Wren turned 6 last month. We had a simple birthday at home with some handmade gifts.

She loves both yellow and pink, so we had a yellow and pink birthday party, with yellow daffodils and pink stock from the garden on the table. I hung up the pink bunting that I used at Elsa’s birthday (the one I made several years ago for Liberty’s birthday from scraps and an old pillowcase and sheet). We hung some paper lanterns that we had and Ezrom and Winter make and hang these birds.

I made her a yellow polka dot dress with this fabric that I purchased from Fabric.com and buttons that I purchased from Wawak. I made the dress without a bow in back, since she prefers it that way. The dress cost me $12 to make.

The necklace was one that I had found on Pinterest. You can find instructions here. For the beads, I used a couple of wooden beads that we already had; one from an old abacus and one from a wooden bead stringing set. I sanded off the glossy finish so that I could paint them with acrylics paint. We had the strip of leather already that had been given to us.

(Winter and Cyrus were invited to a birthday party for two sisters, ages 12 and 9, shortly after Wren’s birthday. Both of them painted beads for their friends in colors that their friends like and we used some cord that we had to make the necklaces. These were a big hit).

I embroidered some socks like the ones I did for Elsa for her birthday. To match the yellow dress, I used embroidery thread that I had on hand. I used the entire six strands at once to crochet a chain stitch on the top of a new pair of socks (the socks were purchased last year at Target).

Wren had been wanting me to embroider a pillow for her bed like I had done for her sisters, so I made one using some linen/cotton fabric that I bought many years ago (it’s the same fabric I used to make pillows for the other girls. I printed her name from the computer, traced it with a blue Mark B Gone pen, and embroidered it by hand. Unlike the other pillows I made, I actually used a pillow insert for this one, as my mother-in-law had given me one a few years ago.

Parents magazine recently did a survey to find out how much the average family spends on birthday parties (just the party, not the gifts). The amount? $200 a party! The only party expenditures I had for this party were 5 sheets of cardstock (for the birds) which I already had, and the cake ingredients, which were ingredients that I already had in my pantry to make a cake and icing, and came from my regular grocery budget. The flowers came from the garden; those are daffodils that I planted years ago that return every year. Most years they bloom after her birthday, but this year everything in the garden bloomed a month early.

Have you made any gifts for children’s birthdays lately?

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  1. What is it with high school boys and their ideas for custom tuxedos? They really run the gamut. I knew a boy in HS who got his mom to make his of gold lame.

  2. Wren’s outfit is adorable, and I truly believe her name suits her.Although my mother didn’t make things and bought my gifts, I did grow up with very simple, family oriented birthday parties. Usually it was just extended family, with cake made by my mother, and gifts, many of them practical things I needed anyway. Often my grandmother made me a dress or two. I only remember two years when my mother surprised me by having invited friends to a party I wasn’t expecting. One year as a teenager, I was allowed to invite my best friend on a family day trip to a zoo about two hours away. Sometimes I invited a friend to sleep over near my birthday.The idea of renting bounce arounds, hiring clowns or pony rides, or having the party at a restaurant never occurred to my parents, and they couldn’t have afforded it if it did.As a young adult, when I first started seeing children’s birthday parties being given in fast food restaurants, with an employee in charge, and no homemade cake, I just thought it was tawdry and sad.

  3. We have never done Easter gifts. Just the candy in the baskets.I have noticed more than a few adults do not seem to be able to set down the phone & talk to me, either, due to texting. It’s sad.Another plus to children who do not have cell phones is no worries about “sex”ting being either sent or received. My 2 oldest grandchildren live in a rural area, & it is 30 minutes just to school. One is in 7th grade in the middle school, & the other is in 9th, in the jr high. Their mother is an EMT, and often brings transports from Eastern Utah out to the Wasatch Front. As a result, they need a way to communicate. They do not need pictures, and neither of their phones take them. The older child can text, but the younger one cannot, since their “emergency” phones are older models, & deliberately so – – theft of these type of items is high, & the older models are not “desirable”. Nevertheless, both have had their phone stolen once. Their parents use Tracfones, & keep the minutes deliberately low, so that when the minutes run out, the thief cannot reload & keep using the phone.

  4. I am always learning new things. I think I have a lot to learn still about sewing, gardening, and cooking, but I’m always learning more so that I can get better at it.I’ve made gifts for my children for most years. When Winter was 2, I had the means to buy several gifts for her for Christmas, and so I bought a little table and chairs and some other toys that year that have been used and loved by all of my children. But most years I have looked for used items, sale items, or have sought to make things.The important thing is to start where you are. Decide what it is you want to make and find a tutorial for it. Chances are pretty good that several tutorials for whatever you want to make already exist online. Then try. If it’s sewing, keep your seam ripper close. There is a reason why those exist and I know I use mine often 🙂

  5. My husband tells me that when he was in high school, he was able to get a free tuxedo rental for prom by agreeing to wear a tuxedo to school as an advertisement for the rental company. I don’t know how he worked that out, but I find his ingenuity at that age intriguing!I’ve not heard of these unusual tuxes, but for those women who have always wanted to sew something for their sons, I can see saying yes on this. We’re willing to sew a prom dress; why not a tux? (Yes, I know a suit is MUCH more difficult to sew). When my boys ask me to sew something they’re usually pretty specific about what they want.

  6. It wasn’t a birthday present, but for this past Christmas I made my great-niece several Barbie doll outfits with Velcro closures suitable for a 4 year old’s hands and abilities. I also used a piece of double sided, quilted fabric to make her a bag big enough to carry several Barbies and their and and ‘stuff’. Her Mom said she uses the clothes and bag just about every day and Mom appreciates not having to help with the clothes. I ironed a Spider Man patch onto a canvas bag I already had to wrap her twin brother’s Captain America action figure and he carries his various super heroes around on it.

