I’m trying not to dwell on the Monday-ness of today, so why don’t we do something fun and explore Tyler’s Nerf Gun Party? I was a little too busy to post it in December. (You can’t blame me, right?)
My kids’ birthdays aren’t exactly back to back with one in October and one in December. However, there is always a lot going on both months, and this year in particular I wanted to keep things as easy as possible on the birthday party front.
Tyler is in 4th grade, and at that age all of the boys seem interested in three things. Video games. Legos. And Nerf guns. So it was easy enough to convince Ty to revisit the Top Shot/Nerf Gun party we did for his birthday a few years back.
See how smart I’m getting?! Not only is that an easy party to pull off with his already large collection of Nerf Guns, I had already done most of the research for it a long time ago. Hehe. (You can check out my Nerf Pinterest Board for ideas.)
Plus! I was able to use all the printables I created for the last party. Here is the invitation:
For the invites, I simply searched Google for images of the Nerf Logo and the Top Shot logo (tell me I’m not the only one that remembers that show? My husband used to watch it all the time). Then I added the wording for Tyler’s Birthday Party and it was done.
I printed out signs with the party logo and used them on the door, in a frame on the cake table, on the favor bags, etc.
Just a few things I wanted to point out about the party decorations. I kept it really simple by using the colors orange and blue for everything (those are the colors on some of the Nerf Gun darts). These also served as the team colors for the kids throughout all of the activities during the party.
And if you have followed my blog for a while you probably recognize that Happy Birthday banner. My beadboard pennant banner is one of my favorite Go To items for parties. It’s durable and versatile. The only thing I have to do to make it match any party theme is change out the ribbon or fabric ties. In this case I simply used scraps of fabric left over from the bandanas.
Speaking of bandanas – there they are, along with the rest of the favors for the party. I purchased a couple yards of inexpensive blue and orange fabric and cut them into squares (approx 22″ x 22″). Once we designated teams, the kids put on the bandana in the color of their team. Some used them on their heads, some as arm bands, but most followed Tyler and wore them on their faces like bandits.
We didn’t want to deal with anyone “shooting their eye out” so the safety goggles were a must. (Purchased in a set of 12 HERE).
The bandanas and the safety goggles worked as party favors, along with some Nerf Gun darts and candies in blue and orange packaging (we were kicking ourselves for not buying these on clearance after Halloween). The kids carried everything home in their “gear bags” which were just paper bags in a color that matched the party theme.
Typically I like to go with a few snacks and cake/cupcakes for kids’ parties. Let’s face it – the kids are always more interested in playing than eating. However, for this particular party we knew we wanted the extra space so we rented one of the town halls. Since it was December, our options on dates were limited and we ended up with a Friday night reservation and I felt like we needed to serve them dinner.
We decided to go with pizza and breadsticks, since they are Tyler’s favorite. And the pizza is round like a target 😉
And a simple 3 layer cake with ice cream. Kaitlyn was pretty annoyed that I wouldn’t let her decorate the cake, but I had a vision. And I had left it ’til the last minute and wanted it done quickly.
Aren’t the candles cute? Tyler picked those out.
The birthday boy had wanted a two-level cake but my small pans are in storage so I convinced him that three layers in different colors would look good. He was happy with that. Phew.
As you can see, I used a couple of the leftover paper bags for the centerpiece on the table. Orange bags, blue tissue paper, party logo – done!
Station 1: DIY blow dart guns and tissue paper targets
Kids are so excited to get the party started as soon as they arrive so I always plan an activity to keep them busy as soon as they walk in the door. For the Nerf Gun Party, that meant they got to make their own blow dart guns and tissue paper targets.
I provided 12″ lenths of PVC pipe (I believe it was 1/2″ diameter – just large enough for the darts to fit inside), along with colored duct tape and markers to decorate them with.
I also precut holes in the center of super-cheap paper plates and slightly larger circles of patterned tissue paper. The kids were able to decorate the plates then glue the tissue paper in the center.
Then they were able to hang their tissue paper targets on a length of rope and test out their blow dart guns. If they were good shots and the darts tore through the paper they could glue on another piece of tissue paper and try again.
Destruction – lots of fun for 10 year old boys!
