Planning Themed Birthday Parties (+ Wylie Turns 4!)
I’m not big on buying my kids toys (they have enough!), but I love to create a special world with them on their birthdays that express who they are at the moment. As we design the games and activities, we spend time working, laughing, and playing together – and that, to me, is the best gift. My son Wylder turned 4 years old on Sunday, and boy did we have fun putting this bug-themed birthday party together for him.
https://www.easel.ly/ is a fun, simple, and free site to design infographs that work great for invitations and also for party signs. Sometimes I insert photos of the kids, and sometimes just images from the site. I don’t have a colored printer, so I squeezed 4 on a sheet and used the library’s for $0.50/pg., then had the boys cut them and glue them onto construction paper borders.
Bug Collecting Jars
Supplies: baby food jars, bug stickers
A couple friends saved their baby food jars for us, and we soaked the labels off and replaced them with bug stickers from Amazon (100 stickers: $5). Guests could use these to collect bugs in the ball pit and/or to store their goodies from the caterpillar balloon piñata.
Supplies: construction paper, pipe cleaners, pom poms, hot glue, tape
Cost: Low. You may have many of these craft supplies already!
Cut, glue, tape, and you’re done!
We usually skip more traditional, adult-led party games because all that structure can be stressful on everyone. Instead, we like to plan 3-4 play stations or centers that guests can visit at their leisure and play in as long as they want. Kids love boxes, so there is always at least one station made out of cardboard at our parties!
Cardboard Worm Tunnel
Supplies: boxes, knife, duct tape, large heavy-duty paper clips.
Cost: Low. You may already have all the supplies for this one!
To create this Worm Tunnel, we completely filled the baby's room with cardboard (let's face it, she's pretty much taken over my room, so why does she need a nursery?!). For three days before we dropped Sawyer off for preschool, we stopped at the recycle center to load up all the good boxes. We played with them until we got the right fit, and then I cut holes in the sides of the boxes and duct-taped them together. For the open boxes, I used large, heavy-duty paper clips (in photo above) to clip the boxes together. We left some open and some closed so that parts of the tunnel had light and others were dark. We put this game together first to ensure that the boys and their friends would have plenty of time to play in it before the party!
Worm Tunnel building crew
Fitting the boxes together and testing them out.
Worm Tunnel is finally complete! Unfortunately the shape makes it difficult to get a good photo with an iPhone...
Dig for Worms and Bugs
Supplies: kiddie pool, a bunch of plastic balls, plastic worms and bugs
Cost: Medium. We had a kiddie pool, and were able to borrow the balls from Sprout Family Services, a wonderful resource for families in our area (Thank you, Sprout!!). I ordered a 100-bug variety pack ($17) and 80 worms ($8) from Amazon.
Wylie’s current favorite past-time is by far worm-digging and bug-hunting. But since his birthday is in March, we couldn’t really ask our party guests to head outside, and I wasn’t thrilled with his idea of bringing a bunch of dirt in the house, so we settled for the next best thing – a kiddie pool “ball pit” filled with plastic bugs and rubber worms that I ordered from Amazon. I used some of the bugs to fill the balloon piñata, as well, and the kids took them home as party favors in their bug jars.
Testing the bug pit out, and practicing worm-digging to increase speed.
Feed the Spider Bean Bag Game
I was going to make a beanbag game out of a piece of plywood left over from the shed we just built… We were planning on painting it like a spiderweb and having the kids throw bug-shaped beanbags into it. But… we were running out of time, and my mother-in-law already had this pre-made beanbag game, so we took the easy way out. The kids loved this simple, self-sufficient game, though!
Caterpillar Balloon Piñata
Supplies: 2 colors of green balloons (about 24 total), 1 red balloon, black, green, and yellow construction paper, cardboard, scissors, tape, candy and other goodies to fill balloons (optional)
Cost: Medium. I had to purchase the green balloons and the candy.
At first I could not figure out how to connect the balloons together to make the caterpilliar shape, but then my friend Maria suggested taping them to a cardboard cutout, and that worked beautifully. I filled all the balloons with a few hi-chews, M&Ms, and the smallest plastic bugs in the pack, then blew them all up and taped them to the cardboard cutout. This was hung up above the kitchen until it was time for the kids to pop the balloons, and then they each got a toothpick. It got a little crazy, but I think everyone had fun, and all the guests went home with a few more piñata goodies.
Finally done! Getting it onto the wall by myself was also kind of a pain!
I had to triple the recipe to make this cake! Layer 1 sheet cake and 1 pie-pan cake (to make the ant hill), then cover the whole thing with chocolate frosting and begin the bug design.
Good ol' Ants on a Log.
Grape Caterpillars and Lady Bug Cheeses. You can find these candy eyes in the baking section at the grocery store, or you can use raisins.
Spider Crackers: Two crackers sandwiched with cream cheese. Eyes are also attached with cream cheese.
Happy Birthday Boy enjoying his spider cracker.
Spider Dip: Smoked razor clam and salmon dip in a bell pepper spider.
Worms in Dirt: Chocolate moose, crushed Oreos, and gummy worms.
Beetle Juice: We froze gummy worms and bugs into the ice cubes.
Cute party guests enjoying snacks and lining up their bug and worm loot.
I like to do a bunch of finger foods and then a big crockpot of soup and some rolls. If you're looking for a new crockpot dish, try this yummy crowd-pleaser:
Quick Recipe for Alaskan Moose Meatball Soup
6 cups chicken stock
2 cups white beans
1-2 lbs. of premade moose or beef meatballs
4 celery stocks
3 garlic cloves
8 oz. of tortellini or noodles
2-3 cups of kale or spinach
1 T olive oil
salt and pepper
Soak the white beans overnight. Then, cook them on high with the garlic and onion in the chicken stock for 3 hours. Add the chopped carrots, celery, and meatballs. If you like your soup more brothy, pour in some water. Cook for another 2 hours.
Right before the party, boil the tortellini or noodles separately. Sauté the kale or spinach briefly in olive oil. Add both to the crockpot and enjoy!
The best part about designing your own themed party is that you and your little birthday boy/girl can have fun together throughout the whole process, not just during the few hours of the party. Enjoy!