The Dumpling Turns Four: A Not-So-Scary Halloween Birthday Bash

I was able to get away with not throwing the Dumpling a birthday party last year, but not anymore. Having attended countless birthday celebrations of her friends, the Dumpling had specific requests of how she wanted to celebrate her fourth birthday.

Between a My Little Pony or Halloween themed bash, the Dumpling surprising chose the latter — probably because she wanted to wear her princess costumes. So this year, we threw another not-so-scary Halloween birthday party.


Invitation

I sent out an electronic mummy-themed invitation to set the tone of the party. As much as I love physical invitations, digital ones are just so much easier to send and track…not to mention more environmentally friendly!

Mummy invitation created in PowerPoint.

Party Favors

Goody bags are necessary evils because the kids get so excited about them…for about 15 minutes. I tried to keep the items practical and within the budget of $2-3 per bag. My strategy was to buy items in sets and then separated each into individual gifts. Below are a few ideas I considered:

I stuffed each bag with candy, a sheet of temporary tattoo, and tied everything together with either a headband (for girls) or bow ties (for boys).


Decorations

I always make my own bunting because it’s inexpensive to create custom text and colors to match my decor.

Personalized bunting created in PowerPoint.

I also purchased a few small pumpkins and simple decorations from Amazon that I put up a few hours before the party.

Thank you to C-cakes for these bite size cupcakes!

Games & Activities

Along with a trampoline and bouncy castle that came with the venue rental, we played games to keep the kids entertained. I had prizes prepared for the winners, and theoretically every child had a chance to win something. Unfortunately there were still a few tears because everyone wanted to be winners at the same time…lesson learned for the next party!

Wrap a Mummy: We divided the kids into groups and provided them with two rolls of toilet paper. The team who finished wrapping an adult with the toilet paper (covering head, hands, body, and legs) won.

Pumpkin Relay Race: Each kid must race while balancing a pumpkin on his/her head.

Hot Pumpkin: Similar to hot potato, each kid must pass the pumpkins around. Whoever was holding a pumpkin when the music stopped, was out.

Craft Station: I set up a small table with crayons, coloring sheets, and craft supplies. This little corner surprisingly became a huge hit!

A station to make Halloween masks and cards.

A big thank you to everyone who came to celebrate. Happiest birthday to my little Dumpling, who really isn’t so little anymore!

My little Dumpling turns four!

Easy DIY Birthday Coloring Book With Printable

The Dumpling’s kindergarten is throwing a birthday party for all November babies at the end of the month. Since she’s one of the birthday kids, I wanted to do something extra. So along with treats, I also made her classmates a coloring activity book as a party favor that I’m sharing as a customizable printable!*

The book is super easy to make because it’s printed single-sided on a regular piece of copy paper without any gluing or binding. While the customizable version provides the option to include a short message, I have also made a generic version with a simple “Happy Birthday” on the cover. The content is suitable for pre-schoolers and kindgardeners.

Materials

Customize the cover text in Adobe Reader (skip if using the generic template )

Open up the PDF file in Adobe Reader and click on the form fields (highlighted in blue) to edit the text.

Print. Prior to hitting the print button, select “Fit” under the Page Sizing section. This ensures that no matter what size paper you’re using (whether A4 or Letter), the entire image would be scaled appropriately to fit within the print area.

Print Setting

Trim the page border. Although this step might look extraneous, it ensures that all your pages will be of equal size.

Fold and Cut.

I managed to whip out 20 of these within the hour…mom-life is hard work!

 Please note that the two graphic elements in the template are different than the version featured in the video—the font used on the cover and the balloon design on the letter tracing spread.

Create a Custom Coloring Sheet in PowerPoint

One of my favorite activities to keep my two year old busy is coloring: I strap her into a highchair away from walls and other furniture, layer my dining table with a large plastic bag, and let her go at it.

Instead of buying coloring books, however, I typically make my own because I can tailor the graphics to my toddler’s interest—which lately has been the alphabet.

img_4780

Creating a coloring sheet is actually quite easy in PowerPoint. Yes, PowerPoint—a program that typically comes bundled in our Microsoft Office! Check out my video* below for a quick tutorial. Print a bunch for the next rainy day activity or personalize it with someone’s name for your next gift bag stuffer along with a box of crayons!

* It’s my very first video tutorial! Any feedback would be greatly appreciated!

A thought about the typefaces

One of my biggest pet peeves with children’s books, especially those that try to teach the alphabet, is their choice in typeface. Many popular ones use the two-story lowercase “a” and “g” for legibility reasons, but this could be confusing for pre-schoolers who are learning to write the one-story version. While it’s not a big deal with older kids and adults, the Dumpling and I definitely have had disagreements about this. Therefore, I tend to stick with Century Gothic as it has the one-story “a” and “g.” Comic Sans is another one that often comes pre-packaged with Office…laugh all you want, but kids actually like this!

a and g

Free Downloads

Click here to download the alphabet coloring sheets.

