Blow Out Tween Birthday

Gone are my glory days of major theme birthday party planning. I am no longer building full sized pirate ships out of refrigerator boxes or sewing doll sleeping bags for every guest. My kids are officially tweens, and our birthday party celebrations are much more subdued and simpler to plan. We typically send an e-mail to one or two friends a few days before the birthday and do something like swim at the neighborhood pool or go to a movie. No theme. No major prep. I am a little sad but also a little relieved.

One low prep option we tried this year is to take a friend to a blow-out hair bar to have hair styled and then home for a late afternoon tea. It is a perfect party for a small group, is easy to plan, and is a great option for girls ages 11+.

The Activity

Book appointments at a BLO BAR like THIS ONE. It is a franchise and has locations in several cities. Even if you don’t have this specific brand near you, there are blow dry salons popping up all over. Pay a flat fee and clients choose from a menu of hair options. Appointments take about 45 minutes, and the group can usually sit in side by side seats and visit with each other. Following the hair styling, return to the birthday girl’s house for a tea or go to a nearby cupcake or ice cream store for a birthday snack.

The Tea

For an afternoon tea, we like to serve THIS DILL DIP and veggies. Find shot glass sized plastic containers with a pedestal foot (they look like miniature trifle dishes) and put a dollop of dip at the bottom. Stack red and yellow pepper strips, celery sticks, and cucumber slices in the cups. This is a great way to prep the servings ahead of time. Make small, triangle tea sandwiches on squishy bread with the crusts cut off and offer a berry fruit salad with fresh mint cut in chiffonade and simple syrup drizzled over the top.

The Cake

Serve individual sized cakes, so guests can serve themselves. We have a new cake shop near us called Nothing Bundt Cake. It is a franchise too, so I have seen locations in other cities. Try their bundtinis, which are the mini size and stack several bundtinis on a cake stand. Have one bundtlet size for candle-blowing-out and singing.

The Party Favor and Decorations

My local party store has a new line of paperware made by Meri Meri. It’s the Liberty line, and it has pretty floral patterns and other options that look like a lady’s tea. Create place cards to match by printing on cardstock. Set the place cards in the bristles of travel hairbrushes. Bed, Bath, and Beyond, CVS, and WalMart have many hairbrush choices.

If you need an idea for a group of 2-3 girls who are upper elementary or middle school aged, this is an option that works well. A similar idea would be to book appointments at a nail salon and have pedicures or manicures. Walk-in type salons like the blow out bar and nail shop do not usually book weeks in advance, so it is a party you can plan just a few days out if you have a small number.

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Cookie Decorating Party

cookie party pipe and flow

Last summer, we visited a newly opened cookie and cake decorating shop in St. Louis while visiting Sewing Sister. Sweetology had a wall of sprinkle choices, an entire counter for mixing icing colors, and shelves full of tools and cutters for creating shapes to decorate pre-baked cookies, cupcakes, and cakes. It was dessert decorating heaven.

Sweetology Cookies and Cupcakes

Sweetology Cookies and Cupcakes

Miss Priss wanted a cooking birthday party of some kind– preferably a party with lots of icing and sprinkles. I briefly toyed with the idea of hosting at home but then began scouting cupcake and cooking locations. I started by calling our local cupcake shops who offer party packages, but I learned that the party’s primary activity is mixing the batter and baking cupcakes. We wanted to spend more time actually decorating.

I finally called the Southern Season cooking school near our home, and they worked with me to organize a party with pre-baked cookies and lots of decorating. The staff at our party showed us a pipe and flow technique, so everyone got to use piping bags (so fun) and they offered a variety of decorating materials to top the icing too.

cookie party invitation

The Invitation: I like paper invitations. I am about the only mom who still sends invitations via USPS, but choosing an invitation is one of my favorite parts of planning a party. I found lots of cute invitation options with a cooking or cupcake theme, but it was harder to find an invite with a cookie design. I finally found This Invitation on ArtFire.com. The owner e-mails a proof and then prints the paper invitations and mails them the day after the sample is approved. It is a home business, and it took over a week (8 days) to receive the proof (her store site states she will send a proof in 3 business days). The owner replied to my e-mail inquiries, but the turnaround was too long for my OCD tastes.

cookie party icing supplies

The Cookies: The cooking school had a long table covered in white paper. They had various bright colored icing in piping bags and “looser” icing in plastic containers. They provided small plastic spoons and toothpicks to help with the icing distribution. There were 5 pre-baked sugar cookies in fun fall shapes at each place. The girls received a short demo about how to pipe a design using the piping bags and “tighter” icing.

