When planning a party for little ones it’s a good idea to start by thinking about who the party is for and what atmosphere you want to create. Do you want a small relaxed casual affair with just a few close family and friends? Do you want to create a high energy affair that’s focused on maximum fun for your toddler? Or perhaps you might be expected to host a large affair with your extended family and friends to celebrate the milestone. There’s no one right solution as everyone’s family is different.
The second decision to make is to set a theme for your party or event. A theme doesn’t necessarily need to be a big theme or even a typical theme you’d spot in party shops. When I am looking at setting a theme I start by closely observing my child – what do they love? If they love food then you could pick a theme around eating, it could be a Hungry Caterpillar theme, a monkeys and bananas theme, strawberries and cream, or a honey bee theme. If the child loves playing the most then look at their favourite toys and you have the inspiration – cars, building blocks, balloons or teddy bears.
When planning my son Aiden’s second birthday party I observed him playing for months beforehand, observing that his favourite activities were playing with water; chasing, throwing and kicking all kinds of balls; and he also liked bubbles as they were like little balls that floated around. I chose “bubbles” as that theme seemed like the best combination of his interests and we could do things with water and balls as part of it.
With parties I also like to focus on just a couple of areas to spend money on and keep the rest of it simple and this varies from party to party. The focus for Aiden’s first birthday was on the food and creating a rustic relaxed setting. For his second birthday it was more focused on activities that the kids could enjoy and creating a light bubbly atmosphere. Having 1-2 elements of the party that are done really well also means you don’t have to worry so much about the rest of the event. If you have fun activities you can serve simple basic party food. If you have wonderful food then you don’t need a lot of activities. The party will be successful and memorable because of the few things you do really well. I think this approach is really important to keep in mind as it helps to create a great party that is also achievable.
Party decorations also can be limited to just a few stand out pieces that create the atmosphere and set the theme. A party doesn’t need to be overladen with hundreds of great elements, guests will remember it just as fondly for those few ‘hero’ choices you make. Once you have a theme think about the colours, shapes and textures associated with that idea, you will start pulling ideas together quickly once you think about those design components associated with the theme and you can easily find items that match the theme. For example if you have an underwater theme you can pick out pieces that are glass or have a watercolour texture to them. You also aquatic colours to play with as well as punchy coral pinks to emulate a reef.
For Aiden’s second birthday bubble party I chose to splash out on some beautiful big round balloons for decorations as he loves balloons and they look like large permanent bubbles floating around the party. The other hero piece was a length of watercolour bubble bunting that I created that set the theme clearly for guests to respond to. In the toy sales I picked up some bubble machines, bubble wands and transparent blue plastic balls, as well as a blue clamshell play pit that I filled with ball pit balls in the colour palette (we put all the blue, green and yellow ones in the clamshell and hid the other colours inside for the duration of the party). With the focus on the activities we kept the food simple and relaxed.
By contrast for Aiden’s first birthday party the hero of the party was the food – every dish was inspired from the books and was the key talking point among guests. For decorating I chose one single hero piece of the radish and acorn watercolour bunting that I made to hang behind the food table. The style of our house and garden naturally fitted the theme so we didn’t need any further decorations apart from gathering all the baskets everyone in the family owned and placing them at strategic spots. We filled one basket with some spare vegetables we hadn’t used in the cooking process and another was filled with the paper plates and cutlery for the party guests to help themselves to.
Even if you’re not a big party planner or only intend to have a small event I would recommend planning the theme and what you want to do months in advance. The advantage of planning ahead is you can have the party bubbling away at the back of your mind and whenever you are out shopping you can keep an eye out for things that might work or tie in with the theme. You are also likely to hit a sales period during that time when you can stock up on items for the party and there are also seasonal items that might suit your theme (for Aiden’s first birthday Beatrix Potter party we bought a lot of carrot type decorations and chocolates at Easter). The little ideas and details you gather over the months help build up a really cohesively themed party.
It’s always a nice gesture to give your guests a little thank you gift for coming to your party. When hosting a party for a toddler you will most likely have guests of all different ages. We had a mix of family and friends, adults, toddlers, babies and older children. It can seem daunting trying to think of something that would suit everyone but if you put something thought into it you can find a solution that works. For Aiden’s first birthday party with the Beatrix Potter theme I put together little hessian bags with a watercolour carrot tag, I then filled them with a Babybel cheese, a wooden vegetable toy and a Lindt chocolate carrot. It was a hit with both adults and children, my adult friends loved reminiscing over the Babybel cheese and the Lindt chocolate carrot was cute enough for the kids and still a sophisticated enough sweet treat for the adults, even the wooden vegetable toy could be used to decorate the kitchen if you weren’t a child wanting to play with it. For Aiden’s second birthday party I went with Lindt balls in the blue colours (coconut, dark chocolate, stratchitella and salted caramel flavours all came in pretty shades of blues and greens to match the theme), I also found a round bubble shaped eraser/sharpener from office works and little bubble wands that I put into clear plastic baubles with a handpainted thank you card. It was a selection that could work well for both the kids and the adults as it crossed age groups.
Parties are wonderful events and it is lovely to get together with the people you love to celebrate and have fun. If you choose a theme that works well with your style of entertaining and suits the character of your child then it’s going to be a beautiful day that you all enjoy. So have fun planning your parties and remember you don’t need to do everything to make it a successful day, just a few special touches is all you need to make your guests and the birthday boy or girl very happy.
Contributed by ELK Prints.
ELK Prints is a Sydney-based design and illustration studio. This includes a dedicated Nursery Line of bunting and learning flashcards. Each ELK Prints piece is hand-painted so no two are exactly the same and each one has that richness of texture and depth of colour that comes from the paints themselves.