Help! I need to throw a birthday party for my 8 year old...

Dominic is turning 8 (YES! He really is! You old timers are probably fainting) and we need to have a party for him.

Having it at our house is not an option, for a whole host of reasons.

Chuck E. Cheese is also a big no (we’ve done a few there in the past and it’s just too much for the adults…heh.)

There is a place with miniature golf and an indoor playground, but it’s $9 per kid, and then $2 extra per kid to use the playground and $3 extra per kid to play golf! They do supply a (probably lame) cake and napkins and stuff.

The bowling alley is $12.99 per child for an hour of bowling an 45 minutes of doing food and stuff. They provide a small lunch for each kid (like a slice of pizza and a coke) and goodie bags–but you have to bring the goodies!

So both of those seem fairly lame.

Last year we had the party at a park and almost no one showed up.

So does anyone have any ideas? I’d like to keep it around $5/kid if possible, but I know that may be unrealistic. I think my mom is helping me pay for it but I’m not sure. I do have an income now, though, which helps.

So all you parents and party planners… let’s hear some ideas!

Does the little guy have a best friend? If so, would his/her parent(s) be willing to help? Maybe their house is more suitable, for whatever reasons. If you are friendly with them, and pay for the shindig as well as doing the clean-up, that might be something to think about.

Do y’all have a “Play Zone” where you live? It’s an inside gym kinda place with balls, tunnels, netting for climbing, etc. I know they do parties at the one we used to go to when my son was smaller but I don’t know how much it cost. They provided food (pizza, hotdogs, or pb&j, I believe) a cake, and hosted games.

Well, I just threw one for my 8 year old boy last week - pricey ice skating rink. NOOOO!!!

Do you have an ASI Gymnastics or Main Event near you?

What about taking the party out to a MOVIE?? Spy Kids 3D is good (in that “my eyeballs are bleeding from the 3-D glasses but wow, this is cool” sort of way).

Sometimes local volunteer fire companies will rent a room out for parties such as yours.

Then the adults (usually male) have an excuse to inflate balloons, do sniffs of helium and talk like the Lollypop Kids after they’ve had a beer or two.

They’re reasons why I volunteer to help with friends kid parties. :smiley:

It is an unusual year when my kids get a “party.” Usually, I have them invite one or two friends and we pick an activity to do together. One year we went to Build-A-Bear workshop, another year we saw a movie, etc. Have you asked Dominic what he would like to do? Is there something he’s been wanting to do that he could share with one or two friends?

Do you belong to the YMCA they often have party packages of some sort.

Check with the local roller skating rink. We did that this year for my daughters 10th. It was a little more expensive than you are talking but food and skate rental for all the kids that didn’t bring their own skates was part of the package, although you do have to bring your own cake.

If one of the McDonalds in your area has one of those habitrail play areas they sometimes offer party packages. One of my daughter’s friends did that one year and it was a great time for all the kids. I do not think it was very expensive.

Sometimes just having all the kids at Pizza hut can be a blast if you do it mid afternoon they may be willing to let you hang out for a while and play a few games.

Mostly kids are easy to please. All they need is each other really. The best party favor I ever did was little tins of play dough. You can get them at target in the party section about 12 for 2 bucks. They can keep a whole party of 9 year olds busy for ages. If you are relying on him getting the invitations to his friends at school you may want to confirm with thier parents. We had a situation last year that a set of twins just plain didn’t show up. A month later their mom phoned to appologise because she had just found the invitations in one of the backpacks.

We’ve done Build-A-Bear and it worked out to be cheaper than Chuck E Cheeses- I told the parents I would pay X amount, if their kids wanted extras, they would have to send money with. All did, and after Build-A-Bear gave me copious discounts I ended up spending approximately $80 for 8 girls and 2 adults. (Chuck E Cheese sucked in that some of those who RSVP’d didn’t show up and I had to pay for them anyways… grrr).

What has worked best for me is, when calling a place, let them know up front that it’s a birthday party for an 8 year old and x number of friends- what kind of deal can you give me.

For LilMiss’s 8th birthday we went to Michael’s crafts. It was approximately $4/kid, they tailored it to their likes. Afterwards we did McD’s playland…Kinda nice… started at 10am, done by 3pm… :slight_smile:

Try a home theme party- early Halloween? Make the house all scary, play Halloween type games…

Luckily, 8 year old boys are easily amused :smiley:

I guess I’m an anomoly - I’ve never had a party for my daughter anywhere but at home. We’ve done sleepovers, swimming parties (when we lived on the lake), and one year, we did a hat party - I bought plain straw hats and dug out my crafty stuff - the girls decorated their hats, then had cake and ice cream. Another year, we did make-your-own-pizzas/make-your-own-sundaes - the cooking was part of the entertainment.

