As a character in one of my favorite classic TV shows, The A-Team, would say, “I love it when a plan comes together!”
I’m a planner. I like parties. Put the two together, and I’m pretty stoked. But planning parties for a mixed crowd can also create some anxious feelings. That’s especially true when it comes to children. Let’s face it. Unless you live in a progressive community, most of us worry that our child will be thought of as “that odd vegan kid down the street.”
While we know that carrots and veggie sticks are super healthy, they just don’t cut it for a child’s birthday party. Vegan doesn’t mean boring, and you don’t have to forfeit those great themed ideas you find on Pinterest. Just be creative and adapt with your child and compassion in mind.
To help you with your future party plans, I put together a Top 10 list of things to consider when creating a great themed party for your little veggie. With each entry are examples from my son, Brooks’, first birthday party to help get your creativity flowing. The party may be for the kids, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun, too.
OK, so I combined all these together. While important, they aren’t my favorite parts of planning. Knock out all the logistics, so you can get down to the creativity. How many people do you plan to invite? If it’s a small get-together, your home could work. If it’s a larger friends and family celebration, you may want to move the party elsewhere. If you’ve got companion animals, you may not want to pack strangers in next to them and expect both sides to behave. Consider accessibility for older guests, parking, and enough space for kids to run around safely. Brooks is the first grandchild on both sides of the family, so the party was big for us. And, since it was winter, we couldn’t have a backyard bash. We were able to rent a reasonably priced space nearby. The date was also an issue for us to think about. Since Brooks was born on Christmas Eve, we needed to decide whether to have his party before or after. For your child, you may need to consider school holidays and other scheduled parties.
Search Pinterest, Google, and dig through your child’s book, toy, and movie collections. What is something your kiddo likes, or something relevant to your child’s birthday age. Do you want the party to feel whimsical, childlike, sophisticated? When you child is old enough, ask them what they’d like to do at their party, and what theme they’d prefer. Whatever you choose, stick to it or decorations and food could feel disjointed. Since Brooks was turning one, his likes were limited, so the choice was more for me. With his Christmas Eve birthday, we went with Winter ONEderland.
Brooks loves animals and the movie “Frozen,” so we picked colors and characters he’d recognize. We went with a blue and red so his December party would look wintery instead of Christmasy. Penguins, polar bears, and snowmen were a must. I searched through Etsy and found a party planning shop that incorporated most of the things we were looking for into printables. That made decorations, invitations, and small touches easier.
Use your theme all the way through, from the invitations to the food. Get creative and make it fun! The same colors, designs, and characters that appeared on Brooks’s invitations were also on pennant banners that hung over food, on thank you goodie bags, and on food labels. Everywhere I could stick a penguin, polar bear, or our party colors, I did. You’ll be surprised what’s out there. We even found snowmen shaped straw cups for the kids to put their melted snowman (water) and penguin punch in. Cardboard cutouts with the same penguins and polar bears as Brooks’s invitations greeted guests outside, and a tall stand-up snowman we found in Christmas decorations welcomed people as they entered the building.
Your invitations should reflect the event and include the who, what, when, and where – along with a number or email address where guests can RSVP. You’ll want to mail invitations two to four weeks in advance, so order invitations or do-it-yourself printables at least six weeks in advance to be on the safe side. Also, when people RSVP, ask about allergies, or other special considerations. Your child adheres to a compassionate diet; others may have needs, too. You want everyone to feel welcome and free to experience the party atmosphere without worry.
Be on the lookout everywhere you shop, but stick to your theme, feeling, and colors. Like I said, I’m a planner. Every store I went in for the couple of months leading up to Brooks’s party, I looked at snowflakes, bears, red and blue dishes, tablecloths, and anything else available. It’s OK to mix and match. In fact, I think that makes a party space look better. We had solid red tablecloths and blue tablecloths with snowflakes where guests sat. Centerpieces were different at each table. Food tables were covered in red tablecloths with snowflakes. If you stick to your party colors, mixing it up is easy and looks professional.
Like I wrote earlier, despite them being healthy, most kids don’t believe carrots are a party food. Birthdays are an OK time to think with a child’s stomach. For Brooks’s Winter ONEderland theme, I made snowflake sugar cookies, dipped large pretzel sticks in vegan white chocolate, made vegan marshmallow snowmen on cakepop sticks with edible food dye features and found peppermint cotton candy. We also set up a “Warming Station” with almond milk hot chocolate, chocolate and regular coconut whipped cream, crushed peppermint, and chocolate sprinkles. Get creative on what you serve food in, too. The pretzels we had were displayed in baskets shaped like a snowman’s top hat and other food plates were on sleds. Our baker was also happy to adjust her recipe to make Brooks’s smash cake and guest cake vegan. All the things we served were so tasty that no one ever asked, “What’s this made of?”
Take your invitations, colors, and characters to your baker and discuss. There’s no reason you can’t incorporate those items into the food centerpiece – cake. If you are baking the cake yourself, keep colors and characters in mind. The cake can and should be fun to look at and tasty to eat.
Most kids don’t sit still for long. As a good hostess, plan to move the party along with some games and photo ops. We set up a winter scene, so children and families could sit on a sled and have their photos taken in a winter wonderland. Kids also tossed inflatable penguins, played Pin the Nose on the Snowman, and limboed under a giant blow-up peppermint stick.
It’s always a good idea to send guests home with age-appropriate goodie bags or gifts. Make them fit with the party theme, so when kids use them, they think about all the fun they had at your child’s party. We had a mix of ages at Brooks’s bash, so we did a combo. Blue bags with snowflakes held penguin thumb puppets, a container of bubbles with a snowflake topper, and a small polar bear coloring book and crayons. We also had a polar bear adoption station with stuffed polar bears and a sign noting that it would make Brooks “so beary happy” if children adopted one of the stuffed animals. It was a good chance for us to bring up adoption, even on a basic level.
Keep those 10 thoughts in mind as you move forward to plan parties for your little ones, and the only thing left to worry about on party day will be if your face will explode from all the smiles and giggles.
What are some themes from your favorite parties? Do you have any party ideas? Share them here. We’d love to hear from you.