Wild and Three Safari

Who wants to go on an animal safari? My son turning 3 does! When I asked him months before his birthday what type of party he wanted this year he did not hesitate to say an animal party. Over the months I thought the then 2 year old might wane and change his mind, but he didn’t. So the theme stuck!

But what exactly did an animal party mean? Farm animals, reptile animals, dinosaur animals? Nope. He wanted zoo animals. Cool. I can work with that!

The Basics

This was not a milestone birthday, so we knew we were only going to have close family invited. I created a quick invite and emailed it out. Nothing fancy and low cost. I could have even skipped the invite and just sent a text, but creating the invite is part of planning and theme development for me.

Picking a date is sometimes a challenge since there are always so many other things going on! This time around, his birthday fell on Black Friday (day after Thanksgiving). The struggle, or my considerations, included the fact that we had all just spent the entire day together for Thanksgiving, and Black Friday is either a day of relaxation or shopping. So with that in mind, we had his party on that Saturday.

The Decorations

Usually, the weekend after Thanksgiving is when we start to get out the Christmas decoration. Not this year. A jungle party included wild animals – elephants, monkeys, and tigers – out in the lush, green jungle. Not camels and reds and greens.

I knew that I could borrow and use animals we already had. For the entry way foyer, I created a zoo like atmosphere by using the child sized stuffed animals we owned, a few wrapped boxes, and vines I made. I easily made a sign for guests to view as they entered saying “Welcome to Brady’s Wild and Three Birthday Safari”. The boxes were wrapped with the brown wrapping paper you can get outside of Home Depot. On those I wrote “Beware” and “Don’t feed the Animals”. I cut and twisted brown paper shopping bags into vines and added construction paper leaf cut outs to complete the look. With the stuffed elephant, monkey and giraffe, it made for a great entry way and photo backdrop.

In the dining room, I used large balloons to anchor and flank windows, and large leafs as a table runner. I made a back drop of green with two different shades of streamers. It made for a nice “Happy Birthday” cake backdrop.

The other area where I focus on decorating is where we normally open up presents which is in the family room in front of the fireplace. I ordered a banner and green pom-pom garland. Since this was is third birthday, I added pictures from each year of his life. One picture that I just liked, and one of him holding a balloon on his birthday. It was something I saw others do as a tradition and one that I want to maintain! He was a stinker though this year to try to get that photo, so we’ll see how long I can keep it up!

In other areas, I actually used just normal, colorful, Happy Birthday decorations. It may not have been tied to the jungle part of the theme, but certainly to the birthday part of it!

The Food

I most certainly was not going to be serving turkey and stuffing! But what do they eat in the jungle? I honestly tried to look this up. I think they eat certain types of rice and greens. It may not have been traditional fare, but serving tacos was as close as I was going to get! I had all the fixings to make fajitas, tacos, or a salad. We had sliced beef and chicken. My husband had recently gotten a deer so there was also venison ground taco beef. To save on having to cook, we ordered rice from Chipotle.

To better tie in the theme we had Tiger Tails (cheesy puffs), Peanuts for Elephants, Snake Pit (gummy worms), Crocodile Teeth (Bugles), and Zebra Cakes (Little Debbie Zebra Cakes). I had a “Watering Hole” that included other beverages but most importantly there was Jungle Juice (Squeeze Its) for the kids.

The Finale

I like to think that I’m a good cook and baker. I enjoy trying new recipes and techniques. What I enjoy most about birthday cakes is the joy and memory it makes for my kids. My son talked about his 2nd birthday cake for a year! How was I going to make this one as cool? I did a few layers tall, with jungle green frosting and topped it with a few favorite animals.

Wait…There’s More!

Since he was in Pre-K 3, he also got to celebrate his birthday at school! As the birthday boy, he got to bring in a treat bag for each kid to take home. I had the most fun with this! I had the larger sized lunch bags that I filled with an animal mask, animal stamp, stickers and a box of animal crackers. Amazon made this easy since they had a kit ready to purchase.

To see these and other party favorites, check out my Pinterest board.

Woodland Onederland

My second son was born in early February. Here in Michigan it is still cold, although not always white with snow. People are already thinking of warmer temperatures and the end of winter. In fact, the party was on Groundhog’s Day where legend has been told if he comes out of hibernation and sees his shadow, there will be only six more weeks until spring arrives!

