The whole idea started with my son wanting a Ben 10 birthday party. I had planned on a very simple party as our budget was $200 and we had a lot of children to invite. I was going to get a pinata, throw black and green streamers on the walls, put out plates and napkins with the character's face on them, order pizza and pretty much be done with it. Sadly though, as I wandered the aisles of several stores only two weeks before the big day, I discovered that Ben 10, wasn't quite in vogue with kids anymore Any of you with Ben 10 fans out there will understand that stores wane on stock of Ben 10 toys and supplies in between incarnations of the Cartoon Network hit. For my son, however, the show never ends as he has DVDs on repeat. I managed to order a cake and got the bakery department's last dusty Ben 10 "kit". The closest I could even get to invitations was a generic set with "pow" "biff" "zoink" on it.
But.... that gave me an idea :)
I spent about three days Googling the idea of a super-hero birthday and man... people are brilliant. High end, low end, catered destination and back yard barbeque.... There was every kind you could imagine. So, with only about ten days left, I began.
I knew we needed capes. And I knew that with the way our family was, not just the children would want capes as we have many fun-loving adults in our lives. I hunted online and found a few different options:
1. I could buy them. The cheapest route at the time was through Walmart, as they had a small playtime dress-up kit for $7.99 that came with a short little cape and a molded mask. They weren't exactly what I wanted though and at $8 per guest, the price would have killed my budget. Other options included custom made capes through various websites online. They come hemmed and lined and some will even put a logo with your child's initial on them. Some of the really nice ones came with masks, belts and arm bands. But if shelling out $8 per guest was not in my budget, $30-60 each was definitely not.
2. I could make them. The internet is littered with How-To's for this. Some are as simple as re-purposing old towels and pillow cases; some are as complex as quilting patterns. I knew I had to make a lot and didn't have that much time or patience. I liked many of the cape patterns online, but then lost interest when they started to hem or cut arm holes or sewing a casing for the draw string. Unfortunately, I hate sewing projects. I'm more apt to duct tape something than sew it. I knew that hemming glue was an option, although I was uncertain how well it would hold up to the draw strings. I eventually found a simple, no-sew pattern for the draw string. It involved weaving ribbon through slits cut in the fabric. Genius!
So, I took a thinking-trip to the local Jo Ann Fabrics. Firstly, after a discussion with the clerk, she said that for as little use as these would get, hemming was probably unneeded. I loved this woman! I looked at the shiny fabrics that so many of the commercial capes had been made from, but at almost $7 per yard, it was too expensive. Eventually I found the cheapest colored polyester blend I could find. It ended up being about $3 per yard. I bought $60 worth of cloth in Green, Orange, Purple, Red, Blue and Black. I also bought two spools of 1.5" yellow ribbon at $5 per spool.
Most material comes at a width of either 45" or 60"; both are fine. I left the material folded in as it comes on the bolt, so that the material was at a width of 22.5" [or 30"]. I cut the folded fabric into 36" lengths for children and 54" lengths for adults. As shown in the pattern below, I kept the fold upwards and measured down 10" for children or 12" for adults along the left side. I then used a yardstick to connect that point with the lower corner on the right side. I traced this line with chalk and then cut.
I then folded the top of the cape down about 3" at this point and made a series of 1.5" cuts in the fold. I found an even number to be best, and no less than 1" apart. See below:
|My fiance traces a SuperDad emblem.|
These capes ended up costing about $4.75 each, plus the time to construct them. I even got belts out of the deal!
|Jazmine the Marvelous|
I went with felt again. I made a template out of cardstock by tracing a mask that my son already had, then got to work. I ended up making probably 25 of them. I got about 2 out of each piece of felt. The felt was 18¢ per piece. I left them plain and let everyone decorate them by gluing sequins on at the party. A mixed bag of sequins only cost me $3. I poked a hole near the temples and tied matching elastic cord on.
These masks ended up costing about 35¢ each, plus time spent assembling them.
The internet was again full of ideas. I liked the idea of an obstacle course, but the community room at our apartment complex wasn't large enough to set one up inside and the grounds outside are divided up funny, so we opted for more of a rotating stations feel. I decided on seven activities to be completed in a row. Two of these fell through while we were setting up for the party: "Mighty Muscles" and "Slug a Villian".
For "Mighty Muscles" I needed a mock dumbbell. The instructions online involved spray painting large Styrofoam balls and sticking them on either end of a thick dowel rod. However, I abhor Styrofoam. It is so incredibly harmful to the environment that, to be honest, I can't believe that it's even legal to make anymore. Not to mention, the balls sell for about $13 a piece!
Instead, I tried to spray paint beach balls black, connect them with an elastic cord strung through a wrapping paper tube. In my head it worked, but my helpers just couldn't manage to get it to work and by the time the party was over and we were cleaning up, I swear the paint had eaten through portions of the beach ball! Into the dumpster it went. So much for trying to save the planet.
