Birthdays from A to Z

Kid Craft: Cute Paper Animal Heads
Your guide to everything party begins here!
Amy Mikler
Amy Mikler

A is for Age

Using numbers, celebrate your child's year with one of these tips from Parents' Facebook fans.

My son always wears a T-shirt on his birthday with his new age. --Renata Nathalia

Every year we cut out numbers of the age our daughter is turning and make a trail through the house. When she wakes up, she follows the path to birthday treats at the end. --Dena Cohen

My parents always made sugar cookies shaped like the number we turned each year. I've continued the tradition for my own children. --Krista Davis

Jeffrey Westbrook
Jeffrey Westbrook

B is for Balloon Animals

You don't need to be a skilled magician to twist up an inflatable critter kids will go wild for. Go to balloon-animals.com to learn how to make them faster than you can say abracadabra.

Jennifer Causey
Jennifer Causey

C is for Cupcake Toppers

Dress up your dessert with these festive store-bought and DIY options.

Flag Day Fold washi tape over string and trim to make a tiny garland. Tie each end to a toothpick.

Making Waves These felt fish create a real splash.

Up, Up, and Away Tie lollipops with baker's twine to make a balloon cluster.

Flower Power Wrap fringed streamers around a toothpick to showcase a lovely birthday bloom.

Add a special touch to a homemade or store-bought birthday cake. These quick cake toppers are easy to make and sure to be a hit.

Jennifer Causey
Jennifer Causey

D is for Downloadable Invites

Visit parents.com/invites for these and more free birthday invitations. Add your info and print to mail or attach to an e-mail.

Jennifer Causey
Jennifer Causey

E is for Eat Your Words

Personalize your tot's party with tasty treats in the shape of their first initial. Use small and large letter cookie cutters to create classic cut-outs, dainty linzer sandwiches, or blondie-brownie blocks. A simple alphabet mold makes milk chocolates in a snap, and a clean rubber stamp used with Wilton gel food-coloring "ink" adds a creative touch to simple iced cookies.

Amy Mikler
Amy Mikler

F is for Fiesta

Feliz cumpleanos! Celebrate your child's big day with Mexican-inspired d?cor, games, crafts, and food.

Jennifer Causey
Jennifer Causey

G is for Gift Wrap

Skip the ribbons and bows. Make presents playful with these three super-fun ideas:

Sweet Surprise Top gifts with cupcakes made from mini liners and pom-poms.

Easy Street Create a road using black and white tape, then stick a few Matchbox cars in the lanes with removable adhesive putty.

Darling Decorations Cover a gift box in colorful party supplies like streamers and confetti.

Tara Donne
Tara Donne

H is for House Rules

These tips will help things run smoothly so that parents can relax and enjoy the party too.

Safety First Plan ahead to make sure the activities and favors are age-appropriate. For example, steer clear of crafts with small pieces for children under 4. If the party is outdoors, stock up on sunscreen and keep a first-aid kit on hand.

Name Dropper As kids enter the party, let them decorate a name tag. It will help eliminate any confusion.

Helping Hands The party doesn't have to be a one-woman show: Close friends and family can pitch in to cut cake, run games, and pass out favors.

Jennifer Causey
Jennifer Causey

I is for Iron-On Transfers

Make custom party decorations, wearables, and favors that won't end up in the garbage. To make this garland, download the template, print on transfer paper, then iron onto white felt to reuse year after year.

Amy Mikler
Amy Mikler

J is for Juice-Box Makeover

Set out a table of craft supplies to make adorable puppets as a party craft.

What you'll need Juice box, paintbrush, paint, X-acto knife, dried beans or a bell (optional), tongue depressor, glue, craft paper, scissors, felt, buttons, yarn, paper punch, 4" doily, ribbon, pom-poms

Make it:
1. Paint empty juice box and let dry.
2. Cut a slit in the bottom with X-acto knife (adults) and insert beans or bell (optional). Then insert tongue depressor. Add a dab of glue to hold in place.
3. To make hair, cut 3 craft-paper rectangles: 2 that match the sides of the box and one that matches the front. Cut narrow slits in paper to fringe, leaving about ?" to 1" uncut, and curl with a scissor.
4. Glue to front and sides of box; trim bangs.
5. Cut 2 circles for each eye from felt or craft paper. (Use quarter and nickel to trace.) Stack small one on top of larger one and glue. Then glue small black button on top. Cut a crescent moon from felt or paper and glue as eyelid. Glue eyes just under bangs.
6. Cut 2 pink circles from felt or craft paper as cheeks, and glue either end of a 2" length of yarn to each as mouth. Glue to face just under the eyes.
7. Use a paper punch or just cut a fun shape and glue to top corner of box as a hair accessory.
8. Cut a slit in doily and glue where the box meets the tongue depressor. Add ribbon loops and pompoms to decorate collar.

