Thursday, June 28, 2018

Birthday Magic: A Shimmer and Shine Birthday Party Divine

My Zuzu has not quite turned six yet, but we celebrated her birthday last Saturday because I have to go out of town for a conference on her actual birthday this Friday.

You may remember that I'd wanted to have her party in the art room of a local bookstore, but she was bound and determine to have it at our house, even when I told her she could only invite four friends. Honestly, as much as I went back and forth about only inviting a few kids versus her entire class, it was the perfect number. One friend's little brother ended up being a last-minute add on, and that wasn't ideal (because I had six of everything prepared) but it worked out fine. 

She wanted a Shimmer & Shine theme. For those of you lucky enough not to know who Shimmer & Shine are, please see below:

It's a show on Nick Jr. in which the two genies grant wishes, screw something up by taking a request literally, and then work together so their mistakes turn out great. I suppose this is a positive message, but it is THE EXACT SAME plot every time. I also noticed on Pinterest that most of the Shimmer & Shine parties were geared toward four-year-olds, which I think is their target audience. But Zuzu has not tired of them yet. She prefers predictable, non-scary, not-intense TV, so this is her sweet spot. (We saw The Incredibles 2 in the theater last week and she sat on my lap almost the entire time.)

I outsourced the part of the party planning I don't enjoy as much (baking and decorating cupcakes) to my friend the chemistry professor slash amazing baker. She decorated them with Shimmer & Shine rings and fake jewels and the kids were VERY impressed. I was impressed with the Nutella filling. 

Once I got going, the party was easy to put together and less expensive than renting out a place. I decided the main activity would be decorating treasure boxes. This is perhaps only tangentially related to Shimmer and Shine (honestly I'm not sure I've ever watched an entire episode because it is so inane I can't handle it). But they are really into jewels. 

I picked up wooden hinged boxes for $1.99 each at Hobby Lobby. Of course, my local HL only had two of them, the other location had zero in stock, and my mom ended up buying four of them for me when she was passing through Jefferson City, so it all worked out. And cost me a total of $12. 

I used craft paints that I already had on hand and picked up a couple more colors for $.50 each at Wal-Mart. I don't love shopping at Wal-Mart, but they have the Shimmer & Shine party stuff, so I also bought a plastic table cloth, paper plates and napkins, a birthday banner, and dangling decorations. It probably ran me about $15 total. Then I added in sticker jewels from their craft/scrapbook section and I probably spent another $5 there.

When the guests arrived they played outside and had a snack right away. That was not the plan, but I was trying to be chill about it (even though I was totally annoyed because I'd written out the order of the party and David just ignored all of my plans when the kids asked for snow cones). It turned out fine in the end, but I'd hoped they would paint first so that there was plenty of time for the boxes to dry.

David borrowed popcorn and snow cone machines from his school, which was fantastic. The only expense was buying the snow cone syrup--cotton candy and blue raspberry. We set them up on our back patio and got lucky with nice weather.

After snow cones, they headed inside to paint their treasure boxes. All the party guests attend the same Montessori preschool, so we were laughing about how they were calm and concentrating on their work in spite of being sugared and hyped up at the party. Every kid had two paint brushes, a paper towel, a paper plate paint palette, and a big bandana to use as an apron. (Those bandanas were also $1/each at Wal-Mart).

My biggest expense was ordering six beaded bracelets from Etsy in pink and turquoise beads with dangling genie lamp charms. $3.49/each. They came in individual little bags. I wanted the kids to have something to put inside their jewel boxes. I could have made something (or had them make it) but it felt a little ambitious since our guest list included 3, 4, 5, and 6 year olds.

After painting was the treasure hunt. I hid the bracelet bags in a secret location (under a chair in the living room) and then created a treasure hunt with clues. I drew simple pictures and wrote words kindergarteners could read so the idea was that they could figure out the clue on their own. And they did a really good job! Zuzu was more interested in trying to interpret the picture rather than sounding out the word, which led to some confusion regarding the bathroom sink (she was sure it was a kitchen cabinet). And one of the four-year-old guests really didn't get the game at all, but the others ran around like the wild pack I had imagined, following clues in and out of the house, and Zuzu told me later it was her favorite part of the party.

Once the treasures had been collected, we sat back down to eat cupcakes--and sing "Happy Birthday," of course.

Zuzu finished her cupcake pretty quickly (plain vanilla, please), so then she opened presents while her friends were still eating. This worked well. I'd asked a few people about whether to open presents at the party, but my friend Beth was adamant that it's important for kids to do this to practice good manners and being appreciative. So in the days before the party, Zuzu and I had had several conversations about being polite while opening gifts and looking the gift giver in the eye to say thank you. Because we'd just invited four guests (one set of twins who gave a combined gift), there were just a few presents to open and I was really proud of Zuzu. I had to say, "Is there anything you'd like to say to Gemma?" at one point, but Zuzu did a good job. My favorite was when she opened the gift bag from the twins that had diving rings and goggles and water balloons in it and she clapped her hands together and said, "Thanks, girls!"

When she finished opening gifts, the treasure boxes were pretty much dry (another 10 minutes would have been perfect, but that's how it goes). So I busted out the packs of sticker jewels and the kids decorated the painted boxes with pink, purple, blue, and clear gemstones. (The extra guest decorated a wooden bird house because I happened to have that on hand in the basement--thank goodness for Joann clearance aisle). 

Then Zuzu's bestie asked me what was next and I said cheerfully, "Now it's time to go home!" I had scheduled the party from 1-2:30 and we wrapped up exactly on time. 

I'm not going to lie, even though everything went smoothly and the parents stayed and the kids were well-behaved, I still found it kind of stressful and exhausting. 

There was a time in college when I thought I wanted to be an event planner and now I think that I must have just been drunk when I watched that J-Lo movie The Wedding Planner and thought her job looked fun (or maybe I just liked her hair?) because events are actually the worst. I don't mind the planning and the shopping ahead of time, but it is the coordinating of things and serving of food during the event that I find stressful. This is why outsourcing birthday parties to other locations where people do that for you is ideal.

So I recharged after the party by putting up my feet and reading for a bit and Zuzu and Coco played with gifts and then we went to dinner with my parents at the Old Spaghetti Factory (because you only drive downtown and pay to park to order plain noodles with butter for very special occasions).

She opened gifts from us and my parents back at home after dinner, and while we did get her some Shimmer & Shine themed gifts (the mermaids were a big hit), she also loved the vintage jewelry box that I got for her at an estate sale, just as I hoped she would!

In the end, I do think the party was really what Zuzu was hoping for. I tried to have her in mind with every choice I made, and I think it was the day she had imagined. I hope that she has good memories of it. She seemed to truly enjoy herself, and had a huge smile on her face (except when she was really concentrating on painting), so I'm calling it a win.

Six years of celebrating this rainbow girl. We are so lucky.


  1. Happy Birthday, Zuzu! Sounds like she had a fantastic time!

  2. Happy birthday to Zuzu! I think I would have loved to attend this party when I was 6! :) Bravo, Brooke!