Thursday, March 15, 2012

Girly Dinosaur Party

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First, let me give credit where credit is due! My dear sweet friend agreed to take photos of the party so all of these beautiful shots are due to Beth York Photography. Please take a moment to check her out on Facebook. She does AMAZING work and her photography business is strictly an effort to bring home their darling daughter from China. Even if you aren't local and can not take advantage of her photography skills for your family, please take a moment to visit her blog, read her inspiring stories, and consider supporting them through their 31 fundraiser that is going on this month. You will be truly humbled and blessed by this precious family's testimony!

In our family we don't go overboard with birthday presents but instead this creative mama probably goes a bit overboard with parties. I am so thankful that I have a husband who understands my need to be creative and supports me in that. I will admit, that a lot of what I do is for fun, but while working hard on this particular party, I was convicted about my motives. It scared me to think that it might be for my own glory and not for my little girl or for the friends we were inviting. After searching my heart, I truly feel that most of my efforts were with the children in mind.

When I began her party planning, there wasn't much question about what the theme would be. This girl LOVES dinosaurs! She knows the different names better than anyone I know and can tell whether they are herbivores, carnivores or omnivores. She can tell you whether they are bipeds or quadrupeds and what a track wave is and can also explain how fossils are made. Pretty good for a four-year-old!

I started by creating this Pinterest board dedicated to her party and collecting ideas from the NUMEROUS dinosaur parties out there. There were so many wonderful inspirations. I wasn't able to use them all but it was a great springboard for making her party unique.

Birthday Outfit

I took Elena with me to pick out the fabrics for her birthday outfit. I gave her some peramiters and let her give me suggestions/tell me what she liked best (if you read my earlier birthday post, you know how opinionated she is getting about what she wears). She found some orange dot fabric, the green fabric that I also used for some other party favors, and fixated on a pink ruffle fabric that was WAY too pricey. I told her no on the pink until I found a remnant that was marked down because of a pull. I found a hot pink T shirt at the Dollar Tree and used this adorable dino alphabet to applique her shirt with the green and orange fabrics. I also used the green to make her pants with the pink ruffle around the base of each leg. She has insisted on wearing this outfit almost every day since her party (we've washed it almost every night). It certainly is not what I would have chosen, but she LOVES it, and that is what is important.


Normally we have the party in our home, but I decided to investigate off-site locations because I knew we would be inviting more guests this year. I found the perfect location in our local Science Center. It was a beautiful facility that was the perfect size, educational, affordable, and provided the perfect community outreach that we like to include in our birthday celebrations. We are trying to teach our girls that it is better to give than to receive so we ask for donations instead of gifts. The Science Center provided us with a list of needed materials and guests were asked to bring those in place of presents (trust me, these girls have enough toys and clothes).


Next, I decided to start with color choices. Elena has more friends that are boys than girls, but I wanted the party to have a girlish feel. I chose lime green, hot pink, and bright orange. Polka-dots, tulle, and ribbons increased the girly feel. I always like to have the personal touches with names & birthday wishes, and enjoy any opportunity to use my design skills, so I make my own party printables. I designed her invitation first. The simple dinosaur silhouettes were from a free dinosaur font download.

The Science Center is located in our "Cultural Center" along with the local ballet, artist guild, and symphony offices in a group of three buildings. Finding the location can be a bit of a challenge if you've never been there so I used  hot pink polka-dot, orange and lime balloons outside and inside to direct guests to the right location.

I also posted a sign on the door with further directions. It read "Stomp Rumble and Roar! Elena's party is on the second floor. Track the Dino Prints through the door.

Using my Silhouette Cameo, I cut out small dino foot prints which I taped to the floor creating an obvious path to the Science Center.

Using the same stripe and dinosaur elements from the invitation, I added a polka dot background to pink and orange to create coordinating cupcake toppers, food labels, party hat labels, table centerpieces, favor toppers, dino dig labels, etc. Since helium was not in our budget, I wanted to come up with a creative way to use the pink polka dot balloons in the party room. The day before the party, I made the impromptu "balloon topiaries" for centerpieces on the table (you can see my tutorial on how to make them here).

Party Favors

The main party activity also served as a party favor. Each guest had their own dinosaur excavation site which included "paleontologist tools," a dinosaur skeleton to excavate and a dinosaur fossil to keep (you can see my earlier post about how to make your own here).  Each guest also had a few other special treats to take home with them. I knew the instant I saw this post that I HAD to make dino tails for Elena's party! Using a lime green fabric I found at JoAnn on the clearance table, I made 20 tails (total cost to make all 20 was about $30)The girls' tails had pink spikes and the boys' tails had orange. It took me the better part of two days to make them but it was well worth every bit of the effort when I saw how much everyone enjoyed them.

I also used my Siloette Cameo to cut out dino feet that slipped over their shoes. I cut out matching pink and orange claws for the tips to coordinate with the tails.

