Friday, April 24, 2009

World Explorer Party theme

This year my 7 year old decided he wanted his Birthday Party Theme to be World Explorer. Those two words had to inspire a whole party theme. What is a World Explorer party? A party were we explore the world of course! For my son, it means a safari adventure with animals, a dinosaur dig, the earth for a pinata and other explorer items. You could really spend a lot of time and money on this theme. We stuck with safari animals, a dinosaur dig with fossil making, and a pinata made to look like the earth. I could think of a million other things you could fit into this party if only you had more than just a few hours for the party and unlimited funds. Items like outback hats, binoculars (we made the picture from the invitations smaller and taped them onto the binoculars, magnifying glasses, field journals and pictures to cut out and paste in them are just a few I can name off the top of my head.

I asked him what kind of cake he wanted. I always ask for their input and involve them in some of the details of the planning. He said a "Zebra cake." By this he does not mean a zebra drawn on the cake, NO, he means a zebra shaped cake 3D. He was even very specific on the pose of the zebra. If I were my sister, who makes shaped cakes for a living, it would probably be no problem. I make my son's cakes because they have to be gluten and dairy free. Over the years this has meant that my cakes are becoming more elaborate. I don't leave the cake in the pan and frost it. I have always tried to mimic a sheet cake you get from the bakery and more recently have done 3D cakes. I always start by doing an on line search on what other's have done for specific theme cakes. No big surprise to find that the zebra cakes people are making are with a zebra pan. I don't want to own a pan that I am only going to use once. Plus the zebra was all round and soft for a toddler age party and not a 7 year old who would love to have the real thing. In my search I found that there is a type of cake called a Zebra cake. It is a vanilla cake with chocolate added to half of the mix. In the end I talked my son into letting me do a safari themed cake with some zebras on top of the cake. Which ended up with a very small herd and other animals that you would find in Africa.

At first this is all he wanted on his cake. He didn't want me to add any more animals. In the end we added two trees (like the kind you buy for dioramas), a small elephant family drinking from the pond, a lion over by the rocks, two more zebras standing in a group (like they were having a conversation) and a rhino to the right of the zebra on the cake board. At the time I didn't have a grass tip, so I used a fine writing tip to make the grass clumps. I used a sifter to powder then cake with coco powder to make the ground less white. This cake sort of took on a life of it's own. It was a complete work in progress. Meaning, I covered the sheet cake in white because I planned to pipe black jell over it to draw a zebra. At the last minute I asked my son, if I could just use one of his zebra's and place it on top. He liked that idea, but just one. I couldn't leave it as a cake with one lonely zebra! So I got creative. I have lots of food coloring jell from previous birthday's stocked up. I got to mixing. I had the blue sparkle gel from the moat I made for a previous cake. I added the lake and then a stream. You can't have a stream that goes to no where so I made a water fall. I had to end the water fall some how so I made rocks (no they are not piles of poop!;)

Here you can see the hippo checking out the water. I wish I had taken a better picture of the finished cake. At the time I wasn't doing much blogging and only had enough time to take a quick shot of it before the kids got to it. It really did look great with the trees, and extra animals.

I made an Earth pinata and filled it with earth themed items. Which included punch balloons decorated to look like the earth, plastic Slinkys that also had the earth theme, growing bugs, safari animal finger puppets and of course candy.

The big thing for our guest was the fossil making. Along with that we had small toy dinosaurs buried in our sand box. Here is my tutorial on how to make your own fossils.

Around the yard we had toy animals in various hiding places. So the kids could go on a "safari" to find the animals and write about them in their field journals. The kids were having so much fun just playing on the swing set and making the fossils that the "safari" didn't happen as an organized event. I plan my parties so that if the kids don't want to do an activity, they don't have to. My oldest gets overwhelmed just with having so many people all in one place. So he often does not participate in any of the organized activities other than cake and presents. For him it is just one big play date and for the most part that is what our parties are. I give him the option, I tell him what we are doing and when it is happening and if he wants he can join in. He is great, he plays with his friends and when they are doing an activity he goes off to a quiet room to decompress until the next activity. He has always done this and little by little he has been joining the fun more and more.

Another thing I did was get poppers. You know those little fire works that look like a jug and you pull a string. Streamers and confetti pop out. My son LOVES them, so I had a few packs for the kids. You would have thought I was handing out $100 bills! I couldn't pass them out fast enough. I had hands sticking out in front of me for more. I couldn't keep it straight to try to make sure that every one got to do their fair share. Even better, they quickly picked up all the streamers to stuff in their pockets. We had only the cardboard ends to pick up when all was said and done.