cookie party icing cookies

They needed to wait a few minutes for the piped icing to set. Then, the guests spooned small amounts of the loose icing into the open spaces on the cookie and spread it gently into the nooks and crannies. As a final touch, the kids could add sprinkles. I forgot to ask what type of icing we used, but I think it was probably royal icing since it hardened pretty quickly.

cookie party thank you favor

The Party Favors: The cookie school had clear plastic boxes to transport any uneaten cookies home. I printed business card sized Cookie Party Favor Card Inserts on card stock and put them in small reclosable bead storage bags (3″ x 5″) I purchased at Michael’s Crafts. Miss Priss added 1 t. of jimmie sprinkles and 1 t. of nonpareil sprinkles to the baggies. It looked like edible confetti! We added one little baggie of sprinkles to each box of cookies. The cooking school distributed a copy of the sugar cookie recipe too.

cookie party thank you favor finished

The Time: We booked the party for 2 hours, but 90 minutes would have been perfect. The girls decorated every cookie Southern Season had, and we still had 30 minutes left before parents arrived. I ended up siting on the floor with our group and playing games like Telephone and the Grocery Store Memory game because a dozen 2nd grade girls who have just eaten boatloads of sugar and have nothing to do is a deadly combination. I actually had to tell several of them to stop licking the table.

cookie party cookie box

The best part of the party was the clean-up. None for me! If you plan a cooking party of some kind, do not try this at home. Outsourcing this party was the best decision I made. If your child would like a cooking birthday, start with the cupcake stores in your area. Almost all of the cupcake shops near me had private event options. Have you hosted (or attended) a cooking party of some kind? What worked well and what did not?

cookie party finished cookies

American Girl Birthday

American Girl Party Tent

Well, you had to know this day was coming. Miss Priss asked for an American Girl birthday party, and TheRoomMom complied. We have attended a few AG birthday parties recently, and we needed a new spin to the theme. I was already working on the American Girl camping supplies, so we opted for a backyard American Girl campout birthday (sleepover NOT included– I did recognize my limits on this one).

American Girl Party Invitation

The Invitation

I know it is popular to use Paperless Post or Evites right now, but I really like paper party invitations delivered via snail mail. There were several fun camping party choices on Etsy. I ordered through a store called Memories Too. The store owner e-mailed a JPG file to me after about 4 business days. I had one edit, which she turned around in a few hours. I uploaded the image to FedEx Office and had the invitation printed in color on white cardstock. I found plain pink envelopes at a local paper store.

The invitation asked guests to bring a doll or stuffed friend with them to the party, so they would have a camping buddy.

The Activities

When guests arrived, they received a doll sleeping bag that had a name tag with a number. We grouped the guests based on the tag numbers on the sleeping bags and rotated the party guests through three stations. That kept all of the guests spread out for most of the party and gave everyone something to do until it was time for cake.

American Girl Dolls Camping

  • Station 1— We set up 3 camping tents in the backyard. This group played in the tents with the dolls and the sleeping bags. TheRoomDad monitored this area and provided some monster invasions from time to time.

American Girl Party Activity Bug Jar

  • Station 2— This group searched for small twigs in the yard then used the twigs to make small bug jars and marshmallows on a stick. I had a table with the supplies as well as my regular babysitter to run this station. My sitter showed everyone how to set up the bug jars, make the fake marshmallows, and she monitored supplies. For full bug jar and marshmallow instructions, visit the American Girl Camping Post.

American Girl Party Activity Campfire

  • Station 3— This group made a doll sized campfire. I ran this station, and it was set up in a similar way to the bug jar area. For full campfire instructions, visit the American Girl Camping Post.

Each guest had a paper plate with her name on it. When the child finished a craft, she put her item on the paper plate. We set the plates to the side, so parents could easily carry the crafts to the trash can at their home home at the end of the party.

American Girl Mini Brownie Bites

The Cake

Miss Priss wanted chocolate! We ordered a mini chocolate fudge cake from the grocery store. I call these “smash cakes” and see this mini size at first birthday parties a lot. We put candles on the cake and sang, but we did not cut the smash cake. Instead, guests ate mini brownie bites that had been decorated with pink and white flowers.

The Food

Keeping with the doll theme, I tried to do all mini or bite sized food. After we sang, the kids went through a buffet line and picked up the little snacks and brownie bites. It was all finger food, so it eliminated a need for any forks or spoons.

IMG_3918

  • Pigs-in-a-blanket— Basically, a mini hot dog. I used 3 rolls of Pillsbury Crescent Rolls and 2 packages of Lit’l Smokies, which yields about 60 pigs. I cut each crescent roll into 3 triangles and then wrap a triangle around a Lit’l Smokie. I follow the baking instructions on the Pillsbury Crescent Roll package.