Station 2: Plastic Cup Pyramid
From this point on we divided up the teams and each team at a different target station. First up, simple plastic cup pyramids. We gave them one of Tyler’s larger Nerf guns with 10 shots to see how many cups they could knock over.
PS – don’t forget to put tape on the floor to mark where they should stand to shoot.
Station 3: Cardboard Cut-out Target
This one was recycled from last year’s Avenger’s Birthday Party. (Bonus!) The target is just a large piece of cardboard with different sized circle cut-outs. A couple coats of spray paint makes it look great. Avenger red was just fine with me for this. I simply covered up the Avengers logo with our Nerf Gun party logo.
My intention with this one was to change it up a bit and get the kids to shoot from the prone position, but few of them remembered to do so. Not a problem.
Station 4: Army Men and Plastic Cup Pyramid
Once they had warmed up their shooting skills, we made it a little harder with this one. The goal was to knock the Army men off the cups without knocking the cups down.
Station 5: Spinning Targets
This one was probably my personal favorite – targets that actually spin when you hit them!
The base is a white cardboard tri-fold display. I cut squares out of the cardboard and used the discarded cardboard to cut circles for the targets themselves. The design for the targets were found on Google, printed and attached to the cardboard circles.
To make the edges look finished (and more durable), I duct-taped the edges of the square cut out. Then all that was left was to tape a portion of a plastic straw to the back of the targets, thread a wooden skewer through the straw and tape the edges of the skewer to the back of the cardboard.
Adhering a penny to the bottom of each target helps them return to their proper position after getting hit. (Glue dots work great for this!) The original idea for this target (found HERE) said to experiment with the placement of the straw and the penny but I found that keeping the straw centered in the middle worked best.
At this point we paused for pizza, opened gifts, and had cake and ice cream. Then on to the main event!
Two teams, each hid a flag on their base then attempted to steal the flag from the other team.
Rules were simple. If you got hit (on your honor!) you had to return to your base and touch it before returning to the game. No hitting above the chest. If you hit someone above the chest you had to return to your base and touch it before returning to the game.
Chairs and buffet tables provided perfect “cover” for the game. Extra bullets were provided in containers (flower pots recycled from Kaitlyn’s Cupcake Wars party) throughout the room.
The kids didn’t seem to care if they all had the same guns, though we did provide enough guns similar to THIS ONE for everyone to have one. Those that brought their own guns used them for the battle.
We found a great deal on extra Nerf darts HERE.
At times we would call a halt to the action and get everyone to pick up all the extra bullets. Other than that, I just had fun watching the action and taking photos. It was fun to see how the teams handled strategy and teamwork differently and how the different personalities came out during the game.
All in all it was an energetic, chaotic, and fun party – which was exactly what my little guy wanted.
Think I can convince him to do the same theme again next year? I saved all the targets! 😉
Looking for more party inspiration? Stay tuned for a post about Kaitlyn’s 13th birthday party (right, I was too busy to post that one too). Or check out the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, Monster Truck Party, or Farm Birthday Party.
*Post may contain affiliate links.
We now interrupt our scheduled holiday programming…
That’s kind of how it feels to have a son with a birthday in December. My brain is set to be all gung-ho with Christmas but I have to back off and plan a party instead. Not that I want my little guy to feel like his birthday gets rushed or glossed over in any way – I try hard for that not to happen. So of course he got exactly what he wanted for his birthday – an Avengers Superhero Training party. It was actually a lot of fun to plan and fairly easy to execute. I will share all the details soon, but thought I’d start out with the invitation.
As with all parties lately, I started with a Pinterest Board for inspiration and went from there. Tyler really liked the one with the Top Secret file folder and though I tried to convince him a manila envelope would work just as well, I ended up figuring out how to make mini-sized file folders for his invites.
Easy enough – I simply cut down some file folders I already had on hand, making sure to leave a tab on one side then completing the look by rounding off the corners. The overall size is 9″ high by 6 1/2″ wide (cut down to 6″ except for where I wanted the tab) because I wanted them to fit a half-sheet of paper but these would look absolutely adorable in a smaller size as well.
