Summer Birthday Parties on a Shoestring Budget

Written by Marilyn B., Sprout Volunteer

I heard that their was a great response to winter parties on a budget. We decided to do a sequel with summer birthdays on a shoe string. I came up with ten ideas for both boy’s and girls. Some you can go very simple (for younger children) to a little more extravagant (for older children). Some of these parties are at a park. At some parks you can reserve a shelter for free, (zoo play ground) at others you have to pay for the shelter (the beach).

Beach or Pool Parties
If you have a pool this is great, if not try the beach, or a little known park, with a great toddler pool, is the Howard Withfield park in Harborcreek( I think my boys age 12 and 14 would still like it). The last time I was at the park was 2 years ago and they had a really nice creek that you could explore. I do not know for sure if the public still has access. The great thing about a pool party is you don’t have to do much for entertainment the water provides this for you. For food you can do peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (as they keep very well). If you want to make them special get out the cookie cutters. Carrot and celery sticks can be dressed up by taking a new washed sand pail ( you can buy them for a buck) fill three quarters of the way with water and freeze. Take a tupper ware container and make sure it fits inside the pail to hold your veggies to prevent them from being water logged.

To fit the pool party theme here are three home made cake ideas.

  • Take a sand pail layer cut up cake or Twinkies, layer the Twinkies with chocolate pudding. The pudding being your top layer top with gummy worms use the shovel as your serving spoon.
  • The next two use a sheet cake as a base ( use your child’s favorite cake flavor) carrot or spice work nice. Frost your cake with blue frosting ( for a pool). Now use your imagination to “fill” the pool. Teddy grams or ginger bread men can be your people, gum balls can turn into beach balls, fruit roll ups turn into beach towels use your imagination . The bulk section of the grocery store have neat ideas.
  • The last cake can be a sand cake. Frost your cake while it is still warm the crumbs from the cake will mix into the frosting creating “dirt”. Like the pool let your imagination flow to cover it. The children can go home with a sand pail filled with inexpensive pool toys like bubbles and sun glasses.

Construction Party
Give the children a sand bucket with a few lego blocks, some match box construction trucks, Popsicle sticks and some small stones or gravel. This party location can be at the beach, a park with a sand box or at your own house. You can make a sand box at home using a large flat kiddie pool filled with sand ( this can be the birthday child’s main birthday gift.) Let the children go . When they start to get antsy you can play games like pin the wheel on the dump truck, or some racing games, or you can make a small obstical course for the kids to run their trucks through. Lastly you can get a large appliance box and have the children construct a house, fort or another truck, using recycled odds and ends around the house. If you are planning food. Why not dirt and logs (sloppy joes and hot dogs in adult terms) You can also serve bushes (raw broclily), grass (salad) ants on logs (pretzel logs with peanut butter and raisins or celery with peanut butter and raisins) rocks (hamburger and hot dog buns) and sticks and stones (yogurt covered raisins and potato chip sticks) You can do the sand cake with construction trucks on it or the mud cake.

Scavenger hunt done three different ways.

  • Back yard- give the children a map with clues like Sill, don’t look out but in. (the window sill) and on the window sill will be another clue at the end of 5 or 6 clues will be a treasure box filled with their take home goodies. Another version could be to give each child a list with 10 or less items (depending on their age) to find, you can make each list the same or different, ideas can be a twig, a leaf, a clover and a dandelion.
  • An auto scavenger hunt can be neat too. Ask a couple of friends to be the drivers with directions to a meeting place. Make sure you let the person dropping the guest off know where to pick them up. (final destination of auto scavenger hunt) like a park or the beach. Give each car load a camera with a list of ten things to take a picture of , with at least one child in the photo and each child must be in at least two pictures. For example take a picture of a large rock. have the last picture be a sign of your meeting place like Zuck Park. The take home bag could be a small photo book with a promise of pictures of the party.
  • Amazing race theme another car scavenger hunt. Give each team a task to do dealing with the party. Give a time limit and a gift card with their challenge. One team can be in charge of the food, their list can say you will be given 50 dollars to buy food and drinks for 20 people any extra money will be given back to the hostess don’t worry about a cake this will be the job of another team. You have one hour to buy and prepare the food at least 2 items MUST be healthy. Another group might be given 20 dollars for the cake. This cannot be a pre-decorated cake. Another group 10 dollars for decorations. A fourth could be 5 dollars for entertainment The neat thing about this is the kids do all the work and you don’t have to do much preparation have them meet back at your house.

