Princesses, princesses, princesses. All three of my daughters were entirely enthralled with them around the ages of 3-6. When we started talking about themes for her 5th birthday, a Little Mermaid themed party was a logical choice. I love a good theme and coordinating party activities. I was excited to take on this party planning. Coming from a child development background, I know there’s a fine balance of free play and structured activity time at a party for young children. Even knowing that, I still struggle to tone done my creative energies. Based on the sentiments spoken in the end, I struck the appropriate balance for those 5-year-olds.
Our typical cake planning method has been me asking the birthday girl what she wants her cake to look like. Sometimes, she plans it all herself, but other times, we peruse Pinterest for ideas. This Little Mermaid cake was my replicated Pinterest selection with the birthday girl’s desired cake and icing flavors.
I was finishing this cake just before the party started. It’s never how I intend for things to go, but I seem to have a tendency to let my procrastinator habits get to me during the workweek. When making these special cakes, I try to make the layers 3 days ahead. My hope is to give myself a day or two to create the decorations. I, unfortunately, end up staying up late the night before to get the bulk of them finished. Then it turns out the kids only eat the icing and a few bites of the cake, and a little piece of me dies inside.
Ocean Obstacle Course
The crafting for this party was minimal and made for a more relaxed party prepping experience. Streamers, a cut-up blue table cloth to serve as the water entryway to the ocean, a punch-out board and homemade jellyfish. For the jellyfish, you can make your own using paper lanterns and streamers or there’s a premade version available.
This took a bit of time. You have to cut the circles out of the poster board before gluing the tissue paper to the board. After it dries, glue folded paper bags to the board with something inside. For this obstacle course, the goal was to get to Ariel’s Grotto and find the shell containing Ariel’s voice.
Green streamers served as the seaweed. The jellyfish were hung with fishing wire at different heights. After that, I just used whatever I had available to make a fun 5-year-old course.
And that’s all it took for those 5-year-olds to have a mermaid fun time. If you’re looking for some other ideas, you could try a Pirate Party or a Detective Party.
When birthdays start closing in, I try to ask my girls what theme they want for their parties. Sometimes, I infuse a slight suggestion on what I think would be fun. I can’t remember if this was a fully-fledged idea from my oldest or if I had some influence. Based on these photos, I’d say it was likely her idea. Either way, I had fun planning this Pirate’s Treasure Hunt party!
Treasure Hunt Invitation
I created my invitation in Microsoft Word, as I generally do, and printed two invitations per page on computer paper by using horizontal orientation. Then, I took a wet tea bag and blotted the paper with the tea bag to stain it for an antique look. They dried out on baking sheets. When the paper was completely dried out, I used a long stick lighter over the sink to burn some of the perimeters for an extra warn look. I finished it up by rolling it into a scroll and tying it off with a bit of string.
Activity: Treasure Hunt
You’re not a true pirate unless you are hunting for some treasure!
Every pirate needs a treasure map to go on a treasure hunt. X marks the spot! I didn’t want all the kids to be standing around waiting for each to move through the activities, so I created three treasure maps in total with variations of each route. This ensured the groups wouldn’t go to an activity at the same time.
The list of ship stops included:
Ye Pirate Flag
Davey Jones’ Locker
Sunken Ship Yard
There’s not much I love more than cardboard. It’s a running joke with my coworkers because they are fully aware of my adoration from the many times I have asked for big boxes. I was inspired by this pirate ship. My goal for this party was to have a ship for each pirate grouping to take along the map route for a true sailing pirate experience, but this was most certainly the time-intensive part of this party prep. I spent hours in the garage cutting and hot gluing the cardboard together into pirate ship shapes. By the third ship, I had perfected the curve at the front of the boat. I put portholes reinforced with borders on the sides to make it easier for the little pirates to carry their ships.
If you’re planning to make your own, I’d try to get 5 or 6 LARGE cardboard boxes. The back section on each boat is one box with the front panel cut out. Then the sides of the ship are one long box side each with the folding flaps. Use the extra pieces of the cardboard to glue as the top of the cabin, the trim around the windows and portholes and as supports for the front curve.
The next stop for all the pirates was to pick up their pirate hats and choose their pirate names. I bought inexpensive paper hats from somewhere off the internet and had a list of pirate names for them to review.
From here, their paths diverged.
Plastic eyeballs from the dollar store and one of my Halloween cauldrons were all that were necessary for this eyeball toss. The eyeballs were kind of bouncy, so I cushioned it to prevent them from bouncing out. I also put the eye patches in the cauldron for them to pull out for themselves after the activity.
I used some extra cardboard to create this shark cut out. It’s painted with acrylic paint and a black felt board was used to try to make the mouth background dark. After the pirates took their picture, they got a piece of treasure from the little treasure box to the side there in the picture.
