Kid's parties - $250 or $5,000?

The guests arrive and step out onto a red carpet and the paparazzi jump to attention and snap away in the hope they capture the perfect image. Inside, movie crews film as you take your turn at karaoke or a movie scene, while roving reporters conduct interviews.

No, it's not an Oscars night do in Hollywood, it's a 10-year-old's birthday party!

Extravagant theme parties such as these can cost up to $10,000 with catering, glamorous take-home goodie bags and live entertainment adding up fast. But before you let your tween-age son or daughter talk you into mortgaging the house for their next birthday, take heed in the fact these parties are few and far between.

We found, when we polled motherInc readers, around 75 per cent of parents will spend up to $250 on a birthday party, and a further 21 per cent admit to spending up to $500. Only one per cent report spending more than $1500 with first birthday milestones the most popular reason for extravagance.

And while more than half admit to finding the work exhausting, but worth it, nine in 10 respondents claim they would prefer to keep the celebrations simple.

So, why then are thousands of Australian parents spending small fortunes on their children's birthdays?

"To be honest it does become a little competitive to make it as good as others because if it's not, you end up feeling guilty," Rosie, mum to 11-month-old Messina, says.

The Sydney mum has been planning her daughter's first party for weeks. To celebrate this important milestone, Rosie has booked an animal farm, is catering for 150 adults and 50 kids, has ordered a special theme cake, helium balloons, party favours for the children and will probably hire a jumping castle. All up she admits the cost will figure between $3000 and $4000 but she wouldn't have it any other way.

"It's her first birthday, it's a big event, it's significant," Rosie says. "And while I really want to mark it in a special way, to be honest at the end of the day when it comes to a one-year-old's party you are really catering to the adults, not the children."

Kathryn Porritt of event management company Pink Frosting says parents who spend up to $10,000 are few and far between. Most children's parties she caters are more simple backyard events.

"Most of the parties are the run-of-the-mill sort held in the backyard and with games like pass-the-parcel," Porritt says. "But the extravagant ones are fun to be a part of, some of them are like mini-weddings complete with lots of decorations, catering and even wait staff!"

Melinda White of party planning company, Party Squad, says having themed-parties is popular these days as it gives the planner a starting point to tie the event together. For little girls it's all about fairy parties, while little boys go for pirate parties.

"Having a theme helps you choose invitations, tablecloths, goodie bags and a cake and brings it all together nicely," Melinda says. "But it doesn't have to cost you a fortune. Most parties start to get pricey when the kids start school."

However, Melinda says she once helped organise a party for a one-year-old at a reception centre with 50 children in attendance, an inflatable slide, jumping castle, two face painters, a clown, a magician, fairy floss and popcorn counters and extravagant take-home gifts.

"It would not have cost less than $5000 and I'm sure it was a lot of fun for the kids but it was a bit like chaos in the room," she says. "the birthday girl slept for the first half and cried for the second half!"

Melinda says when you are planning your child's party be sure to make it age appropriate and something the birthday girl or boy will enjoy.

"Sometimes it's more about the parent than the child," she says.

For more information or tips on how to make your child's party special, visit or