Tara Odebrecht is a birthday party planning genius in my book. She has creative ideas for themed parties that are very reasonably priced. She put together this idea for a Top Chef Birthday Party and I (Carrie) tried out many of the suggestions last weekend. My youngest daughter turned two and we had a cooking party. The kids loved it and the parents that it was so creative, yet it was easy for me to pull off.
Enjoy this guest post by Tara Odebrecht of Shindig Diva sharing one of her party ideas. (If you have a money-saving idea or interest and would like to write a guest blog post for Pocket Your Dollars, please email me your idea and we can talk!)
For some reason, I love, love birthdays! I think it’s because for one day during the whole year, we are each celebrated. It’s especially fun to celebrate those special little kids in our lives. However, it can be frustrating because birthday parties can cost hundreds, even thousands of dollars. I was inspired by Carrie’s amazing frugal tips and thought it would be a ton of fun to take the challenge to create a fun and outrageous birthday party on a budget.
“Top Chef” seemed like the perfect theme. What better theme to keep costs down than one in which the food is the entertainment? Besides, kiddos always have a ton of fun with cooking. I don’t know any kid that doesn’t love to get in the kitchen and help bake cookies.
Here’s my plan for an action-packed “Top Chef” birthday party.
Mission: Create a bright, fun and fantastic kid birthday party for less than $10 per kiddo. (I’ll let you decide if we accomplished that mission.)
Setting the Scene
The first part of any birthday party is the decorations. They’re what set the tone for the entire event. For this party, we used inexpensive wrapping paper to do just that. We chose a bright polka dot paper from Target for $3 and used it in several places. It gave us a lot of bang for only three bucks.
The Little Chef Table
- Choose a plastic tablecloth that coordinates with the paper. For this event, we chose a bright lime green to coordinate with our inspiration paper.
- Cut a strip of wrapping paper the length of the table and then in half. This is a great runner for any party and can be used to personalize tables for any theme.
- Next, add coordinating square paper plates and paper cups in a solid color.
- You can utilize any kitchen items for centerpieces. We put green foam into a container from the dollar store and added some pot holders on top of skewers. Add tissue paper and you’ve got a centerpiece. We also put a small pail with bright colored candy (in this case, Pixie Stix) in it to finish off the tables.
Treat & Favor Table
This is a must-have for any fabulous party. It can really be a feature at your party and the best thing is, you stock it with things you are going to serve, anyway.
- For the table covering, again, a lime green plastic tablecloth works well (we purchased a two-pack).
- Wrap a shoe box with the gift wrap and place the cupcakes frosted in white on top for decorating later. Add a 6-muffin tin in front of the box to highlight the fun goodies that will be used later to decorate the cupcakes.
- Cut a piece of the gift wrap to wrap around the top of a juice or milk box, leaving the top and bottom open.
- We added popcorn in fun cupcake liners for the little chefs (or parents) to munch on. This is a great and inexpensive way to display some goodies for the party.
- For this particular party, favors were our big splurge. I found these great chef hats and aprons at Michaels for $3. They were really cute and a must-have for any chef party, so the $3 spent was well worth it. We also included a cookie cutter ($0.29 each) along with a recipe for one of the guest of honor’s favorite sugar cookies. We printed the recipes on cardstock and glued a fun coordinating paper on the back. We then put both into a cellophane bag and tied with a ribbon – a simple and inexpensive way to send a small favor in addition to the apron/hat set.
Upon arrival, each child should take one apron and hat from the table and put it on.
Since the theme of this party is “Top Chef,” we have incorporated individual and team food challenges.
Salad on a Stick (Individual Activity)
Time: 10 Minutes
Object: For each child to stack yummy salad ingredients on a stick to make a unique healthy creation.
Materials: Any variety of salad ingredients cut into bite-sized 1” chunks. Here’s what we used:
- ¼ Head of Lettuce
- Green Peppers
- Salad Dressing for Dipping
1. Place the ingredients in the center of the table.
2. Give each child a small plate with a number on it and 2 toothpicks. Instruct them to make 2 identical salads on a stick: one for them and one for the judge.
3. Set a timer for 2 minutes and say, “Go!”
4. Let them create!
5. When time is up, they should give their plate with their creation to the judge who will pick a winner based on creativity and flavor.
Smoothies (Team Activity)
Time: 15 Minutes
Object: To create a yummy fruit smoothie as a team.
- Mixed Frozen Fruit (slightly thawed and divided into bowls by type of fruit)
- Variety of Fresh Fruit (bananas are great for this and inexpensive)
- 2 Bowls or Pitchers
1. Place all of the possible ingredient choices on the table.
2. Divide the little chefs into two teams (we purchased two colors of aprons to make that easy) and assign a Sous Chef (adult) to each.
3. Set the timer for 4 minutes and say, “Go!”
4. Let the little chefs work together to create the perfect smoothie.
5. When time is up, the adult from the team blends up the concoction.
6. Each team serves their creation to the judge and each team member.
Pizzas (Individual Activity)
Time: 10 Minutes
Object: Create a yummy pizza that will be tasty for the little chef. This round is not judged by anyone except the little chef themselves.
- 8 English Muffins
- 4 Cups Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
- 1 Jar of Pizza Sauce
- ½ Chopped Green Pepper
- Canadian Bacon
- Small Can of Pineapple
1. Split all of the ingredients into 2 sets of bowls and place a set at each end of the table.
2. Give each little chef a plate with an English muffin (or other crust option).
3. Let them go to work creating a little pizza.
4. Bake until done (until the cheese is lightly browned).
Blindfolded Taste Test (Team Activity)
Object: Each little chef should identify three mystery foods while blindfolded. I have seen this one on the “Top Chef” show and it’s always entertaining!
- 2 Blindfolds
- 24 “Mystery Bites” (This can be anything you have on hand. I recommend using the ingredients that you already have for the party. Examples: Pineapple, pepperoni, marshmallows, cheese, strawberries, yogurt.)
1. Divide into teams.
2. Blindfold the first little chef on each team.
3. One at a time, give each little chef a mystery food and let them guess what it is.
4. Each food identified correctly earn the chef a point for his/her team.
5. Repeat this round three times and then move to the next round of little chefs.
6. The team with the most points wins!
Cupcake Decorating (Individual Activity)
Time: 10 Minutes
Object: Turn a cupcake into a masterpiece.
- Cupcakes with White Frosting (homemade or store bought)
- Any Other Toppings (marshmallows, crushed cookies, candies, etc.)
1. Place a cupcake in front of each little chef and let them decorate until their masterpieces are complete.
2. Eat and enjoy!
Tara Odebrecht is the brains behind Shindig Diva, a boutique event planning business serving the Twin Cities area. Her specialties include outrageous kid parties and signature sweet stations.
Your turn: What are some of your favorite, low-cost and easy themes for birthday parties? How do you pull them off?