Bitsy’s Very Hungry Caterpillar First Birthday Party, Part III (Decorations and Takeaways)

If you keep hanging out here, you’ll see how much I love to reuse and repurpose. One of the best decorations for Bitsy’s first birthday party was made from a shipping box. I used the great big one in which the play balls for the ball pit and toy fruit for the feed-the-caterpillar tossing game were shipped to make a big # 1 covered in pictures from Bitsy’s first year.

1 birthday

The only materials needed were the box, scissors, strong scrapbook glue (I really like Elmer’s Craftbond Scrapbook glue set, which I already had for baby scrapbooking), construction paper, and photo prints. Once you’ve completely unfolded the box, it’s easy to see how the flaps make a 1. Leave the bottom flaps and top left flap in place. Cut off the other side flaps. This decoration works for a first birthday party, no matter what theme you choose. I tied it in with The Very Hungry Caterpillar theme by making grass for the bottom out of green construction paper, and making some of the colorful construction paper circles into caterpillars, as you can see in the above image. This made a great entrance display beside the front door, along with a few balloons for the porch and some other purchased decorations. Most of what I bought came from Oriental Trading Company’s adorable The Very Hungry Caterpillar birthday collection, Michael’s, and nearby dollar stores.

flower pinwheels

These flower pinwheels were a lucky Dollar Tree find. They worked so well with the party theme and colors. I put three on each side of our front path. One of the kids liked them so much I let him take one home.

The “Best Day Ever!” banner at the dessert table and the cutouts on the food table, as well as some paper cake plates, napkins, a bib for the birthday girl’s smash cake and other cutouts at the entrance and around the house came from Oriental Trading Company. I was really happy with the quality, and they shipped much more quickly than expected.

cake bib

Decorating, setting up activities, and picking up the cake from the bakery were the priorities on the morning of the party. Some of the food had been prepared the night before, and it’s okay to keep putting out food as guests are arriving. One thing I just couldn’t get done before I ran out of time was decorating Bitsy’s high chair the way I’d planned. I ended up just tying a few balloons to the chair. Really, that was all it needed. The spectacle of a baby eating her first birthday cake is cute enough without a lot of adornment.

My biggest takeaway to share with you is not to get too overwhelmed with the details. Do you think the party was any less enjoyable because I didn’t put butterfly wings or a caterpillar spelling out “one” on the birthday girl’s highchair? No! As long as you have some food, drinks, activities, and a cheerful atmosphere, everything will be fine. What really matters is celebrating the birthday of one you love and spending time with your guests, making sure they feel welcome and comfortable.

After the party, I kept a few of the decorations for memory’s sake–my husband wanted the photo collage “1” for his home office, and a few smaller items can be scrapbooked. Others I donated to my local public library. The staff were thrilled to have them. I can tell you from my own experience as a library paraprofessional and current Masters of Library and Information Science student that your library probably won’t be able to use your old books, but donations of materials for storytimes and arts & crafts will be very useful to the library’s children’s department. Just check with the staff before bringing in craft materials. Some libraries restrict certain materials, like glitter. If you give a Very Hungry Caterpillar party, or any other children’s book-themed party, please support your public library by donating decorations and craft materials rather than throwing them in the trash!

Throwing the party took some planning and a bit of hectic running around to finish things up in the hours before party time, but it was well worth it. It brought so much joy to my family and me, and we’ll always have happy memories of the day. Joy is best shared, and it was so important to me to share with others in our joyful celebration of this most precious year!

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Bitsy’s Very Hungry Caterpillar First Birthday Party,Part II (Theme, Food, and CAKE!)

Planning Bitsy’s first birthday was exciting and enjoyable. Selecting a theme is the best place to start, and so fun for me because I love themed events! Once I selected the theme I came up with so many ideas, some from others and some of my own. One of the hardest parts of planning, especially for me, is narrowing down big visions and choosing which ideas to leave out to make room for what will work best. Here’s what worked for us:

Theme

As I started thinking about Bitsy’s then-approaching first birthday party a couple months before the date, I considered a couple other themes, like Alice in Wonderland (“One”derland) and some cute trendy ones like unicorns and flamingos. Once I thought of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, my mind was made up! I knew it would be the perfect theme for Bitsy.  I stream for her on Netflix The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Other Stories, a half-hour program from 1993 featuring animated versions of classic Eric Carle books. She really focuses and interacts with it. The music and animation are beautiful. It’s calm, quiet, and soothing, unlike a lot of new cartoons. While we don’t want to encourage too much screen time for babies and toddlers, this is a short and educational program I highly recommend and my own little one really loves. If you don’t have Netflix, the dvd is available at Amazon. I read to her every day, and Eric Carle’s books are some of our favorites. We have the board book editions of several of them, including The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Since so many kids enjoy this story (read about its popularity and a delightful interview with the author here), Bitsy’s guests could all appreciate the theme. I think it fits so well with a first birthday, too, because it celebrates someone very small growing up.

Food

One of the most fun things about this theme is the food. The menu creates itself!  Party guests eat the foods the eponymous caterpillar eats. Label the foods with the lines from the story, and guests essentially read the story as they help their plates. Of course, the caterpillar eats lots of foods, many of them sweets. You have to make decisions about how to serve the foods from the book without serving way too much and having more sweet than sustenance. The party started at 10 am, so heavy hors d’oeuvres were appropriate (and so were the super-popular mimosas for the adults!). I had deviled eggs plated on Romaine lettuce to represent the little egg on a leaf at the beginning of the story. For cherry pie, I made a no-bake cherry cheese cake and cut it into petits fours. Instead of full slices of chocolate cake, I served mini-brownies. You could also make the birthday cake chocolate or change the language on the label to “one slice of birthday cake” instead of chocolate cake. Even though I love baking from scratch, I used boxed mixes and packaged snacks in this instance to free up my time for decorating and setting up party activities. The slices of Swiss cheese and salami were plated together with butterfly-shaped crackers. The best thing about this menu is it includes a lot of fruit!

food table

The Cake 

dessert table

So, I love baking cakes and don’t mind trying out elaborate recipes, but I don’t have the skills or tools for the kind of cake decorating I wanted. There are some really cute, easy-to-execute ideas for this theme which I considered and may work well for you. For instance, a caterpillar can be made from the smash cake and cupcakes, with the smash cake as the caterpillar’s head in red icing and green cupcakes for the guests make up the caterpillar’s body. Some great examples can be found here.

