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Theme Parties on a Budget

The words "kiddie party" can strike terror in the hearts of parents everywhere. Parties for kids can be expensive, and chaotic. Plus, you don't want your party to receive the worst of all kiddie reviews - stupid! So, many parents choose popular themes to insure party success, but theme parties are so expensive. Well, maybe not. You can have a great theme party on a budget, if you think creatively.

Choose Your Theme Wisely

Never choose a theme party without input from your child. Some children may cling to "baby" characters at home, but would be horrified to have that known by everyone! Plus, a good theme offers clear decoration ideas, game possibilities and color schemes.

Let's look at two possible themes, one general and one character specific and see ways to expand them into great parties with limited costs. It seems like young children all love Disney, so one theme we will consider will be Winnie the Pooh. For older children, adventure is always popular so let's explore having a pirate theme.


Color is one way to tie a theme together. If you are using printed items, buy them first before choosing other decorations, so the colors in the printed items can be matched. For popular theme characters, like Pooh, you can usually buy matching plates, napkins, cups, invitations, and table decorations - this quickly becomes very expensive.

Instead consider buying just the invitations and napkins in the printed items and choose the less expensive solids for plates, cups and tablecloths. For the pirate theme, you may not want to use printed items at all. Consider selecting a few bright colors - perhaps red, green and, of course, black and white for your Jolly Roger!

You can do simple homemade invitations decorated as treasure maps. A construction paper Jolly Roger can fly from a craft stick flagpole stuck into a cup cake for each place setting. Your plates and napkins can be bright solid colors…while your table cloth can be a simple white paper tablecloth decorated to look like a giant treasure map, complete with a construction paper X glued on to mark the spot for the birthday cake.

A centerpiece for most themes can be made from toys your child presently owns. After all, if a child likes Pooh enough to want him for a theme, chances are she has a silly ol' bear of her own somewhere. For a pirate theme, a "treasure chest" can be fashioned from a small foam cooler and filled with "treasures" from your child's toy box.


Some games are easily adapted to any theme. A beanbag toss game is always popular. Make the beanbags from old socks filled with beans or rice and tied with bright rubber bands and ribbons. Use a big cardboard box with a hole cut in the side for your target. Around the hole draw an appropriate design for your theme.

A Pooh theme?

Draw an open-mouthed bear and have the kids "feed" Pooh lunch.

A Pirate theme?

Make the box into a spooky cave and the kids are "hiding" the bags of pirate treasure. A treasure hunt works with almost any theme but is particularly effective with a pirate game. Before the party begins, hide a small "treasure chest" or "treasure bag" filled with sufficient treats for all the guests.

Then make funny clues that move the children from one area to another. The clues might be theme specific, such as "Pooh says to go to the cupboard for a clue that is sweeter than honey!" or the clue might be a riddle or rhyme. When the children have followed all the clues, the last leads them to the treasure, which is split amongst them.

A piñata is always a popular party game. Piñatas can be made from large balloons, newspaper strips, thinned white glue and paint. You will need several days to allow drying between application of strips of glue-dipped newspaper. The finished Pinata shell can then have a small hole cut to allow the balloon to be removed and the prizes to be inserted.

Finally the hole is patched with masking tape and more newspaper strips. Then, when the "patch" is dry, you simply paint the piñata to match your theme. A black piñata with a skull and crossbones makes a scary pirate decoration. A bright blue piñata with a yellow top and the word "Hunny" painted on the side, makes the perfect accessory for a Pooh party.


Creativity is important in planning theme party foods, too. Why have the standard party food when you can have treasure crunch or Pooh honey snacks! Treasure crunch is simply trail mix with colorful candy treasure mixed in. Pooh honey snacks can be honey roasted peanuts mixed with golden raisins.

With time and imagination theme parties can be fun, memorable…and fairly painless to your pocketbook!

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