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Spicy Frogs & Sugary Snails {How To Win Over ANY Child For A Birthday Party}

Last summer, my daughter and I spent endless lazy days on the front porch reading Peter Pan. She enjoyed the stories of Peter and his Lost Boys, of coves filled with mermaids and pirates and real live fairies.
Reading on the Porch

When I found out I was going to be the mother of a daughter, I developed some pretty definitive ideas on how I was going to raise my little girl. I instantly liked “A Mighty Girl” on Facebook and started following Amy Poeler’s Smart Girls on Twitter. My girl was going to know that pink is just one of the many colors in the rainbow, and that she could grow up to be whatever her little heart desired. There is one quote from Peter Pan that stuck with me that summer. It’s the opening paragraph to J.M. Barrie’s novel, and it rang a little too true.

All children, except one, grow up. They soon know that they will grow up, and the way Wendy knew was this. One day when she was two years old she was playing in a garden, and she plucked another flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful, for Mrs. Darling put her hand to her heart and cried “oh, why can’t you remain like this for ever!” This was all that passed between them on the subject, but henceforth Wendy knew that she must grow up. You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end.”

For us, two was the year that my daughter started full day pre-school. I was not the only influence in her life anymore. She’d come home and explain to me the way things are in her world. It was almost as if she joined a cult of pink-loving preschoolers. One day, she came home and told me that,  “girls are princesses and boys are super heros.” Her words stung. They were like daggers to my heart and soul. And, it was on that fateful day, I realized she was becoming her own person. And that person liked pink, purple, and sparkles and wanted to be a mermaid-ballerina when she grew up {despite the fact that that is physically impossible}.

I had to fight really hard to to hide my very visceral reaction – this look of disgust I was feeling. When I calmed myself and asked her to explain why girls had to be princesses, she told me that princesses have special powers, like superheros. I thought about this good and hard for a few minutes, she went on to explain that Elsa throws ice crystals just like Spiderman. In her eyes, these princesses were just as powerful and strong as the superheros. In fact, it was me who was adding my own connotations to the word “princess.” “Mom, Tinkerbell can fix anything. She’s a tinkerer and that’s her special power!”

Naturally, this got me thinking. And, when it came time to plan her fourth birthday party, we wanted to do something that would be fun for all her friends. We thought back to those lazy days spent on the front porch and looked to Neverland for a little inspiration and then we created a  party based on imagination and play that appealed to all children.

Decorations
Since my daughter’s birthday is in the middle of winter, we are pretty much confined to my living and dining room. Turning these two rather small spaces into Neverland was a creative challenge I was happy to take on. When selecting our color palette, I was really sensitive to creating a space that didn’t read “boy” or “girl” at first glance.
Peter Pan PartyWe picked Peter-Pan Green for our main color, and covered the table in a paper table cloth {which was also convenient for cleanup after painting.}

My daughter loved all the illustrations in Peter Pan – especially the maps. So, on the floor I used a piece of craft paper to create a map of Neverland. We took set up her tee-pee playtent in a corner of the living room and made our own Indian Camp. A few blue balloons created our Mermaid Lagoon complete with a plank for Skull Rock. We hung star garlands just about anywhere we could!
decorationsI cut out Tinkerbell and Hook silhouettes and placed them in lanterns on the table. I found these fabulous upcycled children’s book garlands on Etsy from Head in the Clouds. It tied everything together perfectly! 

We love Little Golden Books! They made the perfect favor for our guests.
favor

Food
{Fairy Fizz}
Fairy Fizz
Pink lemonade with a little fizz! We served it in a punch bowl for a little extra sophistication.

{Second Star to the Right Sandwiches}
Second Star to the Right Sandwiches
A simple star-shaped cookie cutter transformed these simple sandwiches into food fit for a pirate or a pixie

{Fairy Fruit Wands}
Fairy Fruit Wands
This is like beading with fruit. I had way too much fun making these! We placed blackberries, grapes, and strawberries on a wooden skewer and topped it off with a slice of star fruit to create these fairy fruit wands

{Cake}
TK Cakes
This cake is 100% my daughter and it is pretty much what happens when your soon-to-be four year old catches you perusing Pinterest for a little Pinspiration. Our friends at TK Cakes made all of her dreams come true.

Activities
There is a wide range of activities that are sure to make all your guests happy. Fueled with the power of creativity, we incorporated some open-ended art projects, imaginative play, and movement into our Peter Pan Party. 
{Wooden Treasure Boxes}
Wooden Treasure Boxes
As soon as everyone arrived, we began painting treasure chests. On the table, I placed a map of Neverland, pots of paint, brushes, and some plastic gem stones. Art based activities are always a safe bet for boys and girls. Paint and wooden treasure chests are rarely designed with one gender in mind, allowing each of your guests to add their personal touch.

{Dress Up Area}
Dress Up Area
Imaginative play is a great genderless activity and the dress up area we created in the Tee-Pee set the stage for a trip to Neverland. I had baskets filled with wings and pirate hats so our guests could dress the part. We also had a friend come and paint faces (per my daughter’s request- she’s a bit obsessed with face painting!) 

{Walk The Plank}
Walk The Plank
This was so easy to pull off and such a big hit for all the kids! One of the hardest things about throwing house parties in my rather small home is providing a space for the kids to get their energy out. With two crates and a piece of wood we created our “plank.” Add some blue balloons for water, and every one was shivering their timbers.

This party was one hundred percent pure Charley. It was so much fun transforming our home into Neverland for a few hours!Cake

Looking for more play-based parties that are fun for everyone? Check out these for more fun!
Pizza Party
Cupcake Decorating Party
Music Party
Garden Party
Backyard Movie Theater

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