We based the theme for the party on one of Espen's favourite books, The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. I happened to stumble on some Very Hungry Caterpillar-themed invitations and party supplies at Target, and bought invitations, paper napkins and a plastic table cloth. To avoid themed-party-ware-overkill, I paired the napkins with plain cups and plates in red and green similar to the colours in the book.
Because it was a first birthday party for just family and a few friends, we tried to keep things pretty low-key and simple. The tricky part was balancing that, while still making the day special and fun for everyone. We had a lot of fun putting together our own decorations:
This caterpillar is made of balloons and construction paper.
So easy, but the birthday boy loved it!
I made this butterfly by adapting this tutorial for crayon hearts. I just cut out butterfly wings instead of heart shapes and made the head and body with construction paper. His little face and body didn't photograph well with the light behind them, but the wings look pretty when the sunlight catches them. Also a big hit with Espen!
Hopefully this lets you get a good look at our favorite decoration! It's been a good 10 days, and it's STILL up in the kitchen :)
Again, lots of construction paper. We cut out 12 green circles, and attached a photo of Espen for each month of his life. Then we added a head and attached the whole thing to the wall with loops of scotch tape. Of course we love seeing our little boy, but I think it was also fun for the guests to see how much he's grown and changed over the past 12 months.
Next, the food. As mentioned, we wanted to keep things fun and simple. To accommodate the nap schedules of our tiny guests, we had a lunch time party, so we served lunchy food that sat well with the toddler crowd, while still having some interest to their parents. We had juice boxes, animals crackers, fruit and cupcakes.
We wanted to tie the food back in with the book, so we made little holes in the fruit with a plastic straw. If you remember, the very hungry caterpillar eats through all kinds of food, leaving little holes through the pages. Very quick and easy, and something I think the guests liked.
Then there was the cake. We made plain yellow and chocolate cupcakes and frosted them with green (kiwi) frosting for the body. The head was a small circular cake frosted with red (strawberry) frosting. We made the face with kiwi slices. We also made sure to set aside some unfrosted cupcakes for the non-frosting fans.
Here is the birthday boy himself, looking a little skeptical about his first cupcake.
Don't worry, he figured it out eventually. :)
A few thoughts and things we learned about throwing parties for tiny revelers:
- Keep the guest list small. We only had four little guests, but with all their parents and other guests, there was plenty of party! Little kids get overwhelmed so easily, so for us it worked great to keep the numbers down. Added bonus: we had more time to socialize with each guest.
- Along the same lines, invite friends that are close to your child in age. That way no one is bored by activities that they're too old or young for, and the kids all have peers to play with.
- If you are basing your party theme on a book, consider reading it. We started out the party by seating the kids on a blanket and reading the book together, which I think made the food and the decorations more relevant to kids and parents alike. Plus it was nice to just start out the party with a little gathering activity.
- Speaking of activities, keep things short and simple for toddlers. There were so many great craft options that we could have gone with but, but we would honestly have ended up with the parents crafting while the kids squirmed. Besides reading the book, our only other scheduled activity was blowing bubbles. Big hit with the under-two crowd!
- We had wanted to come up with a party favor, but had a hard time thinking of anything that little kids could safely play with or eat, so we kind of wimped out on that one. Then my in-laws showed up with helium balloons for all the children to take home, and that worked out great. I had several moms tell me days later that their kids were still playing with the balloons from the party. If you're throwing a party for toddlers, I'd definitely recommend them as a fun favor to take home.