My youngest just celebrated his third birthday. Thank you to Steph for letting me share his special day with you here!
When my oldest son turned one, we went all out. We had a big party with family and friends, handmade decorations, a buffet of home cooked food, generous favor bags for the kids, and a homemade cake that I spent hours decorating. Now here we are – two kids and nine birthdays later. It is still really important to me that my boys get to celebrate in a way that feels special, but as a mother of two my time and energy are admittedly more limited these days. I have a new appreciation for the fact my mom pulled off 3 kids’ birthday parties in 3 months, every year. (Thanks, Mom!) Fortunately, I have learned a really important lesson over the past few years: It doesn’t take a whole lot to make my kids happy on their special day.
I learned that little kids are just as happy with store bought decorations as homemade ones, and maybe more so, if the decorations involve their favorite characters. They are just as happy running around the back yard with their friends as they are playing organized games. And the fancy buffet is more for the adults than the kids. I love perusing Pinterest to see the amazing things parents create for their kids’ birthdays, but it really isn’t necessary. If you enjoy it, go for it. But none of us should feel guilty or pressured to put together a Martha Stewart birthday for our kids. The specialness and what I think kids will remember is that we took time out to celebrate them – the celebration itself can be simple.
So on to our most recent birthday party. “Bee” loves trains, and I mean he L-O-V-E-S trains as only a three-year-old can. He wanted a Dinosaur Train party. (For those who aren’t familiar, Dinosaur Train is a television show from PBS Kids). Since the party would be at our house, we set the limit at 5 friends and let him choose who he wanted to invite. It was really cute to see how insistent he was about who he wanted to come to his party! Because our guests would be little ones who still nap, we planned the party for 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. In my experience, two hours is just the right amount of time – an hour to play, 30 minutes for lunch, and 30 minutes for cake and gifts.
We ordered party plates and decorations on-line, because Dinosaur Train party merchandise isn’t available in any of our local stores. The day before the party, my husband picked up some balloons. Simple decorations, but festive. We always tie balloons to the party boy’s chair.
I like to be prepared, so I found a few train-related games and crafts on-line. I opted for activities that didn’t require much preparation, because in the past I’ve found the kids are often just as happy playing freely – which is exactly what happened! The kids spent most of the time enjoying Bee’s train sets and it seemed silly to interrupt them. Otherwise we would have played Chugga-Chugga-Toot-Toot (a.k.a. Duck-Duck-Goose), Freeze Dance (using a Thomas & Friends soundtrack), and Train Tag, and then read a train story before lunch.
With some parent assistance, the kids did do a simple train craft with toilet paper tubes, a paper template, and crayons. I thought they might want to play with their newly-made trains, but it seems Bee’s train set was the big attraction.
In the spirit of keeping things low maintenance and kid-friendly, we ordered pizza and then completed the spread with carrot sticks, sliced fruit, chips, and juice pouches.
Then it was on to the much-anticipated cake and gifts. The cake is the one place I don’t cut any corners. I remember sitting at the kitchen counter as a kid, leafing through the Wilton cake catalog to choose my birthday cake, which my mom made and decorated herself every year. A homemade cake is a family tradition that I happily carry on. The boys choose what kind of cake they want and of course Bee wanted a train cake this year. Coolest Birthday Cakes is one of my favorite resources for cake ideas, but in this case I found a basic train pan at Michael’s. This made his train cake much easier than the 3-D cakes I saw on-line and did not even want to attempt. Bee was very excited by how it turned out, although he did keep asking me where the rest of the train was.
And last but not least, I found a really clever idea for party favors on-line. I picked up train whistles and bandanas at the Dollar Store and train caps in the party section at Target. Along with some dinosaur tattoos, I wrapped everything in the bandana. How cute is that?!
With Bee’s birthday being right after Christmas, it is hard to find time for a lot of planning and preparation, yet I also don’t want him to be short-changed when it comes to celebrating. All it took was friends, trains, and cake to make him was a very happy birthday boy!
Can you believe how AMAZING that train cake turned out!? And how adorable are those little favor pouches? This birthday party is definitely something for the memory books and it looks like Bee had such a great time with his friends. Thanks for sharing, Ellie!
Looking for another read? Check out my Event Crashers Guide to Fit In Clouds over on the Fit In Clouds company blog! I received a pair of these rollable flats to try out and absolutely loved them – I can’t wait to share them with you (but that will have to wait!) They are going to be a great addition to my wardrobe as the start of wedding season quickly approaches!