Special Birthday Plate

Special Birthday Plate

Birthday Plate

Who doesn’t want to have their special day be a huge celebration? Sometimes even the smallest things are what is remembered and huge in a kids mind. Eating on a special “birthday” plate is one of those small details. If you search “special birthday plate” you’ll find a myriad of styles that you might love. Bring it out for the birthday party alone or bring it out all week!

I have to be honest……we received a plate to use for such an occasion and I think we’ve used it maybe twice…….I know, I’m a bad mom. I vow from this point forward to bring the darn thing out. Right now I’m making a reminder on my calendar so I don’t forget! It will be a special day. One that no one forgets!

Spa Party Lunch

Food for the Spa

Spa Spread

For my daughter’s spa birthday party, we were taking a trip to a hot springs and I knew the girls would be hungry! Rather than plan a big meal or have pizza, we decided to go with the theme and make it a bit more….well… like. I took with us two picnic baskets full of goodies.

Sparkling cider was a hit! I bought plastic champagne glasses at Party City. They come in an 8 pack. Then for 4 girls I took two bottles of cider. They had so much fun with their flutes! On this one it’s better to have too much than not enough. Believe it or not 4 girls drank all of 2 bottles….well, maybe I had a little.

For the “meal” I had fancy cheeses, sausages, fruit, crackers, bread…..any finger food that they don’t normally get in their lunch at school if fancy. This really was the easy part. Pack a cutting board and some grocery bags from the local grocery cheese shop and I prepared it all on location. Oh my. Easy. Threw it all back in my bag after we left and we were set!

As kids get older, they do appreciate having a nice meal. Don’t cop out by just ordering pizza. Although, they sill love it. Make your child’s birthday party and especially a spa party special with some fancy food as well.

Creating an Inviting Atmosphere

Marking the Birthday House

Balloons fit for the Mailbox

Whenever you have a birthday party it’s always nice to mark the location in multiple ways to make it easier for your guests. Even if you are inviting folks who have been to the party location….it’s a nice greeting. And for anyone who hasn’t been there, it is oh so helpful when they are screeching in on two wheels.

Here the balloons are not your ordinary balloons but the bigger sized ones and the ribbon is a nice 1″ thick satin ribbon. It’s that little added touch which sets this apart. If you don’t have the time to procure special items like this, certainly a group or regular size balloons tied to the mailbox will work! But this is just an idea to give your welcome a personal touch.

If you are having the party at your home, like this is, there are other ways of letting guests know they are at the right place. Place balloons at the front door or around a planter at the front door. Prop your front door open. Making it clear folks are invited in. (I recently started taking notice of my neighbors who leave the main door open during a normal day. It’s really an inviting feel and when I think about it, I open mine as well.) Another biggie is to turn every outside light on possible….even during the day time.

The other benefit to having balloons on your mailbox is that it alerts neighbors that you are having a party. They will be more likely to help lost guests or will slow down if it’s obvious that it’s a kids party that is happening.

Simple things really. But since these are things that are to be done right before guests arrive, it’s helpful to make yourself a note. Because if you are like me, I can get frantic at the last minute and leaving the door open might be overlooked!

Real Pirates to Visit Birthday Party

Real Pirate at PartyHonestly, there are not many people children or adults that don’t like to see someone dressed up!  I often wonder what it is.  Do children and adults like to have one bit of fantasy in this reality world?  Do we feel like we too could be a character with them.  I don’t know.  But no matter if it is a cow or chicken standing on the roadside or someone like this pirate, kids especially are drawn to them.

For one of your birthday parties you should have someone show up in costume.  You can either hire a guy like this pirate or talk the favorite uncle into dressing up.  You can probably get a deal on the costume if it’s not around Halloween.  There are tons of cool ones that go with almost every party theme at the adult costume shops.

What do they do you ask?  Well, really they don’t have to do much.  They could read a book like you can see in another post we have.  Lead the games.  Bring a pet bird or other animal that fits within your theme for the kids to pet.  Or just hang out like they are attending the party as well.  The more they ham it up, the more the kids will like it.

I actually can’t take credit for this one.  He was wandering around the theater we had my son’s Pirate Birthday Party trying to talk up a festival.  None-the-less he was a big draw to our kids and we spent a lot of time talking to him and his bird.

