Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Contest Winner!

Congratulations, Barbra! You are the winner of FamilyFun's Birthday Cakes book!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Party

The Very Hungry Caterpillar is one of the cutest children's books of all time. For that simple reason, I am excited to give you some budget-friendly ideas for a super cute caterpillar party!


If you're the creative type or you want to get your kids involved, try making either a collage card following Eric Carle's style or a thumbprint caterpillar card.

If you'd rather just buy something and be done with it or slap some stickers on a piece of paper, try these Eric Carle stickers (, $5.95).

Here's a really cute idea for those of us who are a bit more daring!


Make your little caterpillars feel right at home with bright "grass", "trees", and "flowers". Make your own out of construction paper for the best deal, or invest in some of these fun, long-lasting wall stickers! (, $12.99) Although they aren't the same brand, I have a tube of wall stickers and they are very durable- they can be peeled on and off the wall without damaging the wall or the stickers (if you're careful!).

And although this is a bit more expensive, it's too cute to pass up- especially if you have a little insect lover in your house: Caterpillar Wall Stickers (, $34.99)

Another (smaller and single) sticker for a smaller price: Very Hungry Caterpillar Sticker (, $10.00)

Or these! (, $4.00)

Or this one, similar to the first set, but a better price! (, $26.00)


Collage project

Supplies: Construction paper (, on sale for $0.53) , glue sticks (I have done quite a bit of crafting and I always use Ross- it works best and it's cheap!) , tissue paper in a variety of colors (, on sale for $1.48/50 sheets) , kiddie scissors

Instructions: Let the children create their own Eric Carl style illustrations! Give each kid a piece of construction paper and several sheets of tissue paper as well as a glue stick and scissors. Children should draw out their designs first, then cut the shapes out of the tissue paper and paste them to the paper.

Note: For younger children, cut small squares out of the tissue paper, then simply let them glue the pieces to the page.

Thumbprint caterpillars

I found the idea online to make thumbprint caterpillar invitations, but I thought it would also be a fun and easy craft. We've had a fun book for years called Ed Emberley's Complete Funprint Drawing Book that give instructions for creating fun drawings with your fingers and a stamp pad! It's a very easy activity even for young children. I recommend purchasing a washable ink pad at your local craft store for the best deal and quality. (Although multicolor ink pads can be fun, I've found that the colors usually end up getting mixed together when little ones are using it!)


There are several great Very Hungry Caterpillar party ideas on that I would really encourage you to check out. The first two ideas on this list are inspired by a couple of them:

  • Caterpillar cocoon hop: Purchase an inexpensive pillow case for each child. Set up a distance for them to race across a yard or room. Children must stand in their "cocoons" and hop across the designated area. Whoever crosses the finish line first wins.
  • Caterpillar scavenger hunt: Hide treats like those in the book (lollipops, apples, pears, plums, oranges, chocolate snack cakes (Little Debbie or Oreo Cakesters), Little Debbie cherry snack pies, etc. throughout the yard- children must find the treats by crawling around like a caterpillar.
  • Purchase this caterpillar tunnel for lots of fun! (, $17.99)


Of course, read Eric Carl's Very Hungry Caterpillar!


Anything the very hungry caterpillar eats in the book:

  • Red apples
  • Green pears
  • Purple plums
  • Red strawberries
  • Whole oranges
  • Chocolate cake
  • Ice cream
  • Salami
  • Swiss cheese
  • Pickles
  • Lollipops
  • Cherry pie
  • Sausage
  • Cupcake
  • Watermelon
  • "Leaves" (lettuce)
  • Also serve gummi worm!
Click here to find one of the sweetest cakes I have ever seen! If you're not the creative type, this cake will be perfect for you- it looks very easy. And please notice the candle antennae! :)

In order to make sure the frosting for the head actually turns red instead of pink, I recommend using Wilton gel food coloring (find it at almost any craft store)- it gets it the color you want a lot faster!


  • Neon caterpillar toys (, $0.29 each)
  • Caterpillar cookies or caterpillar cookie cutter (, $1.95 each)
  • Lollipops (since the caterpillar eats one in the book) I like the idea of organic lollipops which you can get for less that $0.10/piece! ( If you want to go with a lollipop more like the one in the book, go for mini swirl pops at $0.15/piece from
  • Go buggy with mini insect erasers at about $0.02/piece from
  • I got this idea from Make caterpillar antennae for your guests using Dollar Store headbands, pipe cleaners, and painted Styrofoam balls or pop poms.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Become a Follower!

To learn more about the book, click on the picture above.