Mini Dill Dip Party Food

  • Dill Dip— This is Miss Priss’ favorite snack, and one of my signature recipes. I purchased 1-oz plastic shot glasses at the party store and put a dollop of dill dip at the bottom of the cup. We stacked mini carrot sticks, mini celery sticks, and mini red pepper slices in the cups, so they were ready to serve. Click here for the Dill Dip and Chex Mix Recipes.

IMG_3902

  • Chex Mix— We saw mini pink popcorn boxes at our independent party store, but I also considered using Wilton mini cake boxes from Michael’s Crafts to hold the snack mix. I did a variation of one of my Chex Mix recipes. This version has popcorn. Click here for the Dill Dip and Chex Mix Recipes.

Marshmallow Smore Party Food

  • S’More on a Stick— We used brightly colored cocktail sticks and stabbed marshmallows. I melted semi-sweet chocolate chips and plain Hershey milk chocolate bars in a double boiler. I crushed graham crackers and placed the crumbs in a flat bowl. I dipped the marshmallow in the melted chocolate, and Miss Priss rolled the chocolate end of the marshmallow in the graham cracker. I must say, these were delicious and much safer than having 17 six and seven year olds standing around a fire pit.

The Party Favors

Guests took home the bug jar and campfire crafts. They also took home the doll sleeping bag. If you have a sewing machine, the sleeping bags are easy to make. However, had I known I would need 17 doll sleeping bags, I might have rethought my decision to have these as party favors. For full doll sleeping bag instructions, visit the American Girl Camping Post.

American Girl Party Favor Sleeping BagsI am exhausted and am considering canceling Halloween. Anyone with me?

Birthdays Rock

rock climbing birthday party obstacle course

Mr. Star Wars has an August birthday– in South Carolina. That rules out any outdoor party unless it is swimming. We tried an army swim party and ran into pop up thunderstorms, so we were on the hunt for an indoor party location this year. After attending my niece’s totally cool rock climbing party at a lovely, indoor, air conditioned spot, Mr. Star Wars thought that would be fun.

My niece lives 4 states away from us, so I could not use the same place. I was able to find an indoor rock climbing location close to our house that would host a children’s birthday party. It met all of my criteria for a party facility: air conditioning, a dedicated area and staff for our party only (no mixing with the general public), and a flat fee (no surcharge for outside cakes or other weird costs). It was also a great activity for an older group. Mr. Star Wars is turning 9. He is not that old, but we are moving into a more “mature” party theme. In fact, I would not plan a party like this unless the guests are at least 8 or 9 years old.

rock climbing birthday invitation

The Invitation

  • I used a site called Swanky Press to order the invitations. I found lots of rock climbing invitation choices through a Google search, but many had cartoony stick figures on them, which I thought looked too babyish. Once I ordered, I received an e-mailed proof within 2 days. I had to make one edit, and they turned the correction around in a day. The invitations arrived at my door in about a week. 
  • I also ordered matching gift enclosure cards, which I attached to the party favor bags. Coordinated thank you notes are available too.

rock climbing birthday party wall

The Location

  • From my limited indoor rock climbing experience, there seem to be two options at rock climbing facilities. Kids will either hook up to an auto belay system, which is like a pulley that lets you come down the wall on your own. Or, kids do boulder climbing on much shorter walls, and the kids jump down onto mats. For my son’s party, we did boulder climbing on shorter walls in a room dedicated to our party. We had two staff members who led games that required the kids to work around the walls. The staff members provided instruction while kids climbed, and they “spotted” for safety too.
rock climbing birthday party autobelay

At my niece’s birthday, the kids climbed tall walls using auto belays.

  • Whichever kind of location you have, make sure that there is enough space that most of your party guests can be climbing at the same time. If kids are standing around waiting for a turn, it gets chaotic. Based on our experience as a guest and as the party host, I would limit the party size to no more than 10 kids. 8 kids is probably ideal.

rock climbing birthday party

The Waiver

  • Parents will be required to complete a waiver in order for their child to participate in the climbing. We mailed the waiver with our invitation and asked parents to bring the completed form to the party. Some rock climbing locations have an online waiver that can be completed ahead of time.
  • Missing or incomplete waivers slow down the party. If parents will be carpooling to the party, make sure they understand the importance of having the completed waiver. A child will not be allowed to participate without that thing signed by a parent!

rock climbing birthday cake

The Food

  • Mr. Star Wars wanted chocolate cake with buttercream frosting. No problem. I ordered my favorite grocery store birthday cake. This year, we ordered a round cake with orange trim (to match the invitations). The grocery store added a few candy rocks, but it was very simple.

