Ethan had his birthday a little over a month ago. We had not one , but 3 celebrations to mark the day! One in school, one in my mom's home, and one with my in-laws on the Sunday after his actual birthday.
First up, we had a small party for him at his toddler school. It was a lot easier than the McDo party we had when he turned one, since there are fewer "guests" and they are all there in school, and it was very short, only about 30 minutes. Yup, short and sweet. Just the way I like it. Theme-less too, so easier to get generic stuff.
We didn't have any invitations made. I didn't think that would be necessary, because my memories of school parties just consisted of bringing the cake and ice cream and balloons to school. Anyway, I reasoned that the little guests would already by there anyway. I did inform the teacher, not only so that he will know about the upcoming activity, but also so that he would be able to advise me on what is allowable or not in school.
We only had finger food. This was on the advise of Teacher Randy. He told us that classic fare like spaghetti and fried chicken would require the help of the yayas and/or teacher aides. Finger foods are easier for little hands to handle by themselves. Not only that, the servings are smaller, perfect for small tummies. We just bought cheese sticks, cocktail hotdogs (no sticks -- I'm an ophthalmologist and I'm paranoid about barbecue stick injuries), and chicken popcorn. I had it cooked at home and brought to school. We just HAD to include birthday misua, though, because it's traditional for us Chinese. Instead of providing paper plates, we bought small plastic microwaveable containers so that the kids can bring their food home if they cannot finish it.
We prepared some theme-less loot bags.
They're actually small pencil cases. We put bubbles, small jellos, lollipops, a small ball, a small toy watch and another small toy inside. Simple lang. I bought mugs for the teachers and the aides and filled them with candies and decorative paper clips -- it's a pity we forgot to take pics). For the tags, I printed out pictures of Ethan and the recipient (or of the whole class if I can't find any with just the two of them).
Balloons were provided by the school. We didn't really have a set program, but the teacher incorporated the lesson about age and birthdays in that day's class. I think that was better, actually. :)
And Ethan actually blew out the candle on his birthday cupcake for the very first time in his life!
It's just a pity that Ethan was not feeling well during his birthday (he had the beginnings of viral bronchiectasis) but he was such a trooper! I believe he would have enjoyed it even more if he were not feeling under the weather.
Will have a Part II. Watch out for it.
In the meantime, I hope that these tips for birthday celebrations on a very tight budget would help you. Enjoy!