Listen up, readers! Anyone who becomes a follower of the Birthdays on a Budget blog (not the Facebook page) within the next week (March 9-16) will be automatically entered to win a free copy of FamilyFun's Birthday Cakes book- with ideas for 50 cute and easy party treats!

Becoming a follower is easy- just scroll down on the sidebar until you see "Followers" then click "Become a Follower"- You'll be entered for a fantastic prize in minutes! If you have any questions, please comment on this post.

Chocolate Lover's Party

I absolutely love chocolate. So, it would only make sense that a chocolate lover's party would sound...amazing to me! I hope you enjoy your chocolate party just as much as I enjoyed planning it!


Supplies- One Hershey bar for each guest (the kind wrapped in foil), computer with printer, paper, tape or glue

Instructions- Take the brown wrapper off of each Hershey bar, but leave the silver foil on the bars. Replace the brown wrappers with your own customized wrapper like the one I have created below (which you are welcome to use, although I'm not exactly sure the measurements are correct). Print the party info on the inside of the wrapper. The size of a full size Hershey bar is 5" wide x 5 1/4" long.


  • Brown and beige balloons, streamers, cutlery, etc.
  • For a girl's party, I love the Paisley party decor from Hobby Lobby- for the quality, it's not a terrible price and you can often get a coupon for 40% off one item.
  • Make a candy bar bouquet!
Supplies: Vase or jar, shredded filler, a piece of floral foam, bamboo skewers, candy bars. Optional: ribbon

Instructions: Fit a piece of floral foam to your vase, then fill the vase with shredded filler in the color of your choice (to cover the foam). Poke the skewers into the foam, then add the candy bars. Decorate with ribbon. Here is a picture of one that someone made.


  • M&M guessing game- I'm sure you've heard of this before. Fill a jar with a certain number of M&M's and make sure you remember how many there are! As guests are coming in, allow them to write their guess for how many M&M's are in the jar on a sheet of paper. Whoever gets the closest number without going over wins the jar of M&M's- yum!
  • Musical Chocolate Bar- Wrap a chocolate bar in several layers of wrapping paper. Instruct the children to sit in a circle, then let them begin passing the chocolate bar around the circle while music plays in the background. When the music stops, whoever is holding the chocolate bar gets to unwrap one layer of paper. The game goes on until someone opens the last layer- that player wins the chocolate bar!
  • What kind of candy bar? Unwrap several different kinds of candy bars (make sure no one is allergic to nuts) and cut off a small piece of each. Lay them on numbered napkins with the name of the bar underneath. Let all of the children examine each candy bar sample using sight and smell. They must write what kind of candy bar they think is on

Make Chocolate Truffles

I got this recipe from a party on

Before the party put 3 cups of semi sweet chocolate and 1 can of sweet condensed milk into a saucepan. Stir constantly over medium heat until chocolate is melted. Remove from heat and pour into a small bowl. Let cool for 2 hours. During the party let each guest roll some of the chocolate mixture into small balls, and then dip the balls in candy decorations. Place each truffle in a paper candy cup and put in a small box for each guest to take home.

You can find mini muffin cups (which would work for candy cups) at (100 for $5.44)


  • Chocolate ice cream sundaes with hot fudge and chocolate sprinkles
This hot fudge recipe from Desperation Dinners is a family favorite:

3 squares (1 ounce each) unsweetened baking chocolate
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
½ cup heavy cream
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 pinches salt

Put the chocolate, butter, and cream in a 4-cup glass measure. Microwave, uncovered, on high, until the chocolate and butter are nearly melted, about 2 minutes, stopping once halfway through to stir. Remove from the microwave, and stir until the chocolate and butter finish melting.

Stir in the sugar. Microwave 1 minute, uncovered, on high. Remove and stir well with a wire whisk. If the sauce is grainy, microwave just until the sugar melts, 30 seconds to 1 minute more. Do not overcook. Whisk to stir well.

Whisk in the vanilla extract and salt, and let the mixture cool a little. Serve warm or at room temperature.*

* Notes

Sauce can be refrigerated, covered for up to 2 weeks. Or frozen for up to 2 months. Thaw in refrigerator and reheat in microwave, uncovered, on high, until warmed through, about 1 minute

  • Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting
  • Chocolate chocolate chip cookies
  • Chocolate milkshakes
  • Chocolate pudding
  • Chocolate Chex Mix
  • Fruit dipped in chocolate
  • Chocolate dipped pretzels- Easy to make using milk chocolate almond bark
  • Oreo cookies
  • Any chocolate candies
  • Bagels with chocolate chip cream cheese
  • Chocolate sodas

Must have chocolate fondue at your party? Go for the Wilton Chocolate Pro- much more affordable than a chocolate fountain! (, $26.39)


Instead of sending your guest home with a bag of trinkets, invest in a few nicer items for them to take home.