Pirate Party Rules

Pirate Rules
My son felt like there should be rules for the Pirate Party hunt.  They were in preschool and accustomed to walking the city streets and every time they went out, they had rules. So, after our show and before the scavenger hunt we revealed the Pirates Code of Rules for the party.  So, here are Pirate Harris’ Birthday Rules!

I.  No hitting each other.  (remember, these were made up by a 5 year old)

II.  No doing bad stuff.

III.  No saying bad words.

IV.  No arguing.

V.  Say “Arrrrr” whenever you want to.  Arrrr means Please & Thank you.


That was it!  There were many other things I thought of like, stay on the sidewalk and don’t wander away but those were shot down.  At some point, you do have to realize that the party is not for you but for your kids so you have do what they want… least some of the time.

I just wrote the rules on some tissue paper.  Would have been cool if it had been an old looking parchment or something but I didn’t have anything like that that this idea was somewhat last minute…They best rule that he came up with was to HAVE FUN!

Pirate Party Loot Bags

Pirate Loot Bags

At my son’s pirate party, we were downtown in a bigger city.  After the main event at the children’s theater we had about 6 blocks to walk with preschool age kids.  So, I wanted to keep it exciting for them along the way.  They each got small bags to carry their “loot” in.  But along the way, we had these bags strategically placed with booty inside them.

To make the bags, I took some velvet and made a simple bag.  Actually, you can’t tell but the fabric was a dark dark green that I had left over from a dress from years ago.  But purchasing some inexpensive black fabric would do just the same.  I didn’t want to make ties at the top.  The simple the better.  So, I basically took the width of the fabric and cut lengths of 23″  

Loot Bag Decals
I made 3 bags but you might be able to get away with one if you have someone refilling the bags and going ahead of you on the hunt.  Depends on what kind of scavenger hunt you have.  To make the bag, all I did was folded the fabric in half allowing the edge of the fabric be at the top…..because I don’t want to have to hem anything….sew up the sides and you are done sewing.

Use Transfer Art pages to transfer the image to the bag. (Note that I enlarged the template before copying it on to the transfer page.)  I printed off the design, cut it out and ironed it on.  This can be tricky.  You might take a scrap and practice before doing a real one.  Once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty simple.

Loot Bag Jewels
Then since I didn’t want to sew in a drawstring, I purchased some trim with fake coins on it to tie off the bags.  Simple enough! And by the way. There are smaller bags to be found on the web but at the time there wasn’t anything large enough to put “stuff” in, thus the reason for making my own loot bags.

Resources: Free Skull & Crossbone Template for Loot Bags. I used the previous template and printed off the skull design onto some Avery T-Shirt Transfer Paper.

Snacks during a Build A Bear Party

Snacks during a Build A Bear Party

Snacks during a Build A Bear Party

So, as you all know the Build A Bear stores are all in the malls. That is a good and a bad thing but when our kids want a certain type of party we make do with what we have…..right?

This party ended with the kids having a snack outside the Build A Bear store in the middle of the mall walkway! They so don’t care. And if it’s a mall that has tables around, you can just move a few in front of the store. Now depending on your mall, you MIGHT have to talk with them and let them know what you are doing. But I don’t think it would be a problem. People are eating out in the mall hallways all the time.

There are several positive aspects about this. You have control over the food and cake. Often when you go to certain party places, they require that you use their food and cake. Not the case here! And it’s indoors. So, no matter what time of year it will be warm and dry. Always a plus. I had a party for my son last year that was FREEZING in May and it was outside. Disaster.

Anyway, even though you are thinking of having a party at a particular store in a mall, don’t let that box you in. No matter if it’s Build A Bear or some other store, think outside the store and use your surroundings.

Directions to your Party

Directions to your Birthday Party

Directions to your Birthday Party

If you are inviting new friends or you live in an out of the way place, it’s always thoughtful to assist your guests in finding the party location! I have to be completely honest, this is a detail I personally often forget.

It seemed like for so many years we were inviting friends to our parties who knew our neighborhood. Now, that my daughter is in first grade, we are inviting a whole new set of folks. It’s no longer the kids of my friends who are coming but her friends from school. And not very many of them live in our specific neighborhood so they get lost!!!

Really all it takes is a simple sign that your kids help to make. Or get a couple of extra balloons to tie to the front gate or a stop sign where they need to turn.

