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Birthday party alternatives: How to celebrate your child’s birthday without a party

Want to know how to celebrate your child’s birthday without throwing a party?

For many a birthday isn’t a birthday without a big party, but actually you can make someone feel just as special and have an amazing time as a family without one. 

Birthday girl celebrates her birthday without a party

Whether you don’t want to throw a birthday party because of the cost and time required to organise it, or because you can’t throw a big party because of other circumstances, do not worry. 

There are lots of alternatives to birthday parties that are, in my opinion, even more fun than an actual party. 

You can try a combination of these ideas or just pick one. 

Whatever you decide to do, talk it over the with birthday boy or girl and be enthusiastic. They will be excited because you are excited!  

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Are birthday parties necessary?

We always assume that you have to throw a party in order to make someone feel special. But actually there is no law saying you must throw a birthday party and there are a ton of really special alternatives. 

These alternatives – in my opinion having done several for my own kids – actually turn out to be more fun than a party and enable you to bond more as a family. 

There are actually quite a few downsides to parties, including: 

  • The cost. You can try to keep the costs down but the fact is feeding a group of people costs money, as does putting on activities and games for them. If you decide to hire out a facility or pay for someone to entertain the kids this can add hundreds or thousands of pounds to the final bill. 
  • The stress. Having responsibility for such a large number of people – and wanting it to be amazing for your child – is a huge burden on your shoulders. Plus you’re having to coordinate a ton of different things – invitations, venue, food, drink, entertainment. 
  • The competition. Since my daughter started school I’ve felt that pressure for her to have a celebration on a par with the other kids. It’s a horrible feeling where you want your kid to have something that’s equal to the amazing parties being thrown by her peers. The trouble is this can up the ante considerably – as you feel pressure to make it better, more expensive and bigger. 
  • The clean-up. The logistics of a party usually mean that you will be left tidying up either a venue or your own home. 
  • All the stuff. Your kid won’t complain about having a ton of presents from birthday party guests – but will they really play properly with all of them? I tend to hold back some presents after they’ve been unwrapped so that they can be played with in a few weeks’ time. Otherwise I find my kids don’t really pay much attention to their presents, which is a shame. Plus there’s the fact you need to rent a storage facility just to keep all of the stuff!

What can I do instead of a birthday party?

These are some really fun and simple alternatives to birthday parties. Before we get to the ideas, remember that just because you’re not having a birthday party, it doesn’t mean you can’t decorate the house. 

For my daughter’s most recent birthday I ordered her some balloons and put up a birthday banner for her. We stayed at home and enjoyed some party games together (just her and her sister) and watched movies. It was perfect and she felt very special. 

Birthday party alternatives

Some of these are birthday party alternative ideas that can be done at home and others involve going out – so there’s something to give you inspiration whatever type of celebration you want to organise. 

If your celebration is going to be at home then you may also love my 50 craft ideas for toddlers or 40+ things to do with a toddler at home.

On to the birthday party alternatives!

Family movie night 

My kids adore family movie nights and see them as a real treat. 

You can make it extra special by having your own tickets to the movie night – there are tons of free printables out there you can download online including this one. 

Transform your living room into a movie theatre by drawing the curtains closed. Set up a popcorn stand with paper bags for the popcorn and get your kids to hand their tickets over at the door – they will love the experience. 

Let the birthday boy or girl decide on which movie you watch. We always use our Disney+ or Netflix subscriptions for family movie night – there’s something on there for everyone. 

Some great family movies we’ve watched recently with my kids, who are 4 and 5, are: 

On Disney+

  • Onward 
  • Toy Story – 1, 2, 3 and 4 – they’re all great!
  • Soul 
  • Coco
  • Inside Out
  • Frozen – 1 and 2!

On Netflix

  • Over the Moon 
  • Ballerina 
  • The Grinch 
  • Trolls Holiday 

Family games day

Hold a family games day! If you’re particularly competitive – and it won’t upset any of the smaller members of the family – you could set up a chalkboard to keep score as the day goes on. 

You could play board games as well as: 

  • Hide and seek
  • Balloon tennis – get a balloon and bat it between you with your hands. 
  • Obstacle course in the back garden 
  • Egg and spoon race 
  • Play Pictionary – you don’t have to have the actual game – everyone can take turns to draw something and the others have to guess what it is. 
  • Capture the flag – split the family into two teams and each take a different coloured cloth (try attaching it to a stick and put it in the ground). You now must work to steal the other team’s flag. 

Order takeout 

Whether it’s pizza, Chinese, Indian or burgers, let the birthday boy or girl choose and order a feast for you to enjoy at home. 

Make pizza 

If your kids are old enough and love to cook then why not have a little pizza-making party just for your family. 

Making dough is seriously easy – my favourite recipe is this Jamie Oliver pizza base recipe which works every time. 

The great thing about making pizza is it gives your kids a fun activity to do together plus they can customise their toppings. 

Lay out in bowls a variety of toppings – that they like – and let them choose what they put on their pizza and how much. 

King or queen for the day 

Let the birthday boy or girl rule the house for the day. This means they get to decide everything – including what’s for breakfast. 

If they want ice cream, or cake, that’s their call! 

This is a really fun one – although if you do want to control it a little you could try offering two or three options as choice just so they don’t eat chocolate until they explode! 

Have a picnic 

Gather some delicious food and head out to the garden, a park or the beach and enjoy a meal together outside. 

Don’t forget to pack some games, such as a ball to kick about, too. 

Enjoy a water fight 

This one is best enjoyed in the summer! Fill up water balloon if you want to, or just give everyone a water gun. 

If all you have are buckets and a hose, that works great too!

Visit a local farm 

There are many local farms that operate as family parks or open to the public. 

Research what’s in your area and pay them a visit. You could arrange to pet some of the animals, take a tractor ride and enjoy exploring the barns and hay bales.

Go camping 

You could camp in your own back garden. Try setting up a fire too so that you can roast marshmallows for a proper camping experience. 

If you can get away then head somewhere as a family and enjoy a night or two camping under the stars. 

Go bowling 

If your kids are over five then bowling is a great choice. 

You get to have quality time together as a family doing something a bit different. It doesn’t have to be too competitive and it’s easy to make bowling easier for young children if you add the guard rails to give them a straight shot to the pins.  

Visit a zoo/amusement park

Take them for a fun day out to a zoo or amusement park. Try to pick somewhere the family has never visited before. 

Go on holiday 

If the timings work out then you could combine a holiday with your child’s birthday! This way they could mark their birthday on a beach or somewhere else different from home. 

The only word of caution with this one is if you have more than one child then I find it’s best to treat both exactly the same. So making your annual holiday all about one child’s birthday may make the other one feel left out. 

What if your child is disappointed at not having a birthday party 

It’s natural for children who are used to attending or throwing birthday parties to expect the same event and be a bit confused as to why they aren’t having one this year. 

This is one of those instances where it’s down to you as their parent to rally their enthusiasm. 

Explain to them that you have fun stuff planned that they are going to love. Make it sound really exciting and get them involved in the planning. Ask them what would make their birthday plans even more fun for them. 

If you have any disappointment about not throwing a birthday party for them, keep it to yourself and instead make it clear how enthusiastic you are about the alternative plans.

Birthday cake

Remember that not having a party doesn’t mean saying no to birthday traditions, such as having a cake, singing to the birthday boy or girl, blowing out the candles or having a dance around to music.

Create a birthday celebration around what you want – there are no rules when it comes to birthdays! Your child will love it no matter what, and that’s the most important thing.

How to celebrate your child's birthday without a party

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