Party theme ideas from Suzanne Singleton, author of "Clever Party Planning²:
A Spring Party: Flower Power The Invitation Paper Flower: What better indication of springtime than a buzzing bee inside a flower? Cut out a construction paper flower shape and fold it in half. Add construction paper leaves and a stem. Party details will be written inside the flower and can be seen when the flower's flap is folded down. Add a bee inside a (draw it or use a sticker).
Felt Vase: Make a vase out of felt (two vase shapes glued together along the borders). Make individual construction paper flowers and stick them inside the vase. A party detail can be written on each flower.
What to Wear To add vibrant springy colors to this party, invite guests to wear flowered clothing and accessories, or clothes adorned with bees and colorful butterflies.
Decoration Ideas Tablecloth: Kids will be buzzing around the party table covered with a flowered tablecloth or a large piece of flowered fabric. For placemats, cut out larger flower shapes from various colors of paper placemats (found in party stores). Or, cut out large flowers from flower print contact paper and stick them onto paper placemats.
Fresh Flowers: Add a springtime aroma with vases of fresh flowers. Use as a centerpiece, and place them on the coffee table, in the kitchen, on the buffet table, and around the party area.
Decorate the Guests: Adorn their hair with fresh flowers held by bobby pins or cute barrettes in the shape of a bee, flower or butterfly.
Flower Face: Draw a huge, colorful flower on a large piece of foam board. Cut out the middle of the flower. Take instant pictures as guests place their faces through the hole. Give the photos as party favors.
Gardening Garnishes: Use painted watering cans as decor, placed beside flatbeds of flowers just waiting to be planted. Add gardening tools and gloves for a finishing touch.
Games & Activities to Play and Do Tablecloth Making - As bees are attracted to flowers, attract your guests to the table by asking them to draw on the tablecloth! Cover the party table with white butcher paper and instruct the children to draw and color bunches of flowers and spring scenes.
Face Paint - Each guest can have a colorful flower or butterfly painted on her cheek. Thumbprint Flowers - Give each guest a piece of white paper and have them use a colorful stamp pad to make thumbprint flower petals. Then instruct them to draw and color stems and leaves to complete their unique flower creations.
Does He Love Me? - Remember as a kid picking apart flowers while reciting, "He loves me, He loves me not?² Provide flowers for the girls to pick off the petals to see if they have found true love.
Pin the Bee - Using a felt board, play Pin the Bee using the same game rules as Pin the Tail on the Donkey. Make the pieces out of felt.
Follow that Flower - With safety pins, secure white pieces of drawing paper to every child's back and give everyone a bright colored crayon or marker. Line up the guests. A parent leads the group around the room (also with a piece of paper on her back), while everyone tries to draw a flower on the paper in front of her. A guaranteed giggler!
Craft Options Tissue Paper Flowers - Layer several pieces of large colored tissue paper. Fold them accordion style. Tie the middle of the stack with a pipe cleaner which serves as the flower's stem. One at a time, separate and fluff the layers of tissue until a blossom is formed.
Painted Pots - Provide everyone with paints and small clay flower pots. Have them paint the pots and set aside to dry. Later, have everyone fill the pots with dirt. Provide flower seeds or potted petunias for each guest to plant.
Gardening Gloves - Using fabric markers, personalize plain canvas gardening gloves with names and flower artwork. Sequins and gems can be added, too.
Coffee Filter Flower - Paint coffee filters with watercolors. When dry, push green pipe cleaners through the center for the stem. Draw the center of the flower, and add a small fabric bumblebee on a wire (find these in craft stores).
Peanut Bee - Paint peanut shells yellow with black stripes to make bumblebees. Glue on tissue paper wings and small movable eyes.
Clothes Pin Butterfly - Stack several sheets of small pieces of colored tissue paper (precut in shape of butterfly wings). Use painted wooden clothes pins to pinch the middle of the tissue paper stack to form the butterfly's body. On the clothes pin, glue on movable eyes and small pieces of pipe cleaner for the antennae.
