The activities were my favorite part of planning this party, and a Toy Story theme lent itself perfectly to it. I planned seven game stations, stationed throughout the house so people could be playing at the same time and then rotate through. I made simple signs using a crayon-like font, attaching a solid-colored cardstock sheet to the back to add some color. I also let Owen get involved with the party prep by adding Toy Story stickers to the signs.
(One last-minute idea I had, that I didn’t execute: since Toy Story is part of the Disney family, it would be cute to create Disneyworld ride passes or tickets that guests have to get stamped or stickered as they play each station. The first person with all stations stamped, or with a certain number of stamps, gets a prize – like going through the buffet line first.)
Pin-the-Part on Mr. Potato Head
This was really simple, and like most of these activities, Owen was able to play with and enjoy it long after the party. I bought a yard of blue and a 1/2 yard of tan felt at JoAnn’s (found in the fabric section – I actually found the tan felt in the clearance remnants section!), and grabbed several colored sheets (white, black, red, pink) of felt from the craft aisle.
I used the potato head templates HERE, enlarging them as needed, then printing them onto freezer paper for easy cutting (for details, see THIS post on how I made Owen’s Halloween cape). I sewed the potato head body to the center of the blue felt, then cut out the accessory pieces. I didn’t sew a border around the accessory pieces, or add any details to them like shoelaces, but you certainly could. I added grommets to the top and hung it using small clear Command hooks.
To play: blindfold your participant, spin them a couple of times, then hand them the potato head accessories and let them try to put them in the right place. Felt sticks to felt, so as long as you pat them down, they’ll stick until you move them again.
Bullseye’s Horse Race
Simple and fun. I bought two inflatable stick horses from Oriental Trading, and used plain crepe paper streamers — which I had in my stash from a previous party — to make a finish line. You could include some cowboy hats, too, or get some brown yarn and add “reins.”
To play: first one to break the streamer wins! Horse sounds optional. Alternative ideas: set specific challenges, like riding backwards, riding while counting or singing the alphabet, riding while moving your feet heel-to-toe, etc.
Buzz’s Galaxy Bowling
I bought a cheap plastic bowling set from Amazon.com and added glitter star stickers, found on clearance at Hobby Lobby, to the balls and pins. I also got glow-in-the-dark bracelets to put over the pins’ necks, but forgot to get them out!
To make the bowling lane, I used a long sheet of cardboard I had at the house (it came when we had to order new window screens, bonus) and covered it with white, then neon purple, then neon green, duct tape (found at Walmart). I drew the triangle hash marks on one end with a purple Sharpie. It would be neat to play this in a darkened room with a blacklight or disco ball, if you have the space.
To play: follow regular bowling rules (each person gets two rolls, etc.).
Woody’s “There’s a Snake in My Boot” Throw
This was probably Owen’s favorite. My husband gets all the credit, as I was prepared to just use a bucket with a picture of a boot glued to the front. He started with a small plastic bucket found in the Lowe’s paint aisle, and wrapped a piece of white poster board around it to form a tall tube, then used another piece of poster board to make a boot shape on one side. He covered the whole thing with kraft paper using clear packing tape. I was afraid to decorate it further, lest I ruin it with my subpar drawing ability, but you could also add a cactus outline and spurs (out of yellow cardstock or poster board), too.
To play: decide how far away participants can stand from the boot, and use painter’s tape or masking tape to mark the starting line. Hand them a bucket of rubber snakes and see how many they can successfully toss into the boot. Keep point totals, if you’d like, or play in teams, or best two out of three — or just play for fun. Must shout “There’s a snake in my boot!” at the end of each round.
Jessie’s Lasso Toss
My husband used a leftover piece of MDF and cut it to a 30×30” square, then used 1” dowel rods from Lowe’s, cut to size, and screwed into the bottom. He made the middle dowel a bit taller than the others.
I used paint pens in Jessie’s outfit colors (yellow, brown and red) and decorated around the rods, giving them different point values based on ease. We used twine found at JoAnn’s tied into a circle as the “lassos.” I wish we had started this a smidgen earlier and spent more time decorating it — I still felt like it was a bit plain. I’d also have liked to make the lassos more substantial, maybe braided, so they were easier to throw, but it was still a fun game. Owen was content to just carry the lassos around or use them while dancing.
To play: decide how far away participants can stand from the dowels, and use painter’s tape or masking tape to mark the starting line. Hand them the lassos and see how many they can get around the dowels, which are assigned different point values based on ease. Half points awarded for lassos that get stuck on top of the dowels. Must shout “Yee-haw” with each successful throw.
Rex’s Dinosaur Stomp
This was super cute — it plays like a cake walk. I freehanded 10 dinosaur footprints and cut them out of scrapbook paper in different shades of green, then used a number template I made using my Silhouette to color in numbers with a large permanent marker. I attached them in a circle to the floor using painter’s tape, and downloaded songs from the three Toy Story films to make a playlist on my iPod. Songs included:
“You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” various versions
“Strange Things” by Randy Newman
“I Will Go Sailing No More” by Randy Newman
“When She Loved Me” by Sarah McLachlan
“We Belong Together” by Randy Newman
“Hoy Un Amigo En Mi” by Gipsy Kings
I forgot to make corresponding number cards for the moderator to choose from, so we just had the person serving as moderator close their eyes while people were walking and then choose a number when someone else stopped the music. But cards would have been easier.
