Kids' birthdays don't have to be expensive

By Cherie Taylor,

Birthdays are about having fun together and giving the birthday boy or girl a favourite meal for Rotorua's Peake family.

Mum Katrina Peake said every birthday was different for the children but it was generally something light and easy with a home-made cake, not an extravagant birthday party with all the expensive trimmings and designer cake.

Normally, they head for a day of fun out with family, she said.

"We tend to do different things each time. Mostly we just enjoy going to the playground with an easy snack and they get to run around and play.

"It's better than being cooped up inside. We take along a cake and some chippies and spend time together as a family."

The birthday child gets to pick what's for dinner.

"They get to choose. We put a candle on the table and make a real fuss of them," she said.

They help to make and decorate their own cake, Mrs Peake said.

"That's part of the fun - decorating and making the cake. The kids love to help. We try to be as practical as we can so they get a bike or something they need.

"We try to give them something special. It's about making the day special, she said.

"We try not to spend too much money but make them feel really special for the day. We give them a choice on what we can do as a family. It's their day."

Rotorua Parents Centre advises parents to make it as much fun as possible with the least expense possible so it doesn't cause any stress on family budgets.

Promotions manager Yvonne Vincent said she and husband Greg always made it a fun day for their boys Patrick, aged 8, and Andrew, aged 6.

They would build an obstacle course in the backyard with materials from the Rotorua Toy Library and their trampoline, or pack up the barbecue and head off to the local playground.

"It doesn't have to be expensive. The most expense is normally the food," she said. "We set up the backyard and the kids just run around and have so much fun. We usually have 10 or so kids running around ... we hide things around the garden like balloons for them to find."

At the park they played "old-fashioned" games like sack races and running races, Mrs Vincent said.

"I make the cake and we have fruit kebab with seasonal fruit and marshmallows stuck on the end to stop the fruit from falling off.

"You can make it so much fun. We have sausages and sausage rolls - all the food kids love."

Rotorua Parents Centre has a bouncy castle which can be hired for less than a commercially rented one - $80 for members and $100 for non-members.

For those who want to leave all the work and cleaning up to others, local businesses like McDonald's and Playtopia offer parties at a price.

Playtopia offers parents a range of alternative themed parties for pre-schoolers and children ranging in price from $79 for a pre-school event through to around $400 for a more elaborate themed party.

Playtopia co-ordinator Missy Armstrong said they had a range of different party options available with special guests on hand like Batman or Barbie to deliver the party cake.

Most parents chose to take along their own cake but otherwise they could order an icecream or baked cake for the day, Ms Armstrong said.

"Parents can hire a room with an activity and bring their own food or we can supply what they want ... we can decorate a room in the theme they want from a diva party for little girls with make-up to super hero parties. They get to choose, we just get to make it happen."

At McDonald's, you have the choice of three packages. The $12 per child deal includes a hostess and room for 90 minutes, a happy meal for each child and loot bags.

The two $15 per child deals include everything plus a few extra presents for the birthday child. A cake can be supplied for an extra $15.

You can hire a bouncy castle to have at home from Andy's Party Hire with themes from Snow White to Shrek and clowns. If you pay an extra $60 they will deliver, set up and pick up.


Birthday Party Prices:

  • PlaytopiaFrom $79 (six pre-schoolers) to $400 (Ultimate Dream Theme for eight children)

  • McDonald'sFrom $12 to $15 per child and $15 extra for a cake

  • Rainbow SpringsFrom $15 each (under 5) to $30 (5-15 years), $30 extra for cake or BYO ($2.50 per person), $15 extra for goodie bags, $25 per adult includes entry to the park

  • Rotorua Parents Centre Bouncy castle hire $100

  • Andy's Party HireFrom $120 to $500 depending on size and theme (weekend hire)


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