Monday, June 16, 2014

LEGO birthday party (on a budget)

The last time Tricky had an actual birthday party, he was turning one. I've always said he could have another one when he started school and since we call kindy "school", well, it meant this year he got one. He wanted a LEGO birthday party, I wanted a budget party. We managed to combine the two, HUZZAH!

The very first thing I did was put a limit on the number of kids he could invite. I let him pick nine friends and even went so far as asking for siblings not to come if possible, unless they were babes in arms - some people might think that's a bit harsh, but numbers can double or triple if the whole family comes, and I just couldn't stretch the budget to make enough food, goodie bags and prizes for twenty five children plus adults.

Secondly, instead of buying heaps of ready-made party decorations, I searched for free printables, made my own labels, checked out all the discount and dollar shops, and used what I had available (hello, laminator!) to make it look awesome without spending a fortune. If you're having a LEGO party, everything has to be awesome, right?

The outfit
I couldn't resist making Tricky a pair of LEGO movie shoes for his birthday, featuring Emmet and Wyldstyle! A pair of $2 canvas shoes (complete with a floral insole) and paints from our craft drawer meant he got a one of a kind birthday present and couldn't wait to wear them to his party. I grabbed a yellow tshirt from Kmart for $3, made some eyes, some eyebrows and a mouth in GIMP and printed it on to transfer paper I had in the cupboard. The result was a LEGO tshirt that will fit him for quite a few years to come.

The decorations
By keeping all the decorations confined to one table, I was able to keep the costs down, and again, I used what I had available - a LEGO sorting head (which was filled with prizes!) and a brick lunchbox he was given last Christmas definitely helped the theme! The only thing I had trouble sourcing was a yellow tablecloth and luckily my sister-in-law, Jen, came to the rescue on the day of the party - it helps that she runs a Perth party supply company, Party In A Box, and has a shed full of these sorts of things.

I strung a birthday banner up (free printable available at HaleGrafx), drew minifigure faces on yellow balloons and stuck them in vases, and popped the goodie bags along the back. It might have been a bit lacking if it wasn't for the themed food which actually became part of the decorations. Jen and I set up the tablescape using a diagram I'd drawn in my early planning stages. It was so brilliant to see my messy drawing become a reality and I was so surprised to see it look almost exactly like I'd imagined.

The food
I'm a sucker for themed food, I really am. Food was the most expensive part of the party even though I made as much of it as possible. We had popcorn (containers from BIG W), Brick Brownies, LEGO pizza, cupcakes (toppers from eBay for $7), fruit kebabs and pinwheels. And cake. Can't go past cake. I made a mudcake using a silicon mold I got off eBay almost two years ago, and the leftover mixture went to the cupcakes. I thawed some fondant that I had stored in the freezer, smoothed it on top and voila! Minifigure cake!

Next to the food table was a little drinks table - which was actually a dryer with a red table cloth on it! I put a drinks dispenser with cordial and orange slices in it, and had plastic drink bottles and paper straws because Pinterest told me that was cool. The bottles had gorgeous LEGO labels (available free here from HaleGrafx) and I had black pens on the table so parents could write names on them. I had wanted to display the bottles a little nicer, but it was so windy I had to leave them in their containers.

The games
Can't have a party without games! I wanted to be able to offer some structured "party games" but also allow the kids to just have fun playing, so Tricky's LEGO tables were brought out to the centre and kids were encouraged to build. A colouring in station, with sheets from the LEGO movie (available for free from the LEGO website) and a stack of crayons, textas and pencils was set up, too.

I set up a "guess the number of blocks" jar with a sheet that parents could put their child's name on and we played Pin the Head on the Minifigure (available here as a free printable from HaleGrafx - love that site, thanks Lou for putting me on to it!), pass the LEGO head (each child got to pick a prize from the giant head) and at the end we smashed a pinata I had made from an old nappy box that I'd weakened and covered to look like a LEGO brick.

The prizes
My prize container had a number of goodies hiding inside and as the guests arrived I let them know that there would be prizes for participating in games, using manners and having fun. Yep, bribes. Hey, you gotta do what you gotta do. The prizes to choose from included superhero knock-off minifigures ($9 from eBay -took almost two months to arrive!), LEGO keyrings (some I'd won and some I'd purchased for $5) and bits and pieces of LEGO stationery that cost $5 from Target. The biggest prize, for guessing the blocks, was a LEGO movie set I'd won and put away for the party.

The goodie bags
Because I wanted the goodie bags to be a feature of the table, I tried to make them look like LEGO bricks. I sourced all the bags from a discount shop for $8, choosing red and blue not only because of the theme but because I already had cardboard in those colours to use for the circles. Inside the bags were a couple of fruit bars with LEGO wrappers, some LEGO gummies, a double sided bookmark I'd glued to cardboard and laminated (again, from HaleGrafx), a few balloons and a party blower. I purposely didn't put much in them because as the prizes were being handed out to the kids they were encouraged to pop them in their goodie bags as the party progressed - no lost prizes FTW!

I also had an extra stash of gummies at the front door for the parents to take as they left - because it's the parents you have to thank, really! To make the gummies I used molds I'd bought off eBay (that I used to make LEGO crayons previously), six packets of jelly at $1 each, some gelatine that was in the cupboard and fifty celophane bags for $2. A quick label printed off and they looked really effective without costing much at all.

I made name tags using the LEGO font and some tweaking in GIMP and laminated them before tying them on with string. I'd like to think some of the kids thought their name in LEGO font was cool enough to stick it to their door at home.

The result
Well, I think it was a good afternoon. Who am I kidding? It was AWESOME! I was absolutely knackered after just two hours, but I'm pretty sure all the kids had fun and loved the opportunity to play together, run around, bounce on the trampoline, win prizes and play with LEGO. I think the parents liked chatting and eating Brick Brownies. It took quite a while for me to put it all together, bit by bit after the kids were in bed in the preceeing weeks, but I really loved that so much was home

Thank you so much to all the people that helped make the day possible, our fabulous guests, those who gave gifts or cards, and those that wished The Trickster a happy birthday. He has had an amazing time and won't forget it in a hurry. Thank you.

Now to start planning Bobbin's first birthday...

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