Sunday, March 8, 2015

Beach Bash Third Birthday Party

Benjamin is officially out of the toddler stage and into the "preschooler" stage. He's three.

We celebrated the weekend before his birthday and he celebrated again with his preschool class with pretentious, overpriced organic cupcakes. We also went to Cheesecake Factory and enjoyed not one, but two slices of cheesecake. They sang to him. He couldn't have felt more special. And then he tantrumed in the car because he didn't want to leave.

Months before his birthday, I began brainstorming ideas. I was walking through the aisles of Target one day with Claire (while Benjamin was at preschool) and spotted a clearance pinata.

I love pinatas. This one was an ice cream cone and just over $7. I snatched it up.

Now to plan a themed party around a pinata I bought on a whim. I immediately thought, pool party. Our basement has concrete epoxy flooring we had glazed and set a few years ago. No carpet, so I thought up a crazy idea to actually buy kiddie pools and make a mini splash party down there with real water! Concrete floors would be easy cleanup! Except, slippery. Total safety hazard and middle of freezing February. Meh. We'd be better off renting out the local indoor pool (which is a huge possibility for future parties). Actually, my husband vetoed the idea completely and he was right. Pool party, out.

Next idea. How about a beach-themed party? Because, I love the beach and I'm from the beach and know a thing or two about how to make that happen. It would go with the ice cream pinata still because it's summery and beachy. All I had at this point was a pinata. I bought 11 pounds of kinetic sand for his birthday present from Amazon anyway so I figured it could double as a party activity.

I wanted it to be somewhat of a sensory experience, just like a real beach. The rest just kind of pulled together.

The invite asked party guests to dress "beachy" and bring no gifts. They mostly got that right, but somehow I'm about to bust out at least 10 thank-you cards... (we did have a clever friend donate to Heal the Bay in Benjamin's honor, going with the theme. Cute!)

The Beach: kinetic sand
We tried to repurpose a lot of items we already had within the beach sensory experience. The plastic bin needed to be low depth for the kids to be able to reach, as I didn't want it on the floor because of the smallest party guests. Plastic bin from IKEA that I did actually buy specifically for the kinetic sand. Within the sand we threw in cookie cutters and some barrel nesting toys we already had (from E's childhood!) that make for great sandcastles! I don't recommend shovels or spoons in kinetic sand because it will find its way out of the bin quickly.

The Ocean: homemade flubber
I devoted at least 1.5 hours of naptime to this. I had about 25 clearance Up&Up brand glue bottles I bought at Target for $.03 (!) during back-to-school time. They went 90% off and I snatched them up, thinking we'd eventually use them or I'd plan to have flubber for the party. Initially thought to make flubber with the kids, but the coordinating of that and the messes and parent engagement wasn't sounding like a good idea. So, I made a bunch, dyed it blue, put it in an under-the-bed box we already had (low depth!) and called it ocean. I threw in more cookie cutters and random kitchen utensils and it was a huge hit. The whole batch cost me less than two quarters. We are still playing with it and my husband even commented that it's just as cool as the kinetic sand. Excited for back-to-school clearance this year like I am? 

Coral Reef: already owned kiddie pool with mini beach balls and colorful paper confetti
I knew this would be a big mess. It was. I knew the whole party would be. I predicted that. It was still fun and this was specifically chosen to be mostly for the littlest party guests, but I saw plenty of big-kid action. Note: don't put paper strips in flubber. You'll be picking it out for awhile. 

Seaweed: two packs of jumbo 32oz. cheap spaghetti, coated in oil + food coloring
I paid about $3.00 for two jumbo containers at Aldi. I cooked them up, colored them by hand (resulting in smurf hands...but only me as I made it... did not come off on kids!), oiled them up so they wouldn't stick together and threw them in our water table (minus the water). Was fun, but definitely a one-time-use thing. I felt a bit wasteful throwing it all away after 3 hours of use. Note: keep wet wipes on hand for that oil. Does make for a cool sensory experience, though.

Beach Ball Party Favors: beach ball bags filled with a container of glue (from that Target clearance haul!), measured borax in mini baggies and recipe to make your own flubber.
All 10 I made were about $2.50 total. I left these on the table, but should've warned that it is definitely something parents must help with. Borax is not safe for kids to handle alone. Guests also took home a bag of candy, temporary tattoos, playdough and fake mustaches from the pinata along with a lei for each of their kids.

Beach Sticker Scenes and Fingerprint Fish: I set the sticker scene and fingerprint fish at the table as a craft for kids who didn't want as much sensory or were done exploring.
Ended up being take-home items because kids just didn't sit down. Bought these from Oriental Trading on the cheap and while I liked them, they probably weren't necessary.

