5 Themed Kids' Birthday Parties on a Budget

Plenty of birthday party themes fit nicely into a modest budget, and the birthday boy or girl will be none the wiser.
Plenty of birthday party themes fit nicely into a modest budget, and the birthday boy or girl will be none the wiser.
Comstock/Thinkstock

If you're throwing a kid's birthday party on a shoestring budget, you don't want the festivities to look like you scrimped and pinched. Sure, you can't host a full-blown birthday carnival that will leave young guests gasping from sheer excitement, but that doesn't mean the celebration has to suffer. Plenty of birthday party themes can fit nicely into a modest budget, and the birthday boy or girl will be none the wiser.

The first trick to downsizing party expenses is to go generic. Unless you stumble upon a sale, birthday décor emblazoned with popular cartoon characters, pop stars and movie icons will cost more. Instead, think of how you can fit a branded theme (such as Hannah Montana) into a general one (rock star party).

Next up, go DIY with dessert. Baking your own cake or cupcakes will take a little more time, but you can save big. And finally, instead of hiring a birthday entertainer, enlist any friends with interesting talents or prepare your own games and activities to match the party theme.

Take a cue from the following five birthday party themes and get creative. A fun, thoughtfully planned party will mean far more to the guest of honor than the amount of cash you spend on it.

#5
Luau

Summertime birthdays are a great time to host a luau-themed party. A community pool would serve as an appropriate venue, or you could bring the beach vibe to your backyard. Party supply stores carry packs of leis for a few bucks each. If you have any tiki torches lying around, light them up for additional pizzazz or perhaps string up colorful lights around the party area.

For decor, go with bold, tropical colors such as bright orange, yellow and purple. Toss a drink umbrella in cups of fruity Hawaiian punch for a cute touch. Ask guests bring their swimsuits and a towel for wet and wild games, such as a water balloon toss, slip 'n' side and a hula hooping contest.

#4
Treasure Island

Ahoy, matey!

If your birthday boy or girl has a particular penchant for treasure hunting, pirates or adventures on the high seas, why not plan a birthday party around that? You could pick up a Jolly Roger flag from a party supply store, or make your own with an old pillowcase. A pack of costume eye patches and temporary tattoos will instantly turn guests into a roving gang of pirates; then, as a craft, have kids make and decorate pirate hats.

Of course, you can't have a pirate or treasure-themed party without a proper treasure hunt. Either draw out a map to the booty or set it up like a scavenger hunt with clues at each stop. Be sure to have plenty of gold chip candies for the prize and some inexpensive plastic costume jewelry for girls. A simple game of musical chairs can send players walking the plank if they don't grab a seat in time, or a three-legged race could be converted into a peg leg dash.

#3
Fiesta

Turning a basic birthday party into a fiesta is a sizzling recipe for fun. Decorations could play off the red, green and white of the Mexican flag, or you could choose your own festive palette. You may be able to find plastic sombreros at a party supply outlet, but it could be worth your while to save money on costumes and put it into delicious fiesta food. Set up a taco or nacho bar with ground beef, onions, salsas, cheese and veggies. Or try out the Taco Pizza recipe at TLC Cooking. For drinks, you could serve limeade slushies, similar to nonalcoholic margaritas. A lot of grocery stores now sell a variety of Tex-Mex food products and candies that could be fun for kids to nibble on.

Craft time for younger children could involve making maracas out of decorated plastic bottles and beads. Once everyone's finished, turn on some music, have the guests grab their maracas and dance in a conga line. Older kids may prefer decorating and filling miniature piñatas. Since the papier-mache takes a day or two to dry out, you'll need to prep those beforehand. Afterward, string up the piñatasand allow the guests to knock them open.

#2
Safari

Turn your backyard into an exotic jungle with a safari-themed birthday party! Greens, yellows and browns will work well for safari decorations. Any stuffed monkeys, tigers, lions or other jungle creatures that the guest of honor owns could work well as additional decoration here and there (kids would certainly get a kick seeing a stuffed tiger lurking in a backyard maple tree). Plastic safari hats, binoculars, magnifying glasses and butterfly nets can also come in handy for creating a true safari setting. Trail mix, gummy worms and bug juice can be the snack combination of choice for the famished explorers.

If you're having a girl's safari party, maybe set up a butterfly hunt. You can easily purchase small butterflies or guests can make them. Then, hide them throughout the house and yard and send the group out hunting. Boys might enjoy a similar activity, except with snakes or bugs instead of butterflies. HowStuffWorks.com has a variety of insect crafts

to choose from. A game of "I Spy" could work well for younger kids, and animal charades is fun for all ages (although tykes may need extra help from pictures).

#1
Country Hoedown

Howdy, partner!

A country hoedown is a fun, simple theme for a party that adds a cowboy twist to the usual cookout and yard game fare. Ask guests to come in Western wear with boots, bandanas and plenty of plaid. In case kids don't have cowboy hats, you can find inexpensive ones at many discount stores and party and retail outlets. Grab an extra set of bandanas to use as napkins on the table and serve up hot dogs for grub. For a sweet treat, you can make some no-bake haystacks with melted butterscotch chips and chow mein noodles or whip up the cowboy cookie recipe at TLC Cooking.

In warmer weather, you could have cowboy target practice by setting up an empty can and seeing who can shoot it with a water gun from the farthest distance. The winner gets to wear a handmade sheriff's badge. Or, divide people up into teams for a Pony Express obstacle course to see which group can through the quickest.