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.
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.
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?