Another nice gesture is to put a copy of the directions in the invitation and not just an address. I’m so dependent on my IPhone to get me where I need to go that I forget not everyone has one or uses theirs in that way. This is really easy to do if it’s your home. Just type the directions in a word doc and size it small so you don’t have to resize all the time to print. Save the Directions Document for all the parties you throw.

So, no matter what kind of party you are giving or gathering, it’s helpful to assist your guests in arriving on time and with as little stress as possible!

Kids Magician Birthday Party Dress Up

Magician Birthday Boy

Magician Birthday Boy

Having a magician them birthday party? Dress your little magician for the part! Kids love to dress up.

Letting the birthday boy or girl play a part in a themed birthday party is like allowing them to be a character in a play and what kid does not act out characters ALL THE TIME? My kids want to be animals all the time but that’s off the subject! For this magician birthday party, the birthday boy simply wore a bow tie for most of the party. He also had a top hat and cape which were shed pretty quickly but he did put them back on for the magic show……if I remember correctly.

Magician dress up items can be found at most costume shops or stores or really anywhere online. But even if you just went with a bow tie, I think the above magician looks great….don’t you?

Extra Towels for Party Guests

Towels for Party Guests

Towels for Party Guests

Are you planning an outdoor water type party? If you are having a summer party, it is just too much fun to have it at a water park, where you can turn on a sprinkler or even at a pool if the kids are old enough!

First off, it’s always good to either put on the invitation or on an insert that your guests should bring a swimsuit, towel and sunscreen. But I don’t care who it is or what age party it is…..someone…..will forget one or more of the required water enjoyment items. We’ve been to 3 water involved parties this summer and at the most recent one, another one of the little girl’s mom forgot to bring her swimsuit. Tragic! Luckily, I had taken my swim bag and it had an extra swimsuit in it! It was about 2 sizes too big but the kid didn’t care. All she wanted to do was play in the water.

So, as the hostess of a party that includes frolicking in the water it would be good to remember extra towels, sunscreen and a swimsuit or two. That is if you have extra you are willing to share. Forgetful moms and/or dads will be thankful!

Birthday Party Music

Birthday Party Music

Birthday Party Music

Setting the mood of your birthday party is just as important as with an evening cocktail party. Besides everyone being incredibly visual, folks are also auditory. I know that I’m not telling you anything that you don’t already know! But when you are planning a birthday party, especially for kids, you get all caught up in the minutia of the party and forget about some of the other important details.

Now that Ipods are so popular, providing your own music can not be easier. Really you can’t go wrong with background music. We’ve been to parties where the music is all kids oriented and others where the music is more along what the parents like. And to my surprise, the kids love much of the adult music as well. As long as it’s up beat, the kids will love it.

If anyone is interested in play lists, let me know and I’ll get my husband on it. He’s the one in charge of music in our house! Just let me know.

Guiding The Way

Lantern Path

Lantern Path

The thing you first learn in any Marketing class is to provide a customer a way to buy multiple ways. The same goes in a lot of other life lessons. And this is no exception.

When you set a birthday party at a location that is either a large park or at a condo complex or somewhere you need to guide your guests to where the actual party it, you need to think creatively. We attended a party over the weekend where the hostess put streamers on anything she could to attract attention to where the party was.

This outdoor party idea came from a party we attended where the address was the birthday girl’s townhouse but the party was actually held out on the boardwalk 100 feet away. The hostess provided us 2 ways to find the party.

Foot Path

Foot Path

The first was to put vintage lanterns in the trees from her front door to the party site. The second was to draw fun curly lines for the kids to follow on the ground. So, no matter if you looked up or down, you were guided along your way to the party.

The biggest thing to remember when directing traffic is to think about where people might park, which direction they might come from and bright colors. At a park, your guests will come from many directions and it may be prudent to provide multiple party directions. If the park has “entry” points, I really like the chalk idea. Have fun with yet one more creative outlet.

Halloween Birthday Party Scheduled Order of Events

Halloween Costume Chicken

Halloween Costume Chicken

O.K. I know that the chicken costume has nothing to do with the scheduling of a Halloween Birthday Party but I could just not resist. This was a costume that I made for my daughter following the Martha Stewart Chicken Costume guidelines. It turned out sooooo cute. People were looking for us on the street to see the costume.

