A fun way to plan your child’s next birthday party is by taking inspiration from his/her favorite books. When inviting guests, ask each guest to donate a gently used book as “admission” to the party, and then have the birthday guest of honor help you take the donated books to an organization that will distribute them to children in need. (Public libraries, local elementary schools, hospitals, and shelters all welcome book donations).
- Dr. Seuss Party – Illustrations in a Dr. Seuss book are lively and whimsical so decorations can be bright and include a mix of colors or can remain simple with black, white, and red in the spirit of the Cat in the Hat. Take out the artificial Christmas tree, and set it up as the drop-off place for gifts in the spirit of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Activities are plentiful and are all inspired by the wonderful tales of Dr. Seuss. If space allows, let children try to draw their favorite Dr. Seuss characters using sidewalk chalk. (Have an assortment of Dr. Seuss books out for inspiration). Let kids paint their footprints after reading The Foot Book. Let guests create their own fanciful hat in the spirt of The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins. And kids can also decorate their own hat just like the Cat’s. Take out the green plastic Easter eggs, and let guests go on a green egg hunt inspired by Green Eggs and Ham. Let kids try their hand at balancing like the Cat by holding a small fan, a book, an umbrella, a cup, a fish (use a stuffed animal or a gummy fish), and a toy ship. You can also play “Pin the Hat on the Cat,” and let guests work on a Dr. Seuss inspired word search when you need the troops to settle down a bit. Guests can also decorate plain socks using fabric paints inspired by Fox in Socks. Serve your hungry guests green eggs (as easy as scrambled eggs with green food coloring), Cat-in-the-hat marshmallows (stack a few large marshmallows on a lollipop stick and use a red Fruit Roll-Up to create the red stripes. Use red Jello, blue Jello, and cookie cutters in the shape of fish to create a sweet treat inspired by One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. Assemble a Dr. Seuss goodie bag filled with erasers, pencils, bookmarks, a package of seeds (in the spirit of The Lorax), and the kids’ socks. And don’t forget to have guests sign the book Happy Birthday to You! as a special souvenir for the guest of honor.
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar – Eric Carle’s classic book provides the bright colors and polka dots for a child’s birthday party. Party games can include a bean bag toss (see if guests can throw the bean bag into the caterpillar’s mouth) as well as a pinata. Additionally, set up an arts and crafts area, inviting guests to complete coloring pages, to make their own caterpillar using their fingerprints, and constructing a caterpillar out of half an egg carton. Don’t forget to include your own caterpillar centerpiece. You can use a series of green paper lanterns and one red lantern to serve as a mobile of the caterpillar’s body. Or, you can attach a series of green balloons to the wall with a red balloon as the face. And still another option calls for attaching a series of green paper plates onto a wall, with one red plate decorated to serve as the caterpillar’s face. Food is easy; serve your guests what the caterpillar ate — apples, pears, plums, strawberries, oranges, pickles, Swiss cheese, salami, watermelon, and sausages. You can serve a cake with an edible caterpillar on top (such as a gummy worm) or you can create a caterpillar made out of cupcakes with green frosting (for the body) and one cupcake with red frosting (for the head and face). Goodie bags can include bookmarks, a set of markers, and each child’s own caterpillar-making kit (cotton balls and pipe cleaners).
- Charlotte’s Web – The setting of the book is on a farm, so create a farm for your party by using a red gingham pattern for your paper goods. Use pictures of the featured farm animals (rat, duck, goose, horse, sheep) to create a pendant-style banner. And put those spider webs from Halloween to good use and let guests help create some of Charlotte’s webs. Have partygoers play “pin the tail on Wilbur.” Have kids create their own spider webs. Try string wound around two popsicle sticks, or use paper plates that are hole punched and pull the string through the holes to create different designs. Let kids create their own version of Charlotte by using black paper plates and black pipe cleaners. (Don’t forget googly eyes) For food, you can try “pigs in the blanket” or other fair-suggestive food such as corn on the cob (try the small size for smaller hands), large slices of watermelon, and potato salad. A round pink cake can easily be transformed into Wilbur’s smiling face or use a sheet cake with black frosting to create a birthday message inside a spider web. Goodie bags can include bookmarks, farm-animal shaped erasers, small personalized piggy banks, and each child’s own blue ribbon.
- Diary of a Wimpy Kid – Cover a long table with white butcher paper, have a supply of markers handy, and let guests provide the artwork creating their favorite wimpy face. White balloons can be decorated with black Sharpie markers to resemble different wimpy characters as well. For table settings, display the books and have coordinating balloons attached to them. In terms of activities, change “Hot Potato” to “Pass the Booger” (try using a small squishy ball). Instead of pin the tail on the donkey, it’s pin the nose on Sweetie the Dog. You can also have kids estimate how many gummy worms are inside a clear glass vase. A white sheet cake or individual cupcakes with white frosting can be decorated to resemble the faces on the books’ covers. Prepare goodie bags with miniature composition books, pencils, and small chocolate bars (for making those all-important realistic poop stains).
- Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach – Food is easy with this party. You can host your party as a brunch and serve peach-flavored ice tea, fresh peaches, peach pie, diced peaches, peach jam, peach cobbler, peach smoothies, and peach cupcakes. Invite guests to estimate the number of sour peach candies in a clear glass vase. Stations can also be set up where children assemble their own insects (James was befriended by a grasshopper, ladybug, earthworm, centipede, spider, silkworm, and glow worm) and their own version of Aunt Sponge (using plain kitchen sponges, googly eyes, feathers, pieces of fabric, yarn, and pipe cleaners). Goodie bags may include a copy of the book, sour peach candies and/or jelly beans, and a bookmark.