Throwing a party for a 2 year old — or any small child for that matter, can be somewhat traumatic. Unless you hire it out, you have all the work preparing and cleaning up–while still taking care of your kid(s). If you enjoy having a theme (like I do) then it can be hard with multiple kids to do ‘different’ themes every year. For their early birthdays, I try and stick with some rather generic topics, saving the ‘big ones’ that they will request for later. Ex. Princess/Superhero. So for my toddler’s birthday, I decided to go with things all 2 year-olds (or kids of any age) like: balls, bubbles, balloons. Having a bunch of things to choose from, instead of just ONE was priceless. It’s like a smorgasbord of good and easy choices. I highly recommend varying your theme or making it super generic while you can. No more searching for JUST Spiderman anything at 6 stores!
The cake: We usually do cupcakes because they’re pre-portioned. No one ever asks for ‘half’ a cupcake. We do bake our own, and tend to make our own frosting. There’s actually not a whole lot out there on ‘balloon’ cupcakes. Most of it is completely fancy, requiring cookie cutters, air brushing, or basically someone other than a busy parent to do it. Either that or things like gumballs that aren’t little-kid friendly. I lucked on this site and their quick tutorial for hot air balloon style cupcakes. Mine didn’t turn out quite as pretty, but you still got the gist and they tasted good (hey all the kids do is eat the frosting off, anyway!)– I didn’t end up with quite enough materials, but basically what you see are ‘candy fruit slices’ cut in half (or less) and then layered like the silk panels of a hot air balloon. The ‘basket’ underneath is the tiniest peanut butter cup you can get (they come unwrapped). It took no time at all, and whoever didn’t want the candy just took a plain one or passed it off to a teenager, and everyone was happy! Oh yeah I got the cupcakes wrappers from the megamart (you know which one) and they had balloons on them too!
The food: The rest of the food was grilled or baked food, including burgers and dogs, condiments and tidbits like pickles and olives, baked beans, chips, deviled eggs, and my make ahead mashed potatoes. We did everything either the day before, or the morning of, early, so everything was done ahead of time except the meat, and everyone chatted while my husband ‘manned’ the grill. I even had the dishes cleaned up long before anyone arrived. Score!
Tableware:We used re-usable plastic (BPA free) plates and ran them through the dishwasher when we were done, and got out all the plastic glasses we own, too. I had just bought some of each at Kohls for the kids, and had anyone chosen to eat outside, they would have been sturdy, and no big loss if they fell and happened to break. See a photo of the plates we got here. At around $2 apiece of sale, it’s a win/win! We used regular flatware, again, it all went in the dishwasher. Since there was a variety, I let the birthday girl, and then big sister next, choose their little kid fork/spoon combo and plate. They’re used to taking turns picking (or just getting the same thing), so no arguments, so everyone was happy. Except for food scraps, we barely had any extra garbage –that didn’t come from presents!–and most of that got recycled!
Decorations/Fun on the theme:
Balls: I dug out all the kids various outside ball toys and put them in a container and put them by the porch. Instant play for the toddlers to the teens! Plus, clean up was a snap, the balls all went back to the container (ours happened to be one where the lid got broken, so it stays in the garage as a catch-all) and tucked away for their next use. Brilliant!
Bubbles: We bought an inexpensive bubble machine (search for gazillion typhoon bubble machine online) that already had solution in it and put it on the porch, and as grandparents, cousins, etc. arrived, we turned the machine on, and then back off. It took 8 AA batteries, which you could then take out and use somewhere else when you’re not ‘blowing’ bubbles. The kids get all the fun, and the mess is negligible outside on a non-slippery surface. I took some pictures this morning so you could have an idea of how well it worked. Well. Bonus: The kids now have a bubble machine!
Balloons: Our kids always get at least one Mylar balloon tied to their chair. This one was a beach ball, but it also was a balloon! and had bubble type things on it, so it really covered the whole theme well. The ‘hot air balloon’ balloon was $13. This one was $3…. that’s why I like to have a variety of choices!
We tend to keep everything simple. We don’t go overboard on decorating, choosing to let the kids be the center of attention– with a few special ‘extras’, often re-usable as a bonus.
Adapting for a friend gathering:
This party could easily be adapted for a ‘friend’ gathering for younger kids. Obviously if the weather is nice they could be convinced to play with the balls and bubbles outside for quite some time. You could print out coloring pages featuring balloons, any type of ball, rubber duckies in bubbles– with so much to choose from the possibilities are basically endless. You could have a ‘decorating’ contest of a plain balloon picture, and whichever kid did the ‘best’ drawing (ask a grandparent to be an impartial judge that doesn’t know the kids) — wins a prize. More games could be had out of shooting baskets, mini bowling, etc. if you like things to be organized. Goodie bags (if you must) could be as simple as an un-inflated balloon, a small bottle of bubbles, a hacky sack or small ball, and some gumballs or m and m’s etc. Or, you could choose to have a lot of balloons and send home a helium filled one with each little guest–which gets them out of your house along the way! A sleepover could feature the movie ‘UP!’ and make your own (hey it’s ball shaped!) or take out pizza. If you don’t want the mess in your home, a bounce house with a ball pit would be a good ‘tie in’ as well. I love how variable this theme is. If you decide to do this for your little one, come back and let me know!