  7. In Australia, Easter is all about chocolate. I grew up in the US so I’m used to dyeing Easter eggs (it’s absolutely impossible to find dye kits here, so we use food coloring and vinegar) and we grew up with small gifts in our baskets. (My mom says she downsized – she grew up with a new Easter dress and bonnet and shoes every year – but couldn’t afford that for us every year.) Even after all these years my husband’s a bit befuddled when he sees the kids’ Easter baskets.Children’s magazines here are mega expensive (about $10 for a very thin magazine) but they do have pretty cool toys on the cover. When a current issue expires, newsagents have to send back the front cover but not the rest of it. There’s a newsagent near me that on-sells the toys for 50 cents each. I find 3-4 of those, a homemade Easter bunny, a chocolate bunny from Aldi’s, and a few more lollies (usually purchased from the grocery clearance shop) and they have a good basket. Since we’re going into Fall, I generally also include their winter jackets. (It’s never cold enough here to need a heavy coat, just a hoodie – always purchased on clearance at the end of season sales.) I sometimes also include a new book (50 cents from my favourite thrift shop).It’s a personal choice; but knowing how much chocolate they’re going to get from their Australian grandparents (who follow the Australian tradition of chocolate, and lots of it – it’s not unusual for each kid to get at least a pound of chocolate) I’d rather give them $2 or $3 worth of toys and books and just enough chocolate to satisfy my husband’s traditions.

  8. One more thing: best birthday parties my daughter ever had were (1) her four year old party at a local park with food I made and no need for organized games because they had a great playground, (2) her ten year old sleepover party with 11 friends (I know!) and an 8th grader from her school whom I hired to help them with their ‘beauty’ treatments (nails, hair styles, etc., which she loved as much as they did and cost me about $15-20 for 3 hours of her time, money well spent for that many kids), and (3) her Sweet 16 at our pool with home made food and cake, a banner with ‘through the years’ pictures, and a chance for me to sit back and see how these teens had grown and how they interacted. The pool pavilion rental and entrance fees were about $45 because most of the kids already belonged to the pool. The kids all spent a lot of time checking out the pictures, which included some party attendees. I highly recommend that; it generated a lot of ‘oh, remember when we…’comments and story-telling.

  9. I was pretty shocked to read that amount, too! It’s pretty interesting, given the other number I read this week of the average American family’s income. I’m surprised so many spend that much.How wonderful that your mom made you a prom dress! That is awesome!

  10. I have loved dresses since I was little. I know I only have a short window of time where they will want to wear dresses for any time that isn’t church (Winter has already hit that age, but for years she preferred skirts and dresses and never wanted to wear pants; now she prefers jeans and a t-shirt). I hope to enjoy that time as much as possible!

  11. We’ve done the parties at places, but gave it up because it’s really not worth it. The kids prefer parties at home with a few friends. I make snacks and cake, and in the past couple of years we’ve done science experiments as party activities – not always successfully, but fun! My eldest’s birthday is in the summer, and the kids are perfectly happy to play outside with water guns and water balloons. One of my dear friends has her daughter’s summer birthday party at the community pool.

  12. Brandy, I find what you just said very eye opening. I use my childhood as an excuse (not a lot of money, absentee father, mother working more hours than not to keep us afloat) as the reason why I don’t know how to do a lot of homemaking things. But you are correct – if I want to learn how to do something, I should! I appreciate your insight, as usual!

  13. I put presents , if you want to call them that, in the Easter baskets. Some chocolate bought on sale with coupons, some jelly beans. Similar to Christmas stockings i buy throughout the year things like toothbrushes, chap sticks, nail polishes, hair elastics, contac solution etc. This year with the smaller house I didn’t think I could find 5 (+2) challenging hiding spots, so I just dumped it all into a larger wicker basket, put out paper lunchbags for them to take their items. Worked great.

  14. My Mom bought my prom dress for $40 out of the JCPenney’s clearance catalog, it was actually a bridesmaid dress. I got double use out of it. I wore it to the District Chorus concert a we had to wear a formal gown and then to prom 3 months later.

  15. Brandy My First Reaction to this post was Wow What Amazing Awesome wonderful gifts! Brandy even made her a doll necklace that matches her dress ! This little girl is very loved and it shows in her smile.My second reaction was what a great post to teach other’s that keeping it simple is often more what the child wants. $200 for a birthday party no matter what the income level is something to think about before it is spent. When we were young my family had 8 kids and my folks could not afford much so my mother had each child choose what year you wanted to have your party. I had my party when I was 9 we were allowed to invite one guest for each year we were plus one to grow on (therefore I invited 10 children to my 9th birthday) It was an amazing party and one I still remember.When my children were growing up back in the 80’s The time of the Chuck E Cheese parties I had a party at the local park. The kids fed the ducks and played on the jungle gym that party was 24 years ago and is still talked about today. Simple often is the best!

  16. In my husband’s family, a popular birthday treat was that the birthday child got to ask for their favorite homemade meal to be served. This was such a beloved custom that they were still doing it when we were young marrieds. Today, I have a cookbook of my MIL’s recipes from that time that she made for everyone one of the last Christmases that she was alive.

  17. Our birthday parties are relatively simple but due to the sheer size of the extended family they can be quite large. Lots of times it is just cake or other desserts and ice cream. Presents are always small and often hand made. We’d rather have the folks present than “a” present. A large party with a meal is more likely to be for a major birthday like #50 or #80 for example. In my immediate family we always have the birthday person choose the desserts they want and the type of meal ( like a picnic at a park) and food at it.

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