Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Sylvie's Giant Squid Themed 6th Birthday Party

(Or, how a mother made a Cephalopod party theme a little bit chic).

Individualism is a good thing.  After all, to be beige is to be dull.  Thinking outside the square is always fun.  When your five year old requests a Giant Squid Theme for her 6th birthday, you know you're in for some Edward de Bono out-of-the-box thinking.  And then add in some limitations:

*  The party was being held at an Aquatic Centre, so no balloons, or extra hanging decorations were allowed.

*  There is only a small window of time for set up when guests are initially given access to the party room.

*  The Aquatic Centre only provides ugly plastic plates of differing colours and horrible toss away plastic cups, they are consistent; as the tables and chairs they provide are a penitentiary grey... pretty grim.

Here are the limitations I added for myself:

*  The party bags ought not have any sugary foods (they have consumed sufficient amounts of sugar eating the birthday cake after all).

*  As I have finally admitted that I am hopeless at baking cakes (and not keen on eating them; yes, one of the few in the Western World not enamoured of sugary things, and yes, I have my vices; amongst them, Champagne, smoked salmon, poached eggs and Caviar; not to mention hot chips, spare me!)... But I digress... To re-iterate, I am a complete FAIL when it comes to baking a birthday cake and my efforts at decorating cakes should be listed internationally as a SPECTACULAR JOKE.  So I arranged for a local bakery to furnish me with 2 simple round chocolate cakes iced in an aqua colour and needed to come up with some sort of simple adornment in accordance with the theme.  (Once I realised that I was not a Bad Mother for outsourcing the actual cake, I felt such sweet relief!)

I hope this post provides inspiration to those out there struggling with an 'out-of-the-box' birthday theme requested by your kooky and lovely child.  It's not so difficult, you'll definitely need your computer, printer, scissors, glue sticks and a whole lot of imagination at the very least... truly, you can make this challenge fun and include your child in the party preparations also.

I am of the belief that it is important the birthday child make some effort with regard to the party preparations.  And thank you notes are obligatory of course...

So let's get to it.

The invitation
Those fabulous Ikea paper rolls (see my previous post things-to-thrill-sylvie-part-2-of-2 ) formed the backbone of both the invitation illustration and the table decoration.

I tape a length of paper onto the parquet using that removable blue painter's masking tape (doesn't leave a nasty residue on the floor surface) and then let Sylvie go.  She used a soft crayon/pastel for the outline and then her watercolours.  Yes, it's messy, but she enjoys it so!

This is Sylvie's Giant Squid illustration on Ikea paper, it's about 4 foot long, Graeme's painting adjacent is 4 foot high.

After the image dried, I photographed it, cleaned up any paint spatter spots and then re-sized it in Photoshop to use on the invitation.

Sylvie had to write each girls' name and sign her own on each invitation.  I had printed her a list of
guests and she methodically went through the list, writing each name, and crossing it out.

The table decorations
The same image was used to decorate some plain off white paper cups.  The image was re-sized, some text was added, then printed out, cut out and stuck on with a glue stick (Sylvie and I did the last step together).

Stripy straws with each girls' name added a feminine touch to the Cephalopod theme.  They were printed out on plain copy paper, cut out and the end glued to the straw.  Dead simple!

You can see the Giant Squid image from the illustration has been re-sized to fit the paper cup.

We used plain red plastic plates to serve the food on, along with red paper napkins and I purchased 2 long plastic red tablecloths to lay on the ugly grey table.  Within minutes, along with the help of some of my marvellous Mummy friends, we had the plain ugly grey room, red and Giant Squid gorgeous.

About a week prior to the party, Sylvie drew a marvellous Giant Squid on a huge length of the Ikea paper and this was used to decorate the table.

(I brought blu-tack to the venue to stick the paper onto the tablecloth, and also those plastic clips that hold tablecloths to the table so there were no instances of children pulling the tablecloth off onto the floor).

Something will always go slightly awry at any event, (that's my experience anyway!) and this time I forgot to bring my SLR and didn't photograph anything!  If you're planning a party, write 'CAMERA' (with charged batteries) on your list and don't make my mistake!

You can see the length of the giant squid tabletop decoration in relation to our two cats who have chosen to wrestle on the paper while I was attempting to photograph it.  Pesky critters, but we love them!  (This was AFTER the party of course!  You can see the folds in the paper...)

The cake
Hats off to the bakers at http://birdsnestbakery.com/giant-squid/ who created this brilliant birthday cake. A quick Google search came up with this witty take on a Giant Squid theme.  Do have a look... Inspiring indeed!  One does need to know one's limitations and much as this cake looked a treat... I had to admit this would be far too ambitious.  But what a brilliant creation!  Take a look, do!

As my prior cake decorating and baking efforts could be described in the most polite terms as EPIC FAILS.... I outsourced the baking and the icing.  Two plain round chocolate cakes with aqua blue icing were ordered and arrived on time.  Excellent.  Thank you Millies!

An illustration of a Giant Squid found via Google search was opened in Photoshop and I isolated the squid, re-sized it to fit on A4 and printed out 2 copies on photographic paper, reversed the image and printed out another 2 copies.  As I made sure I had added registration marks on the print out, when I glued the reversed images together I could line up the registration marks to create a double sided image.
After the glue had dried, the squids were cut out using small (but sharp) scissors.

