Saturday, January 31, 2015

Thomas the Tank Engine 5th Birthday Party

Welcome to the first installment of my birthday series.  I hope that through these posts I will help those of you who find party planning/executing difficult.  I have always loved throwing parties, but through the years and my experiences, I have found what works for me and what doesn't.

 What a fun day! My little boy's first "friend" birthday party! I will admit, when he announced that he wanted a "Thomas the Tank Engine" birthday party I was a little less than thrilled. I know that sounds awful, but it is only because I have already done a Thomas birthday party when my oldest son was 3 and I had done a generic "train" birthday party when Rhys turned 2. I always like doing something new and fresh, but in the end it turned out super fun and we already had a TON of Thomas stuff to use as decoration.  So, with that being said, Tip #1 Use stuff you already have for decorations! More often than not, your kids will pick a theme for their party based on their current faves. This could also be true for your husband or significant other if you are trying to plan a surprise party. For this party, I simply "shopped" my son's room for anything "Thomas".  A few days ahead of time, gather all of your "themed" items and put them in a box or bin and set them aside. You can also just use other things you have in your home if they fit the colors or style. When something catches your eye, grab it and put it in the box.  Once you see how much or little you have, you can decide what needs to be store bought to fill in the gaps.

I usually like to have a main display table either with food or the favors and cake. My husband took all of the kids with him to get the balloons filled up and pick up the cupcakes, so I took some time to snap a few pictures without any interruptions. There are a few things missing from the table, but you get the general idea.

My son got a remote control James train set made by Lionel for Christmas and I knew for sure it would make an appearance at the party.  I thought it would be perfect going around the favors and cupcakes
Here are the favors. This is one of my favorite ways to package up favors for the kids. I really, really, really hate putting in a lot of time and effort into something, only to have kids rip it apart. I have learned over the years that kids could care less how much time or effort you put into something, they just want what is inside and in this instance, they probably can't even read what the tag says. Does that sound cynical? I hope not, it is just reality. HOWEVER, I still want to make an effort.  These tags were all computer generated except for the die cut stamped train. That is from the "Little Hot Rod" set from PTI.  It was fast and easy so I don't care if it gets ripped up. It was just enough effort to add a little something, but not too much for me to care.
I was once watching one of Tori Spelling's reality series and she was carefully making the CUTEST snacks to take to preschool for her son. It was a mini terra cotta pot filled with hummus and tiny carrots with their leaves sticking in the pot. Absolutely adorable. Her husband made a comment that she wasn't doing it for the kids, she was doing it for all of the other moms. She denied it, but the more I have thought about that statement, the more it has rung true with me. For instance, the tag here says, "Chugga Chugga Thank You" The kids can't read, so it is probably more for the adults who will see it. With that being said, I find that I DO make more of an effort in certain areas when I know there will be moms there who will enjoy it or think it is cute. I don't know if that is bad or not. I am not trying to be in competition with anyone or anything like that. My brain is just always thinking of fun, creative ideas and it will literally burst if I don't implement some of them. Does that make sense?
Anyway, back to the favors. I was saying before all of that, that I really like packaging favors up like this for kids. I like buying the sturdy plastic cups they sell at party supply stores. We always need plastic cups for the kiddos, it fits the theme and it holds some fun stuff.  Each cup has a wooden train whistle, candy, etc.  I learned from my son's generic train party to not give them the whistles DURING the party. I think you can imagine the noise.
I came across an idea for these cute candy trains and I knew I wanted to make them for the party. They were so easy and the kids loved them.  I found the hershey kisses and Krackle minis in the bulk section...score! I didn't have to buy a whole bag and the starlight mints came from the dollar store. The life savers were at the checkout. Yay! I simply hot glued everything together. They seemed a little naked, so I added the computer generated "Rowan's Railway" label to the back.

The kids were so excited to get to take home their candy train.  I've seen ideas for other candy creations like airplanes, sleds, cars, etc. The sky is the limit and with the selection and variety of candy, you could probably make anything to fit the theme of your party.

I also had Thomas's greatest stories playing on the T.V. They are on Netflix so it just played over and over again. You can see Sir Topham Hat on the T.V. in the background. It added some color, music and enhanced the theme and I didn't find it distracting at all. I have found that if I am hosting a party at my home, I like to decorate the day or night before. In my case, the night before is more beneficial once the little ones are in bed. If you can do anything a head of time, it take a lot of stress away. Once it is all set up, all I have to do is make sure it doesn't get "taken apart" by the little ones. LOL!  Kids can tell if you are stressed and having them walk into a chaotic environment isn't any fun! I can't believe the things I used to try and do the the day of the party! Plan ahead, prepare ahead, do anything you can before!
I knew we had to bring the train table and tracks up for the party. I didn't quite now how we would work it into the schedule, but it had to be there. It worked out perfectly to have it all set up as each guest arrived I showed them into the family room to play. Let me tell you, they LOVED it. I probably didn't even need to have any other activities planned because they were consumed with it.

My cute sister bought a surprise addition to the set and wrapped it up so that it could remain a surprise. It was a fog horn that blew it's whistle each time a train went cute! We also finally put some fresh batteries in the battery operated Thomas engine and that was a huge hit to watch him meander around the track carrying his freight cars.
I love, love, love decorating for each season, but I didn't want to take it all down for the party, so I simply incorporated a few engines into the icy tablescape to tie everything together. Tip #2 Try and pick a room, or venue to enhance the party theme. I generally like hosting parties outside because it is a blank slate, but of course in January it wasn't going to happen. The weather has been mild, but not suitable for an outdoor party.  When I found out how mild the weather would be, I tried last minute to get a train to come take the kids around our culdesac, but it had been put away for the winter. Oh well......
Yay...the cupcakes have arrived. I debated whether to make a cake or order one, or just what. I had already purchased a full size Thomas cake for his actual Birthday and didn't want to spend more  money.
I have learned over the years what makes me stressed and what doesn't. If the party is at a different venue, then I don't mind making a whole bunch of food, the cake, etc. but if it is at my home, I want the kitchen clean. I don't want dishes in the sink, etc. to distract from the party. So, Walmart to the rescue. They made the themed cupcakes which is just enough for the kids and I won't have a ton of leftovers to tempt me! Ha ha!
So...if your tradition is to make your kids cake, go for it. You probably know how long it takes you, what kind of mess it makes,etc. I have done both and it really doesn't matter. Do what makes you happy and eliminates stress the day of the party. I was serving lunch so I held the party at noon which didn't give me alot of prep time in the morning.

