A Dr. Seuss Birthday Party

It’s been a little more than a month now since the boys’ 4th birthday party; it’s about time I did a write-up. When I was planning the boys’ birthday party, my Google searches for “Dr. Seuss Birthday Party” proved invaluable. Maybe this little catalog of what I did can similarly help someone else someday. First, I have to say that I think a Dr. Seuss theme is rich with possibilities (for any age, really). I had more ideas than I could even use. One thing that is great about this theme is that you can do so much without ever being beholden to all the character merchandise out there. I love that.

1. invitations

My Old Man is pretty good with drawing. So I asked him to draw the Cat-in-the-Hat for me. Then I copied it onto light grey cardstock, colored it in, and pasted it onto a red card (I bought a stack of red folded cardstock at JoAnn’s, along with red envelopes). For the inside, I used more grey cardstock to provide the details – on the right side I put all the party info, and on the left I put a little quote: “We can have lot of good fun that is funny!” – the Cat in the Hat.

I decided to let each of the boys invite their age in preschool friends, for a total of 8 children plus parents. I didn’t want each child to have to bring presents for both boys, so in the invitation I specified which child had invited them (We request that you do not bring presents for both children. You have been invited as _______’s special guest.) Parents seemed to appreciate that, and I thought it was so much better to only have each child open 4 presents as opposed to 8.

2. Decorations

Instead of trying to buy or make a bunch of Dr. Seuss character-related decorations, I decided mostly just to focus on color. Lots of bright colors, with some polka dots and stripes thrown in. When I saw the birthday banner that Nova made for Little Sir, I was totally smitten. This was not hard at all, but as Nova indicated, it takes awhile to make. It was totally worth it, though. I loved the look, and I love that I’ll be able to use it again and again.

(we held the party at our church – what you see out those windows is our memorial garden. It was a great venue, and I would recommend to anyone looking to have a child’s party to consider renting space at a church. The fees are usually minimal compared to any place else you might rent. I didn’t want to do an activity party – bowling, museum, etc. – I just wanted a basic old-fashioned kids’ party. But our house is rather small, and though our backyard is huge we wouldn’t have had a good option in case of rain. Given how much work was involved in pulling the party off, it was really nice not to have to worry about cleaning the house and mowing the lawn, too!)

This is the birthday bunting from Amanda Blake Soule’s book The Creative Family. It ended up being unbelievably easy, and it went much more quickly than I expected (especially compared to the banner!!). I whipped it up in just a few minutes the night before the party, using leftover fabric – the striped fabric was leftover from the boys’ puppet theater, and the solids were left over from their birthday quilts (we’ll talk about those quilts another day).

For a door decoration, I used the same Cat-in-the-Hat My Old Man had drawn for the invitation. I took it to a copy shop and had them make a transparency for me and then I used an overhead projector to blow it up and trace it.

I made additional hats and then used those as markers in the church to show the way to the party.

3. Party activities

I brought the puppet theater I made the boys for Christmas and hung it in a doorway. I had a box of puppets and Seuss books on-hand. I had all of this set up in one corner of the room, and kids were welcome to just go over right away and start playing. It worked really well.

Next up was Pin the Hat on the Cat. I have kind of strong feelings about the necessity of playing pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey at old-fashioned birthday parties, but I do usually tweak the game a bit to fit the theme. So I did another poster-size version of the Cat, sans hat, and then traced his hat separately for kids to “pin” on him. It was loads of fun.

We also played Horton, Horton, Grinch (my Seuss-ian version of Duck, Duck, Goose) and Please, Cat, May I? (my Seuss-ian version of Mother, May I?). A word to the wise: some (most?) preschoolers may not be ready to play win-lose games like Mother, May I? I felt like such a Grinch when I sent a little girl back to the start line during this game! (she didn’t feel so great about it either!)

A game I wish we had played instead was a Thing 1, Thing 2 relay that I read about somewhere online. You have two teams and give them each a laundry basket. You throw toys and clothes all over the room, and then they have a relay race – running from one end of the room to the other, picking up toys and clothes and putting them in their baskets, and then running back while throwing everything out.

I also had a little box of play costumes available but I didn’t point anyone’s attention to it until the very end, when there were only a few kids left. The ones who did play with it had great fun, and I wish I had let them know about it sooner.

(the hat was not from the costume box – it was a party hat I found at Party America for $5 – less than half of what it cost for a most authentic-looking red-and-white Cat-in-the-Hat hat online)

4. Food

I had all sorts of ideas of homemade lunch items I wanted to make. We would have star-shaped sandwiches!! (you know, for star-bellied Sneetches) We would have green egg salad! We would have other brilliant Seuss-inspired foods!

And then I had a rare moment of clarity in which I realized I was trying to do too much. So we ordered pizza. I did have some fun yummy colorful fruit available, so that it wasn’t a total junk food fest.

For the cake, I took the picture My Old Man drew of the Cat-in-the-Hat (who knew that one picture would get so much play?) to the bakery I usually use, and I asked them to use it as a guide for decorating the cake. I was very explicit that I did not want them to do a photo transfer, which would make the picture flat (and cost $10 extra) but an actual drawing with icing, you know, like a regular party cake.

So, yeah. They did the photo transfer. And tried to charge me the extra $10. I refused to pay it, and then bought a small tube of black icing gel to at least outline the flat sad-looking little dude.

