Fun and Easy Birthday Party Themes

Beach Ball Bash

The cake: Make a vanilla cake using 1 1/2 boxes of cake mix (or 1 1/2 batches of your favorite recipe). Pour mixture into a well-greased, well-floured 8- or 9-inch stainless steel oven-safe mixing bowl. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour and 15 minutes (or until the toothpick comes out clean). When the cake is done, let it cool for 20 minutes before removing it from the bowl by turning the bowl upside down and gently patting it.

Section the cake into sixths by piercing toothpicks through strands of yarn and inserting them into the top of the cake to make the boundaries clear. Divide a batch of vanilla frosting into three portions to dye different colors with food coloring. Use a small, narrow spatula and spread frosting in long downward strokes (the frosting will be easier to spread if you add a bit of hot water) in alternating sixths of the cake. Put a white gumdrop on top.

Party favor ideas: Set each kid's place with a beach bucket and shovel, with or without treats stuffed inside.

Extra touches: Spread beach towels over the back of guests' chairs for a surfside effect. Use plastic plates and glasses in primary colors.

Great advice: If your child is turning 1, the party is basically for the grown-ups. The challenge is to make sure your baby has a good time, too. She might be overwhelmed by a big crowd, be uninterested in presents (babies like the boxes and wrapping paper best), and act clingy. Don't be embarrassed if she wants to take a nap in the middle of her party.

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