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Creative Moms Share Their Best Birthday Party Ideas


Traditions are wonderful things. After all, what would a birthday party be without balloons, birthday cake and goodie bags? But sometimes that tried-and-true formula of eggs, flour, helium and noisemakers can get a little dull. Shake things up with these fresh ideas from some creative Massachusetts moms. You’ll be reinventing some old favorites and avoiding the birthday blahs.

 

Best Party Themes

The best way to kick off a great party? Take a cue from your child and find new ways to interpret his or her interests.

 

If your child is an animal lover, consider having the party at a local animal shelter. That’s where Kathy Taylor had her daughter’s birthday party. Partygoers were each asked to bring a small bag of animal treats. “The kids learned how to care for animals, they took a tour of the shelter and played with puppies,” says Taylor. At the end of the party, the shelter provided favors – Clifford the Big Red Dog treats, animal pencils and a card.

 

When Shannon Cudmore’s son was looking for a party with some live-action football, she provided the stadium experience without the high price tag. Cudmore took her son and his party guests to a Swampscott High School football game, where she arranged for the birthday boy to get a ball signed by the whole team.

 

Don’t despair if your child’s idea of a great birthday bash isn’t one-of-a-kind. Special touches can elevate more common party themes. Elizabeth Pappalardo threw a cowboy-themed party for her son on his third birthday, complete with tables made out of hay bales and draped in red and white picnic cloths. She topped the tables with old watering cans filled with bright daffodils and the children sat up tree stumps, instead of pint-sized chairs. The hay bales served two purposes: They provided the preschoolers with a place to eat their rustic lunch of hot dogs, applesauce and wagon-wheel pasta salad, served up in disposable silver pie pans. They also blocked off a hazardous area of the yard, a wall with a small drop, says Pappalardo.

 

When Mary Melanson hosted a princess party for her daughter Jessica, she took a common theme to the next level by sending out invitations on scrolls that beckoned the girls to come slay a dragon (piñata). Her obliging husband also dressed up as an ogre for the event.

 

Party décor doesn’t have to only adhere to a party theme. It can also help you celebrate the birthday boy or girl by personalizing the event. For her son’s first birthday, Melissa Osborn of Haverhill created a banner with photos of his first year to hang in the party room.

 

Best Cakes

Even with the best games and crafts, a party isn’t much of a party without a cake. If you’ve got baking skills you can create a cake to go with your party theme.

 

Try out a magic top hat cake, which has a surprise inside, says Natasha Mangolagas. Stack round cakes together and carve a hole in the top layer. Stash cupcakes decorated like bunnies into the opening and put the lid back on, so they’re ready to pop out at just the right moment.

 

Having a cookout? Finish it off with a cheeseburger cake, using two round yellow cakes, with a chocolate cake sandwiched between, says Mangolagas. Food coloring can help turn yellow cake into your “bun,” “tomato” and “lettuce.” Top it off with a sprinkling of seeds from a pepito, a Central/South American squash.

 

Not a baker? Let the kids decorate their own sweet treats. Swap the traditional cake for decorate-your-own pancakes or cupcakes, says Cudmore.

For more ideas, click on the next page!  

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Best Games

If you decide to have your party at home, well-organized games are a must to prevent revelry from dissolving into chaos.

 

“My kids’ favorite game at a party is a bubble-blowing contest,” says Taylor. “Line the kids up with their hands behind their backs, put a piece of gum on a plate, and cover the plate with whipped cream. The first one to find the gum and blow an actual bubble wins.”

 

For her cowboy-themed party, Pappalardo had the 3-year-olds “pan for gold.” She spray-painted small rocks from her yard with gold paint and put them inside a metal trough filled with sand. The kids sifted through the sand to find the golden nuggets using disposable pie tins with holes punched in the bottom. At the end of the party they were able to trade in their “gold” for old-fashioned penny candy.

 

Also in keeping with the theme, she wrapped hula-hoops in rope to make them look like lassos so the children could “capture” a renegade rocking horse.

 

Another surefire way to keep kids entertained is by providing crafts at your party. Shane Codispoti suggests combining a party craft and take-home gift by having children decorate items such as tote bags, flowerpots, or small wooden treasure chests filled with candy coins.

 

Be on the lookout for ways to put a twist on seasonal crafts that may already be out in stores. For her son’s spring party, Pappalardo stocked up on Easter egg-dyeing kits so that the mini-cowboys could create their own authentic rattlesnake eggs.

 

Even with the best games and crafts, a party isn’t much of a party without a cake. If you’ve got baking skills you can create a cake to go with your party theme.

 

Try out a magic top hat cake, which has a surprise inside, says Natasha Mangolagas. Stack round cakes together and carve a hole in the top layer. Stash cupcakes decorated like bunnies into the opening and put the lid back on, so they’re ready to pop out at just the right moment.

 

Having a cookout? Finish it off with a cheeseburger cake, using two round yellow cakes, with a chocolate cake sandwiched between, says Mangolagas. Food coloring can help turn yellow cake into your “bun,” “tomato” and “lettuce.” Top it off with a sprinkling of seeds from a pepito, a Central/South American squash.

 

Not a baker? Let the kids decorate their own sweet treats. Swap the traditional cake for decorate-your-own pancakes or cupcakes, says Cudmore.

 

Best Strategy for Gifts, Thank-You Notes

Navigating gift opening can be one of the trickiest parts of any party. Many parents opt to open presents after the guests have left to avoid pandemonium. But whenever you decide to open them, keep track of gifts by writing the gift the child received right on the back of the card that came with it, says Denise Tucker. As a bonus, this also makes it easier for the child to spell the gift-giver’s name correctly on the thank-you note.

 

It’s also nice to add a personal touch to your thank-you notes. One way to do that is to take individual photos of all the children at the party and send a thank you with the gift-giver’s photo on it, says mom Terri Morgent. It’s easy to make these thank-you notes using your computer printer, and it gives parents a little keepsake from the party.

 

As your party wraps up, it’s nice to send kids home with a little gift of their own. Becky White says one of the most popular items she gave out at her son’s springtime birthday party were inexpensive kites. “Everyone was excited to try them and, for $3, they were quite durable,” she says.

For more ideas, click on the next page!

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Another option is personalized pencil boxes filled with small items, says Camay Pascucci. It’s also fun if your goodie bag gift matches the party theme. For her son’s bowling party Kate VanDam sent each child home with a monogrammed bowling shirt instead of a goodie bag. She found them online (www.bowlingshirts.com), which is a great place to search for other theme items.

 

Many parents say that these reusable items are great because they’re useful things that will be around far longer than it takes for tiny trinkets to get lost and forgotten.
 

 

Best Goodie Bags

As your party wraps up, it’s nice to send kids home with a little gift of their own. Becky White says one of the most popular items she gave out at her son’s springtime birthday party were inexpensive kites. “Everyone was excited to try them and, for $3, they were quite durable,” she says.

 

Another option is personalized pencil boxes filled with small items, says Camay Pascucci.

 

It’s also fun if your goodie bag gift matches the party theme. For her son’s bowling party Kate VanDam sent each child home with a monogrammed bowling shirt instead of a goodie bag. She found them online (www.bowlingshirts.com), which is a great place to search for other theme items.

 

Many parents say that these reusable items are great because they’re useful things that will be around far longer than it takes for tiny trinkets to get lost and forgotten.

 

 

 

Kelly Bilodeau is a freelance writer and mother of two in Swampscott.

 

 

 

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23 Jun 2011


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