  • Once again, I must tell you that I love Hobby Lobby's party supplies. For just $1.99, you can get ten adorable pink and brown paisley favor boxes.
  • Purchase a large Hershey's chocolate bar for each of your guests- I believe a little under a dollar a piece.
  • Send your guests home with a tube of chocolate Nesquick lip gloss (, $2.50/3), or make your own, using empty lip balm tubes (, $0.15 each).
  • Hershey's Kisses (a bit expensive)
  • Tootsie Rolls

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Army Guy Party

These Lego Toy Story Soldiers will provide hours of entertainment for your birthday boy. (, $10.97)

My favorite memories of being little were the times that I felt like I was grown up. I loved, loved, loved pretending. I could become a chef, a veterinarian, a mommy. My brother's favorite thing to pretend (much to my chagrin) was army and for his 5th birthday, we celebrated army style. It was lots of fun- I felt like I was really at an army boot camp! Now, whenever I plan something for kids, I want them to get the same feeling I had when I was little- like you were really that character that you wanted to be- so, here is my attempt to recreate an army boot camp for your little guy!

Recruiting form from Ultimate Kid Birthday Parties: Here is a great FREE invitation that looks like an official army recruiting form!! The PDF format allows you to fill in your information and print off the invitations easily. Enjoy!

Setting up camp-

Army netting: Find relatively inexpensive camouflage netting (Favor Frenzy, $7.98 )
Or go for my personal favorite, the tough looking (and more inexpensive!) canon ball hole netting that could probably pass for army netting! (Favor Frenzy, $4.95)

Caution signs: Using old plywood, reusable letter stencils (Ben Franklin Crafts, $1.90), and a red paint marker (You can find one for a good price at almost any craft store.) make signs that say things like:



For part of the kids' favors, provide them with army gear for the party. Canteens (Oriental Trading Co., $17.99/12, which is $1.50 a piece) , camo helmets (Oriental Trading Co., $5.99/12 which is $0.50 a piece), and dog tags (Oriental Trading Co., $3.99/12 which is $0.33 a piece) are all necessities for boot camp.

If you choose to use these items for favors, the cost for each child will amount to $2.33 a piece!

If you can order most of your party supplies at the same location, you can sometimes get a discount on shipping. For example, if you spend $200 on Oriental Trading Co., you will save 10% on shipping.Of course, if you can find all your supplies at a store, that is the best case scenario- I just have links on here so you can get an idea of what I'm talking about and in case you prefer to order on the internet.


Army Obstacle Course- Creating an obstacle course is so easy and is my brother's favorite memory of his army party. If you have a big yard and can do the obstacle course outdoors, that is the best option. Depending on your resources, outdoor obstacle courses could include:

  • Swinging across the monkey bars
  • Climbing up a rock wall or slide
  • Sliding down the slide
  • Swinging on a rope over a "mud puddle"
  • Jumping through tires
  • Climbing over a short fence
  • Weaving between cones
  • Jumping over a "river" (Two jump ropes- if it's summer, have the kids jump over a stream of water coming from a hose.)
If you need to go indoors:

  • Going up/down stairs
  • Push ups/sit ups
  • Target shooting (Use Nerf gun)
  • Jump over pillow cushion/rug
  • Retrieving an item and bringing it back to base
Time each child on the course- whoever gets the best time wins.

Target Practice-
Target practice can also be played a few different ways depending on whether you are having an indoor or outdoor party.

Variation 1- If you are going to play outdoors, start by drawing a chalk target on a fence or a wall (it will wash off easily). Then, fill enough water balloons for each guest to have several. Give each guest a turn at trying to hit the chalk target.

Variation 2-
If you need to be inside, use a Nerf gun. You can either purchase a Velcro Nerf target, or use suction cup darts.

Paper Airplane War
Supplies: Paper

Teach the soldiers how to make paper airplanes (TUTORIAL). Then, divide the kids into two teams, supplying each team with several sheets of paper. The room or designated area for the game should be divided into two equal halves- one for each team. When you say 'go', the teams must create paper airplanes as quickly as possible and fly them over into the opponents' side. Players from side A may not cross over into side B and visa versa. Whoever has fewer airplanes on their side at the end of the game wins.


At my brother's birthday, my mom led the kids in a chant that went something like this:

"I don't know if you've been told, (CHILD'S FIRST & LAST NAME), is ___ years old. We're all here to celebrate. ________ is really great. Happy (repeat) Birthday (repeat). Happy you!"

