Dora's Train Adventure (3-4yr) Baloon Tent
PK in Houston, TX, USA
Our daughter and son are one year and two weeks apart in age, so we have combined their parties for the last few years. This year, he wanted a Thomas the Tank Engine party for his 4th birthday and she wanted a Dora the Explorer party for her 3rd birthday party. We combined the themes to make it "Dora's Big Thomas the Train Adventure".
We sent out online invitations (free) through the American Greetings website and invited everyone to come help us find Dora's Backpack, and told them that Thomas would be helping, too. The online invitations may not always match your theme, but you can fill in as much text as you like, and the site lets people RSVP through there and you can even have the site automatically send out reminders for the party a few days before the event. We used many of the ideas from this site for both themes -- thank you everyone!
I bought purple lunch bags and drew backpack's face on them, and attached a side ring of paper to hold the map I made from the Nick Jr site. We set up a big pop up kids' play tent in the playroom and filled it with balloons to entertain the kids until everyone arrived. I recruited our neighbors next door (9 and 11 years old) to keep an eye on the kids while they all played in the tent so no little ones were injured. (When you do recruit older kids, make sure they know exactly what's expected of them, don't ever assume they'll know what you want them to do, they're just kids, too)
After about 30 minutes, we corraled the kids into the living room area, and let the parents know that they needed to help their kids with the adventure. That was neat, because then the parents became part of the process instead of just observers, and I didn't have to keep an eye on everyone else's children. I announced that we needed to help Dora find her backpack.
I asked if they knew what Dora does when she needs to find something and they all shouted, "Map!" We handed out the backpacks with the yellow maps attached and had everyone look at them with their parents. The first stop was the living room to help Boots find his boot. I told them to look in their backpacks for a Thomas and Friends telescope to help them find the boot. (The telescope was a toilet paper roll wrapped in blue paper with a Thomas sticker stuck on it) They all took out their telescopes and looked around the room for the boot. When we finally found it, everyone got the prize in the boot -- Dora and Thomas stickers.
Next the map showed a picture of Thomas, so I asked them if they had seen any railroad tracks around, and they said, "Over by the door!" (We used the idea from this site about putting in railroad tracks using masking tape. Ours went up the sidewalk and through the entry way in the house.) When the kids found the tracks, I said, "Oh no, there's no train, we'll have to be the train" So, they all lined up and choo chooed their way to the door.
Next, we decided that trains needed whistles, so they all drew a party horn from a "boxcar" box I made, and we choo chooed again, with the whistles this time. (They loved making noise!) I had them put their horns in their backpacks and asked them to look at the maps again. This time we were looking for "Bubble Mountain". I asked them if anything by the door looked like a mountain, and some of them said the stairs. So, I went up on Bubble Mountain (stairs) and blew bubbles for them to pop. (Warning don't get much higher than the kids.
Last year we got soap in one of the kiddo's eyes -- he was okay) This year, my bubbles weren't wanting to come out, so we cut the bubble time short. They all got a small wedding size party bubble bottle (Hobby Lobby or Michael's had 24 for $1.99). I taped the tops so they could play with them at home. I had them look around for Dora's backpack, which was hanging on a wall and was filled with "You did it!" certificates I printed from a website for each of them, with their name filled in. They also got a party size play-doh. After that, it was off to the cake.
The cake was a sheet cake with a plastic Dora I got from Walmart for $0.88 and I taped some plastic balloons into her hand. Also on the cake, I used red licorice (string) for the sides of the tracks and graham sticks for the track itself. We perched Thomas (Okay, Edward, because his Thomas was lost somewhere in his room) on top of the graham sticks and I stuck little signs in the cake that said Happy Birthday to each of them.
I made the signs by writing the message on a piece of blank index card and taping it to a toothpick that stuck into the cake. (Much easier than trying to spell it all out in frosting) Other party food included a fruit plate with fruit dip, chocolate chip cookies, goldfish, brownies, queso and chips (this is Texas), Ritz crackers and cheese slices. Lemonade, punch, and water to drink. Oh, and we always have a sharpie marker next to the cups so everyone can mark their cup with their name.
I also made some smaller treat bags with an individual bag of cookies, 3 mini Hershey bars, a harmonica, and a mini box of raisins, and labeled them with the kids' names for the parents to drop into their backpacks as they were leaving. Everyone seemed to have a great time, and my kids haven't stopped talking about it. A huge thanks to everyone that contributes to this website, we couldn't have done it without your great ideas and tips! I know many of the ideas in this submission are from the site already, but I wanted to show you how we combined themes when more than one child is involved.
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