An art-themed party at home requires creativity and flexibility, but no significant artistic ability. Best of all, it will keep guests and the birthday child creatively engaged. Ideal for children ages four to nine, limit the guest list to six or fewer children. Recruit a few parents to stay or hire a neighborhood teen to offer support and encouragement for these open-ended party activities.
Art party table
Jump right in to your art theme by inviting guests to decorate the table as they arrive. Spread your table with a white paper cloth and supply guests with crayons. If you expect a tame group, leave crayons loose for kids to roll them to one another. For a more rambunctious crowd, sort crayons into baskets or cups so that each child has a wide range of colors to choose from without haggling for the cerulean blue or resorting to tossing them to one another.
Art party activity
Say no more to the party craft that gets thrown in the trash as soon as the guests leave. Instead, have each child decorate a tote bag that they can use over and over again. At your local craft supply store, purchase one canvas tote bag for the birthday child and each guest. While you’re there, buy fabric markers and squeeze bottles of fabric paint in a variety of colors. Save thin cardboard, such as cereal boxes, in the weeks leading up to the party.
Before the guests arrive, cut cardboard to an appropriate size and insert one piece into each bag to prevent bleed-through of paint. Spread a drop-cloth or tarp on the floor to use as a work surface. Place the markers, paints and tote bags on the tarp. Children can sit around the perimeter with materials in the centre to minimize damage from spills. Avoid directing how children use the materials. Each child’s scribble art creation will be unique. Do not expect young children to make precise letters or shapes. Adults can write children’s names and ages on the bags for them with the fabric markers or paint.
Keep a bucket of warm soapy water and a washcloth beside the work station to quickly clean up spills and paint-covered hands. Small children may need a reminder not to turn their bags over while they are wet. Instruct them to decorate only one side. When finished, put the bags in a safe place to dry. Leaving the cardboard inside allows the bags to stay flat for transport if they are still wet at the end of the party. Pick up craft supplies and fold up the tarp to free up space for the kids to play.
Art party cake
A half-sheet sized cake will leave you an excess of leftovers, but offers a large enough canvas for a small group of eager decorators. Ice the cake simply with white frosting and forgo the usual “Happy Birthday” message. Placing the cake on a coffee table or piano bench allows everyone to participate at once. Have kids wash hands thoroughly, then they can stand or kneel at the bench to work. Offer a limited color selection of squeezable frosting and sprinkles. This cuts down on squabbles over colors and results in a less chaotic-looking cake.
Art party goodie bags
A keepsake tote bag may be enough swag but in some circles, an elaborate goodie bag has become the norm. Prior to the party, stock up on consumable art supplies that can be repackaged for each child. Glitter glue, glue sticks, colored pencils and fun erasers often come in packages of five or eight. Repackage these into your goodie bags, with just one or two of each item for each child rather than a whole pack of each. Surplus supplies can be added to your own stock of craft supplies for future use.
Party guests and your child will end the day with a unique tote bag, a memorable cake-decorating experience and a few art supplies of their own. An extra bonus for the birthday child is an opportunity to decorate the other side of the bag at a later date. You will have an activity for the next rainy day, a reminder to use up the last of your markers and paints, and the satisfaction of knowing you pulled off a creative and engaging party.
Heather is a freelance writer and mom who held an art party for each of her daughters when they turned four. Cake decorating has become a party tradition in her home.
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