Once a year, I really enjoy the chance to focus my creative energy on a birthday party theme. This year, the kiddo (turning 4) had an opinion on the party focus. She wanted a dress-up party, no surprise since she would spend 24/7 in dress-up clothes if I allowed her to. I reluctantly agreed with her desire and decided to make it into a princess/castle party. I wanted a way to make boys on the invite list enjoy the party too, so I went with a rough medieval theme to include knights and princesses.
The starting place for my party theme is always the invitation. I LLLOOVVEE creative invitations. For this year's party, I ended up designing an invite that was a magic wand for girls and a sword for boys. The supplies were all from Hobby Lobby...or things I already owned. The magic wand was constructed from a wooden dowel (pack of 25 for $2), painted silver, with sturdy glitter felt that I cut into stars using a pattern I printed off the internet. To paint the dowels, I spread aluminium foil in a cookie sheet, squirted in some silver craft paint, and rolled all the dowels around. Then I set them out to dry on paper plates. I also took some silver string and hot-glued star shaped sequins on the ends. The assembly went pretty fast, hot-gluing the stars with silver string onto the dowel. For the swords, I fashioned sword-shapes out of pieces from a cardboard box and wrapped them in alumnium foil for some shine. I owned some colored popsicle sticks (not sure why -- random dollar tree purchase years ago). I snipped one of the sticks with my garden shears, and glued together the cut stick with 2 uncut ones to fashion a handle. Then I wrapped black electrical tape around the bottom of the handle and glued a few sequins onto the handle for some sparkle. Whew! When all of that was done, I created a quick invitation in Microsoft Word and printed 3 per page onto silver 2-sided scrapbook paper. A few simple slits in the invitation later (cutting board and exacto knife), and it slipped right onto the magic wand or sword.
Next up, planning party decor, food, and activities. I am known for going overboard on all three things. But this year, I was in a walking boot for most of the party prep-time, and couldn't run around with a ton of errands without hassle. So I actually farmed out some tasks for a change. I looked online and was able to hire a princess to do all the activities. I don't live in a particularly large city, but there were a few to choose from. In my case, the princess coordinates the activities for 2 hours. She told story-time, played 4 games, and offered face-painting or make-up. She also just played with the kids in general and was great to entertain a pack of 4-yr-olds. So, anyway, with activities in order, I was only left to decor and food.
These days, the first place I look for inspiration is Pinterest. One of the very first pins that captured my attention was this amazing cardboard box castle.
I found the castle a perfect idea. We just moved into our house 2.5 months ago and despite giving away over a hundred leftover boxes to friends, I had 1 final stack of boxes to deal with. I actually intended to follow the instructions on the blog above to a tee, but when I asked at my local Lowe's for a few stove-sized boxes, I learn that you can only get them 3 days a week (M, W, F at 6 am at my store). Well, it was a Saturday and I didn't have that kind of patience. So I went home and studied my own selection of boxes again. I ended up only using boxes that I owned, and actually turned it into a 4-sided castle instead of just a "front" at the one above. I was thrilled with the result! To anchor the corners, I stabbed through the cardboard with a flathead screwdriver and then used plastic zip-ties to attach boxes to one-another, just as suggested by my inspiration castle. I did use a little bit of plain Elmer's glue to attach the notched pieces around the top of the castle. My front doorway was a large flat-screen TV box, the 4 corners were each 2 "large" boxes from Walmart on top one another. The left and right walls were from a patio furniture set. It took about hours with my exacto knife, screwdriver, and zip-ties to form the structure. I then painted it, but note cardboard soaks up a lot of paint. It took TWO gallons of paint (the first can was an Oops section can for $3, the 2nd one I paid full-price for to get the color I wanted.). I used a small sample pint of purple paint that cost $2 to hand-paint the decorative elements. Note, I cut the windows, doorway, and peepholes at varying heights to accomodate all sizes of children. At the back, I taped some ribbons over the opening. For the front doorway, I ran some ribbons to make it a working drawbridges. Despite the heavy-duty TV box, it didn't take long for the door to get a bend in it. I used duct tape and a couple of paint stirrers to reinforce at the bend from the inside. Finally, I sewed a flag for the top of the castle out of felt and ribbon.
This sucker actually sat in my garage for 2 weeks, before I clipped the zip-ties at a few key places to split it into 3 pieces so that I could transport it inside my house and reassemble it.
More castle images (different angles):
(interior - nothing fancy!)
With the castle in hand, there wasn't a ton of other decor that I wanted. I did cut triangles out of remnant table fleece (fleece and felt don't require stitching on cut sides) and made about 100 ft of pennants by sewing the triangles to masonry string. On some white sparkly felt, I wrote out Happy Birthday and my child's name with a fabric marker to incorporate into the pennants. I also wanted a bunch of helium balloons. I bought one of those helium tanks from Hobby Lobby ($34.99 but then on sale 50% off) and that filled the 25 pink balloons that I had with more helium to spare. I didn't want to buy balloon weights, so I improvised on that too. I actually took 3 dum-dum lollipops and tied them together with a clear plastic hairband. It worked perfectly, and leftover will be used for Halloween candy!
The other decor was just in the dress-up items. My daughter has a collection of dress-up (mostly from yardsales for $1 each)...no kidding, so has 20 dresses. I saw an idea on Pinterest for a poolside towel rack out of PVC pipe and 2x4s. So I bought an 8 ft length of PVC and 1 2x4 at Lowes, plus two 90 degree elbow joints. My husband was out of town during this prep, so I just used a hand miter-saw instead of digging out the circular saw to cut the PVC and 2x4. Then I used a 1 inch hole bit in my power drill to make a slot for the PVC to fit into. This worked pretty well as a dress-up closet, although there was a bit of a sag in the middle from all the dresses.
Oh, thought of one more thing...goody bags. My hired princess actually said she would bring goody bags for all the children, but I wanted to add to the (mostly candy) bags she provided. So I bought feather boas and crowns for all the girls, and knight helmet/shield/swords for the boys. These were all from the Dollar Tree -- I'm sure it helped that I was shopping in early October and Halloween stuff was out. I bought plain brown gift bags from Hobby Lobby (25 ct each, on sale) and had my daughter help with this project. We used large stamp-pads and stamps leftover from prior projects to stamp princess designs on the gift bags to hold the boa/crown and knight sets).
On the food table, I did use some bright pink tulle that was leftover from a prior project underneath the serving trays. I also had assembled a foam castle kit (Michael's crafts) with my daughter, so that was our centerpiece...although I did stab a leftover magic wand into the roof! On our dining table, I had put in all 3 leaves to make it extra long and to seat 10 chairs. I had a white damask tablecloth to put on it, plus more leftover pink tulle. I then scattered some dollar-tree plastic rings and some rhinestones on top of the tulle. The cupcake tower served as the centerpiece there.
Finally, food I kept simple this year. I figured (correctly) that the kiddos would be too busy to eat much! I made homemade caramel popcorn and white-chocolate popcorn (the caramel corn came out better...it didn't get stale like the other), plus had fruit and veggie trays, brownies, and some neat pink/yellow marshmallows ($1/bag at Walmart). My mom provided the cupcakes, which was a relief.
So that was my princess/castle party. The kids all seemed to enjoy it, especially the castle. I hope I've inspired someone who reads this blog.