To top off the dino set, I was inspired by this find on Pinterest. I purchased solid green party hats online and added the pink and orange spikes to the back. Each hat had a guests "dino" name on the front and these were also used as place cards at the tables.

I also had to include dino eggs. Elena helped me sort some Easter candy so we had only pink and white eggs to match her decor. I made simple toppers for small ziplock bags and put a handful in each container.

Finally, we continued our magnet tradition where each guest was given a "Thank You" magnet with Elena's picture. It has been neat for us to see how she has grown each year through this little memento.


The first 30 minutes of the party were spent enjoying the facilities at the Science Center. From the live animal exhibits to the hands-on experimenting exhibits, there was plenty for them to do. I was a little afraid that some of the exhibits would be over their heads, but they seemed to enjoy it all!

Next, everyone gathered in the party room where a sweet intern delivered a quick lesson on fossils. She passed around actual dinosaur fossils and talked with them briefly about how fossils are formed. She then explained what a paleontologist does.

Then, the kids moved to their seats at the table where I had their dino-digs waiting on them. After some brief directions, they dug up their dino bones and discussed with their parents what dinosaur they had discovered.

We poured the extra sand into buckets and it was used for the turtles living in the science center. I had bags prepared for the guests to carry their dinosaur bones, fossils, and tools home with them so they wouldn't get sand all over their cars (as a mama, you try to think of those things).

The kids then put on their party hats, dino tails and feet, and gathered around the intern once more to see, touch, and hold a live snake (a special request by the Birthday girl) while the parents cleaned up the table for food.

After singing Happy Birthday to Elena, the food was enjoyed and more fun was had exploring the exhibits and dancing in dinosaur regalia.

The Menu

The party was held from 10-12 so I planned a light lunch. I started with the "Herbivore" food and served a Mandarin Orange Salad and a Lime-Kissed Fruit Salad (though I forgot the honey and it ended up just being fruit salad). The salad containers were Walmart finds that I am sure I will use time and time again.

Next came the "Carnivore" food which was Publix party platters. We served ham & cheese roll ups and pizza roll ups. For the "Watering Hole" I made my Sparkling Strawberry Punch and labeled small water bottles. I purchased lime green cups and made coordinating stickers for each cup. Each cup and water bottle had a place for guests to write their name so drinks weren't mixed up or discarded prematurely.

Finally, for desert, I made strawberry cupcakes and vanilla cupcakes with cream cheese icing. I made the cupcake wrappers and toppers using my Silhouette Cameo.

When Elena caught a glimpse of the cake on the site where I got her cupcake recipe, she insisted on a "rose" cake for her party so that is what she got!

Keep checking back in the next couple of weeks...once I get my computer out of the shop, I hope to post some FREE dino party printables as well as my designs for cutting out the dinosaur feet and cupcake wrappers via your Silhouette Cameo!

FREE Silhouette Files:

Four Years ago...

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On March 11, 2008 our lives changed forever. Elena Nicole Lowery came into this world and we haven't been the same since. This little girl forever amazes me:

  • She loves: dinosaurs, trains, playing T-ball with Daddy, watching Star Wars, digging in the dirt and building things.
  • She must sleep with "Bear, Ted, & Doll" every day at naps and bed time
  • She does her chores willingly most days (except for cleaning up her toys)
  • She dresses herself in the mornings and is very decisive about what she will or will not wear. Her Daddy says that she is opinionated like her Mommy with the fashion sense of her Daddy...not a good combination!
  • She is an independent little soul. Whether she's entering her Sunday school room or visiting a new play ground, she enters the place as though she owns it.
  • She approaches every task with intention
  • She is a perfectionist about some things and gets very frustrated when she can't make things work EXACTLY how she thinks they should be
  • She LOVES tying knots (and has tripped up Mommy on more than one occasion with her "webs"
  • Though she's outgoing, she is cautious about more physical activities like slides, tumbling, swinging, etc.
  • She enjoys ballet but I learned the hard way that she's a bit modest...she didn't want to go for the longest time because she was "showing her underwear." After purchasing a pettiskirt, she hasn't complained once!
  • She knows more things about dinosaurs than I do (and I LOVED them when I was little)
  • She loves to learn new things and is starting 4K in the fall
  • She is a loving big sister (MOST of the time)...the words "Come on, Kate!" ring through our home all day
  • She's SO easy going (as she has always been). She didn't even cry yesterday when she got her 4-year shots! At times my mother's heart worries about her bottling up her feelings.

