Cost Of Kids' Birthdays Soaring

Kids sit around a table, birthday party
CBS/The Early Show
Increasingly kids' birthday parties are not just about cake, ice cream and pin the tail on the donkey. More American's are hiring party planners to present posh productions that can cost thousands of dollars.

"We've had everything from, you know, major carnivals to, you know, parties for 10-year-olds with butlers," party planner Julia Rabago told CBS News correspondent Sarah Hughes on The Early Show.

Rabago says the one-upmanship is usually to impress the parents. She says she has seen parents spend $10,000 on parties that usually revolve around a theme. Americans spend more than $10 billion a year on birthday parties.

"We got to dress them up as rock stars. And they got to go in the limo as a rock star," she said. "They were pretty young, yeah — 5 or 6."

Extreme versions of over-the-top birthday parties are profiled on the MTV reality show, "My Super Sweet 16." The sweet 16 party became popular in the 1920s as a middle class version of the debutante ball, but the parties on MTV are usually far out of reach for the middle class. The featured teen not only is thrown a lavish bash, but usually receives some a fabulous gift, such as a car.

A group of Minnesota parents and professionals formed the group, Birthdays Without Pressure, which is crusading for the return of more modest birthday parties. Co-founder William Doherty, a family social science professor at the University of Minnesota, said we live in a culture of excess.

"We live in a super-sizing culture. More expensive is better, bigger and better is better, and parents want their kids to feel special so they go over the top and other parents feel pressure to top it," he told The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm.

Doherty offered some tips for cutting down on party costs.

  • Have parties with fewer guests to make the party more manageable.
  • Throw gift-free parties. Say on the invitation that presents will be given to charity.
  • Try simple activities such as a treasure hunt or musical chairs.
  • Plan and prepare for the party with the birthday child.
  • Throw family-only parties.
  • Don't have gifts bags.
  • Give theme-free parties.
  • Do community service in lieu of a party.
  • For every gift received, give something away.
  • Have the birthday child help make a cake for his or her class with a focus on giving.
  • Don't outsource the party. Throw it at your home. If the weather is nice, play outdoor games.

    For more ideas, visit Birthdays Without Pressure.