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.
I tend to get a little over excited when planning parties for my children but when my daughter asked about having a Hello Kitty birthday, I was particularly giddy. Hello Kitty is all about crafts and cooking! I actually had to scale back from the original plan to have “shops” in the backyard where guests would go for individual activities (see the carnival booth plans at Mr. McGroovy’s).
The Invitations: Finestationery.com did not have what I needed for this party, so I ordered invitations through Tiny Prints. The cards were purrr-fectly wonderful.
The Crafts: We had several stations set up on low tables under one of those big tailgate tents in the backyard. Children could make giant tissue paper flowers. We folded several layers of colorful tissue accordion style then wrapped a pipe cleaner tightly around the middle. The kids pulled the tissue layers apart to create the flower. We also photocopied a Hello Kitty picture on cardstock. We then hole punched around the edge of the picture and tied a piece of long yarn to one hole. The guests could lace the string (like those nursery school lacing cards) and/or color the picture of Hello Kitty.
The Cooking: We used heart, butterfly, and tulip cookie cutters and made plain sugar cookies. We set up a table with the cookies, icing, and various sprinkles for a cookie decorating station.
The Scavenger Hunt: Each child received a drawstring bag with clues inside. Since our guests couldn’t read yet, we had slips of paper with pictures of places around the yard. You would pull a picture out of the bag, look for the location in the picture, then go to that place to pick up one treat. When the kids finished, they had filled Hello Kitty’s purse.
The Drawstring Bags: My sister made these for my niece’s spa birthday. She very kindly sewed the whole batch for me. Here is the basic pattern, but our bags had a 6″ square base and the sides were 22″ long and 10″ tall.
The Party Favors: Everyone took home the filled drawstring bags. After completing the scavenger hunt, the bags contained a headband with a red bow hot glued to it, lollipops, Hello Kitty lip gloss, Hello Kitty mirror, Hello Kitty mini notepad, and a few other fun items. All of the party stores and places like Target have a pretty big selection of mini Hello Kitty party favors.
After we almost melted in the humidity at the previous year’s backyard pirate party (see pirate party post), we decided to change venues. My son thought a pool party with an army theme would be great. It worked out well until the afternoon thunderstorms rolled in. This year, we are definitely planning an indoor event!
The Invitations: I returned to Fine Stationery for an army style invitation. I ordered blank cards and printed from my home printer. The wording for these invitations included things like, “Attention Troops” and “You’ve been drafted for (name’s) birthday party” and “Report to (location)”. We used military time (14:00) for the party start time and printed everything with Stencil font.
The Food: Our local grocery store did not have an army birthday cake, but they can do camouflage colors on the icing. They also were able to create a rocky landscape with candy rocks and trees. We added plastic army men, army tank candles from Party City, and an American flag toothpick. Each guest received a canteen filled with lemonade that I ordered from Oriental Trading.
The Games: We threw handfuls of plastic army men into the shallow end of the pool for a search and rescue activity. Kids also had a cannonball/jumping contest off the diving board. For prizes, each child earned a “dog tag” with their award written on the back. We came up with awards like biggest splash, best dive, best flip, best twist, etc. The dog tags came from Oriental Trading, but Party City had a big selection of army themed favors too.
The Party Favors: Guests took home the canteen, the plastic army men, and a squirt gun.
I know it is crazy to plan a backyard birthday party in late August in South Carolina, but my son wanted to dig for treasure, and I saw this great cardboard pirate ship at Mr. McGroovy’s. The day was super hot and humid, but everybody had a great time (and I lost five pounds) so it all worked out!
The Invitations: I ordered blank invitations from Fine Stationery and ran them through my home printer. The invite said things like, “Aaaargh Mateys” and “Join (name) for pirate adventures and buried treasures” and “RSVP to the first mate or prepare to walk the plank!” The font, Blackadder, is very pirate-y looking.
The Pirate Ship: Plan ahead! It took several weeks of calls to every appliance store in the area to collect all of the refrigerator boxes I needed for the pirate ship. We then spent two weekends cutting and painting the boxes. The assembly wasn’t too difficult, and Mr. McGroovy’s instructions are pretty simple.
The Outfits: As guests arrived at the party, we painted faces with scars, mustaches, and beards. We also gave each guest a man’s white t-shirt that we had cut along the bottom to look like rags. We offered red sashes (plain red fabric cut into strips) and bandanas to each child too. The foam swords came from the $1 aisle at Target.
The Treasure Hunt: On brown paper grocery bags, we printed different clues/riddles that sent the kids all over our front and backyard. We buried two separate treasure chests (shoe boxes painted brown). The pirate chests were filled with plastic jewels, plastic insects, individual candies, dice, and other booty from Oriental Trading.
The Treat Bags: We ordered black drawstring bags along with the other loot. We wrote pirate names on playing cards and tied those to each bag. The guests put their loot in the bags after the treasure hunt.
My sister threw an animal hospital birthday for my niece, and I adapted her idea a little when my daughter was turning three. We lived in New Orleans at the time, and you can book a petting zoo there that will come to your house and set up a pen in your backyard with rabbits, turtles, goats, chickens, and few other small animals.
The Invitations: I like to order blank invitations from Fine Stationery. I think they have a huge selection of almost every party theme you need. I printed the invitations on my home printer and included phrases like, “Join us for the third anniversary celebration of (name’s) animal hospital” and “Please confirm appointment with the vet” for the RSVP line.
Adopt a Pet: We placed enough Beanie Babies for all the guests in a pak-n-play by the entrance to the party. Guests picked one out of the crib and could take their new pet to the vet table for a health exam and adoption certificate.
The Vet Table: One of our babysitters was a nursing student. She wore her scrubs to the party and completed health exams for everybody’s new pet. She used a play doctor’s kit and took temperatures, looked at eyes, examined the animal’s coat, listened to the heartbeat, etc. before filling out the forms.
The Pet Carriers: At a table, we had white gift bags with handles that you could decorate with stamps, stickers, or markers. There was a circle cut out of the side of the bag, so the pet’s face could peek out. We put paper from our paper shredder at the bottom of the bags like that nesting material pet shops use.
The Snacks: We filled bowls with bone shaped sugar cookies (dog food), Goldfish (cat food), and Chex mix (kibble).