I knew I wanted to use a photo of Tyler in his Iron Man costume from Halloween for the inserts. Cute right? He’s quite a ham when he wants to be.
The rest of the inserts came together pretty easily with all the party details and a bit of clever wording. I wanted it to look like a “report” you might find inside a Top Secret folder, right? Then I simply printed them off two to a page.
The fonts used are Bernard MT Condensed and Baskerville Old Face. The Avenger logo is simply clip art I found online. And the fun Avengers clip art along the bottom was part of a printable pack I found HERE and turned to black and white in Photoshop. The printables are great – I used them again for a lot of the party supplies as well.
My 12 year old helped me assemble the invitations by stamping Top Secret on top of the folders and attaching the inserts inside the folders with paper clips (I didn’t want them to fall out!)
Tyler was happy and the whole thing probably took me an hour, tops, to pull together. Total win!
Now you’re excited to see the rest of the party details, right?! I’ll share them soon – promise! The kids had a blast and, like most of my parties, it was simple and inexpensive to put together. Stay tuned…
I scream, you scream, we all scream for…CUPCAKES!
My little girl turned 12 last week – TWELVE! There’s just something different about that age isn’t there? She isn’t young enough to want to play with toys and watch cartoons all the time. In fact, not a single thing on her wish list would qualify as a “toy” – it’s all clothes, athletic equipment, and technology. She’s not old enough to fully qualify as a teenager – she still watches the occasional episode of My Little Pony and isn’t into boys yet (thank goodness!) So she’s in this strange but totally awesome in-between stage where she is Independent enough to be relied on to do most things herself and can happily carry on almost-adult-like conversations and will enthusiastically go shopping or run errands with me instead of staying home to play but still enjoys spending time with the family instead of wanting to always be off with her friends.
This age calls for a slightly different birthday party than the ones I’m used to throwing for my kids but it wasn’t hard for Miss Kate to settle on Cupcake Wars for her party theme after doing an impromptu version at a friend’s house this summer. It was the perfect choice with just enough of a theme that it got the creative ideas flowing but enough independence and self-directed activity for the girls that I wasn’t having to plan a bunch of party games to keep them busy. And the bonus – I didn’t have to make or buy the cake! 😉
The invitations came together pretty easily. You can see more details about them in an earlier blog post HERE. Kaitlyn wanted to have a slumber party so we purposely kept the guest list small, inviting only three of her friends. This worked out great because not only did the numbers work out well for the small kitchen, but we were able to verify that everyone would be able to make it well ahead of time so we could ensure that our cupcake baking teams would be evenly matched.
The party set-up was pretty easy. We had actually run across the pastel chevron printed plates and napkins long ago and used those as the basis for the colors for the party. I wanted to use a plastic tablecloth for easy clean up so I was happy to find one in a great pink quatrefoil print. For some reason I kept putting off deciding on/working on the centerpieces and the afternoon of the party found me quickly running into to town praying that the tiny hardware store would still have flower pots in stock. They did! At only $1.25 each, I grabbed three plastic pots and quickly covered them in teal spray paint that I had leftover from a previous project. Then I used a tissue paper flower technique to make some tissue poufs to top the flower pots, turning them into giant cupcakes. They’re a little interpretational, but for under $5 and less than 30 minutes of work, they make a spectacular centerpiece.
I added a little bit more interest to the table with some funny cupcake quotes I found on Pinterest and printed out. (You can find links to all of them plus some of the inspiration for the party on my Pinterest Board)
I printed out a few more of the party logos and attached them to the soda bottles, using a strip cut from the napkins as the band around the bottle.
*Of note: the party supplies are relatively inexpensive and simple, which is how I like to do it. The wow factor isn’t about how much money you put into it, it’s the attention to detail and repetition of a theme that makes the party special.
I rounded out the decorations with my trademark beadboard pennant banner. This guy gets used at pretty much every birthday party. All I have to do is change out the fabric strips/ribbon to match the party theme and I’m all set. I also have banners with the kids’ names, but I didn’t have a good space to put Kaitlyn’s so I just stuck with the Happy Birthday.
