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BIRTHDAY PARTIES: A GRAB BAG OF IDEAS

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by Terry Lowenstein

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Birthday party! When these two words are heard by children, they are usually met with cries of excitement and feelings of anticipation. But these same words can cause stress and anxiety as well. Experience is often the best teacher, and parties that are a success are ideas worth sharing…

Over the years I have often coordinated our party theme with newly released videos. The movies provide extra entertainment for the guests, and help to set a theme. A few years ago, for my oldest daughter's party, we chose Disney's Mulan. I used Chinese takeout containers as "party bags". These were bought for a minimal cost at our nearby Chinese restaurant. Among the party favors were chopsticks, Chinese jump ropes, and Chinese paper yo-yos. As well as watching the movie, the girls made a craft, gluing silk flowers to hair combs (with adult supervision). And in addition to the usual cake and ice cream, we had snack size egg rolls. The party was a huge success. Disney's Little Mermaid video was the theme for a pool party. The "party bags" were plastic buckets filled with a beach ball (to be inflated later) and a floatie (also non-inflated). Among the snacks were salt-water taffy and dolphin crackers. I made the cake and frosted it with icing, mixed with blue food coloring. But I chose not to mix the frosting completely, so the sections of white added to the realism of the "water". Then we placed a collection of characters from the movie on top. An aquarium (one of the gifts) was left unfilled and into this the party guests placed their presents. This served as a unique decoration as well. Scattered inside among the presents were small shell containers that held another party surprise — shell bracelets, purchased from a local party store. The story of Cinderella provided the theme for a party that is still among my favorites. Plastic pumpkins were filled with an assortment of candies, and themed coloring books were teamed up with crayons as party favors. The cake was decorated with a large pumpkin, and an assortment of characters from the movie decorated the top. Ceramic pumpkins (usually used to decorate for fall) held chips and pretzels. Unique containers for party favors can be a great item at birthday parties. Among my favorites are a plastic flowerpot filled with treats hidden beneath a silk flower (I also include flower seeds to be planted later as one of the party favors). Small pizza boxes, obtained from a local pizza restaurant, conceal crayons, coloring books, and candy. Another year, in lieu of party hats, I purchased cowboy hats, and hidden beneath, wrapped in a red bandanna, were candy and a sheriff star. Remembering to say ‘thank you’ and to encourage my children to send thank you cards was the motivation behind a party favor we used one year. When my daughter was a toddler, I came up with an idea that proved to be a hit among the kids she played with. After the party, my daughter and I baked sugar cookies together and wrote in icing the words, "Thank you", on each cookie. Later, we delivered our edible thank you cards around our neighborhood to those who had been our guests. Among the comments: "This is the best card I ever had." If you can plan the next birthday party theme in advance, you can often pick up special items during the year at special prices. At last year's birthday party, with a harvest theme, I was able to buy cornucopias at a discounted price and these served as the "party bags". We played apple bobbing. And popcorn shared the table with grapes and an assortment of fall-shaped candies.

This year, we're planning a garden party theme for my oldest daughter's birthday; and my youngest wants a party based on her favorite books, The Magic Attic Club.


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