Toy Blog - Toys, Parenting, and Kids

The Fake Sleepover

After I wrote my post Monday, I had a conversation with a good friend of mine regarding sleepovers.  She has a daughter, age 5, who LOVES the idea of sleepovers, but she isn’t quite ready for it – nor are her friends.  Each child reaches that point of being able to handle the overnight separation at their own pace; to deem a specific age as the “ready age” for spending the night away from home is impossible.  Nevertheless, her child was convinced that she NEEDED a slumber party for her 5th birthday (don’t you love the influence of older siblings???).  Genius that my friend is, she came up with a solution – the fake sleepover.

The birthday party was a true slumber party, complete with popcorn, a short movie, pizza, cake, ice cream, games, and even a pillow fight.  They painted fingernails and toenails.  Each girl got to have their hair styled in crazy-slumber-party styles.  Everyone personalized a pillowcase to take home as a party favor.

At 9 p.m., all the parents showed up to pick up their little princesses and take them home to bed.

My friend is incredible.  She pulled off the perfect slumber party for her youngest child and managed to avoid the middle-of-the-night phone calls home that ensue when children aren’t quite ready to be away from home.  Everyone was happy.  Everyone had fun.  And everyone had a good night’s sleep.

What a great birthday idea!

Whose Birthday Is It?

My younger son will be turning three this weekend (and Susan’s middle child will have a birthday soon, too!).  So, you can only imagine the preparations that are happening around our home right now.  Grocery lists are mounting, decorations are being sorted and created, RSVPs are actually coming in, and food is being prepared.  But, in all of this, I have discovered the most important part of pre-party preparation is having my son be an intregal part of it.

With my older son, I always put together everything, from goody bags to cakes to party planning.  And, he enjoyed himself.  However, with my younger son, I am learning to allow a little “help” in the preparation.  Don’t get me wrong; having an extra pair of hands (especially almost three year old hands) around to help out does not necessarily equate to a smoother and quicker go of things.  In fact, I have to allow for extra time in each of my tasks.  But, the payoff is priceless.

Last night, my son helped me assemble his party favor bags.  We stamped trains on brown paper sacks and then used foam letters (with the peel off sticky backs) to spell out each young guest’s name.  He took great pride in stamping the trains just so and finding the right letters for each name.  At almost three, this was definitely a learning experience, but he had so much fun and is so proud of the treat bags he helped create.  I also had him help me stuff the bags.  We made an assembly line on the dining room table and put together our bags.  Granted, what would have taken me 15 -20 minutes lasted almost an hour, but talk about a bonding and learning experience for him (and me!).

Today, we got started on our cakes.  I am usually a stickler about being the lone body in the kitchen, but we were both home together, the house was quiet, and he was curious as to what I was doing.  So, together we made his cakes.  I set up the mixer and measured the ingredients, but he was the one to add them all to the bowl.  He even learned to crack an egg properly, something my older son has probably never done!  Then, he helped me with the mixing bowl and pouring the batter into the pans.  Again, the entire task took me about twice as long, but we were able to work together and my son was able to feel the accomplishment of creating something wonderful.

Tomorrow, my younger son will help hang the decorations, arrange the balloons, and set the table for our guests.  And he has also learned to appreciate the effort that goes into honoring someone.  He’s thrilled about his party, but I have a feeling he’s grown more in the past two days than I could ever think possible.

Invite your child to help out with special occasions, and together you can find ways to learn and share together.

First Birthday Party Gift Ideas

I went to the birthday party of one of my dearest friends’ daughter this past weekend – her first birthday.  It is a monumental occasion, those first birthdays.  It is a reflection of the past twelve months, of the accomplishments and milestones that have been crossed, of remembering that amazing moment when parent and child first lay eyes on each other.  And, in Addy’s case, it was extra-sweet: she had been born nine weeks early, spent six weeks and NICU and overcame some pretty big obstacles along the way.  Here she was, a year later, diving into a applesauce-sweetened spice cake and smearing pale pink icing from ear to ear (and not necessarily just her own ears!).  Those first birthdays are definitely a major milestone.

It was time to turn on a bit of the think-tank to come up with a present for Addy; after all, there were over forty other people in attendance (don’t freak out – they were all mostly relatives) and all bearing gifts.  Your typical tub toy or outfit wouldn’t hold a candle to this crowd.  So, I sat down and created a list of some ideas for gift-giving to be a little bit “different”.  Because, at a year old, birthdays are more a celebration for the family than a simple party for the child.

1.  Pick a theme: how about a bathtime gift that includes a soft towel (in Addy’s case, pink), a cute kiddo wash cloth and some tear-free bath soap and lotion?  Or, what about an outside play gift with a hat, some sunglasses and sunscreen or bug spray?  A snack basket is also a good idea – fill it with toddler treats and finger foods.  Mom will definitely appreciate it!

2.  Think of the future: U. S. Savings Bonds are EXCELLENT little-kid gifts.  A $50 bond costs $25 and is a great way to invest in a child’s future.  Or, if the parent has a designated account for the future, inquire about how to go about making a contribution.  It is a gift that will last forever (or at least until the child is old enough to use it!).

3.  Membership has its privileges: one of the best gifts I’ve seen given was a year-long membership to the local zoo.  What about a museum or a play area?  Memberships have a wide range of prices, so call around and ask.  It can be something the family has an avid interest in, or perhaps give a membership to something the family hasn’t had the opportunity to explore!

4.  Time and talent: Do you have a special gift, such as painting or sewing?  Perhaps a portrait or a one-of-a-kind quilt is up your alley.  Or, how about offering some “outing time” for the birthday kiddo while Mom and/or Dad get a few moments to breathe?  Having a new face to play with can be a benefit to the parents AND the child.

5.  Pictures last a lifetime: If you’ve been able to capture a few photos of the honoree over the year, making a collage or even an album is a wonderful gift.  Another idea is to collect photos of family and friends and compile them into a touchable, usable album for the birthday child.  Children love looking at pictures of people, and when it is people they know, that’s even sweeter.  And, with the technology of today, make a slideshow and burn it to CD!  It makes a great gift and momento!

What are some innovative and different ideas you’ve done or seen for those amazing first birthdays?  Leave a comment and share!

Resources for Great Birthday Party Ideas

We recently had our son’s 8th birthday and party, and I was quite overwhelmed with the number of websites out there with birthday party tips and ideas.  So, here are a few of my favorites, pared down from the almost 100 sites I originally bookmarked!  Talk about a clearinghouse for ideas!  Readers submit their own by theme and age.  It is a terrific resource for finding that little extra “oomph” to make the day memorable!  While it took me a while to sift through the list it gave me, I now have TONS of ideas for future birthdays…some of these people really go all out. and  These two sites provide just about every item you might need for a great party, from plates to party favors.  Licensed themes as well as “originals” are included.  Another great site for stocking up on party supplies is  Looking to do something new for invitations this year?  Check out vistaprint and their possibilities. and even your local photo developing site have terrific samples for photo invitations.

Looking for a spectacular cake?  Check out and their selection.  Be warned however, that cakes start at $58 for a 10-slice cake.  But, they can deliver in a moment’s notice!

For the little guys, check out  PBS provides party ideas based on theme on their site.  They have games, decorating ideas and even a recipe or two!

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