Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Bella's Book Party

Here's the thing: I have a lot of opinions about kid's birthday parties.
I don't do characters.
I won't send kids home with a bunch of crappy trinkets their parents either have to find a place for or surreptitiously throw away.
I also won't send them home with tons of candy they will relentlessly beg their parents for.
I don't want a dozen kids bringing a dozen presents for my birthday child on top of everything they've already received from us, grandparents, aunts, uncles, family friends.
I don't think you need to spend a ton of money for kid's parties, and I still think simple is best.
Handmade is best.
Creativity is best.
I want them to reflect genuine values or interests that we have.
 So that said, here is the party I put together for Bella. I am fortunate that she is tractable and still trusts all my ideas. I just pitch my idea with excitement, and she's on board. 
And thus, the book party was born.


I bought a few children's books at Goodwill for buy one, get one free and ended up using them for many things for the party. First, I cut and then sewed them into simple flap envelopes for the invitations. For fun and interest I mixed and matched the front and backs of the envelopes from different books.

The actual invitations were downloaded and printed from Family Fun here .


I relied mostly on books and other props we already owned for  the decor, and used pages from the books I bought at Goodwill to make several banners with some bias tape.

(Doll I made and an elephant Michelle made for Bella's birthday)

I just piled books onto a plate rack in my kitchen and then strung it with a mini book page banner I made with some thin double-fold bias tape.

I made this banner from inspiration here.
I love the way it twirls and spins all the time. It's like art in motion.

Above the window I made a 'Happy Birthday Bella' banner with a scrabble font, with a large book page pennant banner beneath that.

And under that, a book page wreath from this tutorial.

Warning: It took forever to make. And it's still not done. I had to stop because of time constraints and I ran out of hot glue. This was by far the most time consuming part of the party preparation.


I set up the table with some activities to keep the kids occupied while we waited for everyone to arrive. It generally takes about 20 minutes for everyone to arrive and I can't stand having a dozen kids run helter skelter all over my bitty house. I put out a bowl of scrabble tiles for the dual purpose of cuteness and manipulatives for the kids, and was surprised how much they played with them, spelling words.

I printed out kindergarten-level word searches (a favorite of Bella's) and some Dr. Suess coloring pages to keep them busy. They loved them!

After everyone arrived, I split the kids into 2 groups. One group stayed at the table and made bookmarks, all with craft supplies I had on hand: markers, foam stickers, scrapbook paper, paper flowers, ribbon, and rubber stamps and ink.

Meanwhile, I helped the other group with a 'Book Treasure Hunt' I made up. 

I started by exclaiming that books were all treasures- of knowledge, imagination, adventure, and experiences and that we were going to find some of the treasures in these stories.

I made up 10 different clues that I glued in the back of each book. For instance, the first clue was "This friend should not be about while your mother is out!" (The Cat in the Hat) I gave them the first one, so the next clue was in the back of The Cat in the Hat and they had to work together to figure out all 10 books in order. Sometimes they could guess from the title, sometimes someone had read the book, and sometimes I had to nudge them in the right direction.

It was definitely most fun for the kids who were proficient and liked reading. (Bella loved it.)

I made these nerdy treasure maps to try and reinforce my somewhat contrived idea. At each number they wrote in the name of the book for that clue.
Their 'treasure' at the end was their favor bags. (More on those later-)

The third activity was probably their favorite.We played a book version of a cake walk. I scanned and printed full page book covers of some of our favorite books. I also printed smaller versions, like these fit on a sheet of paper. I laminated the full-size sheets and used them for the spots for the kids to stop on.  I used the smaller ones folded in a paper bag as the 'call books'. (They moved around the books to They Might Be Giants album, 'No'.)

The best part was when their book was called, they each got to pick out a book to open. On the invitation, I asked the parents to bring a wrapped book for a book exchange in lieu of a gift. They were so excited to pick out a book and that everyone had a gift to open at the party. I was thankful for meaningful gifts for each of the kids and that Bella wasn't left with a pile of cheap toys she doesn't need.

Once again, I kept it simple. I love when I see huge dessert buffets at parties on blogs, and I love dreaming of various treats to make and how to arrange and display them. However, I don't want to spend a ton of money and more importantly, I don't want to feed the kids 50 kinds of sugar.

Small water bottles, covered in old book paper.

I ended up making cupcakes and a cake because I wanted to make sure we had enough. There were 13 kids and I wanted leftovers of my favorite cake in the world.

For the cupcakes I used the thumbnail versions of the book covers we scanned and used them for cupcake toppers.


I cut off the bottom of a paper bag and sent it through my printer to put my quote on it. Then I zigzag stitched the bottom closed, and after filling it with goodies, stitched the top closed.

I bought some Dr. Seuss pencils on Amazon, printed some bookplates from here and made some bags of 'Book Worms'. (Just enough of a treat that they won't be begging for it for days on end, and bookplates and pencils that they can actually use. Plus a new book!)

And the grand total for the whole party was $53.37 total. Not too bad!

Best of all, Bella had a great time with her friends. I gotta say, it's a whole lot of work for an hour and a half party! It made me think, what have I started? I've done a party like this for the last 4 years, but I don't think I can do one every year for both of my girls! Not that I have any shortage of ideas though...I already have 3 or 4 ideas I'm batting around for next year.


michelle said...

Everything turned out just as cute as I imagined it would! I love the book treasure hunt, the tiny book covers on the cupcakes, the banners, and the favors. Man, I wish I could talk Eva into a party like this!

Doodle Bugs Paper said...

i loved it all!! amazing how simple and homemade it was and the kids loved it.. {i don't like characters either}

great job! i am pinning it on pinterest because this would be awesome to do with my first graders for an end of the year party!

