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Dress-Up Your Birthday Party!

Dress-up themed parties are always a hit with kids. Children love to put on fancy clothes or fun costumes and enter a fantasy world. The most popular dress-up themes for girls are Princess Parties, while for boys it’s Pirate Parties. Here are some suggestions for both.

Princess Party
Magic Wand Invitations
Write the party details on homemade magic wands. Buy princess-themed pencils and tie a wide colorful ribbon on the eraser end. Write party details on the ribbon, and mail in padded envelopes to guests.
Ask the girls to come dressed up, then rummage through your closet or head for the thrift shop and pick out old jewelry, silky scarves, white gloves, high heels, and fanciful hats to share with the party guests.
Castle Decorations
Cut out a castle background with towers and turrets, using large appliance boxes. Paint the castle pink and decorate with scarves, jewels, and pictures of princesses. Tie pink helium balloons along the length of the castle and around the party room.
Games and Activities
Pretty Princess: Let the girls paint each other’s faces with stars, rainbows, or flowers, or hire a professional face painter. 
Dress-Up Relay: Set out princess outfits and accessories, divide into teams, and have girls race to dress up. Make it more interesting by having them dress each other!
Princess Crown: Have the girls make their own cone-shaped princess crowns from poster board, and decorate them with jewels, glitter, beads and lace.
Royal Foods
Serve sherbet and lemon lime soda floats, tiny pink-tinted sandwiches, and little petit fours cakes iced pink and decorated with small candies.
Fun Party Favors
Give the princesses dress-up items to take home, such as barrettes and hair clips, lip gloss, paper doll books, costume jewelry, and bubble bath.
Pirate Party
Argh Invitations
Help the guys find their way to your Pirate’s Cove with a Treasure Map invitation. Draw a simple map that includes the homes of each guest and your own. Mark yours with an X, then add pirate-related places, such as Black Lagoon, Hook’s Hideaway, and so on. Tear or burn the edges, roll the maps into scrolls, and mail in tubes to guests.
Pirates pillaged their outfits so head for the thrift shop, a great source for pirate-wear. Pick up some billowing white shirts, striped socks, bandanas, short pants, and oversized shoes, then add eye patches and phony mustaches for fun.
Pirate Ship Decor
Turn the party room into Pirate Cove complete with a Pirate Ship. Get a few large appliance boxes and line them up to form the foundation of your pirate ship. Cut the tops off, paint the boxes brown, make portholes, and lay out a “walk-the-plank” entrance. Tie on balloons decorated like Jolly Rogers and you’re ready to set sail.
Games and Activities
Play Walk the Plank!: Set out a long, narrow board and have the kids try to walk a straight line without stepping off into the “sea.” Make it more and more difficult by having them walk backwards, sideways, hopping, no hands for balance, and finally blindfolded.
Make Pirate Pieces: For eye patches, cut circles from black felt or imitation leather, attach a length of elastic string on both sides, and tie them to fit. Make swords from cardboard, round the tips, paint them silver, and decorate them with stick-on jewels. Create pirate flags from cotton rectangles and let the kids decorate them with markers.
Treasure Chest Refreshments
Serve bowls of “grog” (soup). Offer chicken legs and hot dogs they can eat with their hands. Or go with fish ‘n’ chips and a mug of apple cider. Make a Treasure Chest Cake by baking a rectangular cake. Frost it with chocolate icing and decorate with colorful sprinkles, chocolate gold coins, and candy jewelry. To make the chest lid, clean the cake pan, frost it, and set it at right angles to the cake.
Pirate Favors
Send the mates ashore with chocolate gold coins, eye patches, swords, flags, and other pirate accessories.

Penny Warner has more than 25 years of experience as an author and party planner. She has published more than 50 books, including 16 specific to parties. Additionally, Warner writes a weekly newspaper column on family life, penned a column for Sesame Street Parents magazine and has appeared on several regional and national TV morning programs. Her latest book, HOW TO HOST A KILLER PARTY, debuts in February 2010 from NAL/Penguin.
Balloon Time is the leading brand of consumer helium balloon kits in North America. Balloon Time kits feature a helium-filled tank, latex or foil balloons and ribbon, and are available at national retail chains, party goods and grocery stores nationwide. For more information, visit

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