There is a happy disappointment when one of my children requests an outsourced birthday party. I am happy that I do not have to clean my house, set up a party, and clean my house again. I am disappointed because when I book a party at an outside location, it limits how much I am allowed to do. I am a little Type A, so it is hard for me to let someone else have control over the party activities. This year my daughter wanted an art party (art = really big mess). This turned out to be a GREAT choice for an away from home birthday. What are other good places to book a party?
The Invitation: Often kid party locations (like a bounce party, children’s museum, Little Gym…) will give you pre-printed invitations with blank lines to fill in the name, date, and time. That is way too generic for me, and since I was already worried about the party not being personal enough, I had to order my own invitations. I ordered a printed card from MyExpression.com. Once I approved the proof, the invitations arrived within 2 business days, and I did not even select rush shipping!
The Location: My basic criteria for an away from home party is to have an area dedicated to my group only. It is hard for the birthday child to see friends if you book a party at a location where you mix with the general population for the main activity and then come together at a table for cake at the end. Chuck E. Cheese anyone? I encourage (and by encourage, I mean tell) my kids to choose party locations where we are the only group there, or we get our own room for the whole event. If you have a 4Cats Arts Studio in your area, I highly recommend booking a party there. At 4Cats, the standard party group is ~10 kids. You are in an area with only your group for the entire event.
The Activity: My daughter chose from a variety of themes for her party. We chose the Fairy Party. The party guests made a sculpey clay fairy, then painted a background on a 5×7 canvas board.
The Snacks and Cake: I ordered 2 dozen cupcakes from the grocery store and had them iced in 6 different colors. We set 6 of the cupcakes on a painter’s palette (Yeah, Pinterest!). We stuck one candle in each cupcake and treated the whole palette like a cake. For snacks, I served a new Chex mix in little mini paint pails. I also made my favorite kid sandwiches. Click here for the Chex Mix and Party Sandwich Recipes.
The Party Favors: While guests were waiting for parent pick-up, we gave each child a mini wooden easel to color with Sharpie pens. It was the perfect size to hold their sculpey paintings (and I think it may be the perfect size for American Girl too– FYI). The kids took home their fairy sculpey art piece, the mini wooden easel, and the mini paint pail.
We are sending itty bitty cupcakes (recipe below) to my son’s class at school in honor of his birthday this year. As a teacher, I spend more time on the distribution side of class birthday treats, and I have some guidelines for any newbies to the school birthday treat circuit. Sending birthday treats for the class starts in nursery school, and the rules don’t change too much no matter how old you are.
If possible, let the teacher know ahead of time about the type of treat you will be sending and what day. It helps teachers plan for a special snack time and anticipate any food allergy alerts (always send nut-free items just in case).
Send enough for the whole class AND the teachers. Let me repeat– send enough for the teachers.
Send small treats. Rather than a whole donut for each child, send donut holes (two to three Munchkins per child). Rather than regular cupcakes, send mini versions.
Send items that are pre-cut, pre-packaged, or individually wrapped to make sharing the snack easier.
Don’t forget paper napkins, paper plates, and plastic utensils if needed.
You do not have to send an edible treat. Kids love fun pencils, Japanese erasers, crazy straws, stickers, etc.
In my experience, sending birthday treats begins to taper off around the 4th grade. By 5th and 6th grade, maybe a quarter of the students send in birthday snacks.
I love this recipe for Perfect Cake-Mix Cupcakes courtesy of Hello, Cupcake!. I like the frosting recipes in the Hello, Cupcake! book too, but I totally cheated this time and used the pre-made Betty Crocker Cupcake Icing in the squeeze cans with the decorative tips. I used gelatin shot cups to make the super mini size. I found the tiny cups in the paper product aisle at my grocery store.
1 box (18.25 oz) cake mix (French vanilla or yellow)
1 c. buttermilk (in place of the water called for on the box)
vegetable oil (the amount on the box, usually 1/3 c. for yellow cakes)
4 large eggs (in place of the number called for on the box)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Set out paper gelatin shot cups on a tray with a lip. The gelatin cups stand on their own, but they will also fit into mini muffin cups if you are worried about them tipping over. The recipe makes 24 regular sized cupcakes, so you should get ~48 mini cupcakes.
Follow the box instructions, putting all of the ingredients in a large bowl and using the buttermilk in place of the water specified, using the amount of vegetable oil that is called for, and adding the eggs. Beat with an electric mixer until moistened, about 30 seconds. Increase the speed to high and beat until thick, about 2 minutes longer.
Fill gelatin cups a little less than 2/3 full. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes. Allow to cool completely before frosting.