Charlotte said...

So here's the thing: I wish that I had been an attendee at this party. Like, for real. I'm totally pinning this. Obviously.

kimmerbean said...

Wow, I am once again blown away by your creativity! Such a sweet idea for a birthday party.

paws said...

I love everything so much I want to cry! Such great ideas.

Erin said...

so fun! you are amazing!

Miranda said...

Jessie! This is AMAZING. Every little detail is so perfect and you truly thought of everything. I agree with all of your philosophies about kids' parties. And I think your efforts to keep things simple ended up making a much bigger impact than an over the top party would have.

shannon said...

Jesse, this is nothing short of AMAZING!!! I cannot believe the level of your creativity! You are on your way to making it big, my friend...I'm telling you!

This is so stinking clever I can hardly stand it!!

I agree with your party philosophy totally about sending kids home with crappy, cheapo trinkets. It's such a waste of money.

I'm with Charlotte...I wish I had been an attendee at this party. For real!!

patsy said...

this is FANTASTIC!
I am truly amazed at your talent & imagination.
I am forwarding this to my daughter asap!

p.s. hooray for no princesses... is anyone else out there sick to death of that?!

Claire said...

Oh that there were more birthday parties such as this! I would love to have had a book party as a child! Bella is lucky to have such a creative and thrifty mother.

{natalie} said...

i seriously love all of it. the mini pennants, scrabble tile cake, brown paper bags for favors. love! i hope i remember to have a party like this sometime. it would be really cute for book group too.

{natalie} said...

ps. we are on the same page as far as the trinkets to send home and the book exchange was brilliant!

ttanner said...

You're amazing, Jessie! Can I hire you for a party planner for my kids? I hate doing parties, but this was such a cute idea! I'm the same with you about friends gifts. We always write on the invitation, "No gifts, please." The book exchange was a great idea!

rmt said...

Um. WOW! So cute! I want to talk Daniel into a book party now just so i can do all these things, though I doubt mine would turn out as adorable as yours.

And I am totally making the old book wreath. Just for me. Because I really like it. And I love old books.

Susan said...

Man, oh man, I'm tired just reading this!!! But every dang thing is cuter than the one before! What the?!

I have a fancy version of that wreath in my store! Your's is just as cute, for sure. Mine sells for a LOT! Good grief.

I love every last detail, but I was thinking the whole way through, "how the hell will she top this?!" Bella must be on a list of every wanna-be friend hoping to be on the invite list for the next party!

I'm sure she was thrilled and the whole theme was just too cute. Cute, cute, cute. WAY cute. CUTE!

How the heck do you do that?
The end.

Kim said...

I haven't delved into themed birthday parties for my kids. This one for Bella is perfection. Loved all the details! :)

Monica Whitney said...

This is by far the most AMAZING party I have ever ever seen. I am totally bookmarking this page. I'm getting my PhD in reading education and all I want is the world to read with their children and make reading exciting. You have done just that!! I can't wait to have a party like this for one of my kids one day!

Enter our giveaway for a $50 Visa Card!

silly eagle books said...

Wow! this is so amazing--thank you for sharing this. (I found you via pinterest.) I write a children's book blog--would you mind if I shared a few pictures from your post with a link to your blog? Let me know if this is okay with you. I especially love the invitations and the cupcake toppers! So glad to have discovered your blog.


Traci said...

I just adore this. I wish someone would throw me a book party and I'm 32. Seriously. I'm borrowing this idea for one of my kids for sure!

silly eagle books said...

Hi Jessie, I shared your party on my blog today--thanks again! :)


Paula said...

I'm deffinetly using this in my classroom. It's so fun and they will love this kind of party at the end of the year!


Brimful Curiosities said...

Here via Silly Eagle. What an awesome theme. I especially like the book exchange idea. That one I plan to implement.

Sarah Beth said...

This party is really wonderful! I love all of your ideas, and the fact that it is so thoughtful and meaningful! Great job!

Holly said...

I love every detail, but the favor bags are my favorite. I will have to remember that not only for parties, but wrapping gifts. Sewing the bags closed is genius.

Whitney said...

Just found your blog from Ohdeedoh, but I am completely in love with your party idea. As the mother of two boys who have adamently insisted for years that gummy worms make any birthday cake better, I'm TOTALLY stealing your "book worms"! And then I'm stealing the rest of your ideas! AWESOME. Thank you!

CRAFTBOT said...

OMG, I never comment on anyone's blog posts but this time I could not stay quiet.
I am in love with this party you created, all those little details are just so perfect.
And I'm not just saying that because I am a Librarian!

2 Green Eyed Girls said...

I love your style. I haven't been reading blogs for a few months but was finally able to spend some time with yours today. Wow I have missed it.

This party for Bella was amazing. You always remind me of how much of an impact you can make with consistency. I really love the thoughtfulness you put into your designs and plans. You inspire me!

emily grace [long distance lobsters] said...

I found this on pinterest, and I am AMAZED. This is one of the most creative kid's parties I've ever seen. Ever. (I mean, I don't have a whole lot to draw on, so don't feel tooooo proud of yourself, but WOW.)

Mad props.

Jess said...

Adorable idea! I love the handmade favors!

Rachael M said...

This has to be the coolest birthday party I have EVER seen. I am practically drooling. ;) Wowie wow wow! I have never visited your blog before, but simply based on this alone, I am convinced that you are completely AWESOME!

Jillian @ Hi! It's Jilly said...

Wow! Great job! I'm helping plan a book baby shower & this was exactly what I was looking for!! Thanks for sharing! :)

Cat said...

I am trying to recreate many of your ideas. I love the book worm tags. Do you know what fonts you used? Or can you make them available to print?


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