Kids can quickly transform a cardboard ring box into a finger dancing puppet.

Aimee Herring
Aimee Herring

K is for Kraft Paper

Here are a few uses for this all-purpose party staple.

Table topper Cover your crafting station or buffet. Supply crayons for doodling.

Perfect presents It makes the best blank slate for DIY gift wrap. Stencil it, paint it, stamp it!

Art stars Paper a wall and have the kids go wild with mom-approved graffiti.

Flickr/Getty
Flickr/Getty

L is for Let the Games Begin

Try a unique spin on a classic party activity for either indoor or outdoor f?tes.

"Simon Says" Get the birthday boy to lead the game by using his name instead of "Simon."

Hopscotch Label each square with a category, and each time a child lands on that square, she has to say a word that corresponds to the topic.

Pin the Tail on the Donkey Write all the guests' names on a piece of poster board and let them study it. Then blindfold the players and have them try to tag their name with a sticker.

Musical Chairs Replace the chairs with squares of paper and mark the underside of one with a star. Whoever lands on the starred space in each round gets a prize. Be sure not to take that one away!

Amy Mikler
Amy Mikler

M is for Mocktails

Serve fruity, mixed drinks in acrylic cups with festive drink garnishes.

Tropical Slushie
Ingredients:

2 parts orange juice
1 part pineapple juice
1 part iceMake it:
Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree.

Curly Temple
Ingredients

1 part ginger ale
1 part cranberry juice
Crushed ice
Orange curlsMake it:
Combine ginger ale and cranberry juice. Pour over crushed ice and garnish with orange curls.

Strawberry-Kiwi Spritzer
Ingredients

Peeled and chopped kiwis
Strawberry seltzer
StrawberriesMake it
Fill short glasses 1/3 full with the chopped kiwi. Pour in strawberry seltzer. Garnish with a whole strawberry.

Ring in the new year as a family with these festive drink recipes and crafty stirrers.

Amy Mikler
Amy Mikler

N is for Nautical

All aboard for this seafaring birthday party!

Jennifer Causey
Jennifer Causey

O is for Oh, Goody!

These fun favors will keep kids entertained long after the party's over.

1. Assorted temporary tattoos, $5 for 12; weegallery.com
2. Custom fortune cookie, $2; beau-coup.com
3. Watercolor paint set, $6 for 12; partycity.com
4. Dinosaur bookmarks, $3 for 12; sears.com
5. Star sunglasses, $4 for ten; partycity.com
6. Jigsaw-puzzle sidewalk chalk, $18 for 12; etsy.com/shop/abathshoppe
7. Lightbulb pencil sharpener, $7 for 12; ustoy.com
8. Golf bouncing balls, $7 for 12; orientaltrading.com
9. Mini Magic 8 balls, $5 for four; shindigz.com
10. Titta Djur finger puppets, $5 for ten; ikea.com
11. Colored pencil set (similar to shown), $3; shopsweetlulu.com
12. Laser smile-face stickers, $3 for 100; orientaltrading.com
13. Star crayon (similar to shown), $7 for five; etsy.com/shop/ChiclilHippo
14. Etch A Sketch, $4 for two; partycity.com
15. Wooden travel games, $13 for 12; partypalooza.com

Tetra Images/Getty
Tetra Images/Getty

P is for Photo Tips

Get share-worthy photos with these simple pointers.

Forget cheese Have your subjects say a word that starts with M -- like milkshake or monkey -- to get a great smile.

Shutterbug Ask a friend to play the role of party photographer to ensure that Mom and Dad get into some of the shots.

Make Lasting Memories After the guests are gone and the squeals have died down, snap a post-party shot of your child.

Jennifer Causey
Jennifer Causey

Q is for Quick Cakes

Impress your guests with our creative candy decorations -- all completely doable in less than 30 minutes!

Parents' food editor Erica Clark demonstrates three easy ways to decorate birthday cakes.

Amy Mikler
Amy Mikler

R is for Rocks

Don't you love it when Mother Nature gives you a free craft supply? Here are some ideas for using rocks in party d?cor and crafts.

