The simple kid's birthday party

This summer, I wanted to keep my childrens' birthday parties fairly simple, inexpensive, but nice. We opted for a party at our local zoo. Now in order to have a party at the zoo, it costs at least $250 if you are a member. That dollar amount did not fit in with my idea of inexpensive. So this is how I created my own simple version of a zoo party.

Pick a place that is free or where everyone has a membership.
- We invited 3 kids the same age as my child that all had zoo memberships.

Keep the activity simple.
- We met at the carousel in our zoo. We had a coupon for 4 free rides so the kids all got to pick their favorite animal to ride on. After our ride, the kids played in the splash pad located next to the carousel for 45 minutes.

Eat (in a different location if possible).
- My husband and I agree, this was the game changer for the party. The kids were exhausted from all that play and hungry. We walked outside of the zoo to the picnic tables located on the property. We quickly unfolded two plastic tablecloths and handed out lunches. That was the most laid back lunch I have ever had with a bunch of toddlers. They just sat there and ate. It was almost relaxing.

No favors.
- The favor is, they get to come to your house, mess it up and not have to clean it up, eat cake, play with their friends and then go home in a sugar coma. I mean as parents, we should pay the hosts to let our kids come and be entertained for two hours.

Make the food yourself and serve it on your dishes.
- Not only does this make for a lovely and sophisticated display, but you save money and paper waste by not buying disposable plates. But hey, I'm also in favor of saving your sanity, so if paper plates make life easier for you, then by all means purchase disposables! Since, both of my children had parties at the zoo this year, I packed each person their own lunch sack personalized with their name. I do make the best pimento cheese. :)

No gifts.
- This one is actually my favorite tip. We give one present to each child on their birthday. Then by the time each set of grandparents chimes in, the total is up to 5 gifts. Add on the loot from the party goers and you've got yourself in toy overload. Consider giving a gift of experience instead.

Do you have any tips to share for simple kids' parties?