Maggie loves animals more than anything these days, so her party theme was simple: the zoo! She picked a handful of friends, and we all met at the zoo. After a few hours of exploring, we came back to our house for an animal-themed meal, cake, and a sleepover for those who wanted to stay.
The invitation set the tone for the event. Maggie and I found some clipart on Etsy, and she picked the background and critters she wanted to use.
The cake was one of the easiest I have made yet, and Maggie was able to decorate much of it herself!
First we baked four 9″ round cakes. (A boxed cake mix makes two 9″ rounds, so we essentially baked two boxed cakes.) We used 2 containers of white frosting and 1 container of chocolate frosting to get the lighter base color. Maggie arranged the animals she wanted in each cage, and added minor touches like whoppers for rocks, crushed Oreos for piles of dirt, and blue gel frosting for water. I died some coconut green to frame the cages, but she didn’t want much of it on the cake itself because she doesn’t like coconut. The final step was putting pirouette cookies around the edges for the cage bars (I’ve seen pretzel rods used as well).
As much as kids love cake, we had to offer them some real(ish) food too. We stuck with the animal theme and whipped up some pigs-in-blanket, Annie’s Bunny Mac-n-Cheese, and an assortment of animal snacks.
The “Tiger Tails” were Cheetohs, and we also had a bowl of bunny crackers. The animal snacks were especially popular: apples for the horses, peanuts for the elephants, bananas for the monkeys, fresh berries for the bears, carrots for the rabbits, and sunflower seeds for the birds. I also made some celery and peanut butter ants on a log with animal crackers, but the kids didn’t have any interest in those.
Maggie was in charge of making all the signs, and either drew them herself or picked clipart online. She is at the age where giving her party prep jobs is the only way to temper her nearly unbearable anticipation!
We didn’t plan much in the way of activities. Other than the zoo trip, we kept it very unstructured; the girls played outside most of the night, climbing in the trees like little monkeys… so they kept the theme alive without me planning it!
I did set out an animal puzzle, as well as some coloring pages and zoo word searches. They were much more interested in make-believe games, and spent a great deal of time pretending to be horses and riding each other around the house!
We wound down with an animal movie before bed, of which there are plenty choices. Maggie picked Milo and Otis, which was a hit. We also considered Shiloh, Babe, and Dolphin Tale. (I would have rented We Bought a Zoo starring Matt Damon if I hadn’t already seen it. It has quite a bit of language for little kids, and it spreads evil lies about the Easter Bunny’s existence. It’s more PG-13 in my book.)
We are phasing out the party favors now that the kids are getting older, but did send everyone home with a box of animal crackers the next day. Now all that is left is to write the thank you cards… that, and catch up on sleep. If you plan to allow six 1st and 2nd graders to spend the night at your home, definitely plan for some sleep deprivation!
There are so many amazing ideas out there on Pinterest and various blogs that helped me plan this party in a short amount of time. If you have an animal lover with an upcoming birthday, the zoo-themed party might be right for you!