How to make an Earth pinata:

1: I used Elmer's glue mixed with water. Cut some news paper into 1 inch by 5inch strips. White copy paper also cut into 1 inch by 5 inch strips. A piece of packing tape. A punch balloon, because they are nice and round. Blue tissue paper, clear package wrap and blue paint. Get an map (either print one out on line or buy one) and cut out the continents. A tray from the salad I ate for lunch the day before. The bowl is perfect for setting the balloon in while doing the papier mache. I used the lid as a plate to hold my water and glue mixture. (I threw both away when I was done)

2: Inflate the balloon to the size you want your pinata to be. Then tape down the end that you just tied. That way you won't have a bump there. Another tip is to spray the balloon with non-stick spray before adding your papier mache. This will help it to release from the balloon when you remove the balloon.

3: Over lap your layers of paper. Be sure to go in all directions to make your pinata more sturdy. I made the mistake of not over lapping enough on the first layer and had to repair where the papier mache ripped when it was drying. I left the top where the rubber band attaches to the punch balloon open for two reason. First is that I needed an opening so I could pop the balloon when we were done. Second, I used the rubber band to hang the pinata up to dry between layers. I suggest you do 3 layers of news paper. (if this is for older kids, then I would do 4 layers here)

4: For the 4th layer (or 5th depending on who you are making this for), use white copy paper. This will cover the news print and make it easier to decorate. This way you won't have news print showing through your finished project.

5: Paint your pinata a similar color to the tissue paper you are going to decorate it with. That way if you have a spot that doesn't get covered with tissue, it won't be so noticeable.

6: Start at the bottom. You don't have to start at the very bottom because Antarctica will cover the very bottom. Here you can see I was just cutting rectangles of blue tissue and the clear plastic. The plastic is to give the blue more of a water look to it. It moves in the wind. I was using a glue dabber. At some point I had a moment where I thought "Why am I doing this piece by piece? I should be cutting strips and then cutting part way through to make a fringe strip!" With the clear plastic you have to use shorter strips because it does not mold and bend the way tissue paper does. The neat thing about the individual pieces is that when the kids hit it, even the littlest ones, some of them would fly off. So even a hit that didn't appear to dent the pinata had a visual effect of seeing something fly off of it.

7: After you have covered your pinata with fringe. Cut out your map. I ended up using google world to print out my map. I printed out several pages, each with a full view of the continents. We cut them out and then ran them through my xyron sticker maker. I used the on line map to help me mostly get the placement right. (mostly)

We usually have our parties at home. I don't do a ton of decorations (other than the usual Happy Birthday banner and may be a bunch of balloons), but I do accessorize. I usually get 1 set of napkins and plates that match the theme and the rest are colors that match the theme. I have found that when I purchased cups and enough plates and napkins with the printed these for everybody. They usually find the plain plates and cups and napkins and I am left with themed paper ware that I don't know what to do with. I only just got rid of the "Thomas the Train" cups from 5 years ago. I didn't buy that many, they have just been sitting up in the cabinet.

Most of my effort is in planning the cake, goodie bags that have items that match the theme (one time the kids had to do a treasure hunt with clues on where to find each of the items), and items like the pinata.

What are your favorite party themes? What is the coolest thing you have seen at a party (for adults or kids)?

I didn't think to get this up before Earth day. How cool would it be to have a World Explorer party in honor of Earth Day? If you see an opportunity to have a party, you should always take it. Life is too short not to enjoy it. What are the everyday things you celebrate?

Did we ever tell you about the red plate? I am sure Rebecca has mentioned it. In this family we all have a red plate given to use by my Mother-in-Law. The idea is that one some one has something special happen to them or they do something special, they get to have the red plate at dinner to honor them. It is one small way to celebrate the every day events that deserve to be recognized.



Greeting Card Printing said...

A World Explorer themed party sounds fantastic! I love the idea of going around the world and doing all kinds of stuff like going a=on a safari and the dinosaur dig. The fossil making activity sounds really cool!

het lieveheersbeestje said...

Oh, your partie is a great inspiration to me (mum of four children). I also introduced a lot of special birthday-traditions into our own little family over the years. We also do a pinjata (very special in the Netherlands!). But I make the glue for a pinjata just with flower and water. It becomes beautiful hard and because you stick paper on it, it works great. (you can see it on my blog).But no good idea for a painted pinjata, I think, as the remains of the glue are a bit 'dusty' from the flower. Another tradition is a decorated chair. I recently made a chaircover from an old sheet with donald duck on it and decorated a bit. I can easily fit it over the chair and add some baloons or a blowup number at it. Then we have the guirlandes at the ceiling and plastic banners in the garden (it rains a lot at birthdays over here five of us are having their birthday in the winter..). The presents are handed at breakfast. have to find them! I write down some information on a note. All notes go into a basket and the birthday child must grab one out and hunt for his or her gift! Very exicting (at six o'clock in the morning, when we all have to go to school or work...).
My older children did not want a pinjata this year, but the youngest ones loovvee it. Even the neighbourchildren and children of our family and friends are so exidet to find a pinjata at our home!
Greatings from mama lieveheersbeestje.

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