Stay Put Wrap colorful yarn around a palm-size stone to use as a napkin, balloon, or blanket weight when partying outside.

Stand Tall Use easy-to-bend wire to make a photo holder for your child's first birthday party. Glue pebbles to the bottom of the larger rock to make it level.

Melt Away Place flat rocks on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Have kids put crayon shavings made with a pencil sharpener on top. Pop in oven at 300?F for 2 minutes. Let cool for 30 minutes.

Amy Mikler
Amy Mikler

S is for Sign Here

Parents' Facebook fan Shauna Heil shared this great idea: Have party guests write their name on a pillowcase or solid-colored sheets using fabric markers. The birthday child will have something to remember her special day for years to come.

Jason Donnelly
Jason Donnelly

T is for Toppings

Instead of sticking to a single dish and hoping for the best, pick a crowd-pleasing base and turn a party meal into a make-your-own adventure.

Try a waffle bar with fresh fruits, flavored syrups, and jams for a birthday brunch.

Set up a baked-potato station with classic additions (shredded cheese, fresh salsa, scallions, sour cream, etc.) for a customized lunch.

Jennifer Causey
Jennifer Causey

U is for Upcycle

Newspapers, bottle caps, soup cans -- trash you say? Think again. Do a craft at your next party using items from the recycling bin.

What you'll need Bubble wrap, yellow food box (Cheerios, Wheat Thins, etc), pencil, scissors, tacky glue, 15- to 20-ounce plastic drink bottle (empty and clean), black and yellow masking tape, googly eyes, 1 large paper clip, 2 yellow pompoms

Make it:
1. Cut 4 teardrop shapes from bubble wrap (2) and food box (2), about 2" wide by 3" long.
2. Glue the points to sides of bottle, about a third of the way down, layering the bubble wrap on top of the cereal box.
3. Apply black tape over glued area, wrapping all the way around the bottle. Apply yellow tape next and alternate until you reach the bottom.
4. Cover lid with yellow tape and glue googly eyes on top.
5. Unfold paper clip and bend in half. Glue pom-poms to the points and glue folded point just under bottle's spout.

Parents' Lifestyle Director Amanda Kingloff shows how to upcycle a plastic drink bottle into a cute bumblebee craft.

Heather Weston
Heather Weston

V is for Video Diary

Record an annual interview with your child on her birthday. Ask the same set of questions every year and you'll see how her answers change over time.

Here are a few to get you started:

What do you want to be when you grow up?

What's your birthday wish?

At what age is a person a grown-up?

What is your perfect day?

Blaine Moats
Blaine Moats

W is for Ways to Save

Throw a budget-friendly party by visiting these websites for deals exclusive to Parents readers through May 31, 2012.

Invites
Get 15% off products at tinyprints.com with code PARENTS15.

Decorations
Throw your next party with an easy kit. Go to birthdayinabox.com/parents to get 20% off orders of $30 or more.

Desserts
Serve allergy-free treats from divvies.com and save 20% with code PARENTS20.

Photo books
Design an 8"?8" memoir of your party at shutterfly.com. Get 10% off with code PHOTOBOOK10.

Banners
Visit shindigz.com/parents to order a $15 personalized birthday banner for only $5!

Celebrating a board game lover's birthday? Our Winning Birthday Cake video shows you how to create an edible game board of your own.

Jennifer Causey
Jennifer Causey

X is for Xmas Lights

Add a little twinkle to your d?cor by dressing up string lights. Punch a 1 1/2" and a 3" flower shape out of scrapbook papers and glue together. Once dry, cut a slit into the center and make three holes in the middle with a hole punch. Slide around the base of the lightbulb.

Jennifer Causey
Jennifer Causey

Y is for Year after Year

Add traditions to an annual birthday bash with some of these sweet ideas from Parents' Facebook fans.

Good Morning We decorate the birthday child's chair and put candles in their breakfast. --Debra Baca

Photo Booth Every year, we take a picture of my daughter with her favorite stuffed animal, a sock monkey. It's a cute way to document how much she grows. --Rebecca Brown Wright

Garlands Galore I order a banner for my son's birthday each year, and when he turns 18 I'm going to string all of them up -- starting with the one that welcomed him home from the hospital. --Tiffany Wilson Smith

Jennifer Causey
Jennifer Causey

Z is for Zoo

Turn your kids and their friends into party animals at this bash for tykes of all ages.

Originally published in the May 2012 issue of Parents magazine.

Directions for making adorable painted animal heads from paper and pom-poms.

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