Affairs to Remember for your Littles
By Elle Smith
In the April issue I gave you the run down on some of the coolest adult party themes. Many of us now spend a lot more time planning and attending parties of the younger crowd so I have compiled a list of the very best underused, gender-neutral, kid-friendly party themes. That said, if you are looking for killer theme for your big 21-run and love Green Eggs and Ham, by all means, please proceed.
- When I Grow Up
This is my favorite theme that I have ever used for a children’s party. It was darling the first time and was darling enough to repeat once my kids get just a bit older. The concept is simple: have the invite ask the guests to dress up as whatever they would like to be when they grow up. Our little gala featured doctors and princesses, super heros and athletes. All the Halloween costumes, dress up clothes, cheap accessories and anything else I could think of that I already owned was tossed into a treasure chest so the dress up game continued all afternoon. Dress up and make believe play keep the little ones entertained and funky sunglasses, Ring Pops and candy necklaces make great favors.
- Arts & Crafts
Let easels prop your signs. If you are bold, let the kids paint or finger paint. Cleaner options are good old fashioned crayons or sidewalk chalk. Or just have a ready-made craft kit for each kid. Oriental Trading Co. has great inexpensive little sets for making “summer camp” type projects. If you can budget for it Melissa and Doug do cute little sets for painting jewelry boxes, banks and such that run about $10 each. Decorate with an inexpensive mix of bold, single-colored paper goods such as red plates, with blue cups, green napkins and yellow plastic ware.
What DOES the fox say? Adorable little foxes and owls are everywhere. I am just dying to play up a DIY, homespun-sweet, fox and woodland creature themed party. To get this look, use colors with earthy undertones such as plum, sage green, red-orange and mustard yellow with browns and burlap. Activities and snacks should be outdoorsy and could include a s’mores bar, hot dogs, and trail mix.
- Classic bbq/park
A backyard bbq seems like a copout cliché, but when you turn the focus and theme, it gives the event a whole new spin. We used this exact theme for my son’s 1st birthday and used my then boss’s way cool backyard. Rather than typical “Happy 1st Birthday” décor, I stuck to red check gingham with a menu of hamburgers, hotdogs, watermelon and all the usual. For dessert? More hamburgers! Well, hamburger-esque cupcakes anyway. Keep the look a little more chic with metal drink tins or fun barrels instead of the faded, scuffed cooler you have been camping with since the late ‘90s. Throw in classic but forgotten game like three-legged races and you have a hit!
I love color. If your little mister or miss has a color they love, use that for the whole party. Whether a fluffy pink or vivid tangerine, you would be surprised at how fun and creative a color party can be. Select appropriate fruit and snacks. Match the cake and drinks. Break up any monotonousness with polka dots, stripes or checks in the selected color and white. If you can’t pick just one, mix it with a complementary color or even the whole rainbow like I did for my daughter’s second birthday.
- Characters with a Twist
Kids. They love what they love. I am the last person who will tell you to try and squash that. On the other hand, I cannot bring myself to buy a full set of Disney Princess birthday nonsense. I prefer to stick to cleaner designs, solid colors to reflect the theme, and items that hint at the over-marketed characters our children tend to love. I made up this invite for a friend’s Tangled party for her daughter. She opted out of Rapunzel-plastered litter and used purple and yellow decorations, served her goodies from cast iron skillets and handed out dollar store watercolors as favors. She likely spent the same time and effort she would have with licensed character products and pulled off a much more polished look.
Disney, Nick Jr., Marvel, etc. characters are completely overdone. You have to go off the beaten path to make it a little more unique and chic. Not so with most storybook characters. Bonus tip: if you pick your book carefully, your snacks, treats, activities and/or favors will be made apparent through the story. A favorite for me is that adorable little classic, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. I think milk and cookies are the obvious choice. You could even do a chocolate chip cookie cake. Coloring would be a simple activity and maybe a little individually wrapped cookie and small pack of crayons could be in the favor. The Very Hungry Caterpillar has a plethora of snacks to choose from and the whole rainbow to use as a color scheme. Other fun and recognizable favorites include: Peter Rabbit, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, anything Suessical or Where the Wild Things Are.
Summer is a little obvious with its staple pool party, but consider the other seasons as inspiration for parties as well. Go harvest party in the fall with caramel apples, hay bales and carnival games. In winter keep it cozy with snowflake décor on the windows, hot cocoa and cider. Consider a spring garden party where the kids can sip on lemonade, enjoy picnic foods, and decorate their own planters to take home with little packets of seeds.
Give your party a modern-vintage vibe by going with a carnival theme. Select age-appropriate games whether bobbing for apples, face painting, or even rent a dunking booth. Let your seasons or nearby holidays reflect on the kind of carnival you put together. What seems summery could easily switch to more of a harvest fair or an ice carnival.
- Skip It.
No, I do not mean the really awesome, totally rad ‘90s toy. (Although, if you are able to pull that off as a party theme, please, PLEASE tell me.) I mean in this crazy world of Sweet Six year old parties, jumping castles, banquet halls and cakes more extravagant than the one I shoved in my husband’s face on our wedding day, skip it. Don’t skip your child’s birthday, skip the craziness. Instead select some years that you throw a party, but on other years just truly enjoy the day with your child. Take a 3-day weekend if you can. Plan something fun and enjoyable for the whole family. Allow the child to feel special and excited, but not at the expense of family’s sanity and savings account. Maybe that means way more time at the park than you normally make time for and dinner out at Birthday Kid’s favorite spot. Maybe that is Chucky Cheese’s and a (mini) Toys-R-Us shopping spree. Maybe that is 3 nights for a family of four on the Disney cruise. Whatever works for your family, get back to the basics, enjoy your little (or big) bundle of joy and make a memory that doesn’t involve any one crying over failed pinterest attempts or not getting the very best piece of cake.