This party was always going to be a low effort job. I had neither the time or inclination to put in hours of home-made theme preparation. Nor the money to go out and buy every single dinosaur themed party piece going.
When planning Arlo’s fourth birthday dinosaur party, we resolved to stick to the heart of what’s important when throwing a kid’s party, and that meant focussing on what the kids would most enjoy, and not what might make the most photogenic, well put-together theme for the Pinterest crowd.
The party bags
I wasn’t going to theme the party bags, I just wanted to keep it as cheap as possible, but I realised that including a couple of dino-themed items still kept the cost as cheap as planned. A 10p sheet of dinosaur stickers, a little dinosaur figurine from a budget mutlipack, a funsize box of smarties, paper bags and a home-made dinosaur stamp on a white circular label sticker to seal the bags – all in all, around 60p per head.
I wasn’t very inspired by any of the cheap plastic tablecovers I found online, but then I had the idea of covering the tables with brown paper (Although I should have gone for a longer roll – we had to double up!) which actually worked out cheaper than any tablecloths I’d found, and with loads left over to use for packaging and Christmas gift wrapping.
I laid out crayons, dinosaur stamps and ink pads and encouraged the kids to go to town decorating the tables. We had loads of white label stickers left over after making up the party bags, so Sam came up with the ‘Make a Dinosaur sticker’ idea.
Plates, napkins, and bunting were all by the same company because I loved the illustrations and the little dino facts on the napkins. (They do invitations, cups, centrepieces and all sorts of other things too if you want a fully cohesive dinosaur theme) Although I purchased most of my bits through an Amazon retailer as it worked out cheaper that way.
The “Four” picture collage was something I made for Arlo’s actual birthday, to hang up on the wall behind his pile of presents on the table so he’d be greeted with a kind of celebration feature table when he woke up in the morning. But it served double time doing the same job at Arlo’s party, and he loves it so much he’s requested that it go up in on the wall in his room. Not bad money’s worth for an £8 print (Printed with Loxley, where I get most of my pro prints done).
We also brought a couple of dinosaur posters from home to put on the walls.
Check out my party preparation post for the full lowdown on the entertainment, but there were a few extras that I haven’t mentioned already.
The big inflatable T-Rex came from ELC (Normally £25 but it was reduced to £15 and then we had a further discount code so the final cost was £10). We also bought a couple of cheap mini T-Rex’s from an Ebay seller, which, along with some white balloons, created a ‘Baby Dinosaurs hatching out of eggs’ feature, that was, naturally, decimated in seconds as soon as the party guests arrived.
There were plenty of dino games we could have put together involving the inflatables and the balloons, including using them as part of a dinosaur hunt, but in the end we decided not to bother, because
Sam was watching the Palace match because the kids were having so much fun as it was, and because Arlo prefers free play.
We also had a surprise visit from two real-life dinosaurs.
I panic bought some bubble guns from Tiger the day before the party when I realised it would be sunny and dry and we had no entertainment planned for the garden area of the place we’d hired.
Arlo’s favourite toy at preschool, the Didicars, were a huge hit (and can be used by both adults and children). Moving the steering wheel propels the car forward without needing to use feet to push yourself along – it’s like a no-engine go kart, and a lot of fun in a big hall.
If you are local to Croydon, Surrey, or South London and are looking for reliable and good value bouncy castle hire, I can recommend Kingies Castles, who were great with my repeated calls in the week leading up just to “double check” they were definitely going to show up on the day, great communication on the day of the event, and they also offered us the best rate too.
Food and drink
We kept this really simple – sandwiches, crisps, fruit, sausage rolls. The only themed part of it was the dinosaur sandwich shapes (made using this sandwich cutter), but it does waste a lot of bread and to be honest I’m not sure how much the kids really cared about their dinosaur shaped sandwiches in comparison to everything else dino-related that we had at the party. I mean, come on, nothing beats a giant inflatable T-rex that you can wrestle.
And we had yummy dinosaur brownies thanks to Auntie Zoe – the kids wasted NO time polishing these off.
The kids had Capri Sun’s (the cheapest bulk buy we could find in the supermarkets) and little sports style water bottles – we chose these specifically as cups and jugs = Spillage carnage.
For the adults, there was popcorn, kettle chips, beer and prosecco.
With a very busy week leading up to the party, we knew the cake was going to be a supermarket job rather than a cool but labourious home-made effort. I assumed all the big supermarket names would have at least ONE dinosaur style party cake, but I was surprised to find only one option.
However, I really wasn’t keen on parting with £25 just for the sake of having the cake on-theme. So we DIYed it by using a standard Tesco’s chocolate cake and adding some dinosaur candles and a few of the leftover dinosaur play figurines from the party bags. £6 cake, job done.
Arlo massively enjoyed his party this year, which made it all worth it. He totally got into the idea of throwing a party and he loved the process of inviting all of his friends and chosing his party songs. Plus, he LOVED being the first and last one on the bouncy castle.
Hiring a hall turned out to be not too much effort, although I am glad we stuck to our resolution to keep everything as simple as possible – this definitely made the set-up and clear up a lot easier.
The entertainment was just right – plenty enough to keep the children entertained at all times, but not too much that it was overwhelming or extremely costly.
And did we manage to stick to our original goal of keeping things simple and focussing on what the kids would find fun?
I think a 6 foot inflatable t-rex on a bouncy castle sums that up.