You know, it’s right about the time that the kids turn 8 years old that birthday parties become a bit tricky. An over-themed party involving lots of structured activities and crafts may seem too young for your budding tween. Yet, for some kids, a full-blown sleepover party complete with staying up super-late and watching tons of movies may be more than a tender heart (used to being close to home) is ready for. So navigating the 8-year old birthday party can be a challenge.
Enter the half-sleepover party. All the benefits of fun hanging with your girlfriends in your jammies, eating lots of birthday cake, popcorn, and other goodies, with none of the commitment of a full night away from Mom & Dad. If you decide to go this route, your next step is picking a theme… and I say- why not focus on the things that your daughter loves the best? Which in our case, is ponies (Charlotte just started taking horseback riding lessons) and puppies (she has our dog Bentley that she adores!)!
After spending some time cruising the internet searching for some cute puppies and ponies artwork, I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for, although I did find a beautiful picture of a little girl and a horse for an equestrian-themed birthday party. I emailed the creator, Nathalia, from Firefly Creative Design, and asked if she could create something for me that I could use for the invites and party goods that also included a puppy in the print…preferably a golden doodle, like our dog Bentley. And when she emailed me back and offered to create the artwork for only $16, I was thrilled!
I uploaded her .jpg file to Picnik, added all of the party details and sent off the invitations. I also used the same artwork to create the thank-you notes for the party.
The Thank You Notes:
The Party Decorations:
We decided that the girls would eat dinner in our dining room, so to make it festive we decorated with tissue paper pom-poms and these little cards with the pony and puppy art. We placed a few beanie baby ponies and puppies in hurricane glass holders and polka-dotted the table with jellybeans.
The Goodie Bags, Cake, Party Punch, and Popcorn Bags:
Our final prep for the party included baking this multi-layered cake, preparing our family-favorite “party punch”, assembling popcorn bags to be passed out during the movie, and putting together goodie bags for the guests to take home.
The Order of Events:
I always say that the decor is nice, but the heart of the party is how you entertain the guests and make the birthday child feel special. So here is how our pony and puppy party unfolded:
6pm- Guests arrived (we invited 9 girls). As we waited for everyone to show up, the girls enjoyed playing Just Dance 3 on the Wii. And let me tell you- this could have been the event to carry the entire party! The girls loved playing this as a group- no one cares who gets to hold the Wii remote, they just want to DANCE!
6:15pm- Dinnertime! Instead of typical pizza fare, we decided to offer a make-your-own salad and pasta bar. This was a HUGE hit- and certainly much less expensive than ordering in pizza! We served two different kinds of pasta (linguine and penne) butter, sauce, or sauce with meatballs. We toasted garlic bread, served up a big bowl of romaine, and the girls could top their salad with carrots, cucumbers, grape tomatoes, croutons, and three kinds of dressing.
7:00pm- Shrinky-Dink Necklace Craft
Everyone loves to make shrinky-dinks! I purchased sheets of the ruff ‘n ready plastic, and used my heart punch to cut out hearts, and then used a regular hole punch to make a hole in each heart. The girl colored their hearts and then watched as we shrunk them into tiny charms in the toaster oven. We also took a group picture of all of the girls, which I printed on special printer-friendly shrinky-dink plastic and then shrunk them into tiny charms to wear on their ribbon necklaces behind the heart. (But I will admit that printer shrinky-dink plastic is very hard to work with, and the results weren’t as great as I hoped- the ink still bled a bit even after trying to dry it thoroughly with a hairdryer set on a cool setting).
7:30pm- birthday cake
The cool thing about our multi-layered white cake was that it was actually a rainbow cake! (After all, Charlotte’s birthday is shared with St. Patrick’s Day!)
7:50pm- the girls gathered onto sleeping bags that were spread out in the family room to watch “Moondance Alexander”, a great movie about a girl and a horse. Most of the party guests (as well as the birthday girl) had never seen the film, so they were enthralled. After about 45 minutes into the movie, we served popcorn.
8:30pm- The movie wrapped up, the girls put on their necklaces and headed back for a little more Just Dance 3 before the party ended up at 9pm.
The Goodie Bags
Inside each of the goodie bags was a beanie baby puppy and homemade sugar cookies cut into pony shapes and individually decorated by my ever-so-patient and talented husband!
This was truly one of the easiest and least expensive parties we have ever hosted, and Charlotte loved every minute of it. And that was the very best part.
If you liked this party idea, you might also enjoy these other at-home birthday parties we’ve thrown for our kids: