My son, Augie, recently turned five and we threw him a wild animal birthday party.
Here’s where I confess my dirty little secret: I don’t really like planning birthday parties. I really want my boys to feel special on their birthdays, but planning parties stresses me out. I hate trying to figure out where to hold the party. I worry excessively about how many people are going to show (because most people don’t RSVP!). I stress about how much it will cost. And — most ridiculous of all — I worry about meeting people’s expectations because I’m a food/craft/parenting blogger.
This year, I decided to go easy on myself and plan a fairly simple and inexpensive party. I managed to pull most of it together in just a few days and I think it ended up being pretty cute! Here’s how I did it:
1. I rented a gym
Our local YMCA puts on an awesome Kindergym for little kids with climbing, swinging and tumbling equipment that can be rented for birthday parties. You get two hours for the party, plus a half hour on either end for set-up and cleaning. During the party a Y staff member keeps things moving along on a set schedule. When I sent out the invitations I said, “Come climb like a monkey at the Y!” which tied it into the animal theme. That was 90% of the party work right there.
2. Buy some cheap plastic animals
I went to our local party store and found a bag with 50 jungle animals (and moose?) for $10. I haven’t been able to locate the exact package I bought online, but it was basically this set but bigger. I used these animals in a few different ways.
First, they were the main decoration on the cake. I picked up a sheet cake at our local grocery the morning of the party. I found the plainest one in the case (no princesses or writing on it) and then I stuck a few well-washed toy animals on top of it. I used a few from the bag and a few from our toy chest.
I also pulled a little flag garland out of my stash of scrapbooking supplies, taped it to a couple of bamboo bbq skewers and stuck those in the cake. This was probably the most complicated part of the whole party, but it was cute.
The animals didn’t really look like they were in a party kind of mood.
Next, I used the animals to decorate the table. I forgot to take pictures of the table setting in all the party hubbub, so I staged this dramatic recreation with leftover party supplies at home. I bought solid yellow plates, orange forks and a green table cloth at the dollar store, and then I splurged on some animal themed napkins at the party store. (All told I spent less than $7 on the table setting.) I ran a row of plastic animals down the center of the table. The kids loved them and played with them while they ate!
3. Buy a lion pinata
The pinata was my biggest splurge, but my kids love having them at their parties so I didn’t want to skip it. I filled it with lollipops, Annie’s fruit snacks, a bunch of animal stickers and the rest of the bag of plastic animals.
My favorite part of the pinata — and maybe the whole party — was the treat bags that we gave to the kids to collect the pinata loot. I used plain brown lunch bags and had my boys decorate them. To begin with I gave them some animal stamps and a couple stamp pads. They started off pretty simple, but then they quickly got really into it and took off with their own cool ideas.
In addition to stamping, they drew pictures of palm trees, colored and wrote cool messages all over them. Super cool and creative!
I like to pre-pack pinata bags to make sure each kid gets a little of everything, so I put one animal, some stickers and a lollipop in each one before handing them out. Then when the pinata broke the children added to what was already there from the stuff that fell on the floor.
Did I put together the simplest party in the world? No — but I did manage to add some fun, easy touches with very little effort or expense! Most importantly, Augie loved it and had a terrific time.
Do you have easy ways to make a party a little more special?