Birthday parties are out of control! To visit the “back in my day” territory, I remember having one formal birthday party when I was a kid- a slumber party when I was in fifth grade. The other seventeen years of my childhood, a birthday party was my mom cooking my favorite dinner, my family singing happy birthday and eating cake, and opening a few presents.
As you know, times have changed. Each birthday is a precious milestone, to be celebrated with its own theme, activities, and designer goodie bag. You might think this post is going to be a plea for a return to simplicity. Nope. I’m right there on the crazy train. I just put together a “Pandas, Dinosaurs, and Squirt Guns” themed party for my youngest son’s fourth birthday. I have no room to judge.
Each year, my sons pick a birthday theme, and I scour the internet to find appropriate activities. A lot of those activities are easily translatable to other themes, but you might not find them unless you are scouring every birthday board on Pinterest. Here are a few of our favs to make your next birthday theme-tastic.
1. Banners made with your child’s artwork- I am notoriously cheap. I will not pay for something I can make. I also love the idea of getting your child involved in the party preparation. A great way to do this is to make banners with your child’s artwork. If your child is not old enough to write or to draw a specific “thing” you can have them paint, and then cut the paintings into the letters of his or her name.
2. Free visits- My husband’s all time favorite birthday party was from when he turned four years old. His mother called a Caterpillar dealership, and asked if she could bring the children by to climb on the tractors. She did a similar idea for her daughter, where they went to a bakery and watched them make bread. Birthday parties are expensive! I love the idea of free visits. For my son’s third birthday, he wanted a fire fighter party. I called the local fire station and arranged a free tour. He got to climb in a fire truck, try on the equipment, and squirt the hose. Doesn’t get much better than that! Use your imagination and make a few phone calls.
3. Punch prize boxes- I made these for a Lego theme party, but you could adjust for any theme. Here is a blog that shows the step by step process. http://pinkandgreenmama.blogspot.com/2012/03/cardboard-box-punch-out-party-surprise.html#.VTU5CiFVhBc. The kids LOVED punching through the box to retrieve their prize. For the Lego party, I made them look like Legos, and the prize was a Lego mini figure. But I’ve seen rainbow boxes, boxes that looked like trucks- anything you can think of. The important part is getting to PUNCH!
4. Homemade crayons- This is such a cute idea for goody bags, and is super cheap. I used broken crayons and melted them in a cheap metal bowl over another pan of water, in the style of a double boiler. I don’t recommend using your actual double boiler- cleaning the pan is a bit of a pain. I simply threw away the cheap bowl after I was done. I poured the melted wax into plastic dino molds I found at the dollar store- I believe they were actually supposed to be sand or playdoh toys. I have seen these done with heart and butterfly molds. You could use any mold. Let the wax cool and pop out of the mold. I do advise thinking through your set up and planning your molding area before getting started. I just went for it and had a pretty big mess in my kitchen.
5. Scavenger Hunt- I like the idea of working for your goody bag. For my son’s second birthday, we did an alphabet scavenger hunt. You had to find the letters of the alphabet, and each letter had a prize starting with that letter. You can see B was for beads in the photo below. Another easy one to adapt for any theme, and takes care of creating a party game as well.
6. Seek and Find Game- I made these bottles to look like Lego mini figures, but I have also done this game with cut out pumpkins, and animals. Simply make a lot of one item, hide them around your party area, and have the kids find them. Easy, cheap game that the kids really enjoy.
7. Theme cupcakes- Making a big beautiful fondant cupcake is a very daunting task. Cupcakes are much easier to adjust to your theme. I’ve done drum cupcakes, pandas, zombies. A few simple tricks like pretzel drumsticks and Oreo ears makes for a simple, cute cake that any kid will love.
Hope you can use these ideas to make your next party a themed success!