A minor improvement, but I did what I could. The kids couldn’t have cared less. It was delish.

5. Party favors

This may be the thing I was most proud of. Using the last of my puppet theater remnants, I made simple drawstring bags for the guests. I scoured the web for a good photo tute, and decided this one was definitely the best. I made the bags small enough that I was able to make all 9 (8 preschool friends plus 1 baby brother) from the left over polka dot fabric. Using the puppet theater polka dot fabric for these, the puppet theater striped fabric for the bunting, and then using the actual puppet theater as the main activity really helped bring the room together visually. Probably no one else noticed, but I thought it was kind of fun.

But my favorite idea was to do little personalized tags for the bags using the same kind of felt circle letters as in the birthday banner. In fact, I didn’t even have to cut out new ones, because the first several circles I cut for the banner were smaller than I wanted, so I used those for this purpose. I figured the kids could use their little initial tags in all kinds of ways (and I hope they’ll reuse the little drawstring bags as well). Inside I put a minimal amount of candy (a chocolate coin, a rainbow-swirled lollipop), a few trinkets (a tiny kaleidoscope, a rainbow-swirled superball – and for the toddler a Horton plush instead of the small choke-ables). And then a Dr. Seuss toothbrush for each one.

These little bags were so sweet and so much fun to make that I found myself thinking that I should just make fabric bags for everything, especially in place of any kind of wrapping paper.

In the end, it was a delightful – and exhausting! – celebration, and I was really glad I made the extra effort to do it the way I did (but also sooooo glad I didn’t make lunch on top of it. Oh, and did I tell you that at one point I thought I might try to make the cake myself? I was going to do four round chocolate cakes, then stack them, then ice them alternately red and white, with a black brim – you know, the cat’s hat. Yes, I am a bit out-of-touch with the limitations and realities of how time works.)

The next day? We got up and did it all over again, just the four of us. There was a banner, there were buntings, there was leftover cake, there were party hats, and there were more puppets (new additions: Horton and the fish-in-the-teapot).

Four is a magical age for all kinds of celebrating, and it was a thrill to get to play the role of magic-maker for a bit. But I have to say, I’m pretty glad there’s a whole year before I have to do it again.

**I really do have two four year-old boys, it’s just that one of them is a bit camera-shy, especially compared to his camera-loving brother. He is also a bit of a blur – always darting from one thing to another. But he had a good time at the party, too!


13 thoughts on “A Dr. Seuss Birthday Party

  1. This is an excellent party idea! While my five year old boy loves talking a good game about Star Wars parties, etc., we always have home-made style parties. Some favorites from his three sisters’ party days were dinosaur parties (we decorate home made dino sugar cookies) and parties where we made glycerin soaps in the microwave. Ah, girl party days . . .

    Now, I am going to check out that book . . .

  2. Wow. I so wish you were going to be my classroom mom this school year. You’re so creative!

    I also like the old fashioned, regular b-day parties. Bright colors, yummy food, music, some games…what else do you need? I don’t know if it’s the circle of families I babysit for or if it’s a Seattle thing or what, but I feel like b-day parties are almost becoming “competitive” in a way. For instance, if one little 6-yr old girl has her princess party at Lily’s, then everyone else does, too. Or they have to have some other theme or event where it costs a couple hundred bucks to rent the place. And don’t get me started on the sparkly designer invitations that must be sent out…

    I remember that one of the coolest parties I had was when I was either 11 or 12. We had it at home (all our parties were at home) and all my friends brought their bikes. We had streamers and noisy things and ribbons to decorate them and then we went on a scavenger hunt all over the neighborhood. My folks made up clues and posted them all over, we all had maps of the neighborhood to guide us, and eventually we ended up back home where the prize was a pinata and lunch. It couldn’t have been better.

    Kudos to you for keeping up the “old fashioned” b-day party traditions alive! What are your thoughts around pin the tail on the donkey??

  3. I love your creativity!!! I love home parties myself. I wish you were my neighbor…I would recruit you for my next party. Any great ideas for an Elmo party??

    You can be a party planner! We are big Dr. Suess fans. Nothing store bought could have compared to what you did.

    I would love to share your ideas with my members. That o.k.??

  4. I keep coming back to that birthday banner. It’s too adorable. Perhaps I’ll make one that just says “Happy Birthday” to use in my classroom….we’ll see. Or, I may just stick with happy birthday pencils 🙂

  5. I love that you feel pin the tail on the donkey is a requirement. so fun! Also, I love the vision of a little girl screaming and crying as she is sent back by the mean lady.

  6. Horton, Horton, Grinch is an awesome idea!! all of it is. I love theme parties and I think you did an awesome job with this, especially with the theme.

    A suggestion for handling the two kids/two presents thing (at least for a while) would be to do a book exchange. I’ve had and also been to several parties where this is done instead of presents. Each kid brings a wrapped book, and then everyone picks one from the pile. It’s great and easy!!

  7. I read this yesterday while setting in the Philadelphia airport waiting to return home. I was really tired from a 40-hour geek-a-thon, setting up a new laptop for my mother-in-law. Then I read your story about planning and putting on the party. I swear my first thought after reading it was “Well, my job wasn’t nearly THAT hard!” Thanks for putting things in perspective!

  8. You are a superstar — this looks like an amazing party! It’s probably a good thing that some of your plans didn’t get to come to fruition, or all the other parents would have gone home with inferiority complexes.

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