ELMO AND DORA are adorable and fun, no arguement here, but they are brands, too. Brands designed to get your kids hooked, keep you buying them and make corporations money. A few years ago our family decided to step away from branding for a couple reasons. The number one reason was economical - we simply wanted to save money. The other being that we wanted our family to be free to choose the things we like rather than the things corporations would like us to like. Well, it's easier preached than done, of course, as any parent knows who has also made a decision to drop something they felt was unhealthy for the family - plastics, sugar, television...
Who's up for a tree climbing party?
So, I thought that the hardest thing about being mostly un-branded would be kids parties because 99% of the party stuff available at the store is thoroughly branded. Our first un-branded party with other kids invited was a little nerve-wracking but we lived through it, and it was spectacularly fun! We've been hard at it ever since and throwing fabulous parties.
Here are few tips for throwing fun, fabulous and unbranded kids' birthday parties!
1. Theme Time. What are your kids into? Sit down a few weeks before the party to brainstorm ideas, coming up with themes like knights, race cars, karate, tea party, make-and-take, bake-and-take, movie night, holiday themes, farming and so on. You'll be surprised at what your kids will say, trust me I am the mother of a boy who asked for a Titanic party. Luckily we were able to agree on a different - more buoyant - theme.
2. Let Them Eat Cake. Skipping a bakery cake will save you big bucks and help sidestep around that branded cake with a printed picture. Older kids will be happy to pick out a cake mix, help make it and certainly proud to serve their friends. There are tons of good ideas for cakes out there to choose from and hundreds of specialty cake pans you could have fun with. Jello poke cakes are fun, castles can be made with ice cream cones, a loaf pan shaped cake can be a treasure chest, the ideas go on and on. We once had a Mad Scientist party with a Baked Alaska cake as the grand finale, FUN!
Make a treasure chest cake in a loaf pan, perfect for pirate-theme parties!
3. Decor and More. Simply put - less is more. Once we have a theme picked we decide what colors to use for balloons and streamers. Sometimes we also buy matching colors for plates and utensils, sometimes we use our plates from home. Decorate with color, it's simple and effective at creative a festive mood and there is so much you can do with a simple sleeve of tissue paper.
Image via ohhappyday.com
4. Fun's in the Bag. If you plan to have treats for kids to take home plain colored bags are readily available in a variety of colors. If you have a little or a LOT of goodies for kids make sure you provide a proper sized receptacle. We've handed out bags and markers as a party activity before, so kids can decorate their OWN bag and make it theirs. We've also used plastic cups, sand buckets, brown bags and paper popcorn style buckets for treat holders.
5. The Takeaway Treats. So you've side stepped a LOT of branded things so far but looking at party favors can be a mind boggling branded affair. Take a deep breath and turn around, the unbranded items are usually on the other side to the shopping aisle! WHEW! What you need depends on how you plan to give them out. You may simply want to hand them out at the end of your party, award as game prizes, have a treasure hunt or any other fun inventive way. Once we did the white elephant approach; I read a book and every time I read a certain word the kids got to pick a prize from a pile of thrifted goodies on the table, that was fun!
6. Game On! Whether you play traditional games or other activities this is an easy area to keep unbranded. Games can be as simple as pin the tail on the donkey to more fun, romping adventures like capture the flag. If you are doing a make-and-take crafting party you may not even need games. One thing’s for sure, kids will need to get up and run for a bit, so make sure to work that in somewhere or you will regret it. We usually begin with 20 minutes of free play and then do a quiet activity and then a raucous activity and keep that rhythm throughout the party.
Simple, imagination-filled parties can be yours! Kids may grumble a bit at first but once their imagination takes hold they will be sold and you will be, too!