decorative flagsDid you know that, according to estimates by Hallmark, Americans collectively spend over $600 million on gift wrap, partyware, and kids' cards every year? And that's not even counting the cost of booking private parties, or the presents.

It's no secret that birthday parties for children can get expensive, which can be difficult for parents on a short budget. You want to make your kid's birthday one-of-a-kind, and not any less special than that of other kids' parties they end up invited to -- but how can you do that without utterly breaking the bank by taking everyone to a game of laser tag, or without hiring special entertainment?

Many times, simpler is better. Kids are at the best age possible to simply have fun with the most limited of resources. Give them pizza, a cake, and some noise makers, and they'll probably be good to go. That said, here are three fun ways to make your child's birthday extra special, without having to spend a lot.

The Birthday Box Castle
Who doesn't have a bunch of big moving boxes somewhere in their basement? Gather up your old furniture boxes, or ask your neighbors for theirs, and create the ultimate birthday activity by encouraging the birthday child and their guests to build a box castle. Just provide duct tape, boxes, age-appropriate scissors and markers, and let the kids use their imagination, ensuring hours of fun planning and play.

Decorative Flags
Kids like to feel that their birthday is acknowledged; this is often more important than getting big bucks entertainment. One way you can do this is by announcing their birthday inside and out with flags. Hang Hello Kitty decorative flags outside for the day because it's your daughter's favorite character, "announcing" to the neighborhood that it's her special day. Use fun house flags indoors to create a festive look in the kitchen when the birthday boy or girl comes downstairs for breakfast. Buy durable, cheap flags online that can provide celebratory fun for many years to come.

Treasure Hunt for the Goody Bag
Most families end up collecting goody bags for the guests, even if it's only a bag of candy and a few plastic toys. By incorporating goody bags into play, you can give kids an interesting, engaging, and memorable activity. One way is to create a scavenger hunt, where kids search through the house for the items on their list (candy, book, etc., only taking one of each), or to create a "treasure map" that leads them from clue to clue in search of an entire stash of gifts. This can take place indoors or outdoors.

Would you use treasure hunts, box castles, or decorative flags for your child's birthday? Let us know in the comments.