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The Ultimate Checklist for Birthday Party Themes

I love me a good theme! Themed costumes, themed parties, themed name it, and chances are, I can find a theme for it. I've created many birthday party themes over the years to help celebrate my kids' milestones.

With my upcoming children's book following the story of a little boy's 4th birthday, I thought it would be fitting to take a trip down memory lane on all the birthday themes we've celebrated over the years. I cover all of the party planning essentials from decor to food to activities, and of course, book pairings that compliment each birthday theme. (Note: The right picture book can make a great takeaway in lieu of loot bags).

Get your party checklist ready as we take a trip down birthday memory lane...

1st Birthday "Block Party"

When I was planning Blake's 1st birthday party, I thought about his favourite pastimes. Like most 1 year-olds, there was a lot of eat, sleep, cry, poop...repeat. Somewhere in between the crying and pooping, I observed how much Blake was fascinated by blocks and shapes. Birthday and blocks...hmmm...

Voila! Blake's 1st Block Party was born.

Block decor:

  • Custom balloon arrangement in the shape of blocks.

  • Milestone chalkboard with block letters, displayed in a wagon filled with blocks.

  • Patterned plates and napkins with dots and squares.

  • Bright coloured balloons and streamers to match lego/block colours.

  • Blocks scattered on the food table.

Custom balloon arrangement in the shape of blocks

Milestone chalkboard with block letters; displayed in a wagon filled with blocks

Lego-inspired food:

  • Custom lego cake, with removable "block" for cake smash.

  • Rectangle brownies with smarties to mimic blocks.

  • Square cut cheese & crackers.

**Side note: You can do a lot more with lego-inspired food, but my options were limited to infant diets. An easy food option is pizza cut into squares with pepperoni mimicking legos, and any other food that can be stacked or assorted into squares.

Custom lego birthday cake, with removable "block" for cake smash

Lego-inspired food

The nice thing about throwing a "block party" is the obvious tie-in with activities. I kept it simple:

  • Jenga for the older kids and adults.

  • Blocks for the little ones.

  • Bubble machine...because who doesn't love bubbles?

Blake was entertained with his blocks during present time!

Relevant books:

"Transportation" 1st Birthday Party

Little brother, Austin, was a mover and shaker from the start. It seemed only fitting to throw him a transportation-themed birthday party with all things that beep, vroom, zip, and fly.

Austin's Transportation 1st Birthday Party delivered all the sights and sounds!

Transportation decor:

  • Custom balloon arrangement, poster cutouts, and table decor from Party City.

  • Milestone chalkboard with transportation theme.

  • Toy cars, trucks, buses, trains, and planes scattered on the food table.

  • Thomas the Train "snack track" with paper containers attached as individual carts. **I applied chocolate gold coins to each cart as train wheels.

Transportation decor.

Traffic-inspired milestone chalkboard.

Thomas the Train "snack track".

Transportation-inspired food:

  • Custom air balloon cake.

  • "Traffic Lights" rice crispy treats.

  • Red, yellow & green candies.

  • Delivery food for lunch...driver on the way!

Custom air balloon birthday cake.

Cake smash!

Beep! Beep! Activities coming through:

  • I kept it simple and had all of Austin's favourite transportation toys out for enjoyment. Train tracks and race cars are always a big hit!

**Side note: For older children, you can do fun obstacles courses, garbage bag races, or supervised go-kart runs.

Relevant books:

"Bubble Guppies" 2nd Birthday Party

Once Blake discovered the television, a whole new world of imagination opened up. He became captivated by Nickelodeon's Bubble Guppies series. The beauty of the series was its short, musical, and educational format. It wasn't long before our play area became an underwater world of guppies. Thus was born...

Blake's Underwater Bubble Guppies 2nd Birthday Party!

Underwater Bubble Guppies decor:

  • I found Bubble Guppies-themed decor at Party City, including custom balloon arrangement, poster backdrop, plates/napkins/tablecloth, and table centrepieces.

  • Milestone chalkboard with underwater theme, displayed in a wagon filled with squishy beach balls.

  • Pails used as bowls for table snacks, with shovels as food scoopers.

  • Beach sand molds in the shape of sea animals scattered around the food table.

  • Blue and white coloured balloons/streamers to compliment underwater bubble atmosphere.

Bubble Guppies decor from Party City.

Bubble Guppies table centrepieces.

Underwater-themed milestone chalkboard, displayed in wagon with squishy beach balls.

Bubble Guppie-inspired food:

  • Custom Bubble Guppies cake.

  • Fish crackers served in blue cupcake cups.

  • Blue & white chocolate-covered candy balls served in beach pails.

  • Sea creature gummy treats served in a fishbowl.

  • Fish & chips lunch.

Custom Bubble Guppies birthday cake, fish crackers and candies.

Bubble Guppie party activities:

  • The Bubble Guppies series incorporates fun & educational songs throughout each episode, so it felt natural to book a musical performer for the party. The kids loved having Suzy Sunshine lead a musical circle group.

  • Fishing game with plastic rods, toy guppies, and bins filled with water.

  • Bubble machine...because, AGAIN, who doesn't love bubbles?!

Suzie Sunshine

Gone fishin'!

Relevant books:

"Two Wild" (Jungle Theme) 2nd Birthday Party

Austin is irresistibly funny and cuddly, but also wild! We often embrace the wild at home and have a few good belly laughs because of it. I knew a jungle-themed party would be appropriate.

