Birthdays for kids: master the party
BY KIM BROWN World Scene Writer
Thursday, February 03, 2011
2/03/11 at 7:18 AM
Spending tens of thousands of dollars for a child's birthday party is probably your average Tuesday in Beverly Hills - not in Tulsa.
Here, kids' birthday parties are about giggling guests, cake and balloons, pizza and fun. Some birthdays are big celebrations at an entertainment-centric destination or restaurant, and others are simple affairs with homemade cake and old-fashioned games.
But one thing is certain: Parents keep inventing creative ways to have birthday fun, even on a budget.
Who better to ask than the hard-working masters of ceremonies? These mothers have careers, families and sometimes double-birthday parties to juggle. And they certainly know birthdays.
Andrea Sagely, mother of 4-year-old twin daughters, Aubyn and Ashtyn, went all out for her daughters' birthday party last May. She and her husband, Dennis, hosted a Disney princess-themed bash for 50 people - at their Broken Arrow home.
Although the idea might seem terrifying to many, Sagely said she prefers a home birthday party.
"Everything is rushing with twins because they get so many presents; it takes forever to open them," Sagely said. "You're always on a time limit. I feel that if we went to places, we would be rushed. I just like to stay home and be relaxed."
After taking a couple of cake-decorating courses at Hobby Lobby, Sagely made her daughters' princess castle cake, a giant undertaking she says was well worth it.
"I work full time but still want to do all the things my mom did - I enjoy them more now looking back at all the time my mom put into home birthday parties," she said.
Before you start to get carried away, a couple of musts for home party planning are picking a theme and sticking to a budget.
"Doing things for yourself and not having to pay a lot for it is great," said Sand Springs mom April Smith. When she had a home party for her daughter, Brynley, last year, she made her own invitations for the cowgirl hoedown-themed party. Besides backyard games (including a grape-spitting contest and three-legged races), she and her husband hired a company to provide pony rides, which claimed the major part of the budget.
Smith said they managed to have fun and make their guests happy, thanks to plenty of helpers.
"Telling your good friends and family to make sure you don't forget something, or hand someone the camera - you'll get so caught up, you'll forget to take pictures," she said.
Whether it's a roller skating rink, an indoor swimming pool, a bounce house or a pink glittery paradise, local party options are abundant.
But if you ask the parents throwing them, it's all about give and take.
Smith is now planning a party for her daughter's seventh birthday next month. The theme is roller skating, so they've rented out a roller skating rink for up to 50 guests.
"It just depends on what the overall budget is," Smith said. Because they're spending the largest chunk on the skating rink, Smith plans to save money on the treats.
"Instead of a big cake, we're going to do cupcakes - that's one of the big trends," she said. "A friend, another mom, has been using Sam's lately. What we like to do is make our own decorations. You can do plain cupcakes and decorate them with sprinkles and round cupcake signs. That's a little cheaper."
Likewise, for parents who want those gorgeous bakery-crafted cupcakes or a custom cake, other shortcuts can be made.
"Depending on the time you have a party, you can sometimes get away with just serving cake and ice cream and snacks," Sagely said.
Last year, rather than having a home party, the Sagelys hosted a ladybug picnic party for their twins' third birthday.
"We reserved a shelter in a city park and had pizza delivered," Sagely said. "It turned out to be cold (outside), but that's the risk."
Sagely said buying those expensive party plates and matching decorations is important to the party's theme, but it's most important to the children.
"I will buy the decorative plates and let the children that come have those, and I'll buy a matching solid color so it offsets the cost," she said. "Adults don't care if they eat off a princess plate, but kids do."
For her twins, Joseph and Benjamin, Bixby mom Renee Steel took them to a fire station for a recent party.
"It was their third birthday, so we kept it really small. The fireman out there took us on a tour, let the kids climb on the fire engines and pretend they were driving," Steel said. "Then they turned on the hose. It scared the living daylights out of them, but they loved it."
They only invited five kids and brought their own cake, so the party cost about $50, she said.
Pressure to be perfect
The bottom line is, after all, entertaining children. Yet the nature of the birthday party game is trying to create a "perfect" day.
"Some of my friends, and I love them dearly, sometimes people get carried away, and then their day is ruined if something is wrong. It's not about the adults," Sagely said.
But for some parents, parties are difficult to reign in.
"It's competitive. There is pressure," Steel said. "You tell yourself, 'I went to their party, and they had this and that, and I want to have that, too.' I don't know what to say about that, but get off the carousel."
The kids will probably not notice those extra costly decorations or party favors or elaborate set up.
"You've got to make sure your kids have fun, and nowadays parents come, too. I think that's where a lot of the pressure comes from," Smith said.
And all the mothers agreed: The more parties you have, the more you'll learn.
"What I've noticed is, no matter where you have it, kids always play together and have fun," Sagely said.
Ready to party?
There are literally dozens of fun places to plan a child's birthday party in the Tulsa area. Here are some to get you started:
8922 S. Memorial Drive
Skates Roller Skating Entertainment Center
401 E. Broadway, Sand Springs
Broken Arrow Roller Sports
551 W. Oakland Place, Broken Arrow251-6200
Tulsa Air & Space Museum & Planetarium
3624 N. 74th East Ave.
My Little Dollhouse
3017 E. 91st St.
Incredible Pizza Co.
8314 E. 71st St.
Chuck E Cheese's
7108 S. Memorial Drive
Kaleidoscope Children's Museum
6202 S. Sheridan Road
Leapin' Louie's Lagoon
10918 E. 41st St.
Diva Girlz Studio
2908 E. 15th St.
Kim Brown 581-8474
Icing on the Top cake shop in downtown Tulsa adds fun decorations to birthday cakes. MICHAEL WYKE / Tulsa World
Looks like a blast: Luke Walker uses the Fun Ball Blaster at Bounce U, 8922 S. Memorial Drive. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World file