Book Themed Birthday Parties
If you’re like me, the beginning of the year can be overwhelming. I love buying pretty planners and color-coding and post-its. But the actual plans wear me out -especially after a sleepy Christmas break. I can’t plan your vacation or your work schedule, but I’m a pretty good party planner. No, I’m not starting a business, but I do have a few tips that may be helpful. I have four kids and each of them have a Birthday every single year. (Weird how that happens huh?) We’ve had a bunch of Birthday themes, but the ones that have always been the biggest hits were books. Yes, we’ve done Harry Potter. That’s pretty common, but we’ve also done Hippos Go Berserk and Junie B. Jones. Book themed parties are a blast!
JUNIE B. JONES
My oldest daughter has always had a knack for picking themes that aren't at the party store. When she was in first grade, she wanted a Junie B. Jones party. She and her friends were into these incredibly funny books by Barbara Park and I was thrilled. A little tip: when doing a unique theme, Google Images is your friend. So much of my decorations were things I printed from my computer because as you can imagine there wasn’t a Junie B. section at Party City.
Each kid was given a pair of purple glasses I ordered by the dozen at Oriental Trader. By the way, these girls are in eighth grade now, and many of them still have their purple glasses. We had regular games. We pinned the glasses on Junie B. and played our favorite balloon game. The kids try to keep a number of balloons in the air. If one touches the ground, we pop it and inside is a something for them to do. (Hop on one foot and say the alphabet or have a dance party. Things like that.) It’s a simple game that the kids always love. As a craft, we made this Junie B. necklace with supplies I got at the craft store and from pictures I printed from google images.
At the end of the party, each girl took home a composition notebook (just like Junie’s journal) and they each picked out a book. I ordered a handful of books from the series out of the Scholastic flyer, so Anna’s classroom got points toward free books. (Also, that’s the cheapest place to buy books.) The party was a huge success and what I loved most about it was it was different and because it was themed after a book, we were sending a message to the girls: Books are fun. Reading is cool. And because Anna’s party was themed after a book, at a young age, being a reader was a large part of her identity.
When my son was in kindergarten, he was obsessed with Harry Potter. I know it was a little early, but we were listening to the series in the car and he loved it. When he asked if he could have a Harry Potter themed birthday in kindergarten, I knew all my creativity would be lost on the 6-year-olds who didn’t know the books at all. But my son has big blue eyes I can’t say no to, so we did it.
And sure, the kids didn’t really know what we were doing, but they had fun. As the kids arrived, we sorted them into houses. I made a sorting hat out of a paper bag, but of course, buying one would be much easier. I printed out badges for the four houses, laminated them, and glued a safety pin to each. Once the kids were sorted, each group did a different activity and then changed stations. (If you’re doing stations at a Birthday party, make sure you have someone to run each one.) Don’t assume parents will stick around because they usually don’t.
Our stations were:
1. Tattoos and pictures
At this station, the kids got their lightning tattoo and got their picture taken with the “Have You Seen This Wizard” sign.
2. Pin the Scar on Harry
Just your typical blindfold game. Since the kids were young, they still enjoyed this.
3. Potions class
I bought little cauldrons and put a couple of drops of food coloring in each ahead of time. I did a bunch of different colors. Then I found these bottles and labeled them Slug Spit and Powdered Frog Bones. They were actually baking soda and vinegar. When the kids put a little of each in their cauldrons, suddenly, colored foam spewed out. They didn’t know the food coloring was in there and they were amazed! So simple and so much fun.
4. Flying lessons
For this, we put a repelling pulley in our tree had the kids hold a broomstick and put them in a harness. They were so excited to “fly” and my husband was glad they were only kindergartners because they were all still pretty light.
At the end of the party, we did a piñata that I made to look like a dementor. Hitting things and candy are always a hit for kids, so that was a win. They went home with a bag of candy with a Honeydukes label.
I should say, we did another Harry Potter party for my son when he was a little older. That one was a Saturday morning at Hogwarts. Again, we sorted the kids. Had a big breakfast like the ones they have in the books. I had made scarves for each house by cutting fleece and the kids went outside and played Quiddich. (Ryan came up with the game and the rules, so it was a lot like lacrosse). When they came inside, I had hot drinks and we played Harry Potter trivia. Some of the kids still wear their house scarves to school on cold days.
THE MAGIC TREEHOUSE
Another book party we did was The Magic Treehouse by Mary Pope Osbourne. This is a series all my kids love. For this party, we took a few of the books and did activities around them. We had the kids go to our outdoor playset (which was “the treehouse”) Once there, they got a clue for each activity. So, the first one was from Dinosaurs at Dark. The kids painted dinosaur sun catchers. For Christmas in Camelot, they had to draw a snowman with their eyes closed. They did a treasure hunt for Pirates Past Noon. All the activities were simple like that. I had sound effects for each activity -roaring dinosaurs, Christmas music, Pirate Chanteys. We ate finger foods and, like other parties, they got to take a book home at the end.
HIPPOS GO BERSERK
When my youngest turned one, we didn’t know what party theme to do. He obviously didn’t care, so we chose a favorite board book. If you’re familiar with Sandra Boynton, you may know this one. Our kids read it so many times, they had it memorized. Grady was so young, I didn’t have activities for this party. But we’ve often given this book for baby showers in leu of a card because it’s so much fun.
DRAGONS LOVE TACOS
The last book-themed party we did was Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin. This delightful book seems an obvious choice for a party theme because kids also love tacos, so the food is easy to do. For this party, we did a few activities.
1. Taco Toss
I got a piece of poster board and drew the dragon from the book. I cut a hole, and had the kids throw taco shells into his mouth. Simple, but so much fun.
2. Taco building
This one was fun. I made these little cards with different combinations for taco toppings. The kids all had a taco shell and toppings I made from cutting out felt pieces. I would pull an order, and they raced to make the taco with the selected toppings. They loved this activity.
3. Salsa Can Beanbag Toss
If you know the story of Dragons Love Tacos, you know a taco party goes wrong when spicy salsa is served to the dragons. They end up setting everything on fire. For this game, I printed out labels for each can. All of them were mild except one. The kids had to knock over the cans of mild salsa with their beanbags without hitting the spicy salsa.
Because Dragons Love Tacos is only in hardback, we didn’t give copies away, but we did read the book aloud to the kids who were there so they knew the story ahead of time.
I hope this gives you some ideas for party themes centered around books. If your kids are the right age and into a certain book or series, give it a try. It takes a little creativity, but you can find ways to use typical activities like the balloon game or pin the tail on the donkey but theme them with your book. If you can, have a book as a take-away for the kids. They loved going home with a new book and I love the idea of associating fun and games with reading. Maybe the kids will have their purple glasses seven years later or wear a Gryffindor scarf to school long after your party. That would be pretty cool.