I allowed myself to splurge a little on the cake after browsing some of the beautiful creations made on the theme. I chose the same local bakery that made my delicious wedding cake. You only have your first birthday once and–I’m not ashamed to say–I teared up a little bit at first sight of this beautiful cake when I picked it up from the bakery. I saved in other areas of the party and don’t regret this splurge at all.

One mistake I made: turning on the light above the dessert table too soon, which caused the caterpillar’s head and one of the sun rays to wilt a little bit, as you can see in the picture. But, hey, the cake was still beautiful and Bitsy had a great time digging into her smash cake.

Smash cakes are a pretty new tradition, which you may not feel the need to include in your baby’s first birthday party. I’m glad I had one for Bitsy, though. Bitsy enjoyed digging into her cake, it provided a few minutes of entertainment for the guests, and made a great video to share with family who couldn’t attend the party. Bitsy’s approach to her smash cake was a little confused and hesitant at first, but she finally leaned in and took a bite. She bit straight off the cake a few times before getting her spoon and hands in there. It was so cute and made such a happy memory!

This post contains a few links to items I used and/or recommend from Amazon. As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases. In the next post, I’ll talk a little about decorations and wrap up the topic of the first birthday party.

 

 

 

 

Bitsy’s Very Hungry Caterpillar First Birthday Party (Part I: Birthday Fun for Little Ones)

Celebrating Bitsy’s first birthday brought so much joy! Some may feel  a first birthday party doesn’t matter much because the little one doesn’t understand she’s having a birthday party and won’t remember it, but I feel differently. A birthday isn’t just an opportunity for one to celebrate another year of one’s own life. It is also a chance for those who love you to celebrate you. Family, friends, and neighbors were happy to gather together to celebrate their love for Bitsy, and when she gets older she may happily look back at pictures from her first birthday party. Besides, I can honestly say that even though she may not have understood that a party was being thrown in her honor, she really had a great time! I made sure to have baby and toddler-appropriate activities that she and her guests would enjoy, and those activities really were a hit! Here’s what worked:

Ball pit

ball pit

This one was such a hit! The age range of most of the kids at the party was 11 months to 3 years. Even the one older kid had fun playing with the babies in the ball pit. Here’s what I did:

I ordered these play balls. They were one of the best deals I found on play balls, plus I liked that they’re BPA-free and the colors went well with the Very Hungry Caterpillar theme (more later on choosing the theme).

I kept my eye out for inflatable pools in end-of-summer clearance sales, but wasn’t finding any. I thus ended up buying the inflatable pool the day before the party. The pool I found was a lot bigger than I’d hoped for, but a very helpful Walmart associate helped me get it for almost half off the price by tearing the box a little for me! I guess it helps to shop with a cute baby 🙂

So I would say the one mistake I made regarding the ball pit was buying the pool after I bought the play balls and too late to order more play balls in time for the party. The one box of play balls I ordered didn’t fill up the pool, but that was totally okay. I added some bouncy balls and small pillows to fill up more of the space. In the end, I think it may have been better that way since it gave the little ones more space to crawl around and play.

The parents and kids loved this, and it ended up being the central activity of the party. The pool is 9-feet wide and parents could sit close by and supervise in the shade while the little ones could safely play in the ball pit. I highly recommend this idea for any baby/toddler party.

Feed-the-Caterpillar Tossing game

feed caterpillar

I wanted  to give a good party, not reinvent the wheel. Much of the planning of this party was done using Pinterest, and this is one of those ideas that originated there. It’s also important to me, once I get an idea from Pinterest, not to get too caught up in imitating it exactly. Start with the idea, then use the resources you have access to and your own creativity to execute it the best way you can. I used cardboard shipping boxes, two pieces of red poster board, construction paper, scissors, a box cutter, and my trusty hot glue gun to build this activity. The toy fruit for tossing into the caterpillar’s mouth was entertaining enough on its own for the youngest babies, and Bitsy’s been enjoying playing with it ever since the party.

fruit to toss

Bubble machine

This was an additional, last-minute touch I added when I saw the Blitz Bubble Blowout on sale. If you have little ones, you know how much they love bubbles. This added a lot of excitement to the party, and the bubbles were so pretty! My honest take: I’m glad I bought this. It was great for the party and will be fun to use for a long time to come. The one drawback is the frequency with which you have to refill it. One fill-up gets you several minutes of bubbles. You have to have some other activities to redirect the kids to so you’re not constantly refilling the bubble machine. The bottle of solution that comes with the machine got completely used-up during the party. If you’re going to use this toy, it’s a better deal to go ahead and buy the large refill bottle. I didn’t break into the big bottle yet, because when I ran out of the small bottle, the parents and I just told the kids that bubbles were over for the day. They were fine with it, because by then it was time for birthday cake!

I also planned a couple crafts in case it rained or the kids got bored and needed a new activity, but we ended up not needing them. I kept some of the craft materials to use later and returned others.

As you can see from the links, I got several items for the party from Amazon and recommend those items to you. As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

In the next post, I’ll talk about the birthday party theme, decorations, and food.