In my family, birthday parties are a big deal—my parents were always great and catered to every whim my brother and I wanted for our birthdays (within reason, of course). For example, when I was in my 20’s (yes, I’ve never stopped having parties) I wanted a Hawaiian themed party. My parents offered to host it, and when I got there, they had built a genuine palapa—out of palm fronds!—for the bar. I’ve been lucky and I want to make sure my kids get the same happy memories. So, when it came time to plan my first child’s first birthday party, it took me back to when I planned my wedding—you’ve been to a ton, and now it was time to incorporate the best things from each one. Here are five ideas for planning your own. Make sure to pass on your own favorites in the comments section! –Alex
Rock Star Party
My friend Alison threw this for her son’s third birthday and it was awesome. The vibe started with the invite—she had made laminated VIP passes, complete with the lanyard that had all of the party details on it. The kids were to come in their best “rock star” outfits. When we got to their house, we went to the backyard and the kids decorated tambourines. This killed some time until the band Hullabaloo came on. The kids lined up outside the garage door (which listed each of the invitees as VIPs) and ran in to find scarves and instruments with Hullabaloo playing. Older kids that were invited were deemed “security” and Alison made yellow tees for them, with SECURITY ironed on the back. The entire thing was such a hit my son still talks about it, almost eight months later.
For her son’s first birthday, my friend April threw a cowboy party at her local park. She sent the invitations out on “rustic” looking paper which had her son, dressed as a cowboy, printed in sepia tone. When we got to the park, April had brought in bales of hay for decoration. There was also a saddle set up on one of the hay bales so the kids could sit on it and pretend they were riding a horse. To top it off, there was a huge wagon and the parents gave wagon rides around the park. For food, she hired a taco cart that cooked made-to-order tacos or quesadillas. As part of the goody bags, April made a CD with her son’s favorite music, which had a picture of him, in a sepia tone, on the cover. It was a perfect party for kids of all ages.
I threw this for my son’s third birthday. For the invitations, I printed the info (using pirate jargon) on resume paper (for that parchment paper look) and then burned the edges. On the day of the party, as everyone came up to the house, a (fake) skeleton dressed in pirate gear greeted them. The invitees each had a bucket, filled with pirate gear and a shovel that they grabbed on the way in. For activities, we had an inflatable pool that was shaped like a pirate ship, a fishing game set up in a baby pool, and pirate coloring pages. After the guests were settled in, everyone grabbed their bucket and shovel and went down to the beach (my parents live on the beach, so we were lucky enough to have it there) where the kids dug for both buried treasure and pirate bones. Each child had treasure to take home, and then we assembled a skeleton from all the bones that were found.
My mom just came up with this idea as a possibility for my son’s next birthday. You would have to have your party either at the beach or at a park with a great sandbox. The idea is that you square off a patch of sand for each family that is invited (If your kids are old enough for drop-off parties, you can do one for each child). In the area, provide shovels, buckets (this can be their goody bag gift too), water as well as decorations for their creations. When you say GO each family builds a sandcastle in a designated amount of time. The party guests (or the birthday kid) can vote on which they like the best.
Teddy Bear Picnic Party
My friend Erica did this for her little girl and it turned out to be absolutely adorable. The theme was teddy bear picnic (invites are in the shape of bears) and everyone was supposed to bring their favorite stuffed animal. The first activity was story time–a storyteller was hired and she read about three books based on bears. Next, the storyteller led the children on a game of “pin the heart on the bear”. After this, the kids were all given scavenger hunt maps and went on a “bear hunt”. Prizes were stashed along the way, and they eventually led to a huge stuffed bear where each child was presented their goody bag (which included the Going on a Bear Hunt audio CD, bear stickers, bear coloring book, etc). The other cute thing was that Erica had each guest take a Polaroid picture with the birthday girl—these photos were then placed in a teddy bear frame as another souvenir to take home. Super cute.
Breezy Mama Tip: The internet has a slew of birthday party sites that you can check out for more ideas. Just type in the theme that you’re thinking of and up pops a ton of games, cake templates, and decoration ideas.
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