How about a silly summer Olympics party?
You could have different silly games and judges (parents). Here are a few games you could play. Who can hold a ice cube on the back of their hand the longest? Who can roll a hula hoop the farthest? You can play classics like the wheel barrow race and water balloon toss. Give ribbons as prizes. a cake could be cut and frosted in the shape of a trophy or you can place some award ribbons and a trophy on a sheet cake with today’s Greatest Birthday Child written on it. For food ask your child what their favorite food is and serve their prize winning food. Take home bags can have inexpensive sports items like mini basketballs, whistles, jump ropes and punch balls.

Water Party
If you don’t want to go to the beach and don’t have a pool . How about a water party? Get out the sprinkler, play a race game like who can fill their bucket up first using a teaspoon? Or take your water hose and play water limbo? A water party would not be complete without a water balloon fight. Food can be watermelon, grilled cheese sandwiches in the shape of fish, fish crackers, blue cream cheese (water) and celery fishing poles. Take home prizes can be water guns or squirt animals, bubbles, water balloons and inexpensive water toys. Instead of a cake clean a 1 gallon new fish tank or clear plastic water cups (for individual fish bowls) fill with blue jell o let set until partially set ( about 1/2 hour). Add gummy fish, worms, sharks or a gummy sea creature of your choice. For those who don’t like cake this is a great alternative.

Garden Party
A garden party is a good idea for a summer party. Especially for girls, as you can do a flower power garden party. For entertainment they can decorate flower pots with stickers, markers, fun foam or you can live dangerously and use paints, glitter glue and ribbon. Then they can plant flowers in their pots for their take home goody. Food can be done several ways:

  • Have a salad bar.
  • You can do a old fashioned garden party and have the girls dress up in their Easter finest serve fancy finger sandwiches on glass plates with fancy salads and a fancy punch or tea in glass tea cups.
  • You can cook your favorite chicken and dumpling recipe in flower pots (lined with aluminum foil) put biscuits from the tube on top. Bake until the biscuits are browned. We did this at a church mother daughter luncheon and it was a hit.
  • For a warm summer day you can serve tuna or chicken salad in a smaller flower pot make sure you use new pots found at the craft stores lined with foil or plastic wrap. Desert can be cup cakes with chocolate frosting and lollipop flowers.

Camping Party
Now for the boys what about a camping party? Younger kids can have a pretend camping party in the day time and go home after a couple of hours. Older kids come after supper for an over night. If it where me I would keep this kind of party small. Just 1 to 3 best friends keeping the total number even is a good idea. I will start with the day time party. Set up tents have the kids come in there Jammie’s and bring their sleeping bags. The birthday child can have his own tent I have seen nice ones for under $20. Some even come with a back pack, flash light and sleeping bag and this can be his main gift. Entertainment can be getting the “camp site ready”. Then allowing the children to free play. When they are ready for a activity they can go fishing in a kiddie pool with plastic fish, or go for a hike around the neighborhood a scavenger hunt would work too. Food can be adventurous with a fire and hot dogs, dough boys, and s’mores. You can play it safe and have hot dogs on the grill or cook them inside. You can make a tent cake by buying or making a pound cake and cutting two large triangles putting them together to form a large tent frost and decorate to your liking or cut individual triangles for individual tents. You can finish out the day with songs and stories around a real or fake fire (this can be made or bought). Older kids will pretty much entertain themselves. You can give them a survival box filled with snacks, flashlights, a book of ghost stories (not too scary) drinks and maybe an activity or two. The ideas are endless let your child come up with ideas and what he wants. In the morning you can have a big hearty breakfast and send them on their way.

Bubbles and Balloons
Last but not least kids of all ages love bubbles and balloons. So how about a bubble and balloon party. They can make their own bubble solution ( has some good cheap recipes) experiment with different wands home made or store bought. Games can be who can blow the biggest bubble, keep the balloon off the floor, or a race between two children they have to put a balloon between their bellies if they drop the balloon they have to go back to the start. Older children might enjoy balloon volley ball or basketball. Food can pretty much be what you like as I can not think of a theme food. A store bought cake with balloons on it works too. Take home bags of course bubbles and balloons make for great inexpensive goodies.

Use your imagination parties in the summer can be fun and with the great out doors you keep the mess outside.