Fun Ways to Celebrate Your Child's Birthday Without a Party

A picture of a child blowing out candles on a cake
Make your child's birthday celebration memorable without blowing your budget on a party. Photo © Betsie Van der Meer / Getty Images

A recent survey found that families spend around $30,000 on their kids' birthday party celebrations between the first and 21st birthdays. Throwing a birthday party can be a major source of stress and a major drain on the bank account for parents. It's your celebration that you should get to enjoy too! Not to mention that a party for 10 kids can easily run you a couple hundred bucks just for a venue rental, plus the cost of a cake, balloons, party supplies, goodie bags for the guests and presents for your child. You can still make your child's birthday a memorable celebration without throwing a party.

Go Camping

Pack up the family and go camping. Pitch a tent and rough it, even in your own backyard, or rent an RV for the weekend and head to the local campground. The time your family spends without the tablets and phones is ​quality time you can't put a price on.

Instead, spend your weekend playing board games, roasting marshmallows by the campfire and enjoying the great outdoors together.

Take a Day Trip

Get in the car and head to a neighboring city for the day. Go to the children's museum or hit the bouncy house park. Changing up your scenery for the day and making a trip out of it will make your child feel special because this family-friendly day trip is all about her.


Keep the celebration simple but memorable with a sleepover. Instead of a cake and full-on party with decorations, you can hit the grocery store for some snacks everyone can munch on as they play games, tell stories and watch a movie.

Fly Somewhere for the Weekend

You can fly the friendly skies for less than the cost of a birthday party these days. Bare bones flights can be as low as $20 per person one way. It's a great way to make your child's birthday a huge event without spending an equally huge amount of money.

If your family budget can't handle everyone taking off to some other city, let your child pick a parent to go with her this year. And if you're not chosen but don't want your little one away from you on her birthday,  no problem. Schedule the mini getaway for another weekend.

This is such an exciting way for a child to celebrate her birthday that it will probably become an annual tradition and you can go with her next year. Celebrate on board the flight too with fun activities to keep you entertained until you reach your destination.

Take in a Movie

Keep an eye out for movies coming out at the theater or being released on DVD. That way, you can take in a movie for her birthday.

If you're planning a movie night at home, make it even more special. With a little extra prep, your home movie night can become an event.

Spend the Night in a Hotel

Grab some clothes and head to a hotel for the night. Make the celebration one she'll always remember while keeping it on budget with name your own price options that let you decide what you want to pay for the room.

The downside is, you don't get to choose the hotel where you want to stay. But you can select the quality and price, such as $50 for the night at a 5-star hotel.

Invite a Friend or Two Along

An informal get-together is perfect for little kids as opposed to extravagant and expensive parties for 20+ kids. Think of it as a mini play date. With just a couple of friends with her to celebrate her birthday, your child gets more quality one-on-time with her pals. Take the kids out for pizza, hit the arcade or play mini golf.

Whatever your child likes to do is what she should get to do on her birthday and that's a more realistic possibility with her and a couple of friends as opposed to having to spend a huge chunk of money on her whole class to come to a party, plus friends from ballet and soccer too.

Host a Family Dinner

Some of the best birthday memories are made with your family around the dinner table. Take her to her favorite restaurant and don't forget to ask the waiter to have the staff sing "Happy Birthday" to her.

Or plan her favorite meal she likes to eat at home. Your family gathering is all about her and she knows it without having to put on an elaborate party.

Let Your Child Decide

What does she want to do for her birthday? Just ask.

She may want a princess party at a castle but when it comes down to it, you can help her along so she can get what she wants without you having to fly the family to Scotland in search of a castle. She may surprise you and say she'd just like to spend the day playing with you. If she's stumped, help her make a list and talk about the many fun things you can do together to celebrate her birthday. In the end, let her make the decision.

Hit the Skating Rink

Skating may have been more popular when you were a little kid but it's still something fun you and your family can do together on your child's birthday.

Hit the skating rink for a couple of hours. It doesn't matter if you go roller skating or ice skating. And be sure to let the rink know you're there to celebrate a birthday so the DJ can announce her birthday and play a special song for her to have a solo skate.

Have a Spa Day

Even the youngest of ladies enjoys a spa day every now and then. If you have a daughter celebrating a birthday, she'll love having a spa day with you to celebrate her big day.

Book a day at the spa for the two of you well in advance so you don't run into an overbooked spa that can't accommodate walk-ins. Also make sure the spa knows you'll be bringing in a child and her age in case that particular spa has a rule about minors. Or plan a home spa day and give each other facials, mani/pedis and fruity drinks.

Go to a Sporting Venue

For the sports lover, take her out to the ballgame. Buy tickets to her favorite sport for her birthday.

If you can't see the professional teams where you live or the tickets are too pricey, take her to a college or high school game. It's all about the atmosphere and you can help her root for the locals. And if she's a sports fan, there are plenty of sports-themed gift ideas to make her birthday even more special.

Play at the Amusement Park

Her birthday will be one big thrill ride if you take her to an amusement park. Many parks have perks you can buy in advance to save money, such as discount food, parking and ticket packages.

If your child has a birthday in the winter months, you can still visit the amusement parks. Even though some parks reduce their hours in the off season, look at the schedule calendar online and you'll often find open dates around the time schools are out for certain holidays.

Go Bowling

Ah, the bowling alley. The sounds of the pins getting knocked down. The funky shoes. The bowling alley is a great place to take your child on her birthday.

Make the day hers by incorporating this idea with dinner at her favorite place and some of the other ideas on this list. She doesn't just have to do one activity on this list to celebrate her birthday. You have many options and the bowling alley is a great place for your whole family to have fun together on her special day.