Sunny Sunflower - Glue sunflower seeds all over a yellow paper plate. Glue short pieces (3²) of yellow crepe paper around the edges of the plate so they extend to resemble the sunflower's petals. For the stem, paint a paper towel roll green and hot glue it to the back of the plate. Glue green construction paper leaves to the paper towel roll.
Food & Treat Selections Flower Power Food - Use a can of squirt cheese to form flower designs on round crackers.
Cheese Flowers - Cut out pieces of cheese using a small flower cookie cutter. Add thin slices of celery for the flower stems and place cheese and celery together on a rectangular cracker.
Sweet Butterflies - Make a batch of sugar cookies in the shape of butterflies. Remove the dough from the inside of the wings and fill with colorful crushed hard candies. When baked, the candies melt and the cookies have a stained glass effect.
Cake Possibility Make "dirt² dessert using chocolate pudding and crushed chocolate cookies on top. Put these in individual ice cream cone "pots². Add gummy worms or plastic flowers. Or, make this dessert:
Dirt Dessert € large container of prepared whipped topping € 2- 8 oz. cream cheese € 2 large instant vanilla pudding € 1 cup powdered sugar € 3 cups milk € 2 teaspoons vanilla extract € 1 bag chocolate sandwich cookies € optional: 1 can cherry pie filling
Beat cream cheese and powdered sugar until smooth. Add pudding mix and milk and beat until smooth. Add whipped topping, vanilla and pie filling. Chill until set. Grind cookies in a blender. Layer cookies and creamed mixture in a large clean flower pot, ending with cookie crumbs on top. Refrigerate until served. Stick in artificial flowers.
Favors to Go Guests will be "sniffing² around to see what colorful items they will receive as party favors. Place stuffed bees, flower tattoos, flower stickers, and butterfly barrettes in small buckets or pretty planters. Wrap in colored plastic wrap, and tie on packs of sunflower seeds with colorful pipe cleaners.
A Summer Party: The Safari Club Follow the paw prints and hunt for big game in this Safari Club! This theme party is ideal to host in the picnic area on zoo grounds. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!
The Invitation Busy Box of Animals: For a hand-delivered invitation, write the details of the party on separate animal shapes and place inside a small box of animal crackers. For instance, make a paper giraffe silhouette and write the time. The address can be written on a paper monkey silhouette. Write the birthday child's name and age on an elephant shape, and the date can be written on a zebra shape. Add a few animal crackers for a yummy effect!
Jungle Jeep: Invite guests to frolic in the jungle, but first they'll need a Jeep to ride through the thicket. Write party details on a Jeep shape cut from tan card stock. Black moveable paper wheels can be added using brass fasteners. Use a rubber stamp to make paw prints around the border of the Jeep.
What to Wear To get close to the animals, children have to blend in with the color of the jungle! Ask them to wear animal print shirts, khaki pants, rope belts, or shirts printed with an animal picture.
Decoration Ideas Tablecloth: Lots of animal prints on this safari, especially on the table. Cover it with a large piece of animal print fabric and scatter around plastic zoo animals. Or, make a pattern out of a sheet of stenciling plastic (found in craft stores near stencil supplies) to resemble a paw print. Stencil paw prints all over white butcher paper using a black crayon or marker.
Jazzy Jeep: If you have a Jeep, park it near the party entrance and fill it with large stuffed animals and potted plants. Make zebra stripes on the Jeep with white shaving cream.
More Jungle: In the party area, arrange large plants and stuffed safari animals all around. Pitch a small tent. Play rainforest music.
Paw Prints: Using the same paw print stencil created for the tablecloth, stencil animal footprints with black chalk on an outside area surface (sidewalk, driveway, floor of pavilion).
Games & Activities to Play and Do Mascot Visit - Have an animal mascot such as a lion, bear, or tiger visit the party. Ask a local high school or college to send their mascot for a half hour or so.
Animal Display - Invite a local nature organization to display a live animal program of small creatures such as owls, snakes, reptiles, and birds.
What Animal Am I? - Cut out magazine pictures of animals and glue onto index cards. Kids pick a card and imitate the animal's sound until other kids guess the animal.