For "Slug a Villain" I bought one of those blow-up bop-it punching bag things that usually have sand in the bottom to keep them upright after you hit them. It was $6 at Walmart but didn't come with a sand-filled bottom. Instead you had to fill it with water, but the thing was very hard to maneuver and fill. We tried all day to get it to stand up and it just wouldn't. We finally used a dropper to fill it with water enough to stand... and my son gave it a playful punch while we were setting up the birthday party and it burst, flooding the floor. Major bummer.
In the end though, with the help of my quick thinking MIL, we created one more activity really quick and the show went on. We had 6 activities in our Super Hero Training Academy.
Keeping Your Balance: The Super Heroes must walk a tightrope between two tall buildings without falling into the traffic below.
We only had minutes and it ended up simply being car stickers and a masking tape line, but the kids got the drift and gladly participated.
Take a Punch: The Super Heroes must learn to punch it out comic book style.
|Mom takes a punch.|
When first formulating this, various websites had instructed me to purchase white wrapping paper with black polka-dots and to just paint or tape a frame around it. Well, I couldn't find that kind of paper no matter how many stores I went to, so in the end I bought a $5 roll of white wrapping paper from a Hallmark store. Luckily it had grid lines on the back and so I just took a wide tipped sharpie to it and used the grid points to color in evenly spaced dots.
My MIL and I taped it to the wall and whipped up quick "Gasp!" and "Pow!" signs out of poster board. It had the effect of an old-time comic strip.
Destroy the Bombs: The Super Heroes must save the world by destroying the bombs.
My fiance and his step-father hated me for this. What I didn't know was that water balloons are super thick and they really struggled to blow these tiny suckers up. We eventually broke out an air pump and they got them done in a flash.
The kids really enjoyed this one as it was the first outdoor activity and they got to jump around stomping on things... pure kid heaven. Afterwards, I told them that all super heroes want to save the world and so we needed to pick up all the broken balloons to keep the planet safe. They willingly obliged, to my surprise.
Web-Sling Training: The Super Heroes must learn to spot villains in the open and quickly ensnare them.
|Eventually the Super Heroes turned on the parents!|
After getting the villains, the kids turned on each other and even a few parents!
Kryptonite Handling: The Super Heroes have to find the missing rings of Kryptonite and place them in the Lead-Lined Box.
|Keeping Superman safe.|
Wrapping the cooler wasn't easy, but I think it turned out ok.
Leaping Tall Buildings: The Super Heroes must return to the Super Hero Training Academy by leaping a few tall buildings on the way back.
Total cost for these games was about $70, plus time and a bit of ink from a colored ink cartridge.
|Everyone lined up at the door to start their training.|
To add to the comic book feel, I bought a pack of neon colored cardstock for about $4. I took a sharpie and some scissors to the sheets and made star-bursts with words like "Biff!" "Kablam!" and "Poing!" on them. It was kind of fun. We plastered these on the walls and windows too.
The entrance to the community room we rented had a glass door, perfect for displaying a welcome sign. I used my son's crayola markers and some glitter to make a sign out of a piece of white poster board. Unfortunately, we never got a great picture of it, but it was pretty snazzy.
Decorations and tableware ran me about $23.
|The only shot I think we got of the prize table,|
but you get the idea.
My MIL called me one day and reminded me that her partner works at a very unique recycling plant. They recycle odd things that normal plants don't know what to do with. This includes over runs of McDonalds Happy Meal toys. Occasionally, he brings some home. She had collected up a large bag of boy and girl toys for me to go through to fill the goodie bags. I was thrilled!
The kids bags ended up overflowing and they loved them.
FOOD & CAKE
Prior to the party, as people created their costumes and filtered in, we had set out munchies like pretzel sticks, carrots and dip and grapes. We put out a few 2 liters of cheap soda with ice.
After completing their training, everyone chowed down on a few potluck type dishes, like baked macaroni and cheese and sloppy joes. There were no complaints.
As I stated at the beginning, I did manage to get a Ben 10 cupcake-cake and the kids ate that with scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Afterwards my son opened his presents and then handed out grab bags to his guests.
TOTAL COST: $216 [plus a $75 rental deposit for the room that was returned to us]
So, in the end I went over my budget by a few dollars, but I think everything was worth it. Looking back, I still can't believe how much we pulled off with so little time and money. I had a lot of help from the many blogs and websites I cruised to prepare for it and was extremely grateful to the family and friends who helped me decorate, who helped the activities along, who played along and decorated a cape and mask, who brought me supplies and took photos of our son's big day.
This was the first BIG birthday party my son has had, wherein it was attended by friends and people from his class as well as family. It was a huge success and I can't wait to tackle his 10th birthday party this fall.
Here are some of my favorite moments!
|Riley and Tristan super-leaping on bombs.|
|My son and my mother.|
|Some kids need a boost from Super Mom.|
|The Fantastic Flying McKenna|
|A Super Hero salute|
|My soon-to-be Mother in Law and her partner. They were inexhaustibly helpful for this event.|