I decided to do a little papercrafting for the party. I made some punch art Thomas cards for the food. I made up fun little names for each of the food items. You can see here I used "Cranky the Crane's Corn Dogs".  Do you think the kids noticed? I doubt it, but it was fun!
Often time people use their island for serving food, but I generally have the food around the other counters to create a buffet line instead. Since I was using the dining table for display, I needed to have the kids eat around the island. I also set up a card table for extra seating. We added a few pieces of track to go under the "water tower" drink dispenser for added fun!  The dispenser had a concoction of blue Hawaiian punch and sprite, but it wasn't prepared yet, so it is empty in this picture. The blue color added just the right touch.  Another way to add some color and decoration to the party is to actually "set" out the plates, cups, napkins. Voila! Instant decoration!
Another one of my punch art Thomas cards.  I used an assortment of circle punches and a few others and then hand drew the mouth and eyebrows. Each Thomas is wearing a slightly different expression.
Again, I hadn't put all of the food out, but I had to recreate this fun way to display food that I saw. There are so many resources for fun ideas, I can't help but incorporate some of them.  It is hard being a creative person in this pinteresting world we live in. I say that because every thing I make I have people ask or assume that I got it off of Pinterest. For those of you who know me, that is clearly not the case and I try to not let it bug me. Yet, with that being said, there are so many cute ideas I do want to use some.  I'm not ashamed of being inspired by someone else's creative ideas. Clear as mud?

For one of the games, we were going to use these tracks laid out on the floor using blue painters tape. It really didn't take too long and it really added to the them of the party. It came up easily afterward and the kids loved it. Because of the tile lines, it was super easy for placement.

I had the tracks meander from my front door into the kitchen, around the island and around the dining table.  When it was time to play the game, I taped some colorful dots to the floor and then played musical train. Each kid had to land on a dot or they were out once the music stopped. We played some fun Thomas music as they chugged around the tracks.
My kid's birthday parties generally involve a pinata. It is easy, fun, exciting and at the end, you get candy! I was worried about a bunch of 4 and 5 year olds being blindfolded and whacking aimlessly, but this particular pinata came with a surprise. Maybe ones I have bought in the past had the same feature, but I'm not sure. There were a bunch of ribbons hanging down and one was the "magic" string and released a trap door that let out all of the candy. Each kid got a turn and it opened when the last kid pulled the string. It couldn't have worked out better. I warned the kids ahead of time that there would be a chance that the trap door would open the first time, but we got lucky...super lucky! I purchased some separate "loot bags" that I labeled with their names before and handed them out before we got started.  I haven't labeled them in the past and then there are random bags of candy all over and no one remembers whos are whos.
There are a TON of online resources for kids activities. I printed out these coloring pages from Sprout online and PBS kids has a ton, too. If they show it on those two channels, chances are, there will be a ton of fun crafts, games, printables for that particular show/character. Of course I had to buy the matching Thomas crayons.  They didn't even get a chance to color their pages, so I just sent them home with them. Tip #3 Plan the length of the party in accordance with how many activities you want/need to have. I have learned over the years that parties can just be too long. I would rather have the party be exciting rather than have kids sitting around. I planned this party for 1 1/2 hours. Eating came first, games, presents, cupcakes. So...they arrived and played on the train set, ate lunch, played "Pin the Funnel on Thomas", musical tracks, pinata, played more trains, and then presents and cake. It was perfect!

Here is the birthday boy opening all of his fun presents. I gave each child an engineer hat and they all looked so adorable. I got some super cute pictures of all of the guests, but didn't feel it was appropriate to post them here. I can't believe this little guy is 5!

Here he is blowing out his pesky #5 candle that wouldn't stay lit. We did manage to get it blown out and a wish made. Sorry it is blurry! I hope you enjoyed this post. I love planning parties, throwing parties and going to parties. I'm always sad they end so soon.  I always put a lot of work into them and they seem to be over before you know it.  I do want to add, that this was probably the least stressed I have been for a party in a LONG time. Maybe it was because only a few moms were coming and I knew the kids wouldn't care so long as they had fun, maybe it was because I am finally learning a thing or two, who knows, but hopefully I can pass on some of the things that I have learned along the way to make things not as stressful. Parties are supposed to be fun, right? Thanks for "chugging" by!

P.S. If you have any questions, simply leave a comment and I will try and address them in future party posts. I don't think I am going to do them all back to back because I want to share my Valentine's projects.


Lisa Petrella said...

What an awesome party, Kelly! So many super cute and fun details!!! Thanks for the inspiration and all of the helpful party tips!

zerry ht said...

Hey, you worked really hard for this party! I admire your efforts my friend! I feel you are a professional event planner. Isn’t it true? Anyways, the decoration ideas for Tank Engine birthday party are awesome! Thanks for sharing!

johan32 said...

Happy Birthday dear! This is one of my favorite birthday party themes. God bless you and all the best for your future! For your future parties, I will recommend you to book venue space nyc to get best party services as per your needs.

Matt Voges said...

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