There’s a trend toward theme parties for occasions, or perhaps it’s always existed but it’s not been as noticeable until this past couple of years.
Theme parties for children are gaining popularity, and can be as ornate or simple as possible. The ones preferable in these lean economic times are the ones that look great but cost little in the way of money. These have always been my favorite.
Here are a few suggestions for various themes: the invitations, the ambience, the entertainment and the food. All the elements of a good party for children, done on a budget. Halloween is the ultimate theme thrill, but birthdays are almost as interesting to plan. Remember: it’s not always the amount of money spent, but rather how everything is pulled together and presented to the guests.
Superheroes: Whether its Spiderman, Batman, X-Men or Iron Man, you can plan a party around a favorite character. Dollar Stores and 99 cent stores have a multitude of party items such as paper plates, table cloths, gift trinkets for goodie bags and balloons of all colors to add to the appeal. If it’s Spiderman, obvious red and black would be the major color theme. You don’t have to have a character on a plate to make it special – simple red and black plates on a white paper table cloth can do the same thing. Same with the balloons and plastic ware, cups, etc. Keep it simple and keep it fun! Iron Man is red and gold. Batman is blue and black. X-Men – there’s a fun time! Choose a favorite character and go with a theme! Wolverine would be especially entertaining! Invitations for super heroes can be cut-outs with stenciled reminders of times and date and theme. Kids can come dressed up and ready to go. Theme music can be played, a favorite movie can be shown and children can act out favorite scenes (if you have room in your yard or a room of your home!) Crafts can be masks appropriate to the character and each child can receive a balloon and goodie bag to bring home with them at the end of the festivities. The cake should be the crowning touch. You can make your own and insert little figures and decorate with the theme colors, or you can do the same with cupcakes. If you want to purchase a cake, you can go to a store such as Costco and get a great cake of your choice at a decent price. Have the children decorate their goodie bags with dollar store or WalMart stickers appropriate to the theme. It all adds to the fun of the afternoon! Be creative with the food snacks – chicken nuggets, fries, trail mix, veggies and dip or theme snacks can all be served. Just use your imagination and let your child plan the menu. That’s the most fun of all! Make sure to specify dress-up as a favorite character!
Princesses: Here’s a party that’s all pink, purple and silver in theme colors. Little girls can shine when they come dressed up in their princess dresses and party shoes. You can have a favorite such as Cinderella, Tangled or the Little Mermaid playing on the TV for them to enjoy while they eat. The invitations can be vellum rolled and tied with a ribbon (a la Cinderella) and can be sprinkled with “Pixy Dust” (sparkles). You can paint the little girls’ nails in clear polish or sparkle polish, and sprinkle “pixy dust” in their hair. They can each receive a little “tiara” to wear (from the dollar store or WalMart) and gift bags can consist of “pretties” such as “gems,” bangle bracelets, lip gloss, princess fruit snacks and whatever else the cards hold at 99 cent stores. Entertainment will be in the dress-up and parading around. Take a lot of photos – little girls love to see themselves in dress-up! Food can be “finger food,” such as fancy sandwiches, fruit salad, little kebabs (fruit or cheese and meat), chips and dip.The cake can be a beautiful creation of white with pink or purple frosting and silver non-pareils. Little Disney figures of princesses can adorn it. You can make your own using an angel food cake and serve with strawberries or other favorite fruits. Entertainment can be as simple as Karaoke to “princess tunes” and a movie, or more complex, depending upon your budget. “Characters” will visit the party to do facepainting, if you can afford it, or you can do your own facepainting, if desired. An excellent craft would be making crowns (materials can be purchased at local stores such as WalMart or Michaels or Jo-Ann’s for little cost) with silver paper, “gems” and sparkles. If you want a Fairy Princess Theme, just have children add little wings and you are set to go! Make sure to specify dress-up on the invitation!
