How to throw a themed birthday party – and stay sane!

Today we have a guest post on planning birthday parties from Kelly Yeats, a local mom with two lovely little girls Emma and Molly. Thanks Kelly! (If you're interested in writing a guest post for HRM Parent, please email Charmaine to chat about it –

Ladybug cakeI have to admit that I love planning and throwing birthday parties for my two daughters. Call it a form of creative expression, call it pure insanity, but I derive great satisfaction from making my girls’ “special days” just a little bit extra special.

Let me start by saying that I’m not a “professional” by any stretch of the imagination. I’m just a “regular mom” with a cake decorator, a hot glue gun, and internet access. That’s really all you need to throw your kid a fun birthday party that you pulled off yourself.

It all began with my youngest daughter’s first birthday. I’d done a Dora the Explorer theme the year before when my older daughter turned two – which amounted to a few over-priced paper plates, napkins, and decorations, and frankly, left me feeling a little bit empty. Granted, at that point I had a newborn in the house, so I was lucky to have the time or the inclination to do more than run out and grab a cake from the grocery store at the last minute and call it good.

By the time my baby was turning one, I was ready to put a little more effort into the birthday party experience. After a bit of online research, I decided on a simple “ladybug theme” to celebrate our daughter’s first birthday. It was such a simple theme – I made home made invitations in the shape of ladybugs. I decorated with red and black decorations and streamers, and made my very own ladybug cake. Instead of going “all out” with treat bags (we’re talking one year olds, after all), I just whipped up some ladybug shaped fridge magnets (so simple just using several circles cut from craft foam mounted on cardboard with a magnet attached to the back) and passed them out to everyone who attended.

Purple Spider PartyOver the years, our birthday party themes have been everything from a pretty typical “Castle Party” to a less conventional “Purple Spider Party” (yes, my youngest does “think outside the box”, thanks for noticing). I’ve had lots of fun with each and every one of them. The best part is that it’s really easy to throw your kid a do-it-yourself “themed” birthday party without spending a whole lot of money doing it. The internet is full of resources. My favourite party planning site is Birthday Pary Ideas. Readers submit their own ideas and suggestions for various birthday party themes. The list is huge, and while you may not find a “Purple Spider Party”, you’re likely to find just about anything else you’re looking for. It’s easy to read through the list, take ideas here and there, and put your own spin on them to suit your own child’s preference and personality. I’ve relied heavily on this particular site over the years. Shh…don’t tell my kids.

Pulling off a themed party is so easy. Once you’ve decided on a theme, a few quick trips to the dollar store and the craft store, and likely you’ll fSpider cupcakesind everything you need. I’m by far a “crafty” person, but I’ve made most our party invitations over the years with a few simple scrapbooking supplies and a few ideas borrowed from the internet. Cake making has been the biggest adventure for me so far. I’ve discovered that it’s not nearly as difficult as it looks to decorate a cake, and that a little practice goes a long way. I’ve also found that cupcakes are a great option if the idea of a whole cake intimidates you. I made the most adorable looking purple spider cupcakes with some purple frosting, marshmallows, m&ms, and licorice laces.

The best advice that I can hand out when it comes to throwing birthday parties is to keep it fun for you as much as for the kiddos. After all, they’re really interested in the cake and ice cream more than anything, and the last thing they need is a stressed out parent. So have fun! And remember to take lots of pictures…

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