My biggest boy has just turned four. It seems preposterous that he has grown into such a beautiful, fully-formed human being in four short years, but that appears to be what has happened. Our four year old loves technology, revels in colour and shape and climbs like a monkey. He is coping well at a mainstream nursery, is learning to take notice of his peers and has some beautiful relationships with all the adults who are involved in helping him reach his full potential. There is a lot of celebrate.
Birthdays are still a mysterious occasion for S. Wrapped presents are a source of anxiety, parties are potentially overwhelming and demanding, and being the focus of attention is usually unwelcome. Despite these presets, I think we managed to convey to S that his birthday was his special day. It helped that cake is a central tenet of the birthday tradition, and S is always up for cake.
We held a party at Little Gym, inviting just a few of S’s classmates. Little Gym were brilliantly accommodating, changing their usual package to better suit us. Traditional parties are hard work for S, but the gym party worked perfectly. He could play in parallel with the friends who know him best, and still have the opportunity to share moments and interact with them. We served pizzas after the romping, and April provided an awesome rainbow layer cake. Why, oh, why do I not have a picture of the cake?! It looked a lot like this one she made for someone else. I am kicking myself that we got hardly any pictures, but hosting and wielding a camera is virtually impossible.
I set myself a crafty challenge: to be creative about the content for the party bags. Of course, party bags are ridiculous, really, but I do remember how much joy they brought me as a child, so I like doing them. I’ve noticed a pleasing shift in party bags recently. Rather than just being a bag of plastic tat which ends up in the bin, S has been given a book, or a cupcake and some stickers. Quality, not quantity, and rather more considerate to the environment. Mind you, my challenge was more about being thrifty and giving my hands something to do, rather than having any noble aims.
My first idea was to use cotton tote bags, as they are reusable, and to give a couple of fabric pens so the bags could be personalised and decorated. Here they are…
I made the labels using my Tonic corner rounder, some foam letters from Yellow Moon, that I had in my craft stash. I packaged the pens nicely, with instructions on how to use them.
I wanted to include some more activities as well as toys, so I downloaded a postcard from the lovely Walnut Paperie, and included some stickers, so the recipients could make a card.
I also made some mini sketch books and found these fabulous handmade twig pencils on eBay.
My final activity gift was a colouring in book. I purchased a printable colouring in book from Asking for Trouble for £2, and printed out copies for each child, so this was inexpensive.
Of course, no party bag is complete without sweet treats and a couple of toys. I got the sweeties from the estimable establishment, Poundland, along with the bouncy balls. The marbled balloons were from eBay and the rainbow magnets from Odd Pockets on Etsy.
I made one additional fun toy, a monster mouth, ideal for taking silly pictures or scaring siblings. These were inspired by some I saw on Etsy. I drew them by hand, coloured them in using image editing software, printed them on card and stuck them to a lolly stick. This required no expenditure for me, except the cost of printer ink.
Little kids often like packaging, so I made the contents more appealing by packaging everything in little cello bags or candy striped paper bags and used my colourful rolls of MT washi tape, liberally.
I think the bags were well-received. S only had a small number of friends at the party, so the bags didn’t take me too long to prepare, and they were not expensive.
Cotton tote bag £1.24
Bouncy balls 25p
Rainbow magnet 75p
Twig pencil 35p
Fabric pens 44p x 2
Freddie bar 17p
Fruit stars 20p
Colouring book* 29p
A grand total of £5.44 for each bag, not including paper or ink costs, or the cost of items used from my admittedly sizeable craft stash! Best of all, it was a nice thing to spend time doing, and I felt good about the things that went in the bags.
* Not including the value of the paper and printer ink.