Pirates: Another popular theme, with Jack Sparrow as everyone’s hero! Start with the invitations – slightly crunched brown paper or vellum paper cut with pinking sheers and a little map drawn to the birthday child’s home. Time, date, etc should be drawn on the map, too. Can be rolled up or stuck in a decorated paper towel tube “telescope” for each child. Decorate with red, black and white, with liberal use of “gold dubloons” (gold and silver foil-covered chocolate coins) on a white or black paper tablecloth, and a big treasure chest strategically placed on the floor with “loot” for give-aways later. Inflated sharks, parrots and fish can be found at Dollar Stores or party stores. Each child can make their own pirate hat or eye patch when they arrive. Games should include “fishing for treasure” such as mardi gras beads or bangles and little plastic fish (using a little plastic fishing rod) and a scavenger “treasure hunt” at the end, with goodie bags for children to stuff with their “treasures.” Food is easy – fish sticks or chicken nuggets, fries or chips and dip, cut up veggies and dip, “tropical fruit” and a punch to drink. The cake, as always, should be the crowning touch. Home-made cakes can feature a sheet cake with blue icing for the sky/water and light brown for the sand. You can strategically place little fish or sharks or even a wee pirate ship in and on the “water” and a little treasure chest or pirates on the land. All these can be found in sets at Dollar Stores or ToysRUs (or other party stores). Have children dressed in “pirate gear” to set the mood at the git go! and you can show a favorite pirate movie while the kids eat, if desired.
Tinker Bell: Tinker Bell and Fairies go together like peanut butter and jam! This party would be filled with green, pink or purple and sparkles! Children can receive little fairy wings when they arrive if you have the budget, or they can craft their own to wear during the party. The invitation should stress the theme, and you should once again have pixy dust (hair sparkles) for their hair. Children can come as their favorite Disney Princess, or they can all come dressed as fairies! It’s up to your child. Invitations can be pretty little sparkly papers decorated by your child with glitter glue and paint pens. The table should be set with sparkles and liberal use of green and pink. You can scatter little “gems” on the tablecloth for extra effect, or some sparkly confetti. Sparkly balloons can be tied to the chairs. Gift bags are easy, filled with pretty little treasures from the dollar store – necklaces, bangles, little bottles of nail polish or lip gloss, a little princess figure, etc. Children can craft tissue paper butterflies or flowers to bring home as well, or can simply decorate their own princess pictures. Food should be low maintenance but pretty – party sandwiches, chips and dip, veggies and dip, fruit salad or your child’s other favorites. The cake can either be home-made (a white icing with green and pink frosting with silver non-pareils to add to the glitter) with a Tink figure and other little fairies decorating the top. Some tiny silk flowers would add a final touch. And of course children could watch the newest Tink movie as they eat their lunch.
Halloween: This one is simply too much fun and easy to go “over the top!” Children can come dressed in their ghoulish best and be greeted at the door to enter a room filled with Halloween balloons and decorations. (you may want to specify “no weapons” for the safety of all the kids). Invitations can be as ghoulish or ghastly as the age-group permits. The theme, should be according to the season: ghosts, bats, black cats, or other favorites. Black and orange are always favorite theme colors and can be used for the tablecloth, paper plates and cups, balloons and other decorations. Food? Fun and fantastic: tiny plastic jack-o-lanterns filled with salsa at each place (brains) to have with tortilla chips, fish “fingers,” or “gnarly chicken strips,” “finger jello” in appropriate colors and shapes and the cake should feature lots of “skull” or “bat” rings (available at your local Dollar or Party Store). Children can “trick or treat” for their party favors at the end of the party. If your child loves Jack Skellington, go with the Nightmare Before Christmas theme. If they like the regular ghosts and goblins, use this to full advantage. Just remember to keep it age-appropriate. Some children really get frightened if the party is too ghoulish. The games can include a “haunted house” for older children, where they enter a dark room and feel items such as eyeballs (peeled grapes), “brains” (cold jello), “guts” (the obligatory cold spaghetti) and so on. This is a ghastly good time for children over Kindergarten age. Face-painting is also fun for all ages, as is having a Halloween sounds CD playing during the festivities. Show some of your child’s favorite Halloween cartoons while the children sit down to eat (a “picnic on the floor” on top of a couple of plastic tablecloths is great for this theme!), or let the cartoons play while the children make some Halloween crafts. Goodie bags can include a couple of rings from the cake, some little appropriate plastic figures, fruit snacks, and some season treats that can be found at your local 99 cent or party store.