For the month or two preceding my daughter’s second birthday, I was seemingly in the bedeviling throes of an insane amount of self-imposed crafting and domestic arts for a toddler’s birthday party at home, or what I deemed “Operation Elmo Birthday Party”. Yet, even inching towards the finish line, i.e. the wee hours of the morning prior to a 10:30 start time the next day, I felt an extension of energy throughout the summer, that, though quite busy, was never really stressful, Rather, it offered creative bursts of activity that were the, hey, I did it! personally-fulfilling kind. It is as if I had embodied the infectious, positive attitude of Elmo himself.
Friends warned me that, post-party, I might suffer a mental crash afterwards, with any adrenaline I was running on depleted or with a project-based mission now absent. But I really haven’t felt any of that. Instead, I totally want to write about it—partially because the general lack of readership of my blog more or less means I am journaling for personal edification, not blogging for public consumption. But, I also wish to identify the myriad sources who have paved the way of Elmo and Sesame Street toddler birthday parties before me, permitting me to then build on their really great and numerous ideas which, might, in turn, spark your own version of an ultimate toddler birthday party on the scale of crafty, as they did for me. Without further ado,
My daughter, as probably 95% of the American population of humans (and I bet some dogs) around age 2 or 3 are wont to do, was hyper-happy about Elmo’s existence in our known and fictional world. The idea for an Elmo party occurred to me about half a year before her actual birthday. No, I didn’t ask her what she wanted. Yes, I chose the theme for her. And, yes, I am healing whatever I might have felt was lacking in my childhood through her, though, frankly, at 18 to 24 months, without Elmo’s tutelage on an episode of Elmo’s World about birthdays, I’m not sure she would’ve known what one even was. (Now she knows.) Just right for an invitation, I had captured a photo of her sitting on one of those coin-operated mechanical rides you see at strip malls or in front of supermarkets. This became a pivotal theme-setter for the party.
Tip #1: With a little forethought, establish the party theme with a photo card invitation. Rather than using licensed character illustrations for paper or email invitations, take a pic of your child with that character (on a ride, holding a plush toy, at an amusement park or store featuring the character, etc.). My daughter’s toddler friends were really pleased to receive an invitation in the mail with her photo, at an age when pairing names and faces are still a teaching tool.
Party Games & Activities
Cookie Monster’s Toss Your Cookies Game, made from a Cookie Monster face with cut-out mouth and handmade felt bean bags (which continue to get play at our house in the pretend kitchen).
Pin the Nose (and Eyes) on Elmo, a handmade felt face stuffed with batting.
Dorothy’s airbnb Prize Game. This activity is derived from the classic carnival game where picking a numbered object yields an inexpensive prize.
For whatever reason, I was just really, really averse to buying more plastic single-purpose toys for the sake of a party, and, though I contemplated having a tub of rubber duckies so each child could also take one home, I decided that this, however logically inconsistent (because, please, I was still totally committed to shopping at Dollar Tree and Target for the cheap, mostly “Made in China” goods), was unnecessary and wasteful for the purpose sought. So, what I ended up doing was spending at least an hour of design work around a sign just to create a story around why it was not Ernie’s rubber duckies or why Dorothy’s fish bowl had no Dorothy, but, instead, three turtle bath toys we already had around the house. All the while, Dorothy’s bowl is not a fishbowl at all, but an empty glass kimchi jar. The drawers, an IKEA Helmer red enamel rolling drawer unit, was a piece of small furniture we already had that was emptied out for the party to serve as the prize drawers as well as the display stand for the game.
So, the story goes that Dorothy’s actually on vacation and has subletted her fish bowl to the three turtles via an airbnb listing. Drawers 1, 2 and 3 had either a 25-piece puzzle, 2-pack palm-sized board books or flash cards for prizes, all Sesame Street and from Dollar Tree.
Oscar’s Tattoo Parlor. Besides very, very tiny Oscar the Grouch stickers on the sign, the grimy guy is noticeably absent here, as we ran out of steam towards the end of the week to figure out how to draw him well. The idea for Oscar’s Tattoo Parlor came from a superb and jawdroppingly beautiful sign discovered in my late night Sesame Street reconnaissance. The green plastic trash can contains a paper towels as well as a water-soaked washcloth to apply the Sesame Street temporary tattoos.