How 'bout a community center? I think most of the ones around here have a room and some sort of deal. If they have the equipment, maybe you could screen a movie that all 8-year-olds love. Make the popcorn and bring a bunch of candy for them. It could end up being pretty cheap!

Do you have family in town that could host the party?

I’d nix the rink ideas. Last year, my son (who is also turning 8 this year!) had one at the ice rink, and was horribly disappointed once it was all over. We had a party room for an hour and the kids could skate, but they rushed us in an dout. He couldn’t really say why he was so upset, but when I asked him “was it because the birthday party is supposed to be focused on the birthday kid and this one was all spread out and crazy?” and he started to cry, I figured that was it.

Kids don’t really care where or what or how much $ is spent, but that the focus is on THEM and they get to be with their friends. Just because no one showed at the park last year doesn’t mean the location was bad, perhaps it was a bad day for the parents or like the aforementioned twins - the parents weren’t aware of the party.

I asked my son where he wanted to have his party this year and what kind and you know what he said? He just wanted a plain basic party - no locations, no frills, not even pizza! Just a few friends, cake, ice cream and presents! Its the fun they remember, not the trappings.

He doesn’t have a best friend except for his “girlfriend” and they won’t even let us come over, let alone have a party there.

The reason I can’t have one at my house is that A) the main floor is small and full of books, breakable objects, computer equipment, etc. B) we have a big dog (105lbs) who hasn’t gotten the hang of “don’t jump up” and “don’t shove your nose into crotches” and who would NOT be ok with staying in the back yard (he would bark the whole time and tear shit up. He only goes out there to poop.) and 3) the basement flooded last month and it doesn’t smell so great in here–plus the house still smells (strongly) of cat pee even though we’ve gotten rid of almost everything and cleaned. We need to have the carpets replaced to get rid of the smell.

The closest “Play Zone” is in Maryland.

I’ve talked to the movie theater about parties and it’s like $9 or $10 per child and the adults have to buy movie tickets.

ASI Gymnastics and Main Event: nope. We live in a small suburb that is kinda in the outlands of the DC 'burbs.

I’ll call the volunteer fire department… never woulda thought of that :confused: :slight_smile:

Even if it was one or two friends, there is still no place to do it, really. And he wants to go to the miniature golf place that I mentioned in my OP.

I don’t even know if they have a YMCA around here… closest one I know of is in Reston (20 min away) And I don’t know if we have a roller rink either… plus I doubt most 8 year olds know how to skate, and I know for sure that Dominic doesn’t so he would have a horrible time.

I don’t really want to do McDonald’s or Burger King because we are vegetarians and it bugs me to pay for a bunch of burgers. That may sound unreasonable to you but that is how I feel. Plus the only thing Dominic can eat there is a bun with cheese and ketchup.

Pizza Hut is a possibility. There is really only sitting at tables and eating to do though… no way to do games or toys or anything. :confused: I doubt Pizza Hut would let us bring play-doh. I can call them and ask if they have any special birthday things though.

I’d never heard of Build-A-Bear before, but there is on 6 miles away. It costs $10/kid *minimum–smallest bear, no clothes, you can’t bring a cake or have any food, and you have to have 6 people minimum. Given that last year’s party (in the park) had like 2 kids show up…

MissTake: You missed the part where it is 100% impossible, not going to happen, not in a million years at our house. I hadn’t thought of Michael’s though… wonder if there is one close to me…

I have never heard of a Centreville community center… I don’t think we have one, but I can check.

My closest family is 1,000 miles away.

So I’ll call some of the places suggested here–good ideas!

Anyone else have any ideas?

Michael’s has parties; but I’m not sure what they cost.

I’m surprised, though, that the park was a dud for you. I took my son to a birthday party for his best friend at a park just yesterday and there were perhaps 15 kids. Talking with other parents, we’ve pretty much agreed that Park Parties are the best.

(btw, I would love to just have kids at the house to play and eat cake, but that is impossible. And I can’t do it at someone else’s house, so that means I have to have it “somewhere” which typically means some sort of activity.)

You could have it at my house, if you didn’t live so stinkin’ far away.

Opal, does your complex have some kind of a pool room/community room? There may be a deposit to use it (to cover the cleaning), but it’s usually not too expensive.