Decor: Not much here. Didn't buy much, just repurposed items we had. I did create nametags for each kid using $.33 letter pasta from the Hispanic section at the store and added a cute beach-themed sticker. These were on the table with the sticker scenes and fingerprint fish craft sheets. I remember feeling so special as a kid when my name was on a chair or party favor at birthday parties.
I hung his birthday faces and hats I made for his (and Claire's) first birthday parties like I do every year. I put up a Happy Birthday banner and suspended a jumbo sand shovel we already had along with a fun paper ball thing. I hung some flip flop sandals from the lamp and at the last minute, I made the signs for everything above (and colored them by hand!) because I felt we needed those to tie everything together so it made sense for all the guests like it did in my head. I cut out some freebie clip art images from Google of under-the-sea creatures, colored and hung them on the wall. I did hit up the Dollar Tree (um, $1 mylar balloons that are still kicking 15 days later!) because I knew Benjamin would feel super special with balloons, even if they were not party-themed.

Food: DIY sandwich bar
Consisting of King's Hawaiian rolls, pulled pork, sliced ham, sliced cheese, red onions, lettuce, tomato, lots of condiments, hummus, sliced pineapple, fruit skewers (strawberry/pineapple) and two sand buckets (we had but thoroughly cleaned) filled with Goldfish crackers and Pirate's Booty.

*We actually won a House Party and they supplied all the King's Hawaiian products and leis and bags for our guests to take home. I'm sure I've talked about House Party before, but it's a website that you can apply for a party and if you score it, they send you a box of fun swag and free products from companies to throw a party! You just have to take a photo with people who came along with the stuff to prove you shared the loot. The incentive for them is giving away product that costs them little without the need for expensive advertising and word of mouth spreads. King's Hawaiian was totally perfect for our beach theme! I've hosted 11 parties from Budweiser, DiGiorno, Fisher Price ($170 of free toys!), Sabra, LEGO, Dietz & Watson, Qdoba.... If you're interested in learning more, go here.

Dessert: Ice cream sundae bar + two-bite brownies from Costco. No cake. Hooray for easy.
Regretfully, we have NO pictures of this! I have one of a friend helping one of the kiddos with his ice cream selection, but none of the full spread. I'm so sad! Included: vanilla, strawberry, chocolate, birthday cake ice cream choices, sugar and regular cones, chocolate syrup, caramel syrup, maraschino cherries, crushed Reese's cup, crushed Butterfinger, sundae nuts, gummy bears (hit!), Swedish fish, m&m candies, whipped cream, two-bite brownies, sprinkles and premium Goose Island Root Beer for root beer floats. Probably more impressive for a group of 10-year-olds, but alas.

Beverages: regular and mini water bottles, apple juice boxes and beer for the adults (outside because it was colder than the inside of my fridge).

This was definitely a lot of (unintended) work, but such a labor of love. I know I say it a lot, but these things continue to be so important and so special to me as a parent. Sure, I could've rented a room at the local kid play-place or something. And in the future, we will (when Benjamin has an interest to choose himself... maybe next year?). But these first few years, I pour my heart and soul into their parties because I want them to feel so special. I missed this with Andrew. All of them. And on the heels of sister's big first birthday bash (nevermind that his was just as huge a hers for his 1st!), I wanted him to know how important he is. Also, he's been talking about his birthday since the fall and finally understands it. We're totally in the middle of serious terrible-two, punkass teenager stage and I don't ever want him to lose sight that we love him unconditionally and will go to great lengths to celebrate him despite this rough developmental growth period. Anyway. I've jabbered enough.

I'll let the pictures tell the rest of the story.

/// and with that, birthday season has officially ended. {December, January, February} ///


Caroline said... [Reply to comment]

Man, I wish we lived closer.

That's a lucky punk-ass threeanger you have. But really, these are big and awesome celebrations.

Mama Bear said... [Reply to comment]

You did such an awesome job!

Solange, Nik, Caitlin and Oliver said... [Reply to comment]

That is the cutest party ever!!!! I love all the sensory stations and signs everywhere….forever the teacher :)

Veronica said... [Reply to comment]

Hello amazingly talented and creative did so great!! You pulled it all together so well. You could throw a party like this for so many differnt ages, but this hits the nail on the head.

I'm so impressed how you threw all these ideas together and executed perfectly. Those pails and shoves for!!

I have a theme for Theo...but it looks like it's going to be a cake and shirt that pay tribute to it...I can't seem to get my act together to go all in this year. Or in at all, lol

Bravo brandy. I love all the celebrations for B. Love it when they feel like the most special people in the world. Because they kinda are xo