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The Best Toddler Party Planning Ideas You Need to Know Right Now

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My husband has always teased me mercilessly about my pronunciation of the word three, when I’m excited. Like most Jamaicans, it comes out more like tr-e-e. Anyhow, this is one of the most difficult posts I’ve written so far. See my son, Kingston, turns three in a few days and I’m really struggling with it. I mean three already!


I just don’t know how it all has gone by so fast. I remember all my excitement at being pregnant with him and all the fear that I was going to be someone’s mom. Looking back, I was afraid because I didn’t really have a clue what being someone’s mom meant or how to do it. If I’m being honest, I still don’t really know and that’s one of the most important things I’ve learned being in this secret society for moms.


6 months pregnant with Kingston


We all have a huge secret we try to keep under wraps, we don’t have a clue what we’re doing. No seriously, I mean it. I used to think people had it all figured out because they made it look so effortless, but nope. We’re all “winging it.” We just try to love our child/children as best as we can, take things a second at a time and pray for the best.


Now, here we are knocking at the door steps of the big three. It really feels like not that long ago that I went to what was supposed to be a regular, weekly checkup, only to be told I was 2 centimeters dilated and would be having my son 10 days earlier than my due date. It’s funny to think of that day because I also remember my reaction during the visit.


I actually told the doctor and nurse no. Pretty emphatically too, “No!” I cannot have my son as yet and even I explained to them why. I couldn’t have him yet because my mother-in-law and I were going to shampoo the carpet the following day in preparation for my son’s arrival.Yea, my son had other plans that didn’t involve a freshly shampooed carpet and guess who won that battle? He’s been winning battles since the womb. Guess I should’ve known what I was in for with this little boy.


I remember that indescribable feeling when they placed him on my chest and he snuggled closer to me. After months of not being able to eat anything but toast and tea, migraines, planning, worrying, laughter at the butterfly flurries, when I first felt him move, to pain at the rib shattering kicks that came as he grew larger. Every bit of it was worth it, when they put him on my chest. Everything else faded away. Finally I was able to smell him, feel him and see his little face...best day ever!


Kingston, only a few hours old


Then, before I blinked, he was 6 months old and I was struggling to imagine what I had done before he was here. It’s amazing how even when they’re so small, they have so much personality and truly take charge of your life. You get constant glimpses of who they may be later on in life. Kingston has always been outgoing. He smiled at strangers, cooed and motioned to them. He almost seemed to draw people in to him. It’s still his mode of operation (m.o) today.


Six months turned to 9, and I realized there was another mommy skill I needed to master, party planning. For weeks, I searched Pinterest, Google and Etsy looking for a theme I liked that hadn’t been overly done and that matched Kingston’s personality.When I saw it, I immediately knew it was perfect. The beautiful contrast of black, white, gold and grey. Hello, Mr. Onederful!

Mr. Onederful


The Venue

I started my party planning right then by trying to pick a venue. I thought about

1. Our house

2. Local club houses

3. Public play areas like Chuck E. Cheese

and hated all those options. Then I stumbled across a newly renovated park, near our house, that rented pavilions for family functions. I loved the idea of the park pavilion because it was covered, had a lot of seating and options for decoration, plus it was literally next to a playground. It even had grills to cook out, if you wanted to use that option. I called and booked half of a pavilion and was one step closer to celebrating the birthday boy.


Guests, Decor and More

Next, I worked on the invitation, guest list, decorations and food. Again, looking at what others had done was a big help. I just tweaked their ideas to suit my location and family/friends. I’m fortunate to have a close friend, who’s more like family, who created beautiful decorations for Mr. Onederful. Her business is Creative New Creations, and you can find her on Facebook.


Next, I sat down with my husband and decided who to invite. We mostly invited family and close friends. Since it was his first birthday, and my son was being cared for by my mother-in law at her home, there weren’t any friends from daycare to invite. Next, the decorations. The Mr. Onederful theme has been done in every color and style imaginable. Mustaches, tuxedos, the options are really very extensive. I chose to do a play on a classic black and white suit look and started searching the internet.





This is where Amazon came to the rescue. They had almost everything I needed and that glorious Prime option is truly a life saver! I ordered Mr. Onederful tableware and made a Monthly Garland , like the one pictured here, from Amazon. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t find this garland on Amazon until I had already spent way too much money and effort making one from supplies I purchased at Hobby Lobby. I also bought a birthday banner on Etsy and found a highchair banner for the big day on Amazon as well. For extra decorative touches, he had a tuxedo cake made by my talented sister-in law, with a Mr. Onederful topper (also found on Amazon) .







All Dressed Up

After deciding on the venue, invitations, guest list and decor, I thought about what he would wear and decided he’d have a party outfit and then a smash cake outfit. Looking back at pictures now, I am glad I was "extra," as my husband calls it. Kingston was absolutely adorable in his personalized Mr. Onederful onesie suspenders (Amazon link), frayed jeans short and black and white Chuck Taylors. My favorite outfit, though, was the black and gold, mock tuxedo styled, smash cake outfit that he wore for his cake smashing. I bought his cake smash outfit on Etsy, but this Amazon version is very similar and less pricey. Funny enough, I probably shouldn't even call it a cake smash at all because he wasn’t a fan of the cake. He hardly touched, much less smashed it.









If you feed them…

The hardest part of party planning for me was the food. Everything else was creative and not as technical, but with food, I had to consider amounts, storage, transportation...ugh. To make things as easy as possible, I decided on sub sandwiches from Publix’s deli. Then I purchased a nugget tray from Chic-fil-a and also purchased chips and assorted juices, sodas and water. For our sweet offerings, we had his birthday cake and cupcakes, made by my sister-in-law. I also had Onederful cookies (from Etsy) as his to go treats/party favors.