Pop sticks were glued in using PVA glue at the base of each squid and trimmed to fit the height of the cake.

The reversed prints on photographic paper of the squid illustration.  I had hand traced in black outline a squid I found on Google and then filled in with red.  
Here are the squids that have been saved, after the party.

iPhone quality photographs, apologies!  But you can see the simple cake topper solution.

The gift/thank you bags
Between the ages of 4 and 6, it seems that most children's parties include all the students in their year.
(Here's a link to an article http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/life/the-social-minefield-that-is-a-childs-birthday-party-20131017-2vp7f.html that outlines modern birthday party experiences...).

Oh gosh, that means up to 24 children (and their parents).  I don't mind the adult socialising myself, it's a chance to speak in greater depth with parents with whom you normally exchange a simple 'hi-bye' morning and afternoon routine drop off salutation.

What I have a huge problem with is the amount of sugary, rubbishy, chemical saturated lollies and sweets (candy to my American friends) that are dispensed to the party goers on leaving the party.  If your child attends a party once a week (quite a possibility at this age) it's a weekly junk-fest.  I decided that Sylvie's thank you gift bags would not include any sweets or items to eat.

As this was a little girl's party, the gift bags contained:

a plastic necklace
2 plastic rings
a smiley face badge
a pretty giant squid box (to hold the rings and badge)
a 'make a wish' corked bottle.

Pretty simple.

The Giant Squid box was made from the cardboard boxes you can purchase at bargain stores for about 50 cents each. They were painted red, the re-sized image printed on photographic paper (cut to size), stuck on the lid and the boxes were painted with Estapol.  Sylvie helped out with the painting and enjoyed every minute of it.  After the paint had dried, we 'team-glittered' and lined the inner part of the box with blue glitter.

The 'make a wish bottle' is made by tying a small note onto red ribbon and securing around the neck of the little bottle.  Again, these little bottles can be found in the craft section of bargain stores, (as are also the cellophane bags).

There is a note thanking each child for attending, that acts as a name tag and, as with her invitations; Sylvie wrote each girl's name in the space provided and signed her name.  At the end of the party, Sylvie stood by her tray of thank you gifts and handed out each present to her friends.

The components of the gift bag:  decorated Giant Squid box, 'make a wish' bottle, necklace, cellophane bag, note & red ribbon.

The contents of the thank you gift bag.
A simple 'make a wish' bottle

Sylvie wrote each guest's name and added a glittery heart.

A hole punch was used in the top right hand corner, and red ribbon threaded through to tie the gift bags closed.

All the bags looked so pretty nestled together.  Sylvie was very proud that she took part making the boxes, writing the notes and helping to pack the bags.

All the bags on  a tray on the chair near the front door, ready to be taken to the party.

Post 'the party': the thank you note for the present given
Truly, there is so much effort made on the part of parents to not only attend parties, (and spend a good portion of a lovely Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning away from precious weekend family time); but effort with regards to the birthday present.  This encompasses the purchase, the wrapping, the card etc.  I'm a firm believer that children should learn at an early age that it is both normal and expected to write a short thank you note.  So, to make it easier; (as Sylvie is only 6 after all), here is the 'blank' note that she used to thank each girl for their present to her.

This thank you note is easily created on Word, print out on plain paper.

Best wishes for your preparations on your child's next 'out-of-the-box' themed birthday party.
You can do it!
Happy days,

PS, If you reside in or near Adelaide, I highly recommend:

Click here to read about the Marion Aquatic Centre parties

and I must thank

http://www.milliesbakery.com.au/ who provided the chocolate cake iced in aqua icing (on short notice I might add)

and high praise for the Ikea paper rolls, super fun!

Ikea paper rolls: click here to take you to the site


  1. Amazing details, quirk at its absolute best! How lucky was my girl Coco to be invited to such a fabulous party...right down to the superb message in a bottle. Lara-Jane you are one talented Mama Squid. Much love and a big thank you, Anna and Coco x

    1. Anna & Coco, An absolute pleasure! Thank you for your positive thoughts. Lara-Jane.x

  2. Hello Lara-Jane!! My name is Christina and I am the mother of a 4 year old little boy. He is a giant squid enthusiast!! It was wonderful reading about your daughters giant squid party and all the lovely details you created! I am facing the challenge of planning a 5th birthday party for my squid loving son. I had no idea what to do, but now I am inspired!! So thanks a bunch!! Its great to know that there is another kiddo out there like mine!! :) Best wishes to you!

    1. Hello Christina,
      Thank you for taking the time to say hello. This is what blogging is all about, sharing ideas and I love it! Also love that you're inspired by the post, & love that there is another giant squid fan out there in the world. I still have the jpegs of the cake decorations that you could print out if you wished (and the other files in the post). Let me know if you would like me to email you them to help save some time. Best wishes for a successful giant squid celebration. LaraJane.
      PS. I have moved from blogger just today to http://larajaneiscreatingclevercraft.com/ so you'll find me over at this new address from now on. Again, thank you for the positive feedback.

  3. Seems to be beautiful birthday preparations. My sister is turning 25 next month. Want to surprise her with fabulous party at one of the great venue NYC with all dear ones. Luncheon would be a perfect idea and cake design will definitely be Mac makeup. Red wine and blueberry are okay for drinks.