Space, the final frontier…
I hadn’t realized how fulfilling it would be to write that line, and I have to admit that am rather pleased with myself for doing so. :) However, this is not our final birthday frontier, but just the beginning. Little Man is already talking about the party themes he wants to have next time, although to him “next time” means tomorrow. Not gonna happen. In the meantime, let me share with you some of the fun space-themed party decorations and foods that we did for Little Man’s fourth (how can he possibly be four years old already!?!?!) birthday party.
When we were giving Little Man options of what his birthday party theme could be, we had no idea that “space” would be such a difficult one to fill. I figured that with all the cartoons, etc. there must be some options out there for plates and table cloths, right? Not so much… Luckily our local dollar store had a good selection that if not directly related to space (like a really cool bag of marbles that look sort of like planets) could be spun that way (like the little finger lasers). Combine that with Pintrest, and we were off and running.
Here are some of my favorite things that we did. I’ll post the food tomorrow.
Decorations and Activities
Since there weren’t any nice space-themed decorations in the local stores (and I searched them all), I made most of the decorations with supplies from the local dollar store. My main focus was on the cake/food table backdrop, but I also wanted to have a fun play area for the kids, as well as decorations that extended across the room to make it all look more festive. My favorite things that we did are the Galaxy Backdrop, the Hanging Planets, a Poppin’ Pluto Dance Floor, a Rocket Ship and Glittery Stars.
For the Galaxy Backdrop, I followed the directions from the excellent Elephant of Surprise website for Galaxy Pillowcases that could be used for floor/ground pillows. I “upgraded” the project by using a twin-sized flat sheet so that I could use it as the backdrop on the wall above the cake/food table. Aimee’s directions on the website are great, so other than the size difference between my twin flat sheet and her pillow cases the process was virtually the same. Just be sure to use the real deal, cheap bleach. I first tried this with my environmentally safe bleach and couldn’t figure out why the fabric didn’t bleach. Ah well… When using the “real” bleach, you should see the fabric change color almost immediately. I ended up doing the spray bleach step twice since I didn’t quite get the results I wanted the first time. Then after the galaxy sheet was washed and dried, the next two steps were to add a little white fabric paint and then some glow in the dark fabric paint. Taa daa!
Here’s what you’ll need: a black twin-sized flat sheet, bleach, a spray bottle, white fabric paint, and glow-in-the-dark fabric paint. Elephant of a Surprise website link.
The swirled and scrunched sheet ready to be sprayed with bleach.
The bleach should immediately start to change the color of your fabric. Here mine started to turn red almost instantly. I let it do its magic for 10 minutes and then into the wash. I repeated this step twice to get the swirly galaxy that I wanted.
Here is the galaxy after the bleaching, washing and drying.
Then I randomly sprayed and sprinkled the galaxy with white and glow-in-the-dark fabric paint.
This project was so much fun, and the effect of the Hanging Planets suspended in front of the Galaxy backdrop is pretty spectacular, so the DIY craftiness really paid off here. Another bonus is that we are also in the process of “upgrading” Little Man’s room to change the decor he’s had since being a baby to actual little boy decor (Sob!). After seeing his party decorations, Little Man asked if the Hanging Planets and Galaxy Backdrop could hang in his room, so now a Space-Themed bedroom is in the works and the major decor is something that resulted from his party. That makes me doubly happy since the effort wasn’t only for his birthday, but now the decorations will be enjoyed for quite some time. A further bonus is that all of the supplies should be available from your local dollar store, and if you do crafts with your kids you might have some of the equipment already.
Here’s what you will need: 9 styrofoam balls of varying sizes, bamboo skewers, 4-5 (depending in the size) florist foam blocks, an array of acrylic paints (I used combinations of red, blue, yellow, white and black), multicolored glitter, a wide foam brush, a smaller bristle paint brush, a plastic paint palette for mixing colors, push pins and golden crocheting yard.
Step 1: Cut the bamboo skewers in half, insert one end into the foam ball and then the other into a foam block. This will let you hold the “planet” by the skewer while you paint it, then you can put it back into the foam block to let it dry while you move on to another planet. I was able to fit two planets each on the smaller blocks, and three on the larger one. Just be sure that the balls don’t touch each other or it will smear the paint. I then pinned planet names to the blocks so I could remember which ball was to be painted like which planet. As you will notice, I also included Pluto. While technically a Dwarf Planet, this party is more about fun than planetary fact checking. And, I thought that my mom would like Pluto included here too. :)
Prepping your planets for painting and other awesomeness.