In any event, I’m going to second the small get-together idea. My cousin’s son had a party for 30+ kids at the Edgewood Park Zoo outside of Philadelphia, and aside from the expense (it was horribly expensive; around $300, IIRC), there were just too many kids there. All of the kids were from Sam’s group at day camp, and some of his little sister’s from her play group. Keeping that many 1.5-to 3-year-olds entertained and controlled enough was a challenge. I think that maybe 5 or 6 friends doing something like the bowling or a movie or whatever is a lot better and more meaningful than having everyone in Dominic’s class show up for something.

Just MHO, you’re free to ignore it if you like.


No, our HOA is way too cheap to have actual community ammenities. They cut the grass and that’s about it.

Any party we have will be a small get together. I don’t expect more than 8 kids, TOPS. I would never have a party of 30 kids! Hell not even 15! For me a “big” party would be 10 kids.

Movie turns out to be $16/child with a 10 child minimum. Ack.

YMCA is in Manassas, and in any case they’d just let us mingle in with their childcare area. Bleah.

Michael’s has parties, $10/kid

My gym offers parties that sound awesome… 3 hours, a room rental for all three hours, one hour of swimming, one hour of rock climbing, and one hour to eat. They provide pizza and sodas. The problem is that it’s $25(!!!) per kid and there is, again, a 10 kid minimum. :confused:

So I think I’m going to have it at Don Pablo’s (Mexican restaurant for those of you who don’t have one in your area)… they have a sort of indoor “porch” area that they use for large groups and they said they can provide a pinata and stuff (they do that on Tuesday nights for Kids’ Night so they’re used to it) and that it would pretty much just cost the price of the food plus the pinata and candy or whatever. So that sounds like the best deal. It is in another town, as everything is, but it’s only about a 5-10 minute drive straight down I-66.
SO! Any MAD area dopers with kids want to come? (seriously)

I would go with the park idea. How about a theme party. My mom and I did a cowboys theme for the youngest nephews. She let me do the cake. So I did Custer’s last stand. Had some plastic cowboys and indians. The indians were dancing around and all the cowboys were laying down or hanging from the side of the cake. Plus all the kids got stick horses and small cowboy hats.

The kids had a blast.

Wherever you go, kids love hunts. If you go to a wooded area like a park, for instance, you can divide the kids into 2 or 3 groups and have them hunt for things like:

Queen Anne’s lace
oak leaf
pop can
old penny, nickel, dime or quarter
a fast food restaurant bag

Since the kids are only 8, you and DH will have to chaperone each group. If you don’t think they’ll know what an item looks like (e.g Queen Anne’s lace), print out pictures from the internet. Team that collects the most most items in 20 minutes is the “winner.” The prize can be something very cheap, such as a blue ribbon.

Kids also LOVE scavenger hunts (where the kids have to solve a simple puzzle to get their next clue). For a recent book club party (White Fang) I hid 2 groups of 10 envelopes in various places throughout the house. Inside the envelopes were dog bone treats and the clue to the next location. The first team to collect all 10 dog bones won the prize. This takes a bit of prep work and imagination (which I know you have plenty of) and the kids love it.

Here is an example of a clues I gave to the 8 year old kids:

It’s like the dessert here
So hot and dark and dry
Turn me on and put inside
A roast or apple pie

(The oven)

It’s kind of wet and cold in here
Though we do have some good lighting
We’re looking for a Nemo dude.
Any idea where he’s hiding?

(fish tank)
You won’t find shampoo here
a soap or even a scrub brush
Keep a watch out for Tweety
He may be naked; try not to blush!

(bird bath)

Okay, okay, so I won’t be the next poet laureate!

Variations of the above can be that instead of dog bones, they can gather one letter from each envelope. Then they have to unscramble the letters to make a word. For instance: Dominic

Once again, the fun is in the game. The prizes can be Air Heads or little ribbons.

If you make the cake yourself, you can save a lot of money. Kids LOVE dirt cakes, which are VERY easy to make. Oreos, pudding, whipped cream and gummi worms. Who can resist?

We’ve gotten away from having simple bday parties, but with a little imagination, you can throw a great party for practically nothing.

Have fun!

Thing is it’s hard to find a park around here that has any kind of area to set stuff up (sorry, but I’m not serving cake on a blanket! heh). Last year we had to go to the one in Manassas and it was too long to drive and only 2 kids showed up.

I seriously doubt there would be enough kids to have any sort of “team” thing happening… and any sort of really organized activity for 8 year olds is a pipe dream lol!