After the party, I was exhausted, but thinking about the memories and looking at the pictures, I feel proud that a great time was had by all. I’m pretty sure that after all that, I can add party planning to my professional mom skills.




Double the Fun: Bingo and Rolly are on the Run


The problem with birthday party planning is it keeps coming back around and I’m quickly learning that they can get more complicated as your child grows. At about one and a half, my son started going to daycare, so now there were more friends to invite. Not only that, but he now had things he liked, which I felt I had to consider, since it was his birthday.


There were two things that Kingston really loved as his second birthday drew near, Puppy Dog Pals and Lion Guard. Armed with that information, I began my research. I tried to find examples of parties that had been created using either of those two series and surprisingly, at that time, there weren’t many. Like literally almost none. Turns out they were both relatively new series and I guess I was on the cusp of people who were going to use them as birthday party themes.To say the least, I wasn’t happy. I felt ok adapting an existing party theme to suit my wishes, but didn’t know how to feel about creating one from scratch.


As I had researched though, I had stumbled across an idea that I thought was absolutely precious, a puppy adoption. No, not real puppies, but stuffed puppies. After seeing it, I made the decision to go with a Puppy Dog Pal theme and came up with the name, “Double the Fun: Bingo and Rolly are on the Run.” However, now thinking about it, it probably should’ve been Double the Fun: Bingo and Rolly and Adoption or Take on Adoption. You know what they say though about hindsight being 20/20.


Venue

For birthday number 2, I did consider venues again, but for what I needed: wide open space, lots of tables and seating, and comparing costs, I decided to head back to our trusty park pavilion. It would give me the space I needed to set up the puppy adoption station, had lots of tables and seating for food and guests and of course had the playground, located only a stone’s throw away to amuse all the little guests and help their parents maintain their sanity. Win, win, win.


Guest, Decor and More

Once I secured the venue, it was on to guests, decor and more. This year, I kept the invitees from Kingston’s first birthday party and just added classmates from daycare to the list. Since this theme included characters, I found someone on Etsy to create his invitation. I like that you can pick a template and then personalize it with your child’s party information and that it was a quick process. It came out just as I imagined.





Kingston's Puppy Dog Pal Invitation




Then I was on to the decor. I found a banner I liked on Etsy, and ordered multi-colored paw print balloons, from Amazon. I got tablecloths and paper products at Dollar Tree and Walmart, but focused most of the decor on the puppy adoption activity and desserts. I have a coworker, who's an amazing artist, and she made the cutest Adopt a Puppy sign for the big day.


My sister-in law worked her magic, again, on his Puppy Dog Pals cake and cupcakes, and I found the toppers for his cake on Amazon. We had to go/takeaway cookie treats again for his second birthday, but this time they were made by another multi-talented coworker, who has her business on Instagram called Shugeescookies. All of my amazing, multi-talented helpers left me free to focus on the main event at his party, the adopt a puppy activity.







Adopt a Puppy

As I mentioned above, I got the idea from Pinterest and started working to make it my own. I bought some adorable plush puppies on Amazon. Then I purchased some cute kennels, aka gift boxes, from Oriental Trading. I also purchased some puppy collars (also from Amazon), so each child could choose a collar for their dog. Next, I got a dog grooming kit (Amazon, )and created some instructions in Google Slides to walk guests through the steps each child would complete to prepare their doggies to travel to their new home. To complete the adoption set up, I had adoption certificates, where the children got to name and officially “adopt” their puppies. The teacher in me always likes clear instructions and an orderly setup, so I had labels at each stage of the adoption process.





All Dressed Up

This year, since there would be no smash cake, we only had one outfit, but I still wanted it to be special and mesh with his overall theme. Etsy came to the rescue again. I found the most adorable Puppy Dog Pals set. It had a hand sewn Puppy Dog Pal short made from Puppy Dog Pal material and a matching shirt. I especially loved that the shirt design was done through embroidery. It tied in perfectly and of course Kingston loved having his two favorite pups on!


The birthday boy in his Puppy Dog Pal gear


If you feed them...

This year, I kept some of our old favorites and got sub sandwiches from Publix. However, I added cute Puppy Dog Pal food labels that I created in Google Slides. They read Pupwiches for sandwiches, Pupballs for meatballs, Fruit Kibble for fruit and Pawtato Chips for chips. For drinks, there was an assortment of juices and soda, plus water.




After the party, it’s the after party

For some reason this year, after leaving the park pavilion, we had almost all our guests come back to our house to keep the party going. It was mostly family, but it felt good to just keep soaking in the moment. Kingston had a ball playing with his cousins, the adults played miscellaneous games (card games or dominoes) and just caught up with each other. I think I may have enjoyed this part more because unlike during the party, I wasn’t trying to make sure every step of the pet adoption/party went well. At the party, I received tons of help from my two nieces who dove in and oversaw the puppy adoption activity. Again, the months, weeks and days leading up were nerve wracking, but I was genuinely pleased with how things turned out and best of all, my big boy had a ball.


Now as I’m standing at the eve of three,or tr-ee rather, there’s a new frontier I’m trying to conquer. Wish me well and come back soon to see what theme Kingston chose , because this year, he did actually requested a theme for his birthday. He has since been asking for months now about when his birt- ay would be. He literally woke up this morning (t-minus 3 days to go) asking for his birt-ay cake and party. I hope you gleaned some helpful ideas from my experience. If you want any additional details or have comments or questions, I’d love to hear from you.