To play: Have participants choose a footprint to stand on. When you start the music, players walk from footprint to footprint in the circle; when you stop the music, players halt on the footprint they’re closest to, and the moderator draws a number between 1 and 10. The player standing on, or closest to, the drawn number wins a prize. If there’s a tie (say, the number drawn is five and there are players on four and six), the winner is the person who’s youngest. You could also use these same footprints and do hopscotch, instead, or even a version of Mother May I (take two dinosaur stomps, etc.).
Etch’s Coloring Station
This was another of my favorites. I printed out an assortment of free Toy Story coloring pages found through a Google image search and set them up with a bucket of crayons for guests to color.
A tip: splurge for the real Crayolas; I bought the cheap big box of crayons, but they were super waxy, washed out and hard to color with. Crayolas would have made a difference.
I had this serve as the guest book, with each guest instructed to color and sign at least one page for the birthday boy, and leave a message on it. After the party, I added some pages Owen colored himself, along with a cover page and some pages of movie quotes that applied to little boys/birthdays/growing up, and had them laminated and spiral-bound at Kinko’s as a keepsake. (You could also scan them and create a photo book, instead, also adding images from the party.) This would be a great way to have a “virtual” party – just mail a page to each guest and have them return it to you.
Hands down, this was my favorite part of the party! I now feel the need to design photo booths for every. single. event. Really, really easy to execute and it was a blast. We set it up in the living room where there was plenty of room to move around and have an audience, along with two large picture windows for plenty of light.
I made the backdrop using THESE instructions for how I made the party logo backdrop.
For photo props, I printed out several movie quotes (“Yee-haw!” “To infinity, and beyond!” etc.) in word bubbles, along with some character accessories, like a cowboy hat, sheriff’s badge, pig’s snout and alien eyes, on white cardstock. I laminated them for stability and durability, and then hot-glued thin wooden dowels, cut to size, to the back side. (Here’s a printable version.) I also threw in some inflatable Buzz Lightyear wings that I found in the post-Halloween clearance, and a couple of Woody-style bandannas.
For the Etch a Sketch frame, I used a standard-sized piece of white foam board. I cut a square out of the center, using a ruler to get straight lines but freehanding how big it should be. I left a bit more room on the bottom to include the logo. I used spray adhesive to attach a sheet of red poster board on top, then cut out the middle again. I used two white water-bottle caps, with the tops painted white to disguise the letters, as the Etch a Sketch handles – I attached them with craft glue. For the logo, I printed out the Etch a Sketch logo (found using Google image search) and then traced over it with a ballpoint pen onto the red posterboard. Since I used foam board, the tracing left enough of an indentation that I could easily fill in the lettering accordingly. I used a brown Sharpie to do the background shadows, and a gold paint pen for the actual letters.
To take the pictures, I set up my camera on its tripod, and let people either have someone else take the picture or use my camera remote to do it themselves. It was easily the biggest hit of the party and we got some awesome shots.
I created a photo and video slideshow in iMovie of Owen’s past year. (It ran about 40 minutes! We had a busy year. I also planned for it to loop throughout the party, but a lot of people (read: grandparents) did sit down and watch it once through. Bless them.) It was a lot of fun and I love having it, and plan to do it each year from now on, party or not. It’s also a great gift to give to grandparents and others – just burn more copies. The soundtrack included:
“Sweet Pea” by Amos Lee
“Beautiful Boy” by Ben Harper
“You Are the Best Thing” by Ray LaMontagne
“You Are My Sunshine” by Ray Charles
“If I Didn’t Have You” by Randy Newman
“Here Comes the Sun” by Landon Austin
“God Only Knows” by Natalie Maines
“Smile (Acoustic Version)” by Uncle Kracker
“Forever Young” by Bob Dylan
“Say Hey (I Love You)” by Michael Franti
I’m a big fan of both thanking your guests for taking the time, and making the effort, to attend your celebration, but I also think it’s important to give them something they’ll actually like and use as a favor. It’s the thought that counts, but I’ll be thinking about your event a lot longer if I’m still using my parting gift.
Since all (that’s right: ALL) of our party guests traveled from out of town, I purchased a set of travel mugs from Shindigz.com with the event name and date. I made a sign (using THESE digital scrapbooking papers from Delightful Digitals on Etsy) that played off a line in the first Toy Story: “We are eternally grateful you traveled to celebrate with us today.” I put it in an Ikea Tolsby frame and added an alien figurine next to the cup display for guests to take on their way out. It was a hit, with several guests using the cups to hold water or coffee as they hit the road.
I also feel strongly about teaching Owen not only the importance of giving back, but how that is actually played out in everyday situations, and how it can take many different forms – but still have an impact. Since his birthday is shortly before the holiday season, and the party theme was toy-based, I made a contribution to our local Toys for Tots branch in honor of our guests. (You can donate easily online HERE.) I created a quick card alerting guests to the donation and put them inside each travel mug. I used printable business cards, since I had some in my stash, but you could print these on cardstock and cut out yourself for the same effect.
Whew! Planning a party this involved could have been stressful, but it truly wasn’t. I spaced out my planning over several months, spent a lot of time brainstorming so I felt confident with my choices, and tried to be as flexible as possible on “game day.”
Everyone enjoyed themselves, and the birthday boy felt loved. Everything else is just icing on the (birthday) cake.