Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Kate Landers' Children's Party Design Advice: Part One

I am so incredibly excited to share Part One of my children's party design advice blog mini series, devoted to choosing and implementing a theme for a children's party!

As you all know, I can be rather "wordy" in my blog posts.

To make this a bit easier to read, I will try my best to make it a bit easier to follow. I also will try not change the font sizes and such on you as much as usual, because I understand for this solid piece of information, it may be easier to read with minimal distractions!

*Often I start with the concept for the party--the theme, and build from there.*

1. Choosing a Theme:

To start, I want to share a story:

In late 2009/early 2010, I had the opportunity of working with a wonderful client on designing her daughter's 4th birthday party.

The client had thought of doing an ice cream shoppe party or a sweet shoppe party. I loved both of these themes, and was thrilled to start brainstorming for her.

She asked her daughter which theme she preferred, and her daughter told her she wanted a "Madeline" party.

The client then contacted me to say that her daughter selected a "Madeline" theme, and so we focused in that direction (and created a party with that theme, as you can see here).

The reason I am sharing this with you, is that I think this client is a wonderful example to follow. She had creative ideas of her own, but she included her daughter in the creative process, listened to her, and allowed her daughter to select the theme for her own party--she didn't even blink when the birthday girl had ideas completely different than her own.

I believe it is very, very important to include the child in selecting the theme of a party, as well as allowing them to participate in the planning process when possible.

 The party is to celebrate their life, and I believe that it brings even greater joy to the child, to share in the fun of selecting the theme for their party.

I do want to note that this typically applies when the child is old enough, and as they grow older, they can participate in the process more and more.

{Now, if you are planning a first birthday and looking for some inspiration, I suggest that you look consider taking a look around your child's nursery, toy box, bathtub or bookshelves, for ideas. You can use a color-scheme, a pattern of fabric, a storybook or toy, and build the theme from there. I have had clients build a theme based around the outfit they selected for their child to wear on their first birthday--another creative idea!}

2. Implementing the Theme:

Once a theme is selected, you can start the creative process of deciding on how to implement the theme into the details of your child's party!

There are so many ways of doing this. I am only going to share with you my personal method on designing a party based off of a fairytale, character, movie or storybook as this is what I do most often.

 Please note that this is what works best for me...my hope is it might work well for you also, but you may have a much better method of your own. I am sharing this as my insight, but not as the authority!

I love to create experiences for children with the parties I design. I find creating a party based off of the birthday child's favorite storybook, character or movie is a wonderful way to do this!

 My goal is to help the birthday child and their guests feel as if they are living right out of the pages of their favorite storybook. I want to help fuel their imaginations, and allow them to "become" that character if that is who they want to be for their party {which in my personal experience, has often been the case!}

a) Research: Going back to the example of the "Madeline" party, I drew ideas from the stories and characters themselves. I went to the attic and found my old "Madeline" books, re-read them, and then went to the bookstore to find the newer "Madeline" tales as well.

b) Select Your Child's Favorite Aspects Of The Story Or Character: In the case of the "Madeline" party, the birthday girl's favorite story was when Madeline went to Paris! Therefore, we used that particular book as the basis for the party. I find it much easier to do this, than try to re-create every detail of a story or series {select a chapter, a location, a scene--it can feel far less daunting than trying to create the entire story cover to cover,  or movie beginning to end!}

c) Select A Color-Scheme To Reinforce Your Theme: Character "Madeline" is known for that infamous yellow hat, so we knew that color was a must for this party. We also chose to draw from the colors used for the illustrations in the book--red, blue, with accents of white and black. These colors were used throughout, from the invitations and table linens to the decorations and activity stations. The color scheme can help keep your theme consistent, pulling everything together.

d) Take The Scene From The Story You Selected, And Find Ways To Implement The Theme Through Every Detail: Easier said than done, I know! I find that it can be very impactful to not necessarily have a room covered with the image of a storybook character {of course if that is what your child wants and brings them great joy--that is wonderful and I say go for it as this party is about them!!!}, but rather to create an environment where the child feels like the character.

Here are some examples of how I did this with the "Madeline"-inspired party:

- We set up the  kids' party table to look like Madeline's dining hall. We used the client's own formal dining room table and chairs, as well as her beautiful white table cloth. We then set out the client's candlesticks, added some fresh floral arrangements, placesettings (with cloth napkins as Madeline might have been taught to use), and the kids enjoyed their snacks and cake right here!