Dinner was pretty simple too. Kaitlyn loves tacos but was concerned they didn’t “go” with her party theme. A-ha! We found an easy “taco cupcake” recipe idea, which made them work perfectly with the theme. All it took was baking some corn tortillas in a muffin tin to make the “cupcake” shell, then the guests assembled their tacos with whatever ingredients they preferred. I have to say, they were kind of hard/messy to eat in this form but the fun-factor outweighed that.
The tacos were served with individual fruit cups and the strawberry sodas.
After dinner and gifts it was time for the main event!
I’ll show you a peek at the party favors at this point because they come into play now. The weekend before the party, Kaitlyn, my mom and I had a little sewing party and created my favorite thing for the party – the aprons! These were key because not only are aprons a no-brainer when it comes to a baking party, but I wanted to use them to designate teams for Cupcake Wars. We made pairs of matching aprons with just slightly different color variations, then I rolled them up so you couldn’t tell what they looked like. The girls each grabbed an apron and unwrapped them and their partner was the person that had the apron that matched their own.
More details about the Cupcake Ruffled Aprons HERE.
Isn’t the glitter embedded in some of those fabrics just so much fun?!
A little more detail on the aprons: I wanted something girly and ruffly that worked with the cupcake theme but could be taken home as party favors and used over and over again. So I bought simple white aprons from the craft store that we dressed up with some fabric ruffles and a cupcake applique. The pattern for the applique was just clipart I found online in a shape that mimicked the cupcake we used on the party logo. We traced the pattern onto the heat-and-bond and with an iron, used it to adhere the fabric to the apron. It held pretty well just like that but I noticed one of the corners of Kaitlyn’s was peeling up afterward so I did go back and top-stitched around the edges after the party.
I completely love how they turned out and the girls were in love with them too.
Once the girls had their aprons on and teams all set I showed them their supplies and explained the rules. Each team had a set of mixing bowls, utensils, measuring cups, etc as well as a basic vanilla cupcake recipe to get them started and a list of baking tips. The recipe and the tips were important because I had no way of telling how experienced the girls were with baking, but assumed none of them would be experts or have a recipe memorized – they are 11 and 12 after all.
I copied the great tips from HERE (including that really helpful photo of the frosting designs and which decorating tips were used to make them).
We had made sure to test out the recipe ahead of time, purposely splitting it in half and seeing how it reacted to adding other flavors and mix-ins so the girls would have a pretty good chance of success. This one was perfect for our purposes.
Look closely at the recipe – do you notice anything different about it? I didn’t either until the girls started cooking and we realized I had left the sugar off the ingredients list! Luckily I had the original recipe sitting on my craft table and could give them the correct measurements for that. I made sure to add that and reprint the recipes as soon as I had the chance. And here is a photo of the original recipe. The blog where I found it seems to be out of service so I can’t link up.
The girls had access to the “baking pantry” items as well.
I also pointed out the basket full of craft supplies I had pulled together. In the “real” Cupcake Wars TV show, during the final round the bakers have to design a display for the cupcakes to fit the theme of the event they are making the cupcakes for and I thought this was a great detail to add to the party. Included in the basket were tin cans, cardboard circles, patterned scrapbook paper, ribbon, scissors, decorative edge scissors, and a hot glue gun. I had also found this great cupcake liner pattern (printable found HERE) that they could use if the cupcake liners provided didn’t match their vision of the theme (this saved me from having to spend a fortune on cupcake liners). And for inspiration/direction I made sure to give them the instructional photo from THIS WEBSITE, which is where I first saw the idea for using tin cans and cardboard to make a cupcake display.
The girls loved this part of the process and told me afterward what a great idea it had been to include the displays in the competition.
We had gone over the rules (make one set of cupcakes and a display to match the theme) and shown them all the supplies. Time to reveal the theme for the Cupcake War!
Deciding on the theme was the hardest part of the creative process for me I found that my friends got a little confused when I was asking them for theme ideas. I kept hearing “but isn’t the theme cupcake wars?” Yup. But if I just told the girls “ok, make something interesting” there are just WAY too many possibilities out there and I really needed a way to narrow it down so that I didn’t have to buy out an entire grocery store for flavor, mix-ins, and topping ideas. Plus, in the Cupcake Wars TV show, they always have a guest judge that represents some sort of business or charity, etc and the winning cupcakes and display will be the centerpiece of their big gala event so part of their scores are based on interpretation of the theme.