Make Lantern Favor Boxes From Red Envelopes

The Dumpling’s playgroup recently asked all of the parents to bring in treats for a Chinese New Year party. Me being…well, me, I spent more time thinking about the presentation and packaging than what to actually bring. It just so happened that jigg brought home packs of red envelopes from work, so I decided use them as the base material for the project. I remembered making paper lanterns when I was a kid—with a bit of tweaking on my end, they turned out to be great goody bags!

Materials

  • Large red envelopes made out of quality paper (avoid the flimsy, small envelopes—they won’t be sturdy enough)
  • Scissors
  • Glue

Directions

Step 1: Cut off the envelope as indicated in the picture below. Discard the envelope flap on top and the very thin strip on the bottom. There are now three pieces to work with: the large piece will form the body of the lantern; the medium piece will form the base; and the small one at the bottom will form the handle.

Step 2: Fold the large piece of the envelope in half horizontally. Optional: Make a vertical fold down the middle to mark where the center is.

Step 3: Cut strips starting from the bottom (folded side) to form a fringe but stop approximately 2 cm from the top edge. Do not cut all the way through! (Tip: To get more evenly spaced strips, first cut down the middle along the vertical fold to create two halves, then down the middle again to create quarters, then down the middle again to create eighths.)

Step 4: Unfold the envelope and fluff the strips outward.

Step 5: Using the small piece of the envelope (from Step 1), open it up like an “O” and glue both sides to the top edge of the lantern.  Optional: Cut open the “O” to adjust for a longer strap before gluing.

Step 6:  Using the medium piece of the envelope (from Step 1), cut open the folds on both sides to create two strips.

Step 7: Glue the strips into a cross shape and loosely fold the flaps to the size of the lantern’s bottom base. 

Step 8: Glue the flaps to the inside bottom of the lantern. The base would most likely not be a perfect fit, so adjust the flaps before the glue dries as a workaround.

Step 9: Fill the inside with several pieces of bite size candy or chocolate coins. Be careful not to overload the lantern—the weight capacity would be dependent on the strength of the paper stock and glue.

Tip: I churned out over a dozen goody bags during the Dumpling’s nap time. The trick to mass producing these quickly is to make one lantern from beginning to end to get familiarize with the process. Then I did everything in assembly line fashion—meaning, I did all of Step 1, then all of Step 2, and so forth.

Happy Chinese New Year!

DIY Party Doesn’t Mean Doing EVERYTHING Yourself

A nice thing about throwing a party for my two year old is that the Dumpling is still too young to realize that the festivities are for her. That meant I had 100% say in the theme and got to live vicariously through my daughter. The result was a mint green, pink, and gold celebration that I would have liked if I were two going on 32.

IMG_9088
The Dumpling’s mint green, pink, and gold party!

I love making my own party decorations because I can customize every detail on a budget. But I sometimes take the DIY aspect a bit too far—to a point where I thought “doing it yourself” meant doing everything yourself. For example, I was so stressed planning the Dumpling’s first birthday party last year that I had anxiety attacks (and poor jigg was on the receiving end of most of them) because I was pressed for time.

To ensure that I enjoyed every moment of my party crafting this year, I made a list of everything that needed to be done, took on only the projects that I wanted, and sought help for everything else—tasks that I didn’t want to do, am not good at, or were time-consuming and didn’t provide value. While I gained convenience and time at the expense of higher costs, the trade off made sense given my hectic schedule.

Have Someone Else Do the Set Up and Clean Up

On the top of my list was renting a venue because after hours of prepping followed by several more of hosting, the last thing I wanted to do was cleaning. We rented out Good Day Play Cafe, an indoor playroom that was perfect entertainment for our little guests and parents. Their tiered party packages and a la carte options offer a variety of services across different price ranges. The staff was phenomenal and helped with the set up, provided food for the kiddos, and of course, the clean up.

Playroom at Good Day Play Cafe.

The staff helped set up and provided fun table cloths and utensils to match my theme.

Budget friendly thought: Host the party at home and hire cleaners to come afterwards.

Delegate Your Weakness

My strength is in design, not baking. When it came you dessert, I was more than happy to seek professional help rather than spend time learning to bake and sculpt gum paste (and worry whether my creations would be edible).

By chance, I was browsing through Instagram three days before the party when I saw my  my friend’s gorgeous dessert creations and immediately fell in love. I gave her free reign on the design and was ecstatic with the results! One of the beauty of hiring a professional is that she knows what she’s doing and didn’t need much guidance from me.