-We chose a child-friendly menu that was "French-inspired" as far as the children were concerned! Ham and cheese croissants (or an "American" version of ham and cheese inside of crescent rolls) were a perfect age-appropriate choice, and the kids could feel that they were eating something Madeline would eat.

-The activity stations were set up like a "Paris Marketplace", where the kids received their costumes (little felt capelets and big red hair bows). Costumes have an almost magical effect on children--I highly recommend them for storybook parties! They also went to the "Flower Shoppe" where they stuck flowers (*already with adhesives on the back so all they had to do was STICK!) onto canvases to create their own works of art. There was a candy shoppe where they got to select candies (with the help of adults), put them in a little cello back tied with red ribbon, and put them in their suitcase.

Again, we tried to create activities that were age-appropriate, theme-appropriate, and used the same colors throughout as the children recognized those colors from the "Madeline" storybooks and movies.

-We had a "pin the tail on Genevieve" game, which was a great way to tie in a highly recognizable character for the guests, all the while playing an old-fashioned party game.

These are just some of the many ways I thought to create the party based off the storybook. You can read more about this party and all the details here, if you wish! {the client was just a dream to work with, and created a perfect open flow in her home with two rooms designated for the party, which was terrific!}

I sincerely hope that you may have found some of today's post helpful for your child's next party!

Today's Re-cap:

1) Choose a theme along with your child when they are old enough, and allow them to participate in the planning process. The party is about celebrating the life of the child, and allowing them to share in the joy of planning their party is a wonderful gift to give them!

2) If you are looking for theme ideas for a first birthday, look no further than your child's room, bookshelf, toy box or bathtub! You can choose a theme around any of these items, even a color-scheme or fabric pattern!

3) Creating an experience for the birthday child and their guests at the party can be magical and bring them great joy. Focus on creating an environment that nurtures their imagination, if you can. I personally find basing a party on a child's favorite storybook character as an excellent way to do this!

4) When implementing your theme, I personally find it important to do research, select your child's favorite character or aspect of the story you are designing the party off of (rather than overwhelming yourself with trying to re-create an entire book or movie), selecting a color-scheme to reinforce the theme, and take the scene from the story you selected, and find ways to implement the theme through every detail (from invitations and menu to decorations and activities). 

A sincere thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts on choosing and implementing a theme for your child's party.

 Stay tuned for Part Two!


The Everything List said...

wow love this! i don't have children yet but can't wait to design parties and such. and the madeleine theme just drives me crazy! love it!

stop by and enter the soap giveaway: http://lachapstickfanatique.blogspot.com

Kat said...

This is amazing! Great advice! Thank you for sharing.

Heather - Chickabug said...

WONDERFUL advice, Kate! My favorite part is your recommendation of taking a large theme or idea and focusing on a single aspect from it. That would make every decision SO much easier from then on!

Kelly Massman said...

How gorgeous!

Amy @ Blowout Party! said...

Kate, what a great article! Your tips are really helpful and I'm excited to learn more from you!

Craft That Party said...

Great advice. I especially love the idea of recreating a scene or favorite part of the child's book. Has me rethinking some of my party planning to incorporate more of this magical element. Thanks so much!

Anonymous said...

What a great post. Thank you so much for sharing

c said...

Thank you for making this an easy read. I'm soaking up the advice!

c said...

Thank you for taking the time to do this. Your information is extremely helpful!

Lo xo said...

Kate, your words really are wisdom! Thank you for sharing this with us xo

Christi Bennett @ pisforparty said...

I'm enjoying the series as I knew I would! Thanks Kate. =)

Katie's how to said...

You are so wonderful to share your insights on these beautiful parties! I follow you wishing I had children to throw these parties for :)


Leoni said...

Thank you for sharing this wonderful party and how it was created Kate. It all made sense, funny how some things are not clear untill someone else points out the obvious for you lol In my case where you said rather than stick the character all over the room, create a room or experience the character had in the story so your child feels like they are the character and are in the scene themselves. Brilliant nugget of information, that was my ah-ha moments while reading your post ;-)

Warm regards,

Sandi said...

This was a fascinating read - thank you Kate!