I just recently returned home this Sunday after attending yet another child’s birthday party at, The Kid Party Mill, who I will just refer to as “The Mill” for our purposes. This weekend was special as we had not one, but TWO invites to this not-so-special place. I will not mention names of businesses in this article, but I will let you as parents connect the dots because truly, there are many kid party mills.
The average cost of a birthday party at The Mill is around $250.00 for ten kids, not including their families. What you can expect at The Mill is the following: Eight to Ten other families celebrating other birthdays as well, cafeteria style tables, and everyone an arms length away. You can be sure to not meet another parent, other than the obligatory hello, as you can’t hear them, and you are not even sure if they are part of your party or not. Your child, (the entire reason you’ve made it to The Mill) will engage in gaming for 99% of the time, which involves no other children. It’s rare if they have any time with the child who is celebrating the birthday. If your child has serious ski ball skills, it may land him with pounds of tickets that you both can wait in line to redeemed, usually missing the cutting of the cake. All that fun so your child can bring home a plastic bracelet that costs less than a penny. The birthday girl or boy will eventually get their allotted time to be ran through the “celebration” part of the Mill, which is prerecorded video that their group is supposed to chime in with. Just minutes after the party goers can no longer feign joy, the next party to the right of them begins their “celebration.”
This deeply concerns me.
I’m not writing this to bash any business or to say there is no value to any of it, but I do wonder why my son, in two years of elementary school, has been invited to The Mill over fifteen times.
Can we not do better? I think we can.
Your child’s birth was probably the most unique and authentic day of your life, why not honor his or her birthday as such? Now don’t panic; stay with me. I’m not suggesting that you spend months prior to the birthday in the land of Pintrest porn. I did that one year and learned my lesson–that is not what I want to suggest. I want to suggest that you think smaller. I suggest that you think maybe even cheaper and deeper. I highly suggest you think more about celebrating this milestone in an authentic, meaningful way.
First of all, lets talk attendance. It’s not until recently, and this has been vetted by all my friends whom are educators, that children are inviting their entire class to their celebration. Eighteen to twenty kids and their parents SHOULD make you feel overwhelmed. That isn’t authenticity; that is insanity. One suggestion is to invite as many kids as your child’s new age! If you think about it, that feels so right. What five year old needs more than five close friends to celebrate?
By the time they are eighteen, they can choose to go to The Mill themselves! But hopefully they won’t because they have been brought up knowing true moments from the other variety.
Next, lets talk budget: Less can be more. I see families at The Mill of all different backgrounds. We have been invited to The Mill by families who I’m sure couldn’t have really afforded it, but we all want something special for our children on their big day, so maybe parents just aren’t aware of alternatives. I’ll provide some here. Again, not mentioning or promoting any business.
I got a quote from The Mill itself of $250 dollars for 10 kids and 2 hours (this includes soda and something that resembles pizza). Lets think of what else we could do, for that amount or less
Hotel Pool Party Birthday:
As a parent and foster parent, I’ve managed many memorable parties on a shoestring and this is one of my favorites. Most hotels, with the heads up, will happily give you their breakfast area for Cake and Lunch, and allow a party and 5-10 more kids to swim during the day. I’ve even had them be as kind as to set up balloons I had delivered. Here is the price breakdown.
** One overnight stay for the birthday kid and his family $50.00–online bidding
**Pizza for 6 kids and their families $100.00
**Cake, drinks, decoration, and poolside toys that can be party favors: $100.00
What you get: Time to chat with the parents of your child’s closest five friends, night at a hotel so no housecleaning stress needed! Sometimes even a free hotel breakfast. I’ve never seen this fail.
Video Scavenger Hunt Birthday:
Three moms take three to four kids each around town video recording prearranged list of silly and fun things. Team meet back up and watch the videos while enjoying each others company. You can even play it in the backyard while grilling easy hot dogs and chips! Create silly awards and edible trophies. Awesome memories saved at a touch of a button.
Tin Foil Fashion Show Birthday:
Teams of two to three kids get to create a catwalk worthy wardrobe made only from tinfoil.
American Ninja Warrior Birthday:
Obstacles in the backyard. Pretty self explanatory.
Paint a Mural birthday!
Rent out a local movie theatre birthday! (This is cheaper than you think)
Tea Party Birthday!
Cooking, painting, dancing, creating anything, acting, singing, anything but The Mill!
There are thousand upon thousands of these ideas online. I’m sure none of my ideas are original, but they do offer an authentic experience that brings mw, my family, and my son joy and meaning on the day of the year that is most special to all of us. If you feel moved to do so, please comment below on other ideas you’ve had success with, or alternatives to The Mill on The Northshore!