Anyway, back to what you need to know in scheduling a Halloween Birthday Party. I don’t like too much idle time. And with 26 Kindergarteners, I certainly didn’t want any idle time. I had a good idea of what could and would happen to my house! So, I put together a packed schedule to keep my sanity in check.

4:00 Upon Arrival: All Kids had a craft awaiting them.
4:30 Magic Show
5:10 Trick or Treating
5:30 Sandwiches, Cake & Ice Cream
6:00 Parent Pickup

I’ll be posting about each of these topics if I haven’t already. I’m all about the details.

Solid Color Party Supplies

Solid Color Party Supplies

Solid Color Party Supplies

Using solid color party supplies is yet another excellent way to make an impact at your party. And often having those solid colors makes a bold impact.

At this party, we used solid plates, bowls, cups and utensils all in colors of the party. Then we added whimsy with the napkins and party hats. The addition of whimsy is not necessary but can be something as subtle as napkins or you can have everything at the party be solid with just one item having a design on it.

We are in Portland, OR and we use The Lippman Company for our solid plates and other supplies. The biggest reason is that if we over buy, they will take back anything that hasn’t been opened! I’ve seen solid supplies at Target. Many of the new party superstores overlook the importance of solid party supplies and thus I hardly ever shop them. If you want to buy them online, I found a company that has a nice selection of solid supplies. I’ve never purchased from them so I can’t give a recommendation but wanted to share the find. That company is Birthday Express.

Now go out and be creative using solid color supplies!

Photo taken by Amy Hall of Amy Hall Photography.

When do you Open Presents at a Birthday Party?

Opening Presents

Opening Presents

To open presents or not to open presents……that is the question. And if you open them……when do you do it?

Honestly, this is a tough one. But here goes and these are just my personal thoughts based on going to many many birthday parties and hosting them myself.

For kids younger than Kindergarten age, I’m not sure that it’s necessary. For those kids it can take a really long time even if there are only a few. Most of the time, the kids don’t even know what present they brought and so it’s just not as effective. For those age kids, they can get a bit overwhelmed with even 2 presents but the first one may be something they want to sit down and play with right then. If that’s the case, wouldn’t it be much nicer to have the luxury of saying…..”no problem…..we’ll just open the rest of these later.” Plus, if you are trying to have a relatively short birthday party this can lengthen if unnecessarily. BUT, if there is a child who really wants to see your child open his or her present, by all means at the end of the party, pull that one out and open it up right then and there.

Now, for kids Kindergarten and older. Most parents have learned at this point that having a smaller party is better. I’m not one of those but my husband is pushing me towards it! So, let’s start with the small parties. I for sure think you need to open the presents at this age as the kids who come to the party are just as excited about this as your child will be and it can be built into the schedule of the party. If the party is a longer one, let that be an activity during a lul in the scheduled events. While pizza is cooking is the perfect time!

If you are nuts like I am and have a huge party, I couldn’t bear the thought of my daughter opening all her presents during the party. We had 26 kids to come. There were a few who asked when we were opening the presents and for those that were really interested in seeing her open the presents, we did it after most of the kids had gone home and they could sit down in a small group and enjoy it more.

The biggest thing to remember is to assign someone else besides yourself to be in charge of writing down who each present is from. I know Miss Manners says that if you open a present while the giver is sitting there with you, there is no need to send a thank you note. But I just think it’s nicer for the kids to start off early letting their friends know how much they appreciate them. So, no matter if you open the presents during the party or not, it’s good to have a record of who gave what. And it needs to be someone else who is in charge of the list since you will be busy doing other things!

Sleepover Birthday Party Idea

Making Pizzas at a Sleepover Party

Making Pizzas at a Sleepover Party

This idea is a great way to kill two birds with one stone! At this Almost Sleepover Birthday Party, the girls got to put the toppings of their choice on their own pizza square. It was a great idea to get the girls involved in the party AND it took up some time which can be a mom’s worst nightmare…….what am I going to do with all these girls for 4 hours…..

You can buy pre-made pizza crust at many grocery stores. Roll it out yourself and place on the baking sheets. Let the kids put on the sauce or it might be easier for the mom to do it. Then have bowls of cheese, pepperoni slices, peppers, mushrooms….anything you think the kids would like. Then one at a time, let them prepare their own slice just the way they like it.

Send them to tear up your daughter’s room and a few minutes later, the pizzas are ready!