The theme for our Cupcake War – Ice Cream Shoppe!
I know, I know – even with the theme constraints I was able to go a little overboard on this one. If you’re trying to stick to a tight budget for the party, this is where you need to pay attention and not get too much. I’m sure the girls’ creativity would not have felt hindered in the least with only 1/2 or 1/3 of these supplies. But it’s me here 😉 And I figured whatever they didn’t use for the party we would eventually eat or use for other baking projects. The supplies on the tray include: sprinkles (two kinds), ice cream toppings (chocolate syrup, caramel syrup, whipped cream in a can, maraschino cherries, marshmallow cream), candy bars, licorice, Teddy Grahams (I couldn’t resist the birthday cake flavor), bananas, a couple of varieties of nuts, chocolate chips (chocolate, white chocolate and caramel), pudding (chocolate and vanilla), and extracts (mint, orange, almond, rum (eggnog flavor), vanilla, rootbeer, etc – most of which we already had in the cupboard. I only added the rootbeer because one of my first thoughts after I decided on the theme was Rootbeer Floats!)
Then I set them loose to create. It was so much fun to watch how the teammates interacted with each other (one team had a very obvious leader-assistant while the other seemed to make mutual decisions), the processes they used, the ideas they came up with, the (slight) mistakes they made, and their comments along the way. I don’t know how many times I stifled a laugh watching them. And yes, it was necessary for me to sit there and watch them. They would have questions here and there and I also wanted to make sure they were safe operating the oven.
They weren’t the cleanest of bakers (thank goodness I thought ahead with the tablecloth. We just pulled it off the table and threw it away before setting up the displays for judging) but they had a blast.
The green team created Mint Chocolate Chip cupcakes with buttercream frosting and an Oreo/chocolate piece for decoration. The purple team made Banana Split Cupcakes with vanilla cupcake, banana and whipped cream filling, marshmallow whipped cream frosting (which didn’t quite hold up for them so they termed it a “melted ice cream” look), topped with chocolate sauce and an Oreo.
I found these great judging sheets (HERE) and tweaked them to match our party theme.
And here’s where the party got really funny. Enter the judges. Our judges were my husband, my 8 year old (oh, he was fantastic!), my mom, and my body-building brother who insisted he was the “visual judge.” The teams presented their creations to the judges, who scored the cupcakes on taste, texture, presentation. The judges tasted the cupcakes and filled out their score sheets, then we sent the girls out of the room while I tallied the votes and the judges discussed their opinions amongst themselves.
(seriously – at this point I was wishing for a video camera. It was so much fun)
Any guesses on the final result??
It was a…TIE! No lie. One team got higher marks for presentation while the other scored better for taste and creativity but the scores themselves ended up completely even and I think we were all pretty happy with that.
The girls then got to taste test their own creations and put some in take-home containers which served as the rest of their party favors, along with their own copies of the (updated) recipe and tip sheets.
The girls then disappeared downstairs – with the leftover candy bars in tow – for some girl talk, manicures with Kate’s new nail polish collection, and a couple of episodes of Cupcake Wars on Netflix, falling asleep at some point in the middle of the night.
The whole thing was a complete success and fun, fun, fun from start to finish. Who’s going to host the next Cupcake Wars?! We can’t wait to do this again!
Happy Thursday! My daughter’s birthday is coming up (October, which feels like just around the corner right now) and I have started to think about party plans. Birthdays and parties are a big deal around here – something we all enjoy and something I have a lot of fun putting together. I was trying to remember what her party theme was last year which prompted me to look it up on the old blog and once I started looking at photos and revisiting memories I couldn’t help want to share it here. My daughter turned 11 last year (hang on a second while I mourn the early childhood years. I will soon have a preteen on my hands!) and she had been helping me plan the party for months. She is definitely my child – she knows what she wants and is full of ideas, she wants it to look good, and she wants to Do It Herself. 😉
After all the horseback riding she did while we were in Utah last summer, it was almost a forgone conclusion that she would pick Horses for her theme for her birthday party. And her very first request (after specifying that she wanted a slumber party, of course) was that she have chocolate horses topping her cupcakes, and that she be able to do them herself. She saw a YouTube video about piping chocolate onto wax paper to make shapes and that was what she had in mind, but that sounded a little intense for her first attempt at real cake decorating so I found a chocolate mold online. With our lives as crazy as they are right now and the amount of time it takes each batch of chocolate to cool I did end up making most of the chocolate horses myself, though I did make sure she got to do a few on her own.
