Annnnnd I’m back! With something worthwhile to show for my blogging absence (aside from having a house that’s messy but still standing and a family that’s busy but still happy). Last week, I hosted a birthday party for our oldest, who is now a big four-year-old. In honor of his love of elephants — and his bonafide BIG-boy status — we held Owen’s Big Birthday Bash: Elephants on Parade.
It was a BIG hit. (He. He.)
I found so many baby shower or first birthday elephant party themes online, but nothing for older birthdays, so a lot of what I invented was a new frontier. The party’s color scheme was navy, light blue, light gray and white, with chevron and large polka dot accents.
I found a fabulous graphic design shop on Etsy, Paper Clever Party, to custom design the invitations, which I wrote the wording for:
Our BIG boy is turning 4
Wait ‘til you see what we’ve got in store!
Please join us for a TON of birthday fun
This party will be HUGE So don’t be a Scrooge
They also created matching water bottle wraps, favor tags, buffet cards and thank you notes. I was also able to use the polka-dot invitation backing as the background for station signage I created myself in PhotoShop (see Tolsby frames, below).
The tables received navy blue tablecloths with a gray-and-white chevron runner, which I made in about 15 minutes using fabric from JoAnn’s that I used peel-and-stick hem tape on. You could certainly get all formal and fancy and sew them, but I don’t have that kind of time these days. On the main table, I used a light-blue-and-white-polka-dot runner for variety. Full disclosure: I didn’t even hem that one. I just folded it over. #sorrynotsorry #keepingitreal
I found navy and gray paper pinwheels from Dress My Cupcake on flash deal site Pick Your Plum (note: They were super cute and easy to assemble, but the adhesive they were manufactured with didn’t stick at all, so I ended up using hot glue to keep the pinwheels fanned out.) I hung them with clear fishing wire over a plain blue twin-sized flat sheet from Walmart, which was attached near the ceiling with heavy-duty Command hooks. In a perfect world — or at least one where I am sleeping more than 3 hours per stretch every night — I would have ironed it, too.
I chose two of my favorite Owen pictures from the past year, edited them to black and white, and had them printed at 16×20” via Shutterfly, using several promo codes and $20 off coupons I’d saved up, so they were only about $5 shipped. I used spray adhesive to mount them on thin white foam board, and also hung them using clear fishing wire. The white elephant in the middle is freehand cut from plain poster board, and in retrospect I would have made it bigger and/or added a circle around it. Ah well. We threw some DIY helium balloon bunches on the side as well.
For centerpieces, I made DIY elephant topiaries after seeing something similar on Etsy by way of Pinterest. I bought the gray poms from PomVillage on Etsy and cut out the ears/trunk from a paper plate elephant craft template I found in a Google search HERE. The eyes are stick-on google eyes I found at Michael’s. I hot glued everything together, then hot-glued it to a wooden dowel rod I spray-painted gray. (I bought two of them at Lowe’s and cut them to size.) The whole shebang is stuck through a styroforam half-ball that’s sitting in a small terra cotta pot (also from Lowe’s), both of which were painted like the dowel. I found the most adorable paper mache elephants at JoAnn’s and spray painted them gray and light blue for both the main table and one of the side tables.
I used the ever-popular (for a reason) white Tolsby frames from IKEA to display station signs. Overused? Maybe, but I still love, love the clean look and ease of use (and re-use).
I got the guest of honor’s T-shirt from Doodlebug Embroidery on Etsy, and was able to customize the elephant’s fabric to match the party’s chevron scheme.
We kept the fare simple since we were feeding a crowd of out-of-town visitors (and have I mentioned the not sleeping thing?) Lunch was a DIY sandwich bar, complete with an elephant-shaped sandwich cutter and juice boxes disguised as elephants (based on a Pinterest find). The dinner lineup included Jumbo Ravioli Bake (Three bags frozen ravioli, covered in two jars sauce and baked for about an hour at 375 degrees; I added Italian seasoning, fresh mozzarella and basil leaves on top and broiled for 5 minutes on a friend’s recommendation. We’re still enjoying the leftovers!), Gigantic Family Salad and “Elephant Ear” Bread.
I ordered sugar cutout cookies from my favorite local baker in the shape of elephants and number 4 in the same colors as the invites, and an 8” double-layer cake also based on the invite design. Both lasted a day or two after the party, which pleased the birthday boy to no end. Bottled water with custom elephant wraps completed the menu; we also created a signature cocktail, Pachyderm Punch, that consisted of cranberry Sierra Mist and vodka, for the really big kids :).
The crafts and games were my favorite part of this party. I found printable elephant coloring pages by searching Google, and even found create-your-own-story pages featuring Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie characters. I got some elephant-shaped crayons from Diddy Colours on Etsy, too.
There was a make-your-own elephant mask station, and a Pose with a Pachyderm photo booth where partygoers could snap a selfie with an elephant. The prop lineup included famous pachyderms like Babar, Horton, Willems’ Elephant (and Piggie), Jumbo, the elephant from Jerry Smath’s But No Elephants, and Dumbo.
I also made a few quote cards featuring sayings from those books/movies, as well as some hashtags, because it’s 2015, my friends. We had story time with books featuring these characters as well.
Owen opened his gifts by playing a version of the White Elephant Exchange game, where I assigned each gift grouping a number on an elephant sticker and let him choose which number he wanted to open first, and so on.
The most popular game, though, was my Elephant in the Room scavenger hunt. My dear husband crafted nearly a dozen colorful origami elephants (using THIS YouTube video tutorial), which we then hid Easter-egg style around the house. It was such a hit that we’re (a) still playing it nightly, and (b) have already given it some twists, like find-the-elephant-in-the-dark-using-just-a-flashlight. I made hunt checklists (download mine HERE; or, just Google elephant silhouettes and drop into a Word doc), where you could either color in the elephants you’re hunting in advance and check them off as you find them, or have kids take crayons with them and color them in themselves as they locate elephants. Last, we played a couple rounds of Memory, playing off an elephant’s impeccable one.
The final touches were mini notepad favors — which I found in white and gray in the dollar section of Michael’s and packaged in cello bags with gray chevron ribbon — because “an elephant never forgets,” and a new Elephant and Piggie book — I Am Invited to a Party! — for guests to sign with a birthday message.
I have a feeling there will be elephant detritus around my house through the holidays — there will certainly be party toys strewn across my floor long past then — but I have one happy four-year-old. With a new baby in the house, it was about time he had a day (ahem, weekend) all to himself.
Even if the baby did try and steal the show with a “Mommy’s Little Peanut” shirt :). (The elephant jokes…they just keep coming.)
You can also check out this party on Catch My Party!