rock climbing birthday snack

  • I picked up orange and dark grey plastic dip bowls at Target a few weeks back. They have funky sides that look like the handholds at the indoor rock climbing places. Personally, I would never use these dip bowls for entertaining because the colors are totally obnoxious, and the dip bowls are pretty hideous. That is probably why they were on the sale shelf. However, they were perfect for a rock climbing themed party. I wanted to fill them with GORP, but Mr. Star Wars wanted something with cookies. I made a trail mix of two kinds of mini Oreo’s (white and black), mini Chips Ahoy, animal crackers, and small pretzels.

rock climbing party favor bags filled

The Party Favors

  • I ordered net black shower bags from Paper Mart.
  • We filled the bags with a stick of rock candy, Pop Rocks, and a small candy container that had chocolate rocks in it.
  • I attached small key chain caribeners to the filled bags and added our small gift tags that said, “9 Rocks!” I found the caribeners at a local outdoor shop, but I have seen them at Party City or online.

rock climbing party favor bagsWhat are other good party themes for kids who are older… but not that old?

4th of July Festivities

So, here is the download from our 4th of July neighborhood party. We have a fab neighbor who has a degree in recreational something and is a professional when it comes to organizing group events. She agreed to again coordinate a 4th of July family bash for our street. We followed the same basic format as last year and here are a few highlights. In case you are new to TheRoomMom’s world, you can read about last year here.

bike parade

The Parade, The Games, and the Prizes

  • Each family decorates bikes, scooters, wagons… This is the kick off to the party. Any participants ride up and down the street a few times to the cheers and shouts of the bystanders.
  • Following the parade, we are teamed up and compete in a sack race, dizzy bat race, egg carry, and other classic relay races.
  • Prizes for the winners awarded after dinner. I made this year’s “medals” with Mardi Gras beads, jewelry clips, and silver posterboard with a printed message glued to the top. They are not as nice as the Dollar Store trophies from last year, but I was under a time crunch.
  • After the races ended, a few adults wrote in silly award names like “Best Competitor”, “Most Confident Egg Carrier”, or “Best Spinner”.

DIY party awards

The Food and Drinks

  • There was lots of grilled meat and tasty (but bad for you) party food. One person did contribute a fresh fruit salad, but we mostly ate things with melted cheese in them.

pizza dip

  • I baked a pizza dip, which is a party dip that works for any occasion, any age, and any time of year. Click for the 4th of July Recipes 2013.

summer cocktail

  • I also concocted a blue drink for the adults. Be careful because it does look like Gatorade. I wanted to make the cherry margaritas for the crowd, but it takes time to pit all of those cherries, so I tinkered with the recipe for this blue drink and created the Dizzy Eagle (name is not finalized– please send suggestions if you have them). Click for the 4th of July Recipes 2013.

cake walk

The Cake Walk

  • This is everyone’s favorite event. Each family donates a sweet treat or two. Kids stand on a numbered square. An adult plays music. When the music stops, the child stops on a square. Our organizer draws a number. The child standing on the matching number gets to pick a treat from the table.
  • You can let adults play too, but we have it worked out so all kids win one item.

oreo truffle finished

  • This year I boxed Oreo Truffles. I had trouble melting my white chocolate, so they did not look as professional as I would like. The taste, however, was not compromised. Click for the 4th of July Recipes 2013.

paper plate masks

The Craft

  • Jackie knows how to cut a large white paper plate into 3 masks from a former job as a camp director. She cut an oval (football shape) from the center of the paper plate. The resulting 3 pieces are the 3 mask shapes. Then, two eyes are cut in the center of each shape. You can also do the football shape in the top half of the plate and create 2 masks from one paper plate.

DIY paper plate masks ribbons

  • I took over after Jackie cut the masks. I found red bamboo skewer sticks in the 4th of July section at Hobby Lobby. Using a piece each of red, white, and blue curly ribbon, I tied them together around the end of a stick in a knot. I hot glued the stick at the point where the ribbon knot is to the back edge of each mask. Once the glue cooled, I curled the ribbon.

paper plate mask finished

  • We had a table at the party with Elmer’s glue, glitter, sparkly stars, and markers. Kids could walk up and decorate a mask.
  • We set a big disposable roasting pan on the table with the glitter jars inside. Kids set the mask in the pan to glitter. It made clean up very easy.
  • FYI– this would be a great craft for Halloween parties and school celebrations.

How do you celebrate the 4th of July? Jackie was exhausted, and this may have been the last time she will be organizing a neighborhood event of this scale. Do you have any suggestions I can bring to her for consideration?