Things You’ll Need:

Party Decorations
Blow up pool, fish, sea creatures,etc
Water Balloons
Beach Balls,assorted balls
Sand Box/Pit
Sand toys
Cd player/themed music
Kids Food
Adult Food
Miscellaneous items
musical instruments

Planning the party:

A great theme for this age group and one that works well with the backyard is Creatures at the Ocean. This theme delighted my son as it gave him the opportunity to have his friends play in the pool and in the sandbox.

There are wonderful free ideas on the internet that will guide you through an entire party from start to finish.

Invitations: We chose to make one that had a beach theme. A large ziploc bag served as the house for a printed paper that said:

A day of sun and sea

Charlie is turning three

Will we SEA you there?

(variations on this theme courtesy of some of the wonderful ideas on the internet)

We put our own signature on the invitation by filling a smaller Ziploc bag with silver glitter (sand) some fish themed foam stickers and assorted mini seashells which we picked up in a craft store. For the water we crumpled blue tissue paper and strategically placed in the bag so that a diorama of sorts was created.

It was wonderful being able to share this project with my child and the kids loved playing with the invitation!

Feel free to play with this idea to suit your needs/age of your child.

Creating a menu:

Using the ocean theme we chose to serve to the children fishsticks and shells and cheese. We purchased blue colored juice in boxes and made mini water bottles available as well. We knew this menu would be well received as it was a favorite among the preschool crowd.

For dessert I highly recommend ‘glued cupcakes’. “Glue” being the icing that holds the cupcakes together. Either store bought or home made this ingenious idea eliminates the messiness of cake, enables portion control and is downright adorable. Baking is not my strong suit so I ordered from Costco (saving time and money) and had a beach theme. The cupcakes were a huge hit as the children pulled the ‘cake’ apart by themselves.

Adult menu:

This is purely optional. I happen to feel better when I feed people. Still I kept it simple as I didn’t want to lose the focus of the party.

Chips,dips,crackers,platters of fruits and vegetables, cheeses and breads satiated the adults and required minimal preparation. Bottles of water, a pitcher of ice-tea and lemonade rounded out the menu.

Be as elaborate or simple as you like. You might even make it potluck and have adult family members bring a cold pasta dish as well.

Creating an ambiance:

Search on the internet for websites that sell party supplies in bulk. I am pleased that I was able to spend under $ 50 on ALL the paper/decorations/balloons etc. Using a little creativity and buying items that are discontinued, I was able to keep my cost down.

I chose a color scheme as opposed to random colors and kept to these colors throughout. I created bunches of balloons in varying shades of blues and greens, keeping with the ocean motif. I complimented the balloon groups with streamers in similar colors and had them hanging around the yard much like seaweed. A few ocean themed happy birthday signs and that was it!

I rented a helium tank the day of for $ 20.00. Check around your local area for best rental deals. It is NOT worth it to purchase a tank.

Activities for the party:

The parents couldn’t stop raving about the activities I provided. I happen to be a party planner/entertainer, but anyone can provide the right activities and have fun with the kids!

The key to planning the activities is timing and the age of the children. In the case of the toddler/preschooler providing opportunities to acclimate when arriving is key to the success of the party and sets a tone for what follows. This can be accomplished by creating ‘centers’ for the children to explore. By setting up areas in your party space that are thematically related and offer different activities, each child can wander freely from one activity to the next.

For our party we set up one area with the sand and sand toys, another area had the water balloons and blow up toddler pool which we filled with assorted balls, an area for simple craft making, and an area where the children went “fishing”. An infant pool purchased at the 99 cent store, some dowels with yarn and magnets and blow up fish made this center a favorite.

Depending on the mood of the youngsters this could be plenty of excitement and could very well last the entire time you had allotted for the activity portion. I gauged the groups energy level and decided to include some directed activity involving ocean themed songs and the distribution of some toy instruments. I tried to follow my teaching philosophy of passive -active , active-active and during the eating portion read an age appropriate interactive book relating to the theme.

The children then returned to the activity centers. It was such a joy to watch each child explore in their own way. The way I structured the activities enabled the parents to spend some quality time with their children and still had time to mingle with the adults

Going home-the party gifts.

I searched the internet for something theme related and inexpensive.

I came upon a teaching supply site that offered mini buckets/shovels.

I truly detest the party bag. Children certainly don’t need the added sugar and it usually winds up on the floor of the car on the way home!

This parcel was well received by the parents as they concurred with my feelings as well. The gift rounded out the day and was something the children could use as well.

All in all a day worth repeating!

A successful party should run approximately an hour and a half. 45min for the entertainment and the remaining time should be used for food cake and going home gifts.

Adjust your menu according to the time of day that you host the party.
Serve youngsters drinks in boxes/bottles. This eliminates the need to purchase cups and is easy to clean up. Added bonus children can help themselves.
Balloon bunches are VERY strong. Secure your groupings with rocks or a paperweight. When tethering the balloons be sure to use STRONG tape.

  Try to buy in bulk-it’s less expensive.   Children under the age of 3 should have adult supervision. Include in the invitation adult presence required. The added security of having extra adults on hand means you can spend more time enjoying your own child. Moms/Dads know how to work with their child’s personality; very helpful when dealing with party tantrums,shyness, sharing issues etc. Your focus should be hostess.  

Annette Simmons, aka Ms “K” has an extensive resume in the Arts
She holds several degrees in childhood development including a Masters in Early Childhood Education.
Ms K currently has embarked on an entrepreneurial adventure teaching Kindermusik to newborns through 7 year olds.
She offers a diversified program including ASL with babies and is spearheading a program this summer 2009 Sign to Read- using Sign Language to improve reading skills.
Ms “K” has classes in Teaneck and Hackensack NJ