Spy a Pirate Flag
I used the big field in the back of our property to hide three colored pirate flags for the pirates to find. I made the flags out of felt and glued paper skull and crossbones to it with a thin dowel for the post. When they found the flag, they could place it on their ship.
Davey Jones’ Locker
My mom let me borrow the toddler ball pit she had made for her grandkids, so I could fashion it for Davey Jones’ Locker. I hid four different items in the balls for each group to be able to find. They were only allowed to take one of each item.
My kids love having balls in our netted trampoline, so it was easy to make that into a cannonball activity for the party. They didn’t get anything out of completing this activity except for getting some energy out.
Up next was Parrots Cove to add to their Pirate cliches. I provided paper with parrot outlines, scissors, feathers, markers, and glue for them to create their feathered friends. This activity took them the longest, as any craft is want to do.
Sunken Ship Yard
The Sunken Shipyard came next with an inflatable ship. The object of the activity was to throw hoops to hook the masts. After they were able to get all three, they were allowed to take their sword.
I don’t honestly know how an eyeball would free your ship, but I was running out of ideas.
Walk the Plank
Then I forced them all to walk the plank into the ocean!
Easy snacks are my go-to at parties, especially when so much is involved with the other aspects. I made some super simple labels in Word and called it a day.
Hope you enjoyed the run down and are able to use some of these ideas for your own party planning! If pirates aren’t your thing, how about Detectives?
I was unaware of my passion for themed parties until I had my first child. Her first two birthdays were your run of the mill easy parties sans full-fledged theme. By her third birthday, I started making my own invitations and more intricate cakes. Each subsequent year, I seemed to take it up a notch to coincide with her increased ability to participate in party activities. I was completely pumped about planning this detective party.
I’m jumping out of order a bit posting this 10th birthday Detective Party, but to put it simply; I really enjoyed the planning and easier preparation with this one. When I say easier preparation, I’m speaking of physical or crafting labor. Much of the work was in creating the plan and creating documents in Microsoft Word. I can be honest enough to say I really took some pride in the development of the mystery details and case files. To kick things off, let’s start with the invitations.
I went over to my fav spot, Michaels and got a pack of inexpensive brown cardstock cards and envelopes. I then cut the card to the shape of a manila folder and wrote “Top Secret” on the front with red marker. The envelope followed suite with “Urgent” attention addressed to the invited detective (friend). Completely easy, am I right?!
For the inside, I took a picture of the birthday girl with a Snapchat filter for added fun and printed them on plain paper. The details of the party were drafted in Microsoft Word and printed on plain computer paper before being cut to size. In order to fill a 2-hour party span, I included a detective training camp.
For the main party area, I kept decorations simple with crime scene tape, silly nose glasses, mini magnifying glasses, and bowler hats I borrowed from my parents’ hat collection. My parents tend to be an excellent source of all randomly necessary items, which I’m continuously thankful for when I come up with an idea.
Since this was an activity focused party, I went simple with the snacks. Donuts (cause duh, Detectives), peanuts (no allergies to worry about), pretzel rods covered in chocolate to look like pencils and hot chocolate in cute toss away coffee cups. I got the coffee cups for the best price I could find at Walmart. The last edible would obviously be the cake.
For Detective training camp, I had 5 different activities, which ended up being a tad ambition with the time frame. I’d recommended scaling back on the word puzzle side. My husband tends to think I’m a bit crazy and create too lofty expectations with things like this. He may be right but what fun are low expectations?
Private Detective Badge
As parents RSVP’d, I asked them to send me a picture of the child, which I used to create a Detective Badge. I created a badge for each child with his/her picture and name, because a detective party wouldn’t be much with the detectives. As they finished their detective training, I symbolized “passing” by giving them their badge.
Time to Solve the Case
Here’s where my mental fortitude was really tested by the detail of ensuring all the pieces would come together into a workable mystery. The mystery to be solved was who took Faith’s birthday cake and finding where it had been hidden. I crafted files for each of our family members to serve as suspects. I gave the file collection to each detective group (there were three groups). Each group received a file and their detective tool kits; an invisible pen with a light on it (thanks Amazon), a regular pen, their paperwork, and a ruler.
Detective Party: The Clues
Detectives hard on the case
The Missing Cake
In the end, one group found the cake ahead of the rest. That was the only competitive aspect of the party. The kids were then ready to sit down to eat a slice of the found cake.
In the end, the party seemed to be a real hit. The girls were invested in every part of the activities, which is never guaranteed when overplanning. There were requests to be able to take my suspect files home because they enjoyed them so much. I hope you enjoyed the run through and collected some ideas for your own Detective party.