Three years ago I watched doctors pile my wife’s guts on the side of her abdomen while they ripped my son from her person. Each year since that precious moment I’ve watched my son grow into the mature toddler he is today.
Year one we celebrated with an indoor Yo Gabba Gabba! themed fiesta. Year two we jumped aboard his love for trains with a choo choo themed party. And this year we sounded the alarm and held a firefighter themed shindig.
It was a blast to plan and host, and if you’re thinking of planning a three-year-old’s birthday party with a firefighter slant you’re going to need a few things to pull it off.
1. A 3-year-old. While you’re certainly welcome to have a party with any random 3YO, it’s probably best (and a whole lot less awkward) if you threw a party for your own kid.
2. Location. My son is a summer baby and summer temps can be rather unforgiving. With this in mind, my wife and I opted to keep the party inside (for the most part). After looking around we decided on a local church’s multi-purpose room that had a big enough outdoor area for special firefighting activities.
3. People (with kids). Throwing a toddler’s birthday party and only inviting adults is pretty creepy so be sure to invite adults and children. And when you get ready to send out the invitations try making them yourself. I used an iPad app called Strip Designer to create the invite and my wife sent ’em to Snapfish to order prints.
4. Party supplies. We’ve accrued party supplies over the past two years that we were able to use, but we still had to get a few things from Party City. Being a firefighter party we opted for the colors red, orange, and yellow. So cups, plates, streamers, and balloons of those colors were a must. For the kids in attendance, we handed out a bag full of goodies, some Fireman Sam coloring activities, a Junior Fire Chief certificate, and a free copy of My First Fire Truck Book iBook. To cap it off, each kid got their very own kid’s firefighter chief hat. I also downloaded a few odds and ends like table tents and cupcake toppers from this site which helped make the party that much more awesome.
5. Cake. My wife made last year’s cake and wanted to make this year’s cake as well. A quick search turned up a pretty cool fire engine cake by the folks over at Betty Crocker. My wife baked the cake and set up the truck with its initial coat of red frosting, and I added the necessary details.
6. Costume. For the wee man we opted for a firefighter costume and an inflatable fire extinguisher. The costume size was a little large so my wife took a needle and thread to the overalls to make things a bit more snug (while I watched Sharknado <– WIN!).
For my costume, I cobbled together a few different items since the Googles didn’t turn up anything great. PRO TIP: Do NOT Google “men’s firefighter costume” when your toddler son is sitting on your lap thinking it’ll be fun for him to help pick one out. Seriously, don’t.
Anywho, I snagged a blank fire department cross, added some letters, created a shirt back label using Serpentine-Bold font, and printed it off on Avery T-Shirt transfer paper. With the help of my niece, I ironed the two images onto an old shirt and presto chango, I was a fireman. Quick aside, while picking up ice at the gas station before the party a customer in line started talking to me as if I was a firefighter.
Right, so, to go along with the shirt I picked up a firefighter hat and a pair of red suspenders from Party City. My costume = done.
As for my wife, she kept it simple with a lifeguard shirt to ensure all of our emergency bases were covered.
7. Music. Music is essential to a birthday bash. This year I built on the previous parties’ playlist and added a few songs and albums.
- Fireman Sam Theme song (Amazon)
- Yo Gabba Gabba! Music is Awesome
- Yo Gabba Gabba! Music Is Awesome, Vol II
- Raffi in Concert (iTunes)
- Raffi, Bananaphone (iTunes)
- TMBG, Here Come the 123s (iTunes)
8. Food. The day before the party my sister, brosef-in-law, and niece came over to get things cooking, literally. My wife and sister made cupcakes, cakes, and pizzas. And, the rest of us played Clue. The next morning, I put the final touches on the fire engine cake and iced the cupcakes while my wife baked 80 empanadas. At the party we also served a variety of kid-friendly drinks and not-so-healthy snacks.
9. Activities. Since the kids in attendance ranged in ages from 1 to 12 the activities had to be acceptable for all, and the activities had to engage them enough since kids of these ages have A LOT OF ENERGY.
Bucket Brigade. I (actually my niece) filled a kiddie pool with water and I handed out Solo cups to the kids. In theory, kids get into three lines and take water from the pool and fill bowls about 15 feet away. At my son’s party, the kids worked in teams and just ran back and forth between the pool and the bowls. No worries. They had fun and were able to play with water.
Douse the Fire. This is a great game and the kids will love it. For my son’s party, I taped orange, red, and yellow streamers to my helmet and ran around while kids threw water balloons at me. Be advised, some kids will aim for the face.
Firetruck Piñata. Kids love piñatas. And a firefighter party calls for a fire truck piñata. Normally you’re supposed to blindfold a kid, spin ’em around, and let ’em swing at the piñata. That wasn’t happening at my son’s party so each kid took a couple swings with a plastic bat until the piñata broke. Well, kind of.
When the multiple assaults on the piñata didn’t breach the seemingly indestructible fire truck, my brother-in-law helped the activity along by slicing it a few times with a pocket knife. A short time later…CANDY!
Fire Station. The main reason for choosing the location was the fire station located across the street. For the party’s final rabbit in the hat we walked over to the fire station and got a grand tour of the station, the trucks, and some equipment. The firemen were great, and the kids (and their parents) liked the tour/free-for-all.
Grand finale. While most kids had departed after the fire station visit, there were still a handful left who were eyeing the leftover water balloons. So, what better way to end a party than giving kids water balloons and turning them loose?
All in all it went well. My son spent the majority of his time working the room (and by “working the room” I mean putting out fires with his fire extinguisher and telling kids to “Stop, drop, and roll”). Glad you had a good time big guy.
Happy Birthday Tres Big Guy!
A huge thanks goes out to my sister and her family for helping set up, to my wife’s friends for their help warming the pizzas and empanadas, to Wes and Ann for their church hookup, and to all who came to celebrate my son’s third birthday.