AKRON, Ohio — If Junior wants a birthday party with a dozen of his closest friends, it might mean breaking into his piggy bank.
Busy parents who don't have time to host a party at their home often count on places that cater to children to help them out with the big day. And that's great if Mom and Dad can afford up to $22 a person to celebrate at popular party places. But some are opting instead to throw bashes themselves for Junior and his pals.
Lindsay and C.J. Lyons of Springfield Township, Ohio, recently held a party at home for their son's third birthday. Total price for about 50 guests, including kids, their parents and four generations of relatives — less than $200, including food.
C.J. admitted having to clean up isn't a pleasant chore, but he thinks such events are more personal when family and friends are guests in someone's home.
"We are super family-oriented," C.J. explained. "I was taught that the best thing you can do is cook a meal for somebody."
C.J. made finger foods, such as sloppy joes and pigs in a blanket hors d'oeuvres, for his son Davin's big day.
"This is great," said the party boy's grandmother, Lori Lyons. "It teaches the children that it's OK to be at home. You don't have to go to theaters or restaurants or to game rooms to have a good time."
As a sales associate at Karen's Hallmark in Ellet, Ohio, Lindsay Lyons is in the habit of thinking creatively. She maintains parties don't have to cost much if parents search around the house or ask friends for materials needed to make decorations.
Davin's party, which took place on a recent spring afternoon, featured a Peter Pan theme. The little boy dressed as Peter Pan, his dad was Captain Hook, Mom was Tinker Bell and other guests made up the Disney characters.
"I think having a themed party is more exciting for the children — especially if you can find people who look like the characters. It brings the story to life," said Davin's grandfather, Jack Lyons, who was dressed as Smee, Captain Hook's right-hand man.
The party invitations were stuffed inside a "spyglass," made from paper towel and toilet paper rolls. Parents were warned that their children, who would play the parts of Neverland's lost boys and girls, should dress in old clothes as they would be getting dirty.
C.J. cut out daggers and swords from foam that were used in a vociferous brawl between the adults and kids.
Other features for the party included a teepee made with half-inch dowel rods. The children painted the sheet that covered the rods.
In keeping with the story in which Peter Pan lost his shadow, Lindsay borrowed a floodlight and chalk was used to catch children's shadows on black paper, hung on a wall. The silhouettes were given to parents as favors.
One of the highlights was a pirate ship that was large enough for the children to play inside. C.J. cut out the pieces in advance and instructed the children to put it together.
Horsing around inside the ship with his son, someone called to the proud father, who had been in the U.S. Navy for four years.
"Are you seasick yet, Captain Hook?"
C.J. grinned and shook his head. "Never did get seasick."
In a ship of cardboard — or that of steel.