This past weekend we hosted Laurel’s 4th birthday party, and while it differed significantly from her previous parties in size (6 instead of 20 kids), it shared the same sense of themed imagination as in past years. Year 2 was an “everything yellow party” (all food and decorations were yellow), year 3 was a “rainbow color party” (tie dye), and this year was a “nature fairy party.”
Online, I found scores of descriptions of amazingly elaborate fairy parties (sets, costumes, games, food, etc. all bedecked in fairy style), but I knew that I just didn’t have the energy or interest to assemble something that complex for 6 kids. And per my own aesthetic, I wanted to do something other than hitting the party store for all of the Tinkerbell party supplies in stock. In short, I wanted something pretty and simple with good food (for both kids and grownups), and a craft that the kids could enjoy during the party then take home as their party favor (I’m all about usable favors).
After mulling over various outdoor activity options, and getting derailed briefly by the idea of turning it into a tooth fairy party and making tooth fairy pillows (Laurel loves the book Tooth Fairy), I hit on the party craft after a night where Laurel woke up crying from a bad dream. The activity would be to make pretty, nature inspired dreamcatchers. I admit that this idea is only loosely associated with fairies, but the nature element worked, I figured the nighttime association of the tooth fairy was close enough, and I liked the idea that the dreamcatchers themselves could serve as a way for the parents to help their kids with sleep while offering a springboard to talk about different cultural traditions. (Dreamcatchers are of Native American inspiration; you hang them over your bed and they catch bad dreams, leaving you to a night of peaceful sleep.)
Activity decided on, here’s how I put the party together:
1. Invitations. I designed and printed my own simple invitations with a pair of fairy wings on the top (shown above), inviting Laurel’s friends to her Nature Fairy Party. We asked that the kids come dressed as fairies, but also added that if they didn’t already have fairy dress up clothes we had plenty to share (I didn’t want anyone to fret and go out and buy a costume specifically for the party).
2. Timing. Following my friend Leslie’s good advice on timing (per her Explorer Party), I set the party at a 2-hour limit, from 11am – 1pm. On the morning of the party, I was panicking a bit, thinking that we should have started at noon or 1pm (because I still had a bunch of food prep to do when everyone arrived), but the timing worked out fine since the kids were busy with the craft while I finished assembling the food.
3. Party supplies. I didn’t want to fuss a lot with decorations, so all I bought were tablecloths (one pink, one purple – to cover the table for the craft, then do a quick table change for lunch), sage colored plates, cups, and napkins, and we ordered 2 dozen pink, purple, and green balloons, which we picked up the morning of the party. (If you haven’t purchased helium balloons before, make sure you get them the day of your event because they will deflate/sag by the following day.)
4. Craft supplies. Everything for the nature fairy dreamcatchers can be purchased at local craft stores. For the frames, I bought lightweight branch wreaths about 10 inches in diameter from AC Moore. I really wanted something natural looking (so, not a foam or wire circle) and lightweight so it wouldn’t take much effort to hang on the wall. For the decorating accoutrements, I got everything at Michael’s (they may very well have wreaths too, but I happened to be at AC Moore first, when the whole idea was coming together). I was lucky to be planning for 6 kids because I found perfect sized packs of birds (6 per pack) and butterflies (12 per pack), and I also picked up paper and wire flowers in the bridal section, silk flowers (that came with leaves) in the silk flower arranging section (I snipped off the leaves and flower heads from the stem), spools of ribbon, and colored wooden beads (both solid and some simple flower patterns) + hemp thread in the jewelry making section. I already had a glue gun at home, which I would definitely recommend, but the nice thing about these supplies was that most items had flexible wire stems so it was easy for the kids to attach them to the wreaths.
A note on shopping: I imagine it probably seems like a nightmare to take a kid to a retail extravaganza like Michael’s, but Laurel had a great time helping to shop for supplies. Of course, we hit areas (like the ribbon, she’s a girl after my own heart…) where she basically wanted everything, but I kept using our standard make-a-choice parenting technique, where I told her firmly that we were only getting 6-8 spools total, but offered her the choice between various options to narrow down the final group so she felt involved in the process.
The day of the party I laid out individual place settings, each with a wreath and bird + 2 butterflies, then placed the rest of the supplies in the middle of the table. It looked really pretty and the kids went crazy when they saw all the pretty supplies on the table.
5. Food. I wanted simple and pretty food that both the kids and grownups could enjoy. On our granite bar I set up:
6. Timeline. The timing worked out really well and was very relaxed. The girls arrived, admired each other’s costumes, and played for the first 20 minutes while the parents chatted, then we got the kids started on the craft. I explained the symbolism of dreamcatchers and then the kids and parents put them together for the next 30 or so minutes. As kids finished the project they played in the living room while the rest of the girls finished. Everyone was done at just about noon, at which point I swapped out the messy craft table cloth with a fresh one and we had lunch then treats. Then the girls all went up to the playroom to wreak havoc. Everyone left (with dreamcatchers and a couple of balloons in hand) by about 1:30pm, which gave us plenty of the day left to clean up and have some relaxed family time.
7. Other simple ideas. If you want a more physically oriented party, one idea that I saw on other sites (plus was also used for Leslie’s Explorer Party mentioned earlier) was to have a fairy scavenger hunt. We also thought about setting up a tent (nature fairy hideaway) in the backyard for the kids to play in, but it ended up raining that day. It turned out that we didn’t need that activity since the girls spent so much time crafting.
It was really sweet to see how excited the girls were about making their dreamcatchers (which served well as head wreaths too...), and the prospect of going home to hang them over their beds.