Throwing Austin his Two Wild 2nd Birthday Party turned out wildly fun!

Jungle decor:

  • I found all things jungle-themed on Amazon...animal balloons, table decor, serving ware, and paper pom poms.

  • Large Jungle Book cardboard photo-op stand from Amazon.

  • I transformed our basement into a jungle, with separate "rain forest" area. The vibe came alive with green balloons & pom poms, fake mossy vines hanging from the ceiling, camouflage netting on the walls, indoor grass turf carpet, animal balloons, jungle cutouts, and "Our Planet" nature documentary playing on the tv screens.

  • I bought animal crowns from Etsy for the kids to wear as birthday hats, and they were able to choose their favourite animal and take the crown home.

  • Milestone chalkboard with jungle theme: "Monkey See, Monkey Two!"

Jungle-themed table decor.

Large Jungle Book cardboard cutout stand.

"Rain Forest" area with fake mossy vines hanging from ceiling, and camouflage netting on the walls.

Basement transformation into jungle.

Animal balloons.

'Monkey See, Monkey Two' milestone chalkboard.

Animal crowns from Etsy.

Jungle-inspired food:

  • Custom jungle cake.

  • Animal crackers.

  • Gummy worms & gummy bears.

  • Zebra-striped Hershey kisses.

  • Loot bags included Bear Paws snacks.

Custom jungle birthday cake.

Jungle-inspired snack table.

Two Wild party activities:

  • I wanted the kids to literally run wild, which is why I retrofitted the basement into a jungle. Activities included: bouncy castle, mini trampoline, toddler "darts" game, animal puzzles, barnyard toys, and painting corner.

**Side note: For animal lovers, you can have a live animal show come to your home, or put on an animal puppet show.

Relevant books:

"Blake the Builder" 3rd Birthday Party

As Blake grew out of his toddler stage, he became more interested in completing mini projects. From cleaning his toy cars to fixing gadgets in the garage, a little engineer was emerging before our eyes. Drum roll please...

Introducing Blake the Builder's 3rd Birthday Party!

Construction decor:

  • I found construction-themed party supplies at Party City, including table decor, plates/cups/napkins, and balloons.

  • I bought plastic construction helmets from the Dollar Store for the kids to wear as birthday hats, and they were able to decorate them with stickers and take them home.

  • Scattered toy trucks, construction signs, and relevant stickers on the table.

  • Milestone chalkboard with construction theme.

Construction party decor.

Construction party decor.

Construction party decor.

Construction-themed milestone chalkboard.

Construction-inspired food:

  • Custom "Bob (Blake) the Builder" cake.

**Side note: Since we threw this party at an indoor playground, we couldn't customize our food options. Pizza! Pizza! Pizza! For those throwing this party from home, here are some food options that match the construction theme:

  • "Traffic Lights" rice crispy treats.

  • Different candies served in dump trucks.

  • Chips/popcorn served in construction helmets.

  • Chocolate pudding as "mud".

  • Raisins as "gravel".

  • Cheese cut into triangles as "pylons".

Custom "Bob the Builder" birthday cake.

Construction party activities:

  • I threw the party at Playtown: an interactive indoor playground that has different playhouses, including a construction site. The kids ran wild in each playhouse, using their imaginations in each play area.

  • Decorating construction helmets with stickers.

Decorating construction helmets with stickers.

Relevant books:

"Blake the Baker" 4th Birthday Party

Blake's most recent birthday party inspired a page in my upcoming children's book:

"Will I cook fancy pizzas, pastas, and pies?

Here comes Master Chef Tate to broil, bake, and fry!"

Introducing Blake the Baker's 4th Birthday Party!

Baking decor:

  • I pulled out any kitchen items that I thought would compliment the birthday backdrop and food table. Ex: Oven mitts hanging from the wall with the birthday banner.

  • DIY birthday banner that read: "Blake's Bake Shop".

  • Custom balloon arrangements from Party City.

  • I bought aprons and chef hats from Ikea for the kids to wear as birthday hats.

  • Scattered toy food on the table, and served snacks in mixing bowls. The cutlery was also displayed in a toy blender.

  • Milestone chalkboard with baking theme.

Blake's Bake Shop!

Baking-themed milestone chalkboard.

Custom balloon arrangement from Party City.

Baking aprons and chef hats from Ikea.

Baking-inspired food:

  • A variety of baked goods, including Tim Hortons Timbits, and homemade cookies.

  • Hot chocolate station.

  • Decorative candies.

  • Mini chocolate lava birthday cakes made by the kids.

Mini chocolate lava birthday cakes made by the kids.

Baking party activities:

  • Kids chocolate-making workshop that included: chocolate finger painting, hand-rolling chocolate truffles, making chocolate shavings on a marble slab, cake decorating, animal-shaped lollipops, baking mini chocolate lava cakes, making and decorating chocolate marshmallows, and dipping and decorating cake pops. The best part was that each child got to keep and take home all the chocolate treats they made. (These were bundled in loot bags with their aprons & chef hats).

  • Pretend baking with Play-Doh set.

  • "Bake Shop" play area with toy food, cash register, and shopping bags.

Chocolate-making workshop.

Chocolate-making workshop.

Play-Doh baking set.

Relevant books:

As I reflect on all these birthday parties, I'm reminded that each theme is like a time capsule of each passing stage with my boys. Time is certainly fleeting, so eat that extra slice of birthday cake, sing happy birthday with pride, and live vicariously through the wonder of your child's eyes.

And as always, happy reading!

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