10/23/2012 08:10 EDT | Updated 12/23/2012 05:12 EST

10 Tips For Throwing Stress-Free Birthdays

From the simple days of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey to lavish car-racing and princess "spa" themes, kids' birthday parties have become fodder for reality television. Perhaps because of these tough economic times, or a desire to trim the excess, parents seem to be reverting back to the homespun birthday parties of our youth.

Personally, we are happy to scale back. Not only does it mean less pressure and less expense for us, for our kids it means putting everything in perspective. Do they really need to be king or queen for a day? It can make it hard to come back down to earth after.

Tracie Wagman is the publisher of "Help We've Got Kids," a print and online directory of products and services geared at families in the Toronto area. There are hundreds of advertisers in the Birthday Party section.

"Every year I am amazed at the incredible and unique options there are for kids' birthday parties. There are certain trends that emerge each year but one thing is for sure, people are getting more and more creative when planning kids' parties," says Tracie. But in the excessive one-upmanship surrounding kids' parties of the past, Tracie believes parents may have lost sight of the single most important element of success in a child's birthday party: fun.

"It usually it doesn't take too much for kids to have fun. So my advice is not to overdo it. Don't over-plan the party, make time for kids to run around and be kids, you can't control everything," she says.

10 tips for stress-free birthdays:


10 Tips For Throwing Stress-Free Birthdays

1. Scale back the guest list to a manageable size. Follow the old rule of inviting the number of guests equal to the child's age plus one -- so a three-year-old would have four guests at the party.

2. Ditch the loot bags full of cheap, useless toys. Instead, incorporate a craft or activity into the party that then becomes the take-home treat.

3. Some craft ideas: Pet Rocks, Pasta Picture Frames, Beading

4. If you prefer not having a gaggle of kids destroying your house, look into renting a community centre or church hall - this can be more affordable than a dedicated party venue

5. Don't worry about planning activities for parents or trying to impress the parents. The party is for the kids.

6. Revive old fashioned "low-tech" birthday games: Pin the tail on the donkey, relay races, treasure hunts

7. Prep your child that she won't be receiving multiple gifts -- consolidate and get one more meaningful gift instead.

8. Consider asking for books or canned goods in lieu of gifts to donate to local charities or food banks.

9. Put the focus on family-centred birthday traditions: allow the birthday child to choose his favourite menu or restaurant for the birthday dinner.

10. Have family members share a memory, photo or souvenir that can be compiled into a special scrapbook.