My LO is about to turn two years old and while we felt he was still too small for birthday parties at the age of one, he understands a lot more now (naturally) and is much more aware of our culture norms and expectations, including birthday celebrations (and presents lol). Birthdays are a big deal here and sometimes I feel like there is a lot of stress on parents to throw an expensive birthday blow out. In the beginning I was intent on throwing the perfect “Pinterest” party, one that all his friends and their parents would appreciate and be impressed by. But as I spent more and more time online, reading not necessarily about birthday party ideas but about child development, I concluded that at age two it’s not necessary at all to go all out and get caught in the birthday party hype. Children are most creative, playful, and capable when they get a chance to lead their own play It doesn’t matter to them how much time, energy, and money went into a celebration. All they care about is having fun with friends (or by themselves), exploring, creating and engaging in as much sensory stimulation as possible. This can be achieved by using minimum resources at hand, whereas throwing a lot of money on a birthday party is no guarantee that your child (or his guests) will have fun in it, let alone appreciate your efforts.
With that in mind, I took a deep breath and worked hard at just letting go of all my expectations on what birthday parties are supposed to look like and embracing what my child really loves and “celebrates” on a daily basis. His favorite place in the world currently is the beach. He can spend hours there, looking for seashells and other sea treasures, building forts and castles in the sand and splashing in the water. All of his friends feel the same. The beach offers so much stimulation, never ending fun, and it holds kids’ attention for so long that it’s the best alternative I could think of to preparing crafts for them and/or hiring a clown or a magician to entertain them at home.
So we’re having a beach party with a free play concept. We’ve got many pails, cups and beach utensils that we are planning on bringing for everyone to use for playing in the sand. We’re also buying soap bubbles and making some kites for the kids but we suspect that they’ll all pretty much spend the majority of the time in the water or on the sand playing and letting their imagination go wild.
The challenge for me was figuring out what to do for food and refreshments. The beach itself may be an environment that offers never ending stimulation but when you have to make sure the refreshments you serve are edible (even while being kept outside in the heat) and clean amidst the sand, you find yourself pretty limited. In Israel we usually eat fruit at the beach because its the one type of food that’s easy to wash if sand gets on it, easy to carry and bring with you, and is sweet and (naturally) sugary enough to refresh you and lighten the mood. So our plan is to base all our refreshments on fruit; watermelons, melons, pineapple, passion fruit, plums, peaches in all sorts of colorful arrangements. If designed right it can add so much color and fun to our party.
Hopefully this all goes well, I’m a bit anxious since it’s a big shift in the birthday party climate we’re all very used to here in Israel. I’d also love hearing what your best and most memorable birthday party for your kids looked like!