All about Elena in her own words via her Yearly Birthday Interview
(you can see last year's interview answers here):

My favorite color is...yellow
On TV, I like to watch...Word World
My favorite book is...The Easter Story (from her children's Bible)
My favorite movie is...Star Wars
I like to eat...chicken & rice
I feel happy when...I eat doughnuts
I feel sad when...Kate pushes me (yep, her little sister is already showing her who's boss)
I like to...climb up trees
I don't like onions
I think Daddy is...special
I think Mommy pretty (melt my heart)
I think Kate is...really happy
I think Georgia (our dog) is...funny
I think Gracie (our cat) is...happy
I like to play with...Grandpa
My favorite toy train set
I am really good at...playing with toys
I get excited...when a train comes by
I like to go to...Hobby Lobby (that's my girl for the second year in a row!)
My best friend is...Averi & McKenna
I bears (that she sleeps with every night)

I thank God each and every day for choosing me to be her mother. What a precious child and an amazing responsibility He has given us as parents. I pray that I would live each day showing her the love that He has for us and what a jewel she is both to her family and her God. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

DIY Dino Dig Kits

Pin It We're getting all geared up for Elena's big 4th Birthday bash early next month. When asked what kind of party she wanted this year, there was absolutely no hesitation before her emphatic declaration..."a DINOSAUR party!" (which was a good thing, because Mommy had already created a Pinterest board dedicated to her 4th birthday dinosaur party).

I knew that I wanted to do a dino dig but we scheduled the party at our local science center. We needed something portable, individual sized, and a dig that would take no more than 20 minutes (due to the other activities they had planned and the attention span of our age group). I found some really neat kits at Oriental Traders but after reading the reviews, I realized it might be too time consuming and challenging for 3-5 year olds (plus the price didn't exactly fit into my budget).

I began my search for the perfect DIY kits online. I found some great resources for DIY fossils but I wanted the kids to leave the party with more than an imprint of a dinosaur skeleton (that's not as much fun to play with as a dinosaur action figure). I also wanted the dig to be a bit more authentic than just sifting through a bit of sand to find a plastic dinosaur. I found a great recipe for treasure stones, but I liked the idea of being able to use a brush to clean the surface of the bones and I didn't think the doughy consistency of the treasure stones would have the same effect. I even found a dino excavation cake that I considered doing. There were a few sites that had directions for plaster dig kits, but once again, that activity wouldn't fit within our time frame and could be a bit more of a challenge for little hands.

Finding no results I was completely satisfied with, I decided to combine several of the ideas I discovered into my own version of a dino dig kit. At best guess, they ended up costing just over $2 each.


Miniature dinosaur skeletons from Amazon (12 for $9) I have since found similar ones in 2 packs at Dollar Tree
Small aluminum baking tins (Dollar Tree purchase three for $1)
Salt dough (see recipe below)
Digging tools (see list below for what I included)
Printed dinosaur cards from Dinosaur Train's Field guide

I started with a simple salt dough recipe that I modified a bit for my needs. One batch made enough for two tins.

1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup play sand
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup luke warm water
1 heaping Tablespoon dried, used cofee grounds
2 drops each of red, yellow, and blue food coloring

1. Preheat oven to 300
2. In a large bowl, mix flour, salt, sand, and coffee grounds together until combined well
3. tint water with food coloring to get a brownish color (it will look more purple but turns out to be more brown when combined with the other ingredients)
4. Gradually mix in the water (you may only need 3/4 cup because you don't want your dough to be too wet)
5.With your hands, form a ball with your dough and kneed it for at least 5 minutes. The longer you kneed your dough, the smoother it will become.
6. Divide your dough into two even balls and roll out each to about a 1/2" depth, about 4" x 6.5" (the size of the bottom of the tins)
7. Place the dough in the bottom of the tin and press a dinosaur skeleton into the dough until you get a nice impression of the dinosaur (I rocked it back and forth to make sure all of the skeleton appeared in the dough).
8. Bake for about 1 hour or until dough becomes hardened (do not over cook because the dough may begin to shrink)
9. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.
10. When dough has cooled a bit but is still somewhat pliable, press the dinosaur back into the mold just to insure that the dough doesn't shrink too much as it cools.
11. Allow dough to cool completely.
12. Cover over the top of the dinosaur and dough with play sand.

After the dig, I plan to have bags for the kids to put their "kits" in if they want to take them home and enjoy them again, with or without the dinosaur skeleton. I love that it will function both as an activity at the party and a favor.

I also wanted the kids to know exactly what kind of dinosaur they unearthed, so I found FREE printable information cards on the Dinosaur Train website. I found matches to all of the skeletons and glued the cards to the lid on the inside of each tin.

Next I tied up each tin with pink and orange tulle (that matches our color scheme) and printed out color-coordinating tags the read "Dinosaur Excavation Site." I also tied their excavation tools to the top with the tulle.

Excavation tools included:
Plastic Spoon for digging
1" brush ($0.59 each from Joann)
Small Magnifying Glass ($0.35 each from Party City)
Bamboo Fork (75 for $1 at Dollar Tree)
Bamboo Pick (25 for $1 at Dollar Tree)

Keep your eyes pealed because I am sure I will be sharing more details to her party as the date gets closer like the party hats, dino tails, and dino feet as well as cupcake decorations, menu items and invitation design! This Mama LOVES to plan a party!