Whenever I post some photos from a party we're having or entertaining in general, I get quite a few messages for more details. So in a rare moment of preparedness (that's a word, right?), I have put together a very basic post going over a general "formula" I use and tips I have for throwing a themed birthday party.
In general, I keep a stock of very neutral party supplies on hand, at all times: kraft wrapping paper, neutral ribbons, white balloons and streamers, plain stationery, kraft or cream paper cups and plates etc...
It can get really expensive buying all of those items for every single party, and what I've found is, in the end, you always have lots leftover. And chances are, they won't co-ordinate with the next party anyway. Having these already on hand also means one less errand to run.
Next, depending on the theme, I try to incorporate a few details without going overboard. For example, given this was a Harry Potter theme, I went with some gold Galleons, golden Snitches, and pretended the letter was coming out of the fireplace like in the books.
None of those took longer than a few minutes to do, but he loved those details!
In our family, our kids wake up to their gifts being set out in the living room (and most years, some decorations). But, I always save one gift for them to open during the party. We don't encourage the kids to bring gifts as honestly, our kids have enough stuff, and in the past, friends have almost missed out because they didn't want to show up without a present. If I have one set aside, they still get the whole opening your gifts experience, but it's not the main focus. They get spoiled enough by grandparents and their aunties!
Then, party wise, I stick to one small themed table. It adds enough to make it fun and personal, but it doesn't take long to set up and it's quite inexpensive.
Now, when I talk about a "formula", what I really mean is, each party has the same basic details:
- No more than two hours.
- No more than 5 friends - this is enough to feel like a group, but not so many that they break off into smaller groups and that always leads to trouble. Kids get left out, things get out of control...
- Food consists of a birthday cake, a couple themed treats (often a super easy version of sugar cookies in which I just decorate store-bought shortbread rounds), and pizza. I used to try to come up with themed food, but it's a lot of work and you know, kids just like plain old pizza.
- Each child gets a party favour to bring home, but nothing expensive.
It also means that no matter the theme, each of our boys gets them same sort of party. We have other birthday traditions too, like a family activity, and a meal out of their choice as family, so it's not all about the party.
I also bake my own cake, which is a lot cheaper than ordering a themed cake. I've recently discovered a one-bowl chocolate cake recipe from Nine + Sixteen that's super easy to throw together and the best cake recipe I've found to date. And what's more, it actually tastes even more delicious a couple days later, so it's perfect for making ahead of time.
You can find the recipe here.
To add a bit more detail to the theme, I simply printed off a couple images from google (like this daily prophet paper and the wanted wizard poster).
Some hand-lettering on chalkboards that I already have is another great way to add to the decor without spending anything.
Then for the entertainment (a term which I use very loosely), I plan two games. One usually involves searching for something I've hidden, and the other, something to keep them active and pass time. This is really more for keeping the kids occupied so chaos doesn't break out. For this party, we set up a very basic version of Quidditch for the kids to play, and then I hid golden snitches around the gardens for each of them to "seek". For our oldest's Fortnite birthday last month, they all brought water guns and had a water fight, and I hid a loot llama filled with gum.
For the Quiddich game, I bought two large hula hoops ($2 each) from Dollarama (our version of Dollar Tree) and covered them in black hockey tape. Instead of brooms for the kids to ride, I bought two packs of bamboo garden stakes from Dollarama as well ($2 for a pack of 6).
They loved finding the snitches.
The favour bags for this included Bertie Botts beans (or a small bag of 50-flavour mixed Jelly Bellys from Bulk Barn), a few chocolate Galleons, also from Bulk Barn, and a golden Snitch.
I found the idea for the Snitches from Pinterest. I bought three-packs of Ferro Rocher chocolates ($1 each) from Dollarama, removed the extra sticker and wrapping so it was just gold foil, and then glued a knotted piece of ribbon on top, that I cut to look like wings.
And the birthday cake always makes me laugh. I make one every time, because we light candles and sing happy birthday, but most of the time, only a couple kids have a small slice. I'm not complaining though! We don't mind some left over birthday cake.
Also, I should mention, once our kids are a bit older, usually by the time they're five or six, they are allowed to choose a theme (with a little guidance). It usually required me to step out of my comfort zone a bit, but they're happier because it's what they wanted.
I think that's plenty of detail for you!