Children’s Birthday Parties – Right Off of the Bookshelf!

The following is by contributor Jennifer Brown.

For my birthday this year I’m going to have _____.” What parent of a young child hasn’t heard that phrase?  Birthday parties are a big deal among the younger set.  It didn’t take long for my first child to realize that birthdays equals cake, presents & parties.

On those special years, when you really want to celebrate, and celebrate big, where do you go for inspiration?  Where do you turn for a party theme that highlights your child’s interests and keeps you out of the prepackaged party aisle?

Off of the Bookshelf

I’d like to suggest that you look no further than your child’s bookshelf, as a dear friend and I did for our children’s parties recently.

Consider the following features on these two parties based off of the popular children’s books, Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, as a jumping off point to help get your creative juices flowing.

While these two parties in particular were for 2 and 3 year olds, the Wild Things party could be expanded for an older child and the Hungry Caterpillar would be appropriate for a one year through pre-school aged party.  Both book parties could be given for a child of either gender.

Where the Wild Things Are

I’ll start with the party we gave Where the Wild Things Are and cover each aspect of the party where the theme was used (A side note, we threw this party prior to the movie’s launch, so everything was done without any new/updated marketing items).


I purchased standard size blank note cards with illustrations from the book & printed up inserts with the invitation details that I glued on the inside.  In our family we’ve decided to give an “in lieu of” gift suggestion for birthday parties. We thought the National Wildlife Federation would be appropriate for this party & included that on our invitation.

Birthday Fun

As the children were arriving we had all of our “wild” stuffed animals out for imaginative play.  I also got a big blue sheet that I put on the floor of the living room to contain everyone.  Once all of the children had arrived; we read the story.

Since we were on our blue ocean we then “sailed away” in an imaginary boat to the land Where the Wild Things Are.  Then my husband, wearing a homemade crown as “king of all wild things,” came in and gave each child an animal mask (purchased at Target just before Halloween for $1 each) and an instrument (shakers and tambourines also purchased inexpensively in bulk) for the wild rumpus.  We then put on music and danced/rumpused  to our hearts content.


We decided to forgo a traditional cake and instead prepared a simple Dirt Cake (there are several versions of this dessert and here’s one from Family Fun) with gummy worms since that seemed like something wild things would eat.

I also found some cute recipes for “bug food” that we attempted.  In hindsight, I’ll admit the bug food, while fun, was a little ambitious, and certainly not necessary.  You could stick to ants on a log and leaf shaped sandwiches prepared with a cookie cutter—just let nature inspire you.


We used the buggy food table, wild stuffed animals, and blue lake as our main decorations.  We really didn’t do anything extra here and kept it simple.


Again, we kept it simple: our favors were tied into the party, letting the children took home their animal masks and instruments.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar


This was one of my favorite details of the party!  The hostess used her fingerprints to make caterpillars on cardstock imprinted with the party details.  So easy, very personal and so cute! It was then backed with green paper, the highlighted color of the party.

Party Fun

There were many opportunities for fun at this party.  Once everyone arrived, the children were gathered to read the Very Hungry Caterpillar story, and this hostess elected to use a felt story board as she told the story as an added touch.

There were also butterfly wings (purchased from Oriental Trading ) for each child to decorate with markers and wear throughout the party—a big hit for those who like to dress up!

One of the biggest sources of fun for the children was a free play bean bag game.  The hostess purchased Eric Carle print licensed fabric that you could cut the food pieces out of and make bean bags.  She then created a caterpillar out of a large rectangular box and some colored construction paper circles which had an open mouth so that you could “feed” the caterpillar.

Both activities were unstructured and available throughout the party.


Could the food for this party be any more obvious?  They had deli trays of salami, Swiss cheese & pickles.  There was also a delicious fruit tray—so simple!

The food highlight here was definitely the cupcakes, colored green and red and arranged to form a caterpillar on the table. Remember the caterpillar illustrations in the book are pretty much just colored circles, so this caterpillar inspired cake was easy to replicate.


Aside from the big bean bag game and fun food table.  The birthday girl made a caterpillar to hang on the wall out of green circles decorated with different art mediums—marker, paint, tissue paper and glue, glitter.  It was quite unique and a fun addition to the festivities.

A pre-party art project is also a good way to get the birthday child involved before the party.


Each child was given a multicolor lollipop—just like the one in the book to take home—so cute!

What Book Inspires Your Child?

I hope that by sharing the highlights from these two parties you might be inspired by something off of your child’s bookshelf to create a wholesome and memorable event for their next party.

I think using a favorite book as inspiration is a really fun way to showcase your child’s personality and interests. With a little imagination you can be as involved in the theme as you like.

Get the whole family involved and see what kind of fun you can create!

Has your child ever had or attended a book themed birthday party? What books inspired the party? What book themed party would you like to have?

About Jennifer

Jennifer, is a stay at home mom to two energetic, fun loving boys ages 6 and 2. She found a new passion in exploring great children's music after becoming a mom, which she blogs about at Swing Whistle Zing. Jennifer fancies finding quality tunes the whole family can enjoy, and dancing with her boys (both big and little) to her favorite songs that connect her to the past & keep her grounded in the present.

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  1. Jennifer, these are wonderful ideas! As the mother of a son named Max, I really like the Where the Wild Things are party, of course 🙂

    I’d love to attend (or throw) a Chicka Chicka Boom Boom party, as that is one of our favorite books to read out loud … and a Wizard of Oz party would be pretty fun for my oldest I think (and her mama, too who loves ruby slippers LOL)

    What fun!

