We’ve made some pretty lovely budget-friendly birthday parties in our day. For my older son’s 3rd birthday party we celebrated him reaching the “age of education” by decorating kippot and tzedakah boxes and doing Aleph Bet Yoga. For the baby’s 2nd birthday we did an all-out Elmo party that cost just $25.
But our schedules have been jam-packed these days, and poverty be damned, I was totally resigned to throwing money at the birthday party problem this year.
Then my almost 6-year-old put in his party request–Star Wars–and I knew we were up a creek. Who would I even pay to do a Star Wars party? What is a Star Wars party?
A few brilliant blogs later, we had our work set out for us: create a Jedi training course! Fortunately for me, 20 years of martial arts training, top-notch arts and crafts skills, and a 30-year-old love affair with Star Wars made my husband the perfect Obiwan.
We figured the whole thing out. And now we’re ready to share our trade secrets with you.
The setting: You need some space for this party. A big basement or backyard will do!
The uniforms: We eliminated the concern that kids would try to “one up” each other with store-bought costumes by giving them identical padawan uniforms–old undershirts cut to look like karate gis and belted with craft paper. They loved them! Our son wore his several times the following week.
The activities: After they suited up, the young padawans were invited to make their own light sabers. We pulled this craft straight from the internet–the pipe insulation was uber-cheap at Home Depot and the kids dug all the different colors of duct tape, though nobody wanted to use the red (something about the Sith lord).
After that we escorted the kids to the jungle swamp of Dagoba–an obstacle course using the JCC’s gross motor equipment that my husband had prettied up with craft paper trees. Though it was visually stunning and good fun, you could leave out this piece and still have an awesome party.
To help the kids transition to the next part of the training, my husband led them in a Jedi meditation. No joke. You have not lived until you have watched 20 6-year-olds meditate. But I digress.
The next step was the light saber training. A bit of training in sword-play is helpful for this one, but a YouTube tutorial could probably help you learn enough to teach the kids. My husband took this piece very seriously, and so did the kids. After learning several blocks and one offensive maneuver, the padawans were ready to take on Lord Vader.
Lord Vader was the single most expensive part of the party. He was made of cardboard, and he had candy for brains. The blindfolded kids “used the force” to defeat him! Though he was technically a ribbon piñata, we ventured a (correct!) guess that if the kids wailed on him for long enough, he would give up the goods. Yay, candy!
Then came the Death Star cake. A grey circle (easy!). The kids worked off the sugar with a giant light saber battle. No blood was shed. This was my son’s most favorite part of the party.
With light sabers and candy, we probably could have skipped the favors. But we found a great deal on Star Wars “I Can Read” Jedi books, so we gave each young Padawan a book to “learn the ways of their people.” Parents loved us for giving out books instead of bags of drek. And amazingly, they did not hate us for sending their children home with weapons.
This entire party came in under $200. Without the books we could have done it for $150. It was wildly successful, and didn’t take too much parent prep. “The best birthday party ever,” said our son. The kids in his class were talking about it for days (and so were the parents). It was more memorable than parties three times its price, and we got to bask in the glow of our budget-savvy creative genius.
For more birthday party inspiration, check out one toddler’s Bar Mitzvah-style birthday party, hosting a birthday party with no presents, and tips for hiring a photographer for special occasions.