Make Model Airplanes

Show off your American pride with these Oriental Trading Co. foam gliders ($4.99/12), or let kids decorate their own airplane wings (Oriental Trading Co. on sale for $2.99)


Hungry recruits will eat just about anything that's put in front of them. Set up a mess hall outside or in your kitchen with cafeteria items such as:

  • Hot dogs or burgers
  • Mac 'n' cheese
  • Pizza
  • Grilled cheese
  • Chips
  • French fries
  • Soda or juice (serve in canteens!)
  • Carrot sticks and dip
Serve on "cafeteria trays", really just foam compartment trays (Dollar Tree $1 for 10).

For the birthday sergeant's cake, the easiest option is either tank cupcakes or a battlefield cake.

We served a battlefield cake at my brother's birthday. It was very simple. I believe that it was a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and Little Debbie Swiss Rolls for hills. Then, we added plastic army figurines and tanks. You could also add chocolate cereal and cookie crumbles for rocks and dirt.

If you'd prefer to do cupcakes, still use chocolate cake and frosting, then add chocolate cereal and cookie crumbles. Top with plastic tanks. For fun added flair, use camouflage candles- note, they are a bit more pricey. (Birthday Direct, $3.72 for 4)

Friday, March 5, 2010

Pete's a Pizza Pizza Party

Pete's a Pizza
by William Steig is an adorable children's book I enjoyed reading when I was younger. A Pete's a Pizza Pizza Party is a fun twist on a classic birthday celebration. Where there's pizza there's a party- and Pete's a Pizza makes it even more fun!


Pizza pies-

Supplies: Beige card stock, red card stock, orange card stock, glue

Cut ‘crusts’, ‘sauce’, ‘pepperoni’ and ‘cheese’ out of your card stock and make special pizza invitations for your guests. Write your message on the back of your pizza. Although they are a bit more pricey, if you'd like, send your invitations out in mini pizza boxes for extra pizazz. ($2.99 for 2-


Turn your home into a traditional pizzeria using red and white checkered table cloths (Oriental Trading Co.- ON SALE FOR $1.99!!!); red, green, and white balloons, streamers, and cutlery; candles, a chalkboard (Mini Chalkboard- $2.42!!! or 17x23" for $9.79 ) complete with a happy birthday message and a ‘menu’, neon signs, etc.


Pizza Relay- Supplies: Collect 'pizza making materials' such as checkers (as mentioned in the book), blankets, strips of paper for cheese, etc.

Divide the children into two teams. Instruct them how to make a pizza out of one of their team mates. For example: First, knead the "dough" (team mate), then spread the "sauce" (blanket). Afterwards, add "cheese" (shredded paper), and "pepperoni" (checkers or other round object). Whichever team finishes their pizza first wins.


Mini Pizzas

Supplies: pizza dough, red sauce, cheese. (OPTIONAL) pepperoni, olives, mushrooms, sausage, peppers, etc.

Instructions: Guide your little chefs in making their own custom pizzas from rolling out the dough to adding all the toppings. Then, let the kids enjoy their creations!

Easy dough recipe: Combine 1 1/2 cups Bisquick and 1/3 cup water and knead until dough forms. Sprinkle greased baking sheets with cornmeal. Bake at 425 degrees for 13-17 minutes. (Of course, you'll want to adapt this recipe for the mini pizzas.)


  • Mini pizzas
  • Bread sticks
  • Mozzarella sticks
  • Garlic bread
  • Pasta
  • Salad
  • Cake- Dessert Pizza
I found this recipe online- it sounds very rich!

Brownie Pizza

1 package brownie mix (21-ounce)
2 tablespoons flour
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1/2 cup peanuts or chocolate chips - chopped up
1/2 cup M&M's or Reese's Pieces - chopped up
1 cup mini marshmallows
1/2 cup caramel ice cream topping

Preheat oven to 350°. Add a little oil on the round stone and use brush to spread evenly.

In a large mixing bowl, combine brownie mix, flour, water, oil, and egg. Beat by hand for about 1 minute, or 50 strokes. Stir in peanuts or chocolate chips. Spread batter in the pan and sprinkle with M&M's or Reese's Pieces.
Bake for about 18 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove and immediately sprinkle with marshmallows. Cool for 15 to 20 minutes then drizzle with caramel sauce. Slice into wedges when cool.
Makes 16 to 20 wedges.


