Do it yourself, don't break the bank. That's my motto for birthday parties. Each year, I plan, create and decorate the parties for my little ones — Bobby, soon-to-be 9, Alejandra, 4, and Gabriella, 16 months. And I've learned that as long as you keep it simple, you're golden. One year, we doubled our family Easter egg hunt with Alejandra's spring-themed birthday party. We made baby chicks from feathers and plastic eggs and wore bunny ears while hitting a donkey piñata. Kids don't care how much you spend as long as it's fun. For birthday party inspiration, we asked several local moms to share their DIY ideas. Here's what they said:
Omahan Angela Allen, 31, and son Bryce were fascinated by Dr. Seuss' "The Lorax” film, so they planned his fifth birthday party around the movie.
“I enjoyed the good message it provided,” Allen said. “I started looking for Lorax party supplies at the local party outlets and was unable to find anything. So I started to figure out what I could do on my own.”
Her son does not like cake so she decided on "dirt cup" treats. At that point the party evolved away from the Lorax theme to a “Dirt Party.”
She used green cups and a green spoon for the dirt cups. On the tip of the spoon she placed flower stickers that she found in the scrapbook aisle at a store to make it look like there was a flower coming out of the ground. For the gift bags, she bought flower seeds for the kids to grow.
“I included instructions printed at the local photo shop on how to grow the seeds, one section of an egg carton and dirt all in a brown paper lunch sack. I like to include items in the gift bags that the kids will be able to use,” Allen said.
Omahan Katrina Olsen, 33, is quite the party planner. Her most memorable are rock-star, co-ed sports and hero parties for her two children — daughter Kamryn Olsen, 9, and son Korben Kilgas, 5.
“I particularly enjoy planning and throwing DIY birthday parties, because I have the flexibility to make the party unique and memorable,” she said.
For the rock star party, she laid out a red carpet using red cellophane, and had a red-carpet photo shoot for the guests.
The girls voted for their favorite costume, with the winner receiving a Justin Bieber poster.
They had a limbo contest.
“I know it's not rock star, but we played rock-star music with it,” Olsen said. “We were also going to do musical chairs but ran out of time.”
She used the Wii game console. Guests played Disney's “Sing It Wii” and “Just Dance.” She rented additional controllers from Family Video for $1 each.
She made a walk of fame with oversized stars. The girls were able to decorate them and take them home as an additional souvenir.
“Party favors consisted of sunglasses, bracelets and a mix CD that I made for the event,” Olsen said. “I burned a copy of ‘Kamryn's Eighth Birthday Party Soundtrack' for each guest and made a CD cover for each, listing all the songs.”
As for the sports-themed, co-ed party, she rented meeting space at Elkhorn Common Ground, since her daughter wanted to invite her entire third-grade class and soccer friends — 28 kids. Olsen worked her magic to keep the party cost-effective and fun. She spent about $50 for two hours of rented space, and had additional costs for decorations, food and party favors.
She facilitated games in the gym for the first half of the party. They played kickball, dodgeball and a school game. Then the group went swimming. (Those who did not want to swim played foosball, ping pong and air hockey in the game room).
Party favors included a personalized water bottle, whistle, fruit snacks, etc.
She had a superhero party for her son's fifth birthday celebration. She purchased superhero masks for each guest (such as Thor, Captain America, Spider-Man, Green Lantern, Wolverine and Ironman), which also served as their party favors. The boys selected their masks as they arrived.
“They would have just run around and played superheroes the entire party and been fine, but I did carve out time for some activities,” Olsen said. “We went on a team mission (a scavenger hunt) to find their superhero weapons. I wrote up a story line that involved my daughter being the super villain who stole their weapons. They followed each clue, which ultimately led them to their weapons.”
The party was a hit, and Olsen said parents have told her their children still wear their masks.
Omahan Megan Kelly Rayer said she went with an Elmo theme when her son, Carson, had his second birthday.
While her party looked elaborate, she didn't spend much. A friend made the cake and birthday outfit (an Elmo shirt, diaper cloth and pant set), and another dressed as Elmo to take pictures with children at the party.
“I made the birthday sign and party favors myself,” she said. “I painted wooden blocks to look like Elmo, and glued a picture holder on the back. That way each child had a way to hold their picture with Elmo.”
The birthday sign was made with a Cricut cutting machine. So were the party bags, picture holders and Carson's birthday boy hat.
“We gave the kids live goldfish (their own Dorothy),” she said.
She switched gears for his third birthday when she hosted a pirate party, complete with a giant pirate ship, treasure dig, and pirate costumes for each of the kids. She styled and made those outfits, too.
Omahan Jessica Remington loves planning parties.
“Birthday parties, baby showers, girls' night in ... anything that can require a bit of creativity and thinking outside the box is fun to me. I also love to save money and feel hosting parties at home helps me do that,” she said.
“Venue-based parties are really nice and my kids enjoy going to them, but there is something about me that loves all things DIY. I also love that I can spend less than $100 and have a party my kids will love and talk about for months afterwards.”
When her middle child, Jackson, was about to turn 4, he was big into robots, an easy party theme.
“He was very excited to see some of his drawings ‘come to life' as we planned and prepared for his party,” she said. “Together we designed a robot to use on a shirt for him, we designed a fun cake, and planned games. He came up with the idea of ‘Ro-doh' for a Play-Doh label and a bean bag toss game where we tossed them into a giant robot.”
The bean-bag toss was the party favorite until the cardboard was so beat up it wouldn't stand straight.
“I love seeing my boys' minds work on coming up with neat things to help them celebrate their big day,” she said.
“A birthday party is about celebrating one of your greatest gifts and accomplishments, your child. As long as your child knows he or she is loved, then it doesn't matter if your cake is lopsided and the candles you found for the top were a little bit dusty and used.”
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