Little Man turned four last week. I can hardly believe that he’s already that old! He’s certainly taken me on a roller coaster through motherhood the last four years, but I sure love him. He’s a crazy rough-and-tumble kid with a great sense of humor and a huge heart.
Last year, my husband asked me what age I thought we should start allowing our kids to have birthday parties with friends. I hadn’t really thought about it before, so I replied uncertainly, “I don’t know…when they ask?”
Well, this year Little Man asked….or, more accurately, he just started talking matter-of-factly about how he was going to have a party. So, we talked and agreed to have a birthday party. We just invited a few neighborhood kids (he’s only four, after all), but we had a great time. As I planned it, I tried REALLY hard not to get pulled into the Pinterest-craziness of perfectly themed, decorated, and food-labeled birthday parties. Don’t get me wrong, I totally used Pinterest for some great inspiration, but whenever I saw something I liked, I stopped and asked myself, “Will it make Little Man have a better party?”
Anytime I couldn’t answer yes to that question, I threw the idea out of the brainstorming pool (with a few exceptions that were super low effort and were too cute to pass up).
Little Man’s requests were simple: he wanted a dinosaur theme, he wanted to have a pinata, and he wanted to eat cake. Ok, Buddy, I can work with that. I love the simple joys of a four-year-old.
Here’s what I did to put on a dino-mite party!
First, I asked Little Man what kind of cake he wanted. Making fun birthday cakes is something I learned from my mom and I LOVE doing it. So, for me, the birthday plan begins with the cake. Little Man said he wanted a “dinosaur world” cake. What does that mean? In his words, it means having a world for dinosaurs with trees and plants, a lake, and a volcano. Dream big, Little Man. I found this great cake from You Pinspire Me, and used it to inspire mine.I’ll be posting more about how I did the cake later.
I found these ADORABLE invitations, and made my own inspired by them.I love designing in Photoshop, so that was fun for me. If you’re not design-inclined, you can buy them on ETSY. (I have no affiliation with the designer. I just think they’re really cute invitations and wanted to spread the love).
This is where a lot of people go crazy, but I intentionally kept decorations simple because, frankly, I knew that Little Man just didn’t care. So I picked a few things that I really liked (and that took less than 5 minutes each to do), and went with them.
I got a green tablecloth from the dollar store and zig-zagged the edges. (Inspired by Two Busy Blondes.)
I drew giant dinosaur footprints on our front walk using sidewalk chalk, and then wrote “ROAR” on the front porch. (The rain washed these away before I remembered to go back and take a picture.)
I printed some awesome free dinosaur coloring pages to use as place mats (and then they doubled as an activity for kids to do when they first arrived).
Little Man really wanted hats and party blowers, which we just bought at the party store. I had wanted to make THESE cute ones, but he was set on the ones at the store, and in the end it was good that I had one less project to do. I threw out some colored pencils in cute buckets I already had, and I added a few plastic dinos as an afterthought of a decoration, and waloo! We were decorated.
We kept food simple, which was a good choice, because most of the kids didn’t eat much. I just bought dino-shaped chicken nuggets and served them with sweet potato fries and apples. I threw in some “swamp juice” (blue Gatorade) for fun, and the kids thought that was really funny.
Like I said above, the first thing the kids did was to color their choice of dinosaur. That way they had a “place” during the whole party that was their own to keep their food, drinks, party favors, etc. It was really nice to have them always know which seat was theirs anytime they needed it. Plus, it was a simple, low-key activity for them to do while we waited for all the kids to arrive.
Here are some of the other things we did:
Roll-a-Dino Action Game
Print and assemble a blank dice template (like this free printable one) and then write different dinosaur names and their actions on the various sides of the die. The ones I used were…
Run like a T-Rex
Spin like an Ankylosaurus
Stomp like a Stegosaurus
Swing your tail like a Brachiosaurus
Flap your wings like a Pterodactyl
Jump like a Triceratops (and, yes, I realize that it’s highly unlikely that triceratops jumped)
Have all the kids stand in a circle and take turns rolling the dice and doing whatever action lands face up. We did it so that one person rolled, and then all the kids did the action (that way everyone was constantly involved). This game worked great!
Stegosaurus, Stegosaurus, T-Rex!
This one is essentially Duck, Duck, Goose, but we used dinosaur names instead. It was really entertaining to watch, although I have to say, the kids REALLY struggled with the mechanics of the game. Which is part of what made it really entertaining.
Dino Egg Hunt
Little Man LOVES Easter egg hunts, so I thought it would be really fun to have a dinosaur egg hunt with the kids where they could find plastic eggs with mini dinosaur toys inside. I bought some cheap miniature dinosaur toys at Target, and put them inside plastic eggs left over from Easter. I had my husband hide them in the backyard, and I told the kids how many they were each allowed to find and keep in their dinosaur sacks (paper lunch bags…not fancy, but effective). They were so excited to open the eggs and find out what kind of dinosaurs “hatched.”
A couple of weeks ago, Little Man and I made some fossils out of salt dough (see tutorial here). It was a great activity for our home preschool, and I knew in the back of my head that it would work well for his birthday party, too. While the kids were inside eating cake, I had my husband hide the “fossils” in the sandbox (If you saw my Instagram post last week, you know the sandbox was Little Man’s birthday present…and it almost killed us to get it finished in time). The kids really got into digging for bones, teeth, and claws, and our “excavation” lasted a good 15-20 minutes!
The grande finale of the party activities was Little Man’s requested piñata. I did the classic paper-mache-over-a-balloon style piñata in the shape of a dinosaur egg. Little Man specifically wanted it to have purple polka dots, which I loved! It took some time to make, so you could totally buy one instead, but I preferred to save the money and make it essentially for free with materials I already had on hand. It’s a good, post-kids-bedtime project to work on while you binge on Netflix a little.
T-Rex Clean Up
This was the most random thing ever, but I think it was the kids’ favorite activity of the whole party! I wanted to get them to clean up all the candy wrappers and wrapping paper on the floor, but I knew I needed to make it a game, so I got a trash bag, told them it was a T-Rex and that T-Rexes loved eating trash. I told them to feed the T-Rex all the garbage they could find, and when they did, I “chomped” the bag open and closed and made eating noises. They thought it was hilarious, especially when I would chomp one of their hands in the process. Necessity is the mother of invention!
There were a few games that I had wanted to play, but I ran out of time to prepare them. One of them was this “Feed the T-Rex” game from Not Your Normal Steam.
Another was that I wanted to make “dinosaur feet” like these from Rainy Day Mum and have a relay race.
But, alas, life happened, and I just didn’t have time to make these last two happen this year. But, the kids didn’t know any better, and they still had a great time.
So that was our party! My first attempt at a kids’ party, and I think it went well. At least no one got hurt, and all the kids went home sugar-high and happy.
I’m curious, what tips do you have for throwing kids’ parties? Any ideas would be much appreciated since I’m sure this is only the first of many we’ll do over the years.
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