Last week we celebrated my daughter’s 14th birthday, but it seems like just yesterday we were bringing her home! I couldn’t help but reminisce about all the birthday parties I’ve planned for her throughout the years from Hello Kitty and Zhu-Zhu pets to High School Musical complete with singing and dancing.
One of the most fun parties we hosted was themed “Zany Zebras” on her 9th birthday. Because zebras are just as popular now as they were five years ago, I decided to share what we did to make that party extra fun. To begin, I created zebra-themed invitations using a computer template. I’m a little old-school, but I really prefer to mail party invitations. Not only do kids enjoy receiving their own mail, it avoids the hurt feelings that happen when invitations get handed out at school.
To further try and avoid hurt feelings, we asked parents to drop off their children at our house on Friday night between 5:00 and 5:30 PM. This also was more convenient for the girls, so they didn’t have to carry all of their overnight supplies to school. This time frame worked well because it gave the girls a little “free time” to settle in before we ate, but it didn’t give them enough time to get bored.
Tip #1: Experience has taught me that the key to hosting a successful party – whether it’s for adults or children – is having large quantities of good food. I served kid-friendly food including pizza pasta, baby carrots and celery sticks, plus apple slices. Once the meal was done, it was time to have some fun!
Tip #2: Plan more activities than you may have time to do. As a veteran Girl Scout leader, I’ve learned that keeping a group of girls constructively occupied is key to maintaining their peace and my sanity. I had a lot of fun thinking up zebra-themed ideas, and my mom enjoyed helping me with them.
It really worked out well to have two adults, so we could split the group into smaller groups for these activities:
Pin the Tail on the Zebra. We drew a zebra on hot pink tag board, used a black marker to make stripes and constructed a tail from black yarn. I found a scarf that was hot pink with black stripes, so we used that to tie around the eyes of the person who was attempting to pin the tail on the donkey.
Shrinky Dinks. I loved Shrinky Dink art when I was a kid and was excited to see that it was still available for purchase. I found a cute zebra line drawing online and then traced it onto the plastic. Each girl colored her own zebra, and then we made them into necklaces with black cord purchased from Hobby Lobby.
Zebra manicures. My mom is a former cosmetologist, so she enjoys painting others’ nails. I purchased black and white nail polish, and she painted zebra stripes on the girls’ nails.
Decorate sugar cookies. My mom and I both enjoy baking, but not everyone does. I think that’s why decorating zebra-shaped cookies might have been a highlight of the night! Many girls commented they didn’t get to do this at home. For simplicity, I purchased tubs of white frosting and tubes of black gel frosting. Each girl decorated 3 cookies, which we put into plastic bags and let them take home as party gifts.
Once the fun and games were done, it was time to enjoy ice cream and the Zebra-themed cupcakes that I had made. (I’m sharing the recipe below.) A festive atmosphere was created with an inexpensive black plastic table covering plus a bouquet of hot pink, black and white balloons. I also had purchased hot pink and black zebra stripes plates and napkins with hot pink plastic tableware. For more zebra-theme decorating ideas, check out our “Zany Zebras” board on the Enchanted Acres Pinterest Page.
The girls enjoyed some free time before it was time to rollout the sleeping bags. To help them unwind, we watched the movie “Racing Stripes.” It was a cute movie that also happened to fit our zebra theme.
Tip #3: Do as much prep work ahead of “the big day” as possible. Pre-planning is key to hosting a hassle-free party: menu, snacks, decorations, activities, etc. I like to begin about a month in advance. I begin by creating the invitation list, so invitations can mail at least two weeks prior to the party. That also gives me time to plan party favors, too.
I made gift bags for each girl, so each she could keep track of her party favors as we made them. I purchased inexpensive black lunch bags and curling ribbon at a store like Dollar Tree. Then I found a cute zebra image online, printed it off at home and glued it to the outside of the bag. I also printed each girl’s name on a bag.
I tried my best to make party treats that would fit the theme, too. I even tried my hand at baking and decorating zebra-themed cupcakes, and I’m sharing the recipe below. My cupcake decorating skills leave a little to be desired, but these cupcakes were a hit anyway! The girls were pleasantly surprised to bite into the cupcakes and discover a mini Oreo® center.
P.S. My final tip for creating a hassle-free party is to hold it at Enchanted Acres! I’d love to help you customize a party that fits the occasion from baby showers and bridal parties to birthday parties for “kids” ages 1 to 90! Kids enjoy playing on our playground and watching our goats, too.