Reading Stephanie Ingersoll's article critiquing birthday parties brought back memories of our only child's desire to be invited and the extravaganzas we provided. As a child with social and sensory challenges we were thrilled when any child invited him to any event even if it was because the entire class was invited. We knew that chucky cheese type venues were overwhelming so we were always at his side providing support. These were not always pleasant events but our own parties were memorable, big on planning, preparation and creativity and low on cost.
One year we had a space theme where the children crawled through play tunnels into an empty shed. The floor was covered with a large metal sheet and children were provided with "space boots' made out of detergent bottles with magnets taped to the bottom so that they could experience space walking on a heavier planet.
The small plastic pool was filled with plastic stars cut out of food container lids with paper clips attached so that they could fish for them with sticks and magnets.
Unrelated to the space theme but very fun for 5 and 6 year olds back in the mid 90's was throwing water balloons at the Barney towel hung on the side of the shed. For some reason they decided that they were old enough to be done with Barney and he deserved to be soaked.
The grand finale involved the two buckets balanced on the ceiling. One needed to be weighted with tossed bean bags to get tipped over and out came packages consisting of a battery, wire with battery holder and a buzzer (all from radio shack) . Then the kids made the connections to create buzzers. These were their goody bag prizes.
We told each child to say their thank you upon leaving, no need for spending on postage.... somehow we earned a reputation for throwing great parties and this contributed to my struggling child's self-esteem.