Egg Hunt- Before the party, make a batch of plastic eggs with the name of the animal written in marker on each egg. For instance, make a batch of "zebras,² a batch of "leopards² and a batch of "tigers.² Fill the eggs with animal crackers or candy and tape shut. Provide maps of the party area for the "safari hunters² to find the required eggs for their team. For instance, Team One (name them "The Canteens²) must find all the zebra eggs. Team two ("The Whiskers²) must find all the leopard eggs, and Team Three ("The Hunters²) must find all the tiger eggs. The eggs are then divided among the kids to take home.
Noah's Search - Assign animal names to each child, using two of each animal. At the start of the game, everyone imitates their assigned animal's sound as they prowl around the area. Each kid has to find a partner who is making the same animal sound. Once they do, they sit down to indicate they are finished.
Peanut Pitch - Paint an elephant (does not have to be elaborate) on plywood, foam board or an artist's canvas (found in art and craft stores.) Cut out a hole in the elephant's mouth. Provide peanuts in the shell and let the kids take turns trying to toss peanuts in the elephant's mouth.
Monkey Connection - Using the game "Barrel of Monkeys², see who can connect the most monkeys together in one minute.
Craft Options Safari Jeeps - Before the party, spray paint a few cardboard boxes white. Cut out the tops and bottoms. The kids can make the rest of the Jeep with materials such as green plastic foliage, black paper plates for wheels and the steering wheel, aluminum pie plates for headlights, and thick black markers to make zebra stripes.
Lion's Mane - Prepare orange party plates ahead of time by punching holes around the perimeter of each plate. Out of sticky-back felt, cut out triangles, circles, and whiskers for the lion's features. Provide gold, tan, and brown yarn for the kids to thread through the holes to make the lion's mane. Thread through more than one time to get a thicker mane.
Binoculars - Tape or hot glue together two toilet tissue paper rolls. Decorate the "binoculars² with animal stickers. Make straps out of yarn so the kids can wear them around their necks.
Safari Scene - On white paper, draw a simple Jeep and a safari scene which includes trees, plants, and a tent. Make enough copies for each guest. The kids color the scene and then glue on animal crackers to complete the picture.
Paper Zoo - Make paper bag animal masks or puppets. Provide crayons, glue, scissors, and yarn. For puppets, paper lunch bags are the perfect size. For masks, use paper grocery bags.
Glue a Zoo - Make collages of zoo animals on a poster board. Provide glue, scissors, and animal-related magazine photos.
Rope Belts - Provide thin lengths of rope (belt size) and various beads for the guests to string and make rope belts.
Food and Treat Selections Animal Cracker Fun - Dip animal crackers in whipped topping or icing for a roaring treat! You can also make miniature peanut butter and jelly sandwiches between two animal crackers.
What Is It? - Rename the food with animal names such as Ostrich Burger, Endangered Hot Dog, Panther Pizza, and Tiger Tails (cover cheese curls with chocolate icing stripes). Frozen chocolate covered bananas on a popsicle stick can be called Monkey Arms.
Jungle Fizz - In a blender, puree various pieces of fruit with ice for a refreshing fruit slushie. Just the thing to cool off after a hot safari ride!
Cake Possibilities Zebra Cake - Decorate any shaped cake in white icing. Add black jagged stripes to stimulate a zebra. Adorn with a miniature toy Jeep.
Tiger Cake - You can also decorate a cake to look like the head of a tiger. Use orange icing for the base color. With black icing, make tiger stripes across the cake. Use black shoestring licorice for whiskers and chocolate cookie wafers for the eyes.
Favors to Go Pack up the tents and Jeep - this safari expedition is over! Here are a few ideas for kids to continue their safari fun at home: fill pith helmets or animal masks (sold at zoos and nature stores) with rubber snakes, plastic animals, animal noses, squirt guns, toy canteens, boxes of animal crackers, zoo passes, or zoo membership applications and brochures. Check the zoo's gift shop for more animal-related favors.
SUZANNE SINGLETON is author of "Clever Party Planning² ($15.95); "Clever Gift Giving² ($9.95); and the upcoming "Clever Costume Creating², all published by Twenty-Nine Angels Publishing. To order, call 1-800-736-7729.