Paper chef hats (Oriental Trading Co., $5.99 for 12 OR make your own)

Mini gummy pizzas (Birthday in a Box, $0.79)

Pizza sticker activity (Birthday in a Box, $0.49)

Playdough (Clever, huh?) (Oriental Trading Co., $16.49 for 36 tubs OR $4.99/12 at

Rolling pins (Oriental Trading Co., $8.99 for 6)

This Melissa and Doug Pizza Party is the perfect gift for a budding chef! (, $16.22)

PLAY-DOH Pizza Party is also cute. (, $14.29)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Sock Monkey Party

This Jekyll and Hyde Sock Monkey Costume ( $27.99) would be a perfect gift for your little monkey.

For the past several years, I've had a little obsession with sock monkeys...not quite sure why, but I love 'em! So, I got thinking. Hey, wouldn't a sock monkey party be adorable? Pretty soon I was sitting at my desk, clicking away. What I found was that there aren't a lot of sock monkey party supplies out there. There are, however, plenty of cute ideas. It took a little searching to find them though!

Invitations: I would probably recommend printing off clip art sock monkeys, then writing the information on the back. Here is the link to a sock monkey stencil that could be useful. You could also purchase sock monkey stickers ($0.99 for a sheet) and use them to decorate blank note cards, which you can find in a variety of colors (although the plain ones are cheaper) at almost any craft store.

  • Red, light blue, and brown balloons, streamers, napkins, plates, etc.

  • Monkey safari- I have tries this before with a group of kids and it is a HIT!
Supplies: Mini monkey figurines (the kids can take these home as favors- $2.65 for 10- If you don't want to spend the money, print and cut out little pictures of sock monkeys on card stock.)

While the kids aren't looking, hide your little monkeys around a room. Then, simply let the kids go find them all- it sounds silly, but the kids loved it so much. We played it many, many times and I think they would have continued playing! Another fun variation- turn off the lights and do a flashlight safari!

  • The classics (with a twist)- Of course, there are always variations of classic party games- 'Pin the tail on the monkey', 'Monkey, Monkey, Banana', 'Sock Monkey Says' always like games they're familiar with.
  • Monkeys and Mangoes- Supplies: Orange balloons
Blow up a bunch of orange balloons- enough for each child to have one, then let them go crazy! The rules of the game are that if your balloon touches the floor, you're out. For older children, you can also allow the children to try to knock away other children's balloons while keeping theirs in the air. This is similar to the soccer drill "Knockout."


  • Make sock monkeys! Collect a bunch of old (clean) socks, googly eyes, felt, glitter (if you dare!), etc. and let the kids make their own sock monkey puppets to take home. Of course, you'll need hot glue for this, so there should be some parent supervision.
  • If you're throwing a party for a younger child, just print some sock monkey coloring sheets. Find them for free online:
Christmas sock monkeys
Sock monkey love


  • Read a sock monkey book- There is a series of sock monkey books by Cece Bell. Titles include Sock Monkey Boogie-Woogie, Sock Monkey Rides Again, etc.


Okay, so these are pretty much the cutest cupcakes I've ever seen and they look just like sock monkeys! I found the idea on where you can find the recipe.

Other refreshment ideas?

  • Banana milkshake/smoothie- My favorite recipe is just frozen bananas (wrap in foil and freeze for about 24 hrs. before using) and milk- very healthy and I think it tastes a bit like a milkshake. But if you want something a little sweeter, add vanilla ice cream.
  • Bananas
  • Banana bread
  • Banana split
  • Monkey bread
  • Animal crackers
  • Animal fruitsnacks
  • Peanuts (Of course, check for allergies)
  • Tropical fruit punch (Since monkeys live in jungles)


For the favor bags, just take brown paper lunch sacks, yellow construction paper, adhesive, and a black marker. Cut out yellow circles for the monkey's nose and mouth. Draw a nostrils on the top of them circle and a line for the mouth, then draw two eyes on the bag. Glue the yellow circle to the bag. Hey! You have a monkey favor bag! I also saw this done with cups at

You can see this in the picture below. Obviously, they have also added ears and a tail. I don't how easy that would be to do to a paper bag- maybe you could at least do the tail...:

There are not a lot of good sock monkey favors out there. I found a few things, but they are very expensive- and that defeats the purpose of this site! So, I had to get a bit creative and this is what I came up with:
  • Barrel of Monkeys Keychain ( $0.98 each)
  • Banana-flavored Laffy Taffy ( $11.27 for 165 pieces)
  • Banana Flavored Now and Laters ( 48 4 piece bars for $4.97)
  • Mini bananas
  • Bag of peanuts (Check for allergies first!)
  • Monkey stickers, pencils, etc. (Look at Oriental Trading Co.- It's not sock monkey, but it's monkey! Or you could always make your own stickers...)
  • Animal crackers