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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I am exhausted and am considering canceling Halloween. Anyone with me?
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.
Part of our recent road trip was a visit to my sewing sister’s house. This is my sister who made the drawstring bags for our Hello Kitty birthday party. Our trip overlapped with my niece’s 8th birthday, and we were able to celebrate with her. My niece invited two friends to come swimming on the afternoon of her birthday. On the day of the party, my sister whipped up some activities that made the party look like she had been planning for weeks (not only does this sister sew, she is also very good at parties). She kept it simple, but it was so cute and colorful. I think it would be an easy party to host for a wide variety of ages. What are other good ideas for impromptu birthday parties that look coordinated and well-planned?
The Face Painting: My sister did an Internet search for kids’ tattoos– not face painting designs– and copied a collection of simple ideas on master pages that were easy for the kids to reproduce. She set up the face paints and design choices on the table by the pool. It was a “self-serve” operation. The kids took breaks from swimming and decorated their faces, hands, legs, backs…
The Cake: My whole family loves a grocery store birthday cake! My sister ordered an undecorated cake– she did plan this ahead of time– and provided materials for the guests to decorate it. Think of the finished product as an edible pinata. TIP: We decided that an activity like this probably needs a small group. Maybe eight children, max. If you are having a larger party, provide individual cakes or two or three larger cakes. The Betty Crocker Cake Mate squeezable frosting cans were perfect for this project. They came in bright colors and offered different frosting tips for fun decorating options.
The Ice Cream Sundaes: My sister had colorful spoons and bowls from a previous party and purchased a variety of ice cream toppings at the grocery store. After we scooped ice cream, the guests added as many toppings as they wanted!
The Supplies: Most of the food items were in white or blue ramekin dishes. Everything my sister used was in bright “ice cream” colors, which created a themed look to the party even though it was a very casual get together. She had pink bowls, ice cream sundae spoons, brightly colored M&Ms, sprinkles, chocolate and caramel toppings, ice cream cones, brightly colored frosting, and Tervis Tumblers with colorful lids filled with M&Ms for party favors.
This was a very easy party to host. My son has a summer birthday, and any outdoor parties need to be water-related. If you read the pirate and army birthday posts, you know about our heat dilemmas. We had the Slip N Slide party when my son turned three, and it was a big hit. Unfortunately, the party was BB (before blog), so I do not have very many detail pictures to share. What fun outdoor summer birthdays have you hosted– or attended?
The Invitations: This was one of the first invitations I ordered from Fine Stationery and printed on my home computer. I will admit that I lifted phrases from the samples on the website. The invitation said, “Slip, Slide Wheeee! (name’s) Turning Three!” I had an e-mail and phone number for any guests who “could not slip by.” The invitation also asked guests to wear a swimsuit and bring a towel.
The Water Activities: By August, almost all of the water toys and equipment are on sale at stores like Target, Walmart, and KMart. I bought two Slip n Slides, an inflatable pool with a basketball hoop, a plastic baby pool, a crazy sprinkler, and water toys like buckets and small watering cans. We filled water balloons too. We set everything up in the backyard. We did not have any organized activities, and guests just played in the water.
The Party Favors: We ordered these crazy sea creature swim goggles from Oriental Trading. They looked great in the picture on the website but were pretty poor quality. The straps broke, and the goggle part did not fit on the face well. I was not expecting Olympic grade goggles or anything, but I thought they would at least last through the party. I would not order them again.
The Food: Snacks were pretty minimal. We set out bowls of pretzels and Goldfish. We served a birthday cake with bright colors on it. I do usually order our birthday cakes from the grocery store because I love grocery store birthday cakes! I think the super sugar frosting they use is fabulous.
I saw a bag of mini Stauffer’s original animal crackers on the impulse buy rack while waiting to check out at Office Depot several weeks before my daughter’s second birthday. That sighting sparked the idea for the teddy bear picnic where we could serve all mini food to our guests (human or fuzzy).
The Invitation: I used a local stationer, The Party Basket, in New Orleans for this one. The invitation included a little poem that told our guests, “A favorite teddy bear is a welcome guest to make (name’s) birthday the beary best!” Everyone RSVP’d to “Mama Bear”.
The Location: We hosted the party at the playground at our local park.
The Picnic Baskets: I located the baskets at Michael’s. I shopped at a fabric store for bright fabrics, which I cut into squares. My mom found colorful plastic tea sets that came in clear backpacks at a discount store. One tea set served four, so we divided up the complete sets. Each picnic basket contained dishes to serve two guests– the child and his/her stuffed animal friend.
The Food: I made bear shaped tea sandwiches using a teddy bear cookie cutter. Each guest had one turkey sandwich and one ham and cheese sandwich in my favorite clear cellophane bags from Michael’s. I packaged mini Goldfish and the mini animal crackers in bags too and closed all the bags with stickers. We also included mini boxes of raisins and served small juice boxes. My daughter was going through an Elmo phase at the time, so the juice boxes, stickers, paper napkins, and the cake toppers were Elmo-themed. This mixed well with the fun colors in the tea sets.
The Picnic: We found brightly colored tablecloths in the sale bin at Bed, Bath, and Beyond and spread those out near the playground. There was room for our friends to set out the food from their picnic baskets and eat with teddy bears, dolls, and other party guests.
The Cake: Since we were serving all mini items, we purchased a small cake for the birthday girl (they call them “smash cakes” in some places), and the guests ate cupcakes.
The Party Favors: Guests took home their picnic basket with the plastic tea sets.