DIY Kids’ Birthday Parties: Looking for Inspiration

We are about to embark on Silly Season: that time of year when my little chickens hatched, one after the other, in April, May and June.  Three months of birthday planning and parties are ahead of me, and I am already behind!

I really enjoy hosting the kids’ parties at home.  Beth-Anne recently posted this list of tips from Alyson Schafer to our facebook page (via The Mabelhood) about hosting a party for kids at home.  It’s got lots of sound advice, and I especially liked how Schafer spelled out present etiquette: decide ahead of time if you will open presents at the party or after.  If you open them during the party, make sure the birthday child thanks each guest individually; if you open them after the party, make sure the birthday child sends a thank you note acknowledging the gift.  I like my kids to open the gifts after the guests have gone home, and I’m glad to know that it calls for an extra thank-you.

In the past, we’ve had parties at which we put on plays, parties with a fencing instructor, and, of course, sleepovers that featured very little sleep.  Beth-Anne has hosted a fabulous Ninja Party, and Carol has written about a horrible birthday party and the perils of trying to make everybody happy.

As I cast about for ideas for this year’s crop of parties, I keep coming back to the loot bags for inspiration.  I love putting loot bags together, and I usually find a book that works with the theme of the party: knights, magic, fairy tales.  My kids make bookmarks with a drawing and a note of thanks, and that goes into the book with each guest’s name printed at the top.  Add a sweet treat, bundle it up, and you’re done!

This year I’m putting the cart before the horse and looking at books that have inspired me recently and that could give me a theme:

charlieCharlie’s Dirt Day

written by Andrew Larsen

illustrated by Jacqueline Hudon-Verrelli

We could get the kids to paint flower pots, fill them with dirt and a plant and send them home with a good read and a green thumb.  Between the painting of the pot and the planting of the plant, there could be the kind of birthday chaos that is best enjoyed with a short shelf life.

lifeLife Doesn’t Frighten Me

by Maya Angelou

Paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat

We’ve been twice to see the Basquiat exhibit at the AGO.  Both times, Littlest and Middlest got busy getting their art on.  The first time they sketched, the second time they sculpted, getting inspiration from the art on the walls.  We could do an art activity and get the kids to create their own signature motif, like Basquiat’s crown.


birdsOur Woodland Birds

written and illustrated by Matt Sewell

I can’t get enough of Matt Sewell’s bird illustrations.  They are an amazing balance of being entirely his own style while being reliable enough representations to help you identify the bird.  Littlest and I sat down yesterday to paint, a luxury afforded by the slowly tapering end of hockey season, and he painted an homage to Matt Sewell.  We could give the kids sketch books and pencils and make bird art.


gavin's bird






Argh, Matey! A Pirate Themed Party

My son celebrated his birthday on April 1.  If ever there was a person more suited to sharing his birthday April Fools, I have yet to meet them.

My mostly vivacious, sometimes naughty and definitely charismatic son turned 4 and with it came a request to have a pirate themed party. And everyone had to dress-up.  Even the grandparents.

There are some great party blogs that offer advice on everything from frugal decorations to menu planning to easy-to-coordinate games.  Some of my favourites are:

The Party Dress

Passion For Parties

The Hostess With The Mostess

Martha Stewart

Here are some pictures from the party.  Hopefully they serve as inspiration for your next ‘do.

A piñata stuffed with loot served as the centerpiece.  The boys had a great time smashing it open and collecting their booty!

I used an old wine bottle case as a treasure chest and stuffed it with costume jewelry and gold covered chocolates.  It made for a simple centerpiece on one of the tables.


It’s been years of kitchen disasters but I am happy to say that I am making progress.  These cupcakes are from a mix but I made the icing myself.  The pirate flags and cupcake wrappers are Wilton.

My sister-in-law who knows her way around the kitchen made these pirate cake-pops.  Check out the detail on the face and the cinnamon heart as the knot in the bandana.  I am waiting for her put her recipes together and make a cookbook or start a blog.

And my final effort was the pirate ship cake that I made for my little Captain.   It was surprisingly easy to make, cut up and serve.

What are some of your favourite party blogs?  With three kids, and a large extended family, there is always a reason to have a party.  Please share your go-to resources.