It takes some sneaky planning, but your kids will love it.

By Marisa Cohen
Updated September 28, 2017
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Kids at birthday party
Credit: JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images

In the age of Pinterest, planning the perfect birthday party for your school-age kids can be an exercise in exhaustion. So much to think about and work on—the perfect theme, the coolest decorations, the fanciest cake! So when we recently heard about a party idea that requires no invitations, no decorating, and most importantly, no cleanup, we were very, very intrigued.

It’s the “Surprise Pajama Breakfast Party.”

“My mom threw one for me when I was a kid, and I’ve thrown them for each of my girls when they were 10 or 11,” Ellen Payne, a mom of three in New York, explains. “It’s the best—you do the whole thing in your PJs, so it’s the ultimate in comfort.”

So how do you plan this miraculous, no-fuss party? It’s simple: You ask your child to make a list of his or her best friends (you have to keep it small so everyone can fit in your car or minivan). Then you call each of the kids’ parents and tell them you’ll arrive at a certain time on a specific weekend morning—but shh, they have to keep it a surprise from their child!

“Then early that morning, still in your pajamas and robe, you drive to each kid’s house and surprise them—the parents have secretly bought presents, and they’re always so excited at this twist,” Ellen explains. The excitement builds as the group grows and a larger gaggle of children show up at each unsuspecting guest’s house.

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Once you have all the kids in the car, head to a diner, where they can all feast on pancakes and waffles and giggle endlessly about how they are all out—in public!—in their PJs. If you want to splurge on a party favor, treat them all to matching slippers or fuzzy socks. Since your only other expense is buying breakfast for a carful of kids, it's one of the most budget-friendly parties we've heard about. (An even cheaper alternative is to bring the kids back to your house for breakfast.)

The only hitch, says Ellen, is that you can only do it once for each kid, since the fun largely relies on the surprise factor. But the best part? “You can be home and done by 9:30 in the morning.”