Step 2: Paint a base layer of whatever the predominant color for that planet (for ideas see my color examples below). To do this, simply remove the planet by its skewer from the foam block and use the wide foam brush to apply a good layer of paint to the planet. The planet might spin a bit, and when that happened I just stuck the skewer in a bit tighter. The goal here is to cover the sphere, not to be painstakingly precise with your color. Once a planet is fully coated with the first layer of paint, return the skewer to the foam block and move on to another. Make sure to let the paint dry completely before moving on to your second coat. With 9 planets this shouldn’t be a problem, as by the time you get the base coat on all nine the first one should be dry again. In terms of color choices, please remember that my field is not astronomy, and I painted these planets to more or less represent their “astronomical” look. Google images helped with pictures of the planets, but I followed whimsy more than scientific fact in their creation. See below for the colors I chose for each planet.
The base layers for Uranus, Jupiter and Neptune.
The base layers for Mars and Mercury.
Step 3: Go back over each planet with a second coat of paint, adding whatever details can be individual to the specific planet. Depending on the details you want to paint, use either the wide foam brush or the narrow paint brush or both. I played fast and loose with planetary features here, so remember that the goal is fun not accuracy. Jupiter got its storm, but I didn’t go into the detail to give Saturn 3-D rings. Instead Saturn got rings painted around its equator. Earth, as usual is the most problematic with the continents, but again this isn’t about a geography lesson. Get the continents more or less on there, give Earth white on both poles and move on.
Uranus, Jupiter and Neptune.
What is key to this step is that the instant you finish with the secondary painting, have your glitter sprinkles ready and apply them immediately. My planets were drying quickly, so if I hesitated for even a breath the glitter wouldn’t stick well. For each planet I had my glitter jar opened to the correct color and a layer of newspaper laid out to catch the extra sparkles. The moment I set my paint brush down, I grabbed the glitter and sprinkled away. See my description of Mercury for an idea of what to do with the mixed glitter at the end. Once one planet is complete, return its skewer to the foam block and move on to another. Let the planets dry completely before moving on. I let mine rest overnight.
The finished planets.
Here are the color schemes I used for the planets:
Venus: Base coat of bluish green. Secondary coat of bright green bands. Green and gold glitter.
Earth: Base coat of bright, turquoise blue. Secondary coat of green continents, with white at both poles. Green glitter more or less on the continents and silver more or less on the poles.
Mars: Base coat of red. Secondary coat of red with just a drop of black in random swirls. Red and gold glitter.
Jupiter: Base coat of white with just a drop of yellow and brown. Purplish swirled band around the equator with a large swirly “eye” for the storm, as well as two yellow bands just off from the poles. Purple and gold glitter.
Saturn: Base coat of muted yellow with a couple drops of purple. Secondary bands of red and purple around the equator. Purple glitter.
Uranus: Base coat of bright blue. Secondary white and darker blue bands just offset from the northern pole and one near the equator. Blue glitter.
Neptune: Base coat of bright blue. Secondary coat of midnight blue (blue with just enough black so that you can still see a predominate blue color), applied not too evenly. Blue glitter.
Pluto: Base coat of bright blue. Secondary swirls of dark blue and yellow. Yellow and blue glitter.
Mercury: Base coat of dark gray. Secondary coat of black applied not too evenly. Sprinkled all over with the combined dregs of sprinkles from the other planets.
Mars and Mercury were two of my favorites.
Step 4: Once the planets are completely dry they can be suspended. I cut varying lengths of golden crocheting yard and secured each end to a push pin. I then put one end of the pin into a planet (close to where I removed the skewer) and the other end we pushed into the ceiling. See more below.
Before you set up your backdrop, decide where you want the focal point of the room to be. Position your cake/food table in that spot, then hang the Galaxy Backdrop above the table. Decide on the order you want your planets hung in. The plan was to put them in actual astronomical order, but as you can see in the picture I switched Mars and Earth. Ah well… More artistic license I suppose. I’ll get that fixed before hanging them in Little Man’s room. The correct order should be from left to right: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. Hang Jupiter first since that gives you your midpoint. We then hung Mercury and Pluto on either end of the backdrop, and spaced the remaining planets between them. We then hung a “Happy Birthday” banner across the top and wrapped a cool strand of changing color star lights around the whole thing. Taa daa!
