Simple & Sweet Birthday Ideas {Not So Old-Fashioned After All}

We're grateful to our sponsors Hudsonville Ice Cream and their love of celebration and making moments sweeter. Oh, and their absolutely delicious ice cream.

Is it me, or have birthdays become way too complicated? So much fanfare, so much effort, so much planning! I think back to the simple celebrations of my childhood and I’m reminded about the things that are important: being together.

My kids birthdays all happen within the same three week period, and usually about a month before all the craziness starts I think ‘Hmm, I should put a plan in place so that I’m not standing in the grocery store at 9 pm the night before trying to find a fun dessert.’ I am not great at making homemade treats and that mom guilt hits me hard every year. Spoiler alert: I never do make a plan, and if you haven’t seen the bakery section at night before it’s restocked in the morning, the pickings are pretty darn slim.

This year I wanted to do something simple, but sweet. Low effort, high return. Happy smiles and laughter and time together without all the mess. 

Simple and Sweet Birthday Party Ideas

So, what could we do that’s simple and sweet? Here are a few ideas that came to me that might help the next last-minute mama looking for simple and stress-free party idea:

  • Meet up with friends at a local spray ground. Do it in the evening and order pizza! They’re often less crowded in the evenings, and working parents can participate in the fun, too.
  • Do a birthday experience instead of a party. If you have a budding artist on your hands, one on one time with just mom or dad at a paint your own pottery place followed by a meal out can make them feel really special! Or, if they’re into sports, schedule a trip to the stadium- even if your sports team isn’t in town or is out of season, they often offer tours of the facility that can be easily booked either online or through a quick call. Minimal prior planning needed!
  • Build a buffet (kiddos choice)! For my kids, it was a Hudsonville Ice Cream sundae bar (keep reading for more details below!), but DIY pizza, s’mores, or a taco bar work well, too. 
  • Say YES. All kids have that one place they keep asking to go, and as parents, we just don’t want to for one reason or other. If it’s doable, find a way to say “yes” to that one place. Maybe it’s the children’s museum, or the zoo, or a specific park. For example, the children’s museum has been “closed for renovation” at our house for months now, wink wink, but saying yes to that requested location can be all the treat our kids need!

We put so much pressure on ourselves as moms to make things extra special and just right. We want our kids to feel so loved on their birthday because they ARE so loved! But just letting them eat as much ice cream as their little heart desires was a treat and got me thinking ‘What other little things could we do to make birthdays a little simpler, a little sweeter?’

  • Blow up balloons. Don’t even bother with helium. Just grab a bag of balloons, blow them up and leave them on their floor while they’re sleeping. Instant smiles!
  • Let them choose a meal. Pancakes for dinner? You betcha.  (Add sprinkles to just about anything for extra points!)
  • Play birthday music. Check out “Birthday” by the Beatles. 
  • Use a special birthday plate! 

Oh, and part of keeping it simple is knowing what to prioritize and what to skip…

Not-So-Simple Things to Skip

  • Paper invitations. E-invitations, texts, whatever works for you, but keep it simple. Save the paper and the stamps and send the details electronically. 
  • Party favors. Skip ’em. You have my permission. 

DIY Ice Cream Sundae Party

An ice cream sundae party was the perfect solution to my birthday planning problem! No baking, or doing dishes, or stressing over how bad I am at frosting cake – none of those things make me a particularly enjoyable mom to be around, believe it or not – just delicious ice cream with loads of sprinkles and happy kids!

Have you ever seen how excited a kid gets when you tell them they get to have an ice cream party? It might rival how excited this mom gets when she hears she gets to have an ice cream party! That is REALLY EXCITED! I’m the kind of person that likes a small slice of birthday cake with a huge bowl of ice cream – or really, I could just skip the cake all together. This frazzled mama and my desire to have a simple and sweet celebration was thrilled with ice cream made by a family-owned Midwest company that’s all about making moments sweeter. 

When they saw the flavors my kids bounced around my feet and I realized we were going to have a hard time keeping our hands off of it before party time. I mean, when you know there’s Brownie Batter Cookie Dough ice cream in the fridge, it starts to quietly call your name! Of course, in my excitement about the simplicity of this sweet solution I only had a brief moment of panic when I realized that we had cut dairy from my son’s diet temporarily and I had just promised him ice cream (oy) – but the Dairy Free Birthday Cake flavored ice cream (one of several Dairy Free flavors) had immediately captured his attention anyway. Mom win! Minimum setup and maximum sweetness that we could all (even our dairy-free kiddo) enjoy!

Want to make your own Hudsonville Ice Cream Sundae Bar?

After much anticipation, and maybe me using ice cream as a motivator to finally get that pesky playroom cleaned up while I decorated, it was ICE CREAM PARTY TIME! My daughter happily blew out her candles and sprinkled happy decorations all over her ice cream. And let me tell you – every single flavor lived up to the delicious expectations! I was especially pleased with the Dairy Free flavors. There was no strange texture or flavor, they were just as creamy and tasty as traditional ice cream.

The grins from the kids as they each got to pick a second and then third helping of ice cream (hey, you have to try them all, right?) erased any thought of mom guilt I had previously. This sweet 7-year-old birthday girl didn’t need an elaborate homemade treat that would have made me stressed and grumpy to make her day special. She was just as happy with a big bowl of her favorite flavor of ice cream with lots of sprinkles, confetti to toss in the air so it rained rainbows over the whole dining room, and being together. I love that she’ll remember an engaged, relaxed mama on her special day and not a frazzled mess.  

As we cleaned up (which took next to no time – hallelujah!), my son asked if he could have an ice cream party on his birthday, too, since it’s just around the corner. Twist my arm, but I think we can make that work!


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