Birthday Parties on 3 Budgets
From Homemade to Makeover,
There’s a Theme to Fit Your Wallet

by Emily Lambert

Let’s face it. Planning a birthday party is fun, especially for a child who exhibits pogo-stick excitement at the mere mention of it. Naturally, you want to throw the ultimate bash, but there’s just one thing: your budget.

Here are birthday party ideas ranging in budget from economical to ample, sure to get your wee one’s toes twinkling, including real live animals and endothermic reactions.

Basic Budget: Ahoy Mateys
A homemade party can be a piece of cake. At you can pick from more than 150 party themes. Just choose a theme — pirates for example — and you’ll find games such as Walk the Plank and Tick Tock Croc. Bury some treasure to uncover and bake a cake in the shape of a ship. Add finger sandwiches and economical decorations and your total bill can easily be under $100.

Think plain if you want to save dollars at the party supply store. “Solid color plates are the least expensive. The full pricing is on licensed items,” says Mark Yampolsky, sales representative for SGS Paper Company in Wyncote, PA. A set of 20 nine-inch pink plastic dinner plates will only set you back $3.75.

For a little extra, SGS also stocks 40-50 different patterns including SpongeBob, Dora the Explorer and the Incredibles. A set of 18 nine-inch themed dinner plates runs $5.86. You can also pick up balloon centerpieces for the party table that range from $5-$20, as well as party invitations, piñatas, favors and tablecloths.

If you’re not feeling crafty but still want to keep the cost down, consider ordering some pizza and toe tapping entertainment. Makin’ Music Rockin’ Rhythms in Media, PA hosts parties in your home, complete with egg shakers, sticks and other musical instruments. For $150-$175 (travel fees can add to the cost), children can dance, sing and play music with their party guests.

“Music keeps the kids focused and keeps the party flowing,” says Mickey Leone, director of the program in Chestnut Hill and Oreland. Makin’ Music travels throughout the Delaware Valley.

An economical out-of-home option (with no risk of chocolate icing being ground into your carpet) can be found at party locations such as IceWorks Skating Complex in Aston, PA. Eight guests can skate to the tune of $130. This price includes food (1 slice of pizza or 1 hotdog per guest), 3 pitchers of soda, ice cream cake, public skating and skate rentals, 2 adults skating for free and the use of a decorated party room and paper products. Obviously, in any party, keeping the number of guests down helps control the costs.

Middle Budget: Gym & Science
If your child does cartwheels when it’s time for gym class, you might want to consider a Little Gym party. Fifteen children can have the equipment, as well as the instructors, all to themselves for $205 ($250 for non-members). The Little Gym has locations throughout the Delaware Valley and prices will vary by location.

According to Amy Hansell, co-owner of the Wilmington, DE Little Gym, parents like the fact that “they are the only party here at one time and we take care of everything.”

Parents still bring in the food (or the gym can order a pizza for delivery at an additional cost), but staff members set-up, clean-up and serve the food. Children, ages 1-10, have an hour of structured gym time playing games and going through gymnastic obstacle courses before they venture into the party room for food and cake.

The Franklin Institute Science Museum’s party package consists of museum admission, a film at the IMAX Theater or a Planetarium show, a party host and party space, a scientific souvenir to make and take, and a gift for the birthday child at a member price of $202; non-members pay $225.

Up to 15 guests can attend. All parties for kids turning 5-8 include a themed workshop (such as constructing a butterfly box or illusion device) and a scavenger hunt in the exhibit area with the same theme. Themes include flight, astronomy, the physics of sports and a Safari Party in your choice of exhibit. Food can be brought in or pre-ordered from an in-house caterer.

Another option for those with a science bent is a Science Explorers party. Children dig for fossils, create endothermic reactions and break open geodes at a cost of $225 for up to 12 children. There are four different party themes to choose from: Edible Experiments, Earth’s Mysteries, 3...2...1...Blast Off! and Chemistry Curiosities.

The fun lasts for 90 minutes and is all hands-on. “The children make and take the projects,” says Jennifer Moorehead, founder in Downingtown, PA. Science Explorers parties are best suited for children ages 6-11 and are usually hosted in homes throughout the Delaware Valley.

Bigger Budget: Glamour Girls
In addition to at-home music parties, Makin’ Music hosts many types of themed parties on their 4-acre farm in Media, PA at a cost of $275 for up to 12 kids. Themes include Pirate Adventure, Glitz & Glamour, Pajama Jam, Cooking and Scrapbooking. Crafts and activities are theme-related.

Pirate games include a scavenger hunt to find treasure, “but the most popular is ‘walking the plank.’ We use a balance beam and put a pool underneath that is filled with fish, shells and stuffed crocodiles. The kids walk the plank adding challenges as they get better and more confident,” says owner Kim Fink.

During a Glitz & Glamour party, girls receive a head to toe makeover and choose outfits for their debut fashion show.

For adventurous souls who enjoy being face-to-face with lizards, the Philadelphia Zoo’s Zoo on Wheels for kids ages four and older will bring live animals to your home at a member price of $250, $275 for non-members. This price includes a live animal show, face painting, games and crafts for up to 10 children. Partygoers also receive party bags with a free pass to the Zoo.

The Finishing Touches
You might want to go a little over budget when it comes to cake time. After all, isn’t that the part everyone looks forward to the most?

For something extra special, visit your local bakery. At Zake’s Cakes & Café in Fort Washington, PA, birthday cakes come with painstaking details in mouthwatering flavors such as Mocha Gateaux and Chocolate Merino Cake. Co-owner Joe McFadden says a 10-inch round custom cake that serves 18-20 people costs $28.

Before deciding on any party package, remember to book in advance. The Wilmington, DE Little Gym suggests booking as much as 2-3 months ahead of time. Also be sure to ask about party favors. IceWorks offers personalized chocolate bars that read something like, “Thank you for coming to Susie’s party at IceWorks.” Each bar costs $1.50.
With so many options, there’s bound to be just the right one for you and your child, in a price range you can afford.

Emily Lambert is a local freelance writer.