Poppin’ Pluto Dance Floor
This was almost one of my best ideas ever… almost… I was inspired by the picture posted on Design Dazzle where for an outdoor party they simply unrolled some bubble wrap and let the kids run around on it. For Little Man’s party, I knew we wanted to do some dancing and I thought that using the bubble wrap to make the dance floor would be perfect. And it was… almost… What I didn’t take into account was my sensitive child’s sensitive ears. The other kids LOVED the popping bubble wrap, but Little Man was happier once the bubble wrap went away and he could groove to his heart’s content.
Here’s what you’ll need: 1-2 large rolls of large bubble wrap (not the tiny bubbles), clear packaging tape, glow-in-the-dark bracelets, rainbow light disco ball (optional but super cool)
Step 1: Decide where your dance floor (outside or indoor) will be. Unroll your bubble wrap, cut it into long strips and then tape them together to make a square or rectangular “dance floor.” We used 2 rolls for our area. Then roll up your dance floor and stash it until ready to use. Bubble wrap is near irresistible and unless you have armed guards protecting it, if it is laid down when the kiddos arrive, they will pounce.
Step 2: When you are ready to dance, activate and coil the glow-in-the-dark bracelets and place them on the floor where the dance floor will be. The darker your room, the brighter the bracelets (aka planets) will be. Unroll the dance floor over the planets, start your rainbow disco ball and unleash some tunes. Little Man’s party dance music of choice is still Imagination Movers: Rock-o-matic. It was awesome!
The DJ station.
Cardboard Rocket Ship
There are a surprising number of cardboard rocket ship designs out there. We wanted something that would be a great backdrop for pictures, but also that the kids could play in. As long as it survived the party, I was happy. It is just cardboard after all, and you should be able to get empty boxes for free from any selection of local stores. Recycling can be fun!
Here’s what you’ll need: multiple large cardboard boxes, wide masking tape, a box cutter, spray paint, and acrylic paint.
For this craft I don’t have specific construction steps since this will vary wildly based on the shape and size of rocket you want to make. I used a large cube-shaped box for the body, opening out the flaps and taping it all together to make a long rectangle. If your “rocket” feels a bit unsecure in places, take some of your remaining boxes, cut strips from them and tape or hot glue these reinforcing strips on the inside of your rocket. Once the body is complete, spray paint it silver. After the silver paint is dried, shape fins for your rocket, hot glue them on and hand paint them dark blue with acrylic paint.
We made our rocket in two pieces so that it wouldn’t break whenever it fell over. With another large box, shape a cone (or pyramid) top for your rocket. Once the cone is shaped and secured with interior structural strips, spray paint it red.
After everything is dry, I cut a round window in the front and a door in the back. Make sure your door is big enough for the kiddos to fit in, but don’t take it all the way down to the floor. Leave a little bit that the kids need to step over in order to keep the base of your rocket strong.
Even though these popsicle stick stars (or snowflakes) are a pretty ubiquitous craft, I included them here since it was something that Little Man could have an active hand in creating. I wanted him to be able to feel a bit of ownership in this DIY adventure, and to be able to see his art work hanging in the party space.
Here’s what you’ll need: : Large craft popsicle sticks, hot glue gun, craft glue, sticky jewels, silver glitter, silver and blue glass gems, sparkly yarn to hang them with.
Step 1: Adults, using a hot glue gun, glue two sticks into a plus sign. Do this with the remaining sticks that you want to use. Little Man and I made 8 stars, so we completed 16 of the plus signs. Then glue two of the plus signs together to create the star (or snowflake) shape.
Step 2: Kiddos and adults, you can now bedazzle the stars to your hearts content. I put a little glue on a disposable plate for Little Man and gave him a paint brush. He could then paint the glue onto the bare star, and then place the glass gems. Be careful to not use too many glass gems on a single star, since they can become quite heavy. We used 4-5 glass gems per star, with the remaining space filled with sticker jewels and squiggles of glue encrusted with silver glitter. Let your stars dry completely.
Step 3: Adults, once your stars are completely dry, cut lengths of your sparkly yard for hanging them. Tie the ends of the yard together in a small knot, then hot glue the yard to the back of top arm of your star. I used the knot in case some of our stars were heavy enough to pull the yarn through the glue, but if your stars are light you might not need to do this. We then hung them across the ceiling with push pins.
The whole effect… except for lots of screaming… more or less.
I hope that you enjoy these ideas for a Space Themed kids birthday party. Please feel free to share any other ideas that you come up with or that you’ve seen elsewhere. I “pinned” a ton of ideas to my Pintrest page under Kids Birthday Ideas, and only had the time (and gumption) to pull off a few of them. Have fun!
The party in full swing.