  2. Oh I love book theme parties, especially for my little guys – pick their favorite book and party!!! We have a whole heap of them… Dr Suess, Roald Dahl, The Little Red Hen, Mr Magnolia… I’ll stop already!!! Here is our Wild Thing Party…
    se7en´s latest post: Se7en Survives Sleep Deprivation…

  3. I have a son and a daughter. We have had a Curious George and a Dr. Seuss party. Both were so much fun. In a couple of months, we are planning a Nancy Drew mystery birthday party for my daughter who is turning 10!
    Jody´s latest post: mama-jjohnson- Memorizing the Phone Book http-home-educatecom-unschooling-phonebookhtm saw this last night

  4. I actually just did a book themed party this past weekend! My three year old love love LOVES Fancy Nancy books so we had a Fancy Nancy birthday party to celebrate her turning three. Super easy, just throw a bunch of over-the-top floofy ‘fancy’ things together and call it a day! The only thing I actually had to buy was a new teapot, which I got at a thrift store for less than $5. And some balloons of course. Everything else came from the dressup box, the craft supply, or from my various little knickknacks!
    lorchick´s latest post: Fancy Tea Party – part one

  5. My son is inspired by Robin Hood. Here is a simple party we did that captured the spirit of Sherwood Forest!
    gina´s latest post: “Traces of Grace”

  6. Bridgette says:

    I love the idea of a party based on a book / literary theme! When my daughter turned 7, she was (and still is!) quite a bookworm. Her favorite series then was the Rainbow Magic Fairies (and all the other fairy books related to them!). Since she wanted to invite some male friends and include her brothers, we made it a fairy and goblin party. My friend did an Eric Carle – themed party for her daughter turning 2: read The Very Hungry Caterpillar, played a ladybug game, turned a tunnel into a caterpillar, did a spider activity, and had the food spread mentioned above, with holes cut in all the food! Another friend of mine, within the last month, did a Chicka Chicka Boom Boom party for her three year old. She had a station, with developmentally appropriate and simple activities, for each letter of the alphabet.

  7. Last year we held a Carrot Soup birthday party for my then three year old based on the book by John Segal. First we read the book. It has a recipe for carrot soup in the back so we had the kids help us grate the carrots to make the soup. While the soup was simmering we had other activities, including making carrot crafts. It was around springtime, so there was plenty of bunny and carrot related stuff at the dollar store, including a jump rope with carrot handles. It was a lot of fun!

  8. I forgot to mention we had carrot cake cupcakes for dessert!

  9. So fun! I love these ideas! I’m a fan of themed birthday parties!
    Since we try to minimize the gifts that come with birthday parties we’ve had a couple different themes – my daughter’s first birthday we asked for only hand-me down gifts (and it was a sing-a-long theme), her second birthday we asked for a fun t-shirt (and it was a Hawaiian theme).
    Next year, we want to have a dog-themed party (since she loves doggies) and ask for donations of food and toys for the local humane society.
    Just Plain Joy´s latest post: Friday’s Fun Find- New Starbucks mug with coaster

  10. That is a great idea! Our daughter is turning 5 in 10 days and we have not decided what to do- this gives us a great idea! I love it, thanks so much!

  11. I love this idea! It allows for a themed party without buying into all of the commercial themed party things!! Once my son catches on to wanting more than just a cake and family for his birthday we will definitely do this!

  12. Becky Greenhow says:

    For my son’s 1st birthday, Sam, we did a Green Eggs and Ham party. We ate green fruits and veggies, dressed in green, and had green balloons for decorations. For the cake, my hubby made a Ham cake (found a “design” online after we googled it). For the green eggs, my hubby made pancakes: dyed some of the batter green, kept the rest natural, and started with the centres. The pancakes were then layered around the base of the cake. And if the kids didn’t want the hot dogs we had made for lunch, there was also green eggs and JAM on the menu.

    We only had the cousins as guests (6 kids in total), so my hubby and I made T-shirts (onesies for the babies) with iron-on illustrations from the book. At the end of the party, they all wanted to sign the backs of each other’s shirts, so I got out the fabric markers for the signing process. Even the aunts and uncles signed all the shirts. I even found Dr. Seuss backpacks at the dollar store (now THAT was a surprise) and bought the last 6 they had. It was perfect!

    Final tip, if you have a little money to spend, is to check out ETSY. I found a seller who does children’s book themed decorations for parties, but I didn’t have enough time to order them.

    • Jennifer says:

      We love eating green eggs & ham–our secret is to mix pesto into the eggs to make them green–yummy! I love the idea of having the party guests sign t-shirts too, what a great way to remember the event!

  13. Becky Greenhow says:

    Here are some pix of what I was describing above.

  14. What a wonderful idea! My little one is not even one yet, but I will keep this in mind! As a former teacher, I really love it!

  15. So fun! We’ve done a Harry Potter party in the past….

  16. We’re planning a princess party for my granddaughter. We can have it at a local facility in town for a measly $600 fee but have decided to put it together here at the house. The most exciting part of the party is when the birthday girl gets to travel throughout the party room on her princess wagon. We’ve decided to take the good old red wagon from the backyard and decorate it ourselves and turn it into a princess coach for her special day. Add a few pizzas and some gifts and I think we’re far from reaching $600.
    Tina @ Ride On Toys´s latest post: The Radio Flyer My 1st Scooter For Toddlers

  17. Jane Cooper says:

    We also had a kids dog themed party it ended up being fancy dress as dalmations it was really fun, there are so many different kids parties and entertainers around it makes it so much easier to give the kids a party they will remember forever


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