As I selected the theme for my son’s party, I knew I wanted something still with a winter vibe, but with those traces of spring interwoven throughout. I did like the idea of a “onederland”, but I didn’t want it to be all snowflakes and sparkles. So, I landed on Woodland Onederland. A marriage of animals that live in the forested wild and can survive the brutal, I mean, crisp white winters.

So the theme was born and with plenty of time to stock up on awesome woodland animal decorations that were hitting the craft stores. Foxes, owls, raccoons, and hedgehogs all so cutely made of natural material. Those figures, mixed with white and pine decorations throughout the house was how my vision would be brought to light!

I searched Pinterest for other ideas, and although I found some, there was nothing quite like what I had my eye on. So I share with you my results!

The Basics

His birthday fell on a Saturday, but followed by Super Bowl Sunday. Since my theme was not related to football, I wanted the party to be far from the other festivities that might occur that weekend. Luckily though, I knew that any Super Bowl parties would not run into or begin on Saturday. So I maintained the party date to be the same as his birth date.

For the timing of the party, I opted for brunch with a start time of 10:30. Although, we all know that the party doesn’t truly start until about a half hour later than the listed time, am I right?! With an earlier start time, my guests could a) have the rest of their Saturday afternoon open and b) it wouldn’t interfere with any plans they may have for the next day. Meaning, they wouldn’t feel like their weekend was eaten up by a birthday party and football, but would have time do to all the other stuff that has to get jammed into the weekend.

I found the invite on Etsy as an instant download. Super cute design that was both winter and woodland. It was perfect and cute!

Who to invite? Kids? Our friends with kids? Family? Or all of the above!! I love celebrating and hosting, so all are always welcome! Just remember that two invites print on one page. Or else you’ll end up with a stack of extras!

The Decorations

First, of course we need forest animal friends. The party wouldn’t be complete without these cute critters! Thankfully, I had chosen the theme really early on – like a few months after he was born. This helped so I could snag the decorations while they were on clearance at Michales and JoAnn Fabrics. I used them to decorate my mantle and TV stand. I added a white wreath and garland to incorporate the winter white.

Did you know there is a shortage of helium?! This almost impacted the use of these amazing child sized balloons! The kids love balloons and they add height and variety to the room.

Where would a little boy go into the woods? Maybe he would build a teepee with sticks and a sheet? He would go hang out there with his sack lunch. Maybe he would bring his bow and arrow to go fishing or aim practice. This was my vision and became the backdrop for my foyer entrance. It served as the perfect place to capture photos of the birthday boy.

As it was a first birthday party, it wouldn’t be complete with a look back at how he has grown month to month. I found a banner print out from Etsy. It was a bit larger than what I would have wanted, but it worked. I actually used my Christmas card holder that I got from Target a few years back to hold each month’s photo. So handy!

The Food

I love planning the menu starting with items that draw in the theme. Usually, this translates to the snack and desserts. There are so many ideas and ways to do this! However, knowing how much food that I was going to have catered, I decided to only do a few items. I had acorn treats, snowball popcorn, twig pretzels, and toadstool mushroom cupcakes.

For the main course I served up your choice of a variety of quiche, potato pancakes, French toast, bacon, sausage, salad, croissant sandwiches, fruit, veggies, and an assortment of pastries. I also had them bring coffee so I didn’t have to worry about having anything brewed, or a line for the Keurig. I added a juice bar that had pineapple and orange juice with your option to add champagne.

The Finale

A first birthday is a big milestone for many reasons. For starters, the first year of a child’s life is when they have the most growth and new milestones. It is within that first year where they go from being unable to hold up their head to walking! How remarkable! What a thing to celebrate! They also have limitations on what foods they can ingest. Their first birthday is the first time they get to eat a yummy, delish cake! Sug-ar!!!!! Its great. We all know it and they get to finally join in on the fun! I had my very talented cousin (Michele’s Mixing Bowl) build out this cake I found. Amazing, right?! The smash cake I just picked up from Meijer. Every time we go shopping we make a tour of the store to see the fishes, lobsters and the decorated cakes. The fox is one that I saw and thought it was the cutest thing. Plus, it was only $6.

As people left, they each took with them some trail mix for the journey that lay ahead.

To access links of some of the items I purchased for this party, visit my Woodland Onederland board on Pinterest.