How to Create a Very Hungry Caterpillar Themed Birthday Party
Remember this book? A guaranteed hit with kids!
Easy Steps to Creating A Themed Party
A potential source of stress for any new mom or mom of young kids is the THEMED BIRTHDAY PARTY. Even though it's a little stressful (you stress because you care, right?), I love planning and putting on a themed birthday party. I'm going to list the steps and resources I used to put on a 2nd birthday party for my son, with a theme inspired by the children's book "Very Hungry Caterpillar" by Eric Carle (his favorite book at the time). Hopefully, you will consider it easy, economical and low-stress, because in the end, it's always worth it!
Nail down your theme, guestlist, location, date and time of the party. Create and send an invitation.
Other than my wedding invitation, I don't think I've ever sent a physical invitation for a party. For all my events, be it baby shower, birthday party, or get-together, I like to create my own e-invitation. That is, create and send a jpeg (picture) that contains the invitation, or couple a cute photo with an email invitation. It is a cheap (free), easy, and unique way to send the word out. Some love Evite.com (the popular online invitation website) but I don't like how your personal information is out there in the web-verse, so I prefer to make my own "e-vite" by creatively putting together pictures and information. For a VHC ("Very Hungry Caterpillar") invitation, I found artwork from the book online (you could also scan pages from your book), played off the counting lesson in the book, and made the invite using images and text boxes in Microsoft Publisher (you could probably use Microsoft Word too).
A caterpillar loves fruit!
Think of food, decorations, favors/goodie bag ideas. DIY (do-it-yourself) as much as possible.
For a VHC theme, if you remember the book at all, fruit is key. So I included sliced fruit of the kinds in the book - apple, pear, plum, strawberries (strawberry punch in my case), and oranges (little cuties clementines). I also wanted to include more finger foods, so drawing from the other foods mentioned in the book, I laid out pickles, sausages, salami, and cheese (plus crackers). The main food was grilled pork sandwiches, pickled vegetables, and noodles (provided by my awesome grandma, mom, and mother-in-law), which aren't theme-related but were oh-so-yummy! On the sweet side, I offered lollipops (leftover from Halloween) and I made little cherry-topped brownies (to look like the chocolate cake the caterpillar ate). For drinks, I had a glass beverage jar dispenser filled with strawberry punch and the usual water and beer for adults.
My little caterpillar
After a quick online search for ideas, I made a caterpillar out of balloons (greens and blues, with a red one for the head) and used streamers and a green/blue tissue paper pom-pom on the ceilings. For a birthday banner, I stayed up one night and found and print out (from an educational website) a caterpillar with letters on each section of its body. I used it to spell out "happy birthday" and my son's name. Colored and glued together, it made a cute banner! Also, I printed out text and pictures from the book and attached to toothpicks to make signs for the fruit display. The great thing about ALL of these decorations is that I had leftover balloons, ribbon, streamers, and tissue paper from other parties, so I spent next to nothing! Helium balloons are also a great way to add a festive touch. You can try Amazon.com, Party City, Target, or your local supermarket or 99cent store for helium balloons and other supplies.
Goodie bags (favors):
I wanted to combine a traditional birthday party goodie bag (usually given to guests/kids upon leaving) with a fun activity the kids could do during the party. So into a colorful paper bag I put: boxes of crayons (25cents per box during a back-to-school sale), plastic bugs and frogs and crazy straws (about $2/kid, for 8 kids, for everything), and the coup-de-grace - an activity booklet I made using Eric Carle books' themed free coloring pages and games I printed from the internet (just used regular paper, printer, and some time to format it). The kids got to color and do activities at their own table during the party.
It can be hard to figure out a game or activity to keep the kids engaged and the parents happy during a big birthday party. Luckily the kids at my son's party were all 5 years old or younger, so it didn't take much to keep them happy (in-between the eating and running around that they're going to do anyway). Besides the activity booklet I gave everyone so that they could color, I decided to do "caterpillar crafts" to go along with the theme of the party. To warm up, we made caterpillar chains out of construction paper. For a second activity, we simulated a caterpillar going through metamorphosis (as the book teaches about) by coloring a paper caterpillar, gluing it onto a clothespin, decorating its "cocoon" (a cardboard toilet paper roll) with scraps of paper and stickers, and coloring a paper butterfly that we stuffed into the cocoon roll (so after the caterpillar goes into the cocoon, it clips onto the butterfly, and flies out as a beautiful butterfly). Even some adults had fun doing this craft, me included!
Two very different caterpillar cupcake cakes
Make the cake...and enjoy!
You don't have to be Martha Stewart to make a great birthday cake for your kid's birthday. I got the idea off the internet to make a cake from cupcakes decorated to look like a wiggly caterpillar. For the body, I made lemon cupcakes (from a box mix) topped with cream cheese frosting I made from scratch, colored green. For the head, I cut a rough shape out of a pan of brownies and frosted with some reserved frosting I colored red. I had plans to make candy eyes and licorice feet for even more awesomeness, but alas, I only had time to stick leftover brownie pieces all over the place (he looks a little cross-eyed as a result, oh well!). I think this last step of making the cake yourself, be it from a mix or from scratch, or even personalizing a store-bought cake, is important and crowd-pleasing to boot. It really says you took some time to celebrate your kid's birthday! So once you sing "Happy Birthday" and dig into your creation, you can relax and be satisfied that you put on a great themed birthday party.