An Almost Sleepover Birthday Party

Sleepover Party Pillow Case

Sleepover Party Pillow Case

I thought this idea was just genius. When your girls are young and still light sleepers…….have an “Almost Sleepover!” I don’t know about you, but my 6 year just begs for a sleepover and I’m just not quite sure I’m ready for that.

For this 6 year old’s birthday party, she had an “Almost” Sleepover where the kids came in and started on a craft, had dinner and cake and then watched a movie in their jammies. Instead of sleeping at the birthday girl’s house, the parents showed up at 9:00 to take the sleepy ones home to bed! Perfect.

To commemorate the evening, all the girls who attended the birthday party, signed a pillow case with a sharpie. These pillow cases can be found on the web. Search for Sleepover Autograph Pillow Cases. I couldn’t find one exactly like this one. When I asked the hostess where she bought it, she admitted she purchased it years ago at a random gift shop. Look online or make your own with permanent paints!

Creating an Atmosphere

Creating the Atmosphere

Creating the Atmosphere

Creating an atmosphere for a birthday party no matter what kind of birthday party, is very important. Do you remember being a kid and walking into a place that seemed magical? It may have only been that your parents moved the furniture around. Or it could have been balloons all over the place. But kids notice those details whether they say they do or not.

Here, the first thing that the kids were doing at my daughter’s Halloween birthday party was to decorate some treat bags that we were then going to use later. So, to create that atmosphere, I set the bags up on each table ready with supplies. Envision three tables full of these bags just waiting for the kids to arrive.

The other great thing was that when moms came in with their kids, there was no question as to what they were to do first and I had helping hands to get the bags created. Perfect.

Since we used the tables that we later were going to eat on, I simply put a piece of black plastic table cloth over the table cloth for eating time. This made clean up easy and glue spills NO big deal. When you are in the middle of a party transitioning quickly is something to think about.

Playdough Recipe

Kids Making Playdough

Kids Making Playdough

Making playdough can be a rewarding activity for kids of many ages no matter if it’s at home or during a party. I make playdough with my kids all the time. They love working with the dough. I just make sure to plan the activity on a day that I don’t care if my kitchen gets messed up!!!

Following are some recipes that I’ve accumulated. My favorite is recipe #1. I would recommend you try them all and see which one works best for you. All the recipes for the playdough are very similar. Only slight variations but as with baking, slight variations will make very different playdough.

Play Dough Recipe #1

Mix together dry ingredients:
2 Cups White Flour
1 Cup Salt
4 tsp Cream of Tarter

To 2 Cups of Boiling Water, add:
4 Tbsp Cooking Oil
1 tsp Food Coloring

Pour liquids into the dry ingredients and stir well. When slightly cooled, knead for a few minutes until smooth.

Hint: Use and electric mixer and it’s sooo easy. If you are doing it by hand and the kids are helping, you might choose to put the food coloring into the dough after it is kneaded. And the better or more concentrated the food coloring is, the brighter the color of play dough you will get.

Play Dough Recipe #2

Mix together:
1 Cup Salt
3 Cups Flour
4 tsp Cream of Tarter
2 Tbsp Cooking Oil
1 1/4 Cup Boiling Water
Food Coloring

Makes 4 small plastic containers of Play Dough

Play Dough Recipe #3

Mix Together in Saucepan,
2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 Cup Salt
1 Tbsp Cooking Oil
3 tsp Cream of Tarter
2 1/4 Cups Water

Cook above over medium heat 4 to 6 minutes until batter is like mashed potatoes. Pull of stove and let cool. Add food coloring into the mixer or add later when the kids can knead it in.

Be sure and keep the playdough in an airtight container or a plastic storage bag and your playdough can last up to a month!

Princess Tea Party Idea

Princess Tea Party Idea

Princess Tea Party Idea

There is no better time to pull out that silver service set that you have in the closet or displayed in your dining room than for a Princess Tea Party. Using your tea set at the party may be the only thing I recommend pulling out. It’s not breakable and only moms will be handling it. Yet, you get to set it out and your little Princess feels really special being able to use it.

Don’t have one yourself? Borrow your mother’s or your neighbor’s. Most likely they don’t use their set very much either and would be thrilled for it to get some use. Have a fun tea party!

Photo taken by Amy Hall Photography, Portland, OR.