Harley turned one, which meant that it was up to me to organize her first birthday party. As she grows older, I’m sure she will be able to make her desired theme a bit clearer to me, but at this point I went with something I know she loves – Pandas. She adores Kung Fu Panda in all its forms – whether it’s the movie or that Netflix series, she is completely entranced by it. Also, she always enjoys when I read to her Neil Gaiman’s Chu’s Day, all about a Panda whose sneeze causes, um, pandemonium. So, I figured a panda-themed birthday party would be a good bet for her, and fairly easy for me to pull off.
To be clear, I knew that all those attending would be little people and their parents, so I wanted to keep it fairly low-key and relaxed as possible. I also decided that I wanted to do it at a venue, choosing a lovely restaurant that has a full kids’ play area complete with childminders, as well as nice food and great coffee for the parents. I will be telling all of you more about my favorite picks for restaurants that meet these criteria in the next few days/weeks. So, the food and location were sorted by the venue – easy parking, a variety of platters for kids and adults, as well as whatever drinks they had available. What fell to me? Making the panda theme a thing.
I decided to focus on goodie packs. I figured that they could sort of double as decor if I did them right.
Originally, I planned on getting those white Chinese takeaway containers, but then I decided that small white buckets would work better. At first, I was going to fill the bucket with a mixture of popcorn and Oreos – I figured it was cheap and easy as a nice black and white themed gift. However, I realized that I am a bit funny about what food I would want Harley to eat, and that wouldn’t even pass my test, so why would I give it to other kids?
Instead, I got a cheap tray of bubbles, as well as a whole bunch of those plastic bouncing balls that kids seem to absolutely love. I’m very happy with that decision. No, it might not have anything to do with the panda theme, but it was a non-food-based treat that kids could enjoy playing with after the party was over.
Back to the decor, it was time to draw pandas on each of the goodie buckets. Thanks to some google image searches, I managed to find some nice stylized pandas that I could use. Here is a step by step of how to draw the pandas:
I then did the same on some white balloons, partially blowing them up so that I had surface area to work with, then letting them dry before deflating them again.
Those middle steps were really scary – I kept on getting convinced that the panda was all wrong, that it didn’t look right at all. Even with the nose it looked weird to me, but once that mouth was there it looked like a bear instead of something out of a horror movie.
Each one was different because they were all drawn by hand, but I think that sort of made it more natural – every panda is unique, right? Unfortunately, when the panda balloons were inflated with helium, the image became more washed out. So, once they were fully inflated, I simply colored them back in to get them dark again. It wasn’t totally necessary – they still looked cute with a slightly lighter color, but my OCD was happy I made them darker.
So, all I had to do was draw 12 pandas on buckets and draw 15 pandas on balloons (I did a few extra in case any popped and for extra decoration), then put the bubbles and balls into each bucket and I was pretty much done.
I actually got really into it. It was a lot of fun to draw the pandas, and once I knew that my step by step approach actually worked, it was a lot of fun to make each one a bit different, to enjoying drawing for a little bit. I wouldn’t want to do this in a rush, but by giving myself a morning to worry about it, I was able to enter that nice artistic, crafting zen place. We picked up the balloons just a short while before the party started and I colored each one in, and I think it turned out pretty nice as decor.
Then, my amazing friend Stacey brought the pièce de résistance – a panda cake and cupcakes. It was so insanely gorgeous and well done, complete with wafer biscuits as bamboo around the sides, fondant sculpted pandas and leaves – plus it all tasted delicious, too.
So, for a one-year-old, it really wasn’t too hard to create a panda-themed birthday party. Obviously, as she grows up these will get more complicated, but it really was a lot of fun to do this, and I have a feeling that I will really enjoy doing her parties each year. Of course, here are a couple pictures from the actual day – we had such a nice time, even though we were all exhausted by the end of it. Good food, good friends and family, and happy kids playing. Plus, when the party was over, by using the party packs as decor, there was very little we had to take away with us or clean up other than presents and cake. What more could any of us want or need?