Once we started looking at ideas online (you can see my Pinterest inspiration board here) we decided to go with a Cowgirl theme in pink and brown with a few blue accents thrown in. The invitations, of course, came first.
Kaitlyn fell in love with the idea of a big wooden pallet sign with the outline of a horse on it, but I didn’t want to work on a project that big right now. Instead, I grabbed some scrap wood from the garage, distressed it and stained it, then used hot glue to attach some jute “rope” to spell out the word Howdy. We used this sign on the front door to greet everyone and set the mood for the party.
From previous experience with birthday slumber parties I know that the girls are always super-hyped, loud, and anxious to direct their own fun. They spent most of the party playing Just Dance or playing with Kaitlyn’s fast-growing collection of Ever After High dolls, but I did set up a couple of stations to go along with the party theme.
The Photo Booth props were a lot of fun
I threw together a bucket of stuff for mani/pedis, though it didn’t get used. We also had the idea to YouTube some line dances (perfect for a cowgirl party, right?!) and would have done so if the party was lagging. As I said, the girls had no problem having fun on their own so I just let them do their thing.
Knowing that the girls would happily occupy themselves, I spent more time on the food and the decorations than I did on the activities. The bead board pennant birthday banner got some theme-appropriate fabric and ribbon and provided the backdrop for the dining table.
The longer I do this party planning thing, the easier it gets. I have a handful of Go To tricks that I can use for any theme – like dressing up the drink containers. For this party I picked up a 6-pack of cream soda bottles and added a vinyl horse silhouette (made it using a horse dingbat font and my Silhouette machine. I love that there are so many great fonts out there for free!). The plates are part of a stack of inexpensive plastic party plates we picked up at Sam’s club a couple years back – they work great for parties. The napkins, bandana, and tiny pink cowboy hats (aren’t they cute?!) were all fun finds at the party store.
On to the food! The cupcakes turned out great – though I suggest putting the horses on only at the last minute. It was a warm day and some of them wanted to tip over when their legs got a little soft.
For dinner, Kaitlyn had requested ribs and mashed potatoes. And you know what that means? That means the husband did most of the food prep because he is the rib smoker expert 😉
Side note – the rolls down there on the end of the island are in a pink plastic cowboy hat. I forgot to get a detail photo of that, but I wanted to point it out because the girls thought it was a fun detail.
Once the girls had a couple of hours to play and were ready to settle down a bit, I prepared a tray of goodies so they could snack and watch TV. Included: popcorn in brown paper bags (I had folded down the tops and fringed the edges), water bottles with the horse decals (I try to avoid having any colored drinks on the playroom carpet – it is horrible when it comes to stains), Cow Tales caramels, licorice “ropes” and rice krispie treat “hay bales.”
I went to bed around 11:00 that night and I’m told some of the girls stayed up only ’til midnight while the other half made it to around 2AM. But they were all awake and hungry by 7:30 in the morning. We did a full cowboy breakfast spread with pancakes, sausage, bacon, hash browns, and chocolate milk.
Party favors were their cowboy hats, more of Kate’s chocolate horses, some cute fingernail decals (in the closest colors/designs we could find to the party colors), a pen, and some more Cow Tale caramels.
If noise levels and chaos are any indication (naw they weren’t that bad – I didn’t even have to wake up in the middle of the night to tell them to tone it down), the party was a rip-roaring success. Yay!
Linking to: Pretty Pintastic Party, Link Party Palooza, Saturday Sharefest, BFF Open House Link Party, Pin Me Link Party, Sundays Down Under, Celebrate it Sunday, Snickerdoodle Sunday, Merry Monday, Inspire Me Monday, Lou Lou Girls, Made By You Monday, Project Inspired, Your Turn to Shine,