IMG_1373
Custom handcrafted green, pink and gold cupcakes to match my party decorations

IMG_9100
Add personalized banners and flags to cupcakes for a custom look.

Budget friendly thought: Decorate plain cakes or cupcakes with personalized banners and flags.

Use Pre-Made Decorations

How housewives felt about instant cake mixes back when the product first came to market was how I initially felt about pre-made party decorations: it’s cheating. Then I realized that I didn’t want to spend hours cutting up tissue paper, so I bought a pre-made (but unassembled) party kit from Amazon that came with tassels, decorative straws, and pom pom.

Budget friendly thought: Amazon offers a variation of what is included in their party kits, so explore their sets rather than buying pieces individually.

Focus on the Fun Part!

Delegating out certain tasks freed up more time for me to focus on designing.

IMG_0859 (1)
Invitation to the Dumpling’s Birthday and Halloween play date. 

IMG_1265
I realized after the party that I forgot to make a banner with her name. Oops.

IMG_9101.jpg
Flags and pom pom wands.

IMG_0916 (1)
Favor bags for the little guests.

Remember that Time is Valuable!

People often asked me where I found the time to throw a DIY party as a full time working mom. If there’s one thing motherhood has taught me, it’s time management. When “free time” is scarce, I made sure the it was used efficiently by focusing on my strengths and what made me happy; everything else was a distraction. Crafting is supposed to be fun and therapeutic and I intend to keep it that way!

Best Party Favor For Under $1

Finding the right gift to use as a favor has always been one of my biggest party planning hurdles. It feels like I’m searching for a unicorn when I’m looking for something that meets ALL three of my following criteria:

  1. Practical: The gift should be useful, not something the kids play with once and toss into recycling.
  2. Fun for most ages: Since my guests range from babies to toddlers to young children, the gift should ideally be appealing to a wide demographic.
  3. Affordable: My goal is to keep each item under $3.

My strategy is to come up with a list of things that I use with the Dumpling on a regular basis, then filter out items that are too age specific, and try to purchase them in bulk for volume discounts.

For example, I gifted headbands and bow ties for the Dumpling’s first birthday last year. Both have re-use value, are available in sets, and can be used with children of all ages. (I use the Dumpling’s headband as a scrunchie …and I’m 32.)

Cookie Cutters Are Useful, Fun, and Cheap!

IMG_0916 (1)
I dropped a cookie cutter into a handmade gift bag labeled with the child’s name.

Cookie cutters made the cut for the Dumpling’s party favor this year because they knock all three criteria out of the park. I thought of the idea after an old set unexpectedly received a lot of mileage in our household recently. While prices range drastically depending on shapes and materials, I opted for a box of 24 stainless steel cutters for a whopping $8.50 on Amazon. (I didn’t purchase a replica of what I have since I didn’t need 100 cutters!) Because the package comes in an assortment, I labeled each gift bag with the child’s name and assigned a pattern for everyone. This ensured that the design is gender appropriate and siblings do no get the same thing.

The cost of each favor came out to $0.35 each!

My original set of 100+ cookie cutters.

Activities With Cookie Cutters

Teach ABCs, Shapes, Numbers, Etc.

I initially dug my cookies cutters out because the set contains plastic molds of all 26 letter that I wanted to use as alphabet “blocks” with the Dumpling. They served my purpose because 1) they look enough like toys to pique my toddler’s interest; 2) they are light and easy to grab; and 3) they are movable to form short, simple words.

IMG_1196
The Dumpling is starting to get into her ABCs.

Cut or sculpt food

I subsequently found myself using the other shapes to make meal time more interesting. They can be used to cut through bread, pancakes, cheese, sliced fruits, or anything soft.

Cut heart shaped sandwiches for a ladies’ tea party.

Make heart shaped pancakes.

IMG_1186 (1)
Mold rice into fun animal shapes.

Stamp and Stencil

The Dumpling used the shapes as stamps to create repeating pattern with finger paint.

IMG_0737
Simple shapes work well.

Ideas from Around the Web

Turn cookie cutters into ornaments

Hang them up as they are (thediydreamer.com)

Wrap the cookie cutters in baker’s twine (cutesycrafts.com)

Add washi tape for decorative effect (anightowlblog.com)

Add some decorative background with festive prints (itallstartedwithpaint.com)

Use cookie cutters to shape other materials

Shape pipe cleaners to create bubble wands (redtedart.com)

Shape pipe cleaners to grow crystals (onelittleproject.com)

Use cookie cutters as molds in other projects

Upcycle old crayons (onelittleproject.com)

 

Follow my blog with Bloglovin