there is the cake, the centerpiece of your party. Nowadays, between Goldilocks and Red Ribbon, you can find almost any theme or character for your child’s birthday cake. Just give them a lead time of about five days.
Or you can also order from home-based bakers for special customized cakes. I love Mia Austria’s cute and yummy cakes (tel. 0917-4516531) and Emily Uy’s matching cakes and cupcakes (0917-5348074).
Or, if you are talented enough in the kitchen, give it a go and go homemade! I once saw a friend of mine posting photos of cupcakes on her Instagram account for days in a row. It turned out she was preparing for her daughter’s birthday.
She cooked and baked all the food, cupcakes and her daughter’s birthday cake for her party. It wasn’t a matter of budget, but rather, principle. In terms of budget, she really doesn’t have to worry about anything, but she wanted her daughter to experience the kind of parties she had as a child, simple and made 100 percent from a mother’s love.
At the end of the day, it’s not how much you spend that makes a day special. It’s how much you put yourself into it and how much love your child feels that will make your child truly happy, and make it a day to remember.