Our no-stress party guide is packed with groovy goody bags, way-cool crafts, and easy cakes every busy mom can make.

Pretty Pretty Poodles Birthday Party
Credit: Jason Todd

Pretty Pretty Poodles

Your little girl and her pals will love dressing up as fancy French poodles.


A paw-printed doghouse gives the scoop on your poochy-keen bash.

What you'll need: Computer, color printer, doghouse template (below), two sheets of pink card stock (one light and one dark), paw-print rubber stamp, ink pad, ribbon, glue stick, scissors, pencil

Pretty Pretty Poodles Birthday Invitation
Credit: Jason Todd

Make it: Type up invitation details on your computer and print out on the light pink card stock. Enlarge the door and house templates as directed and cut out both. Trace the door around the printed text and cut out. Trace the doghouse template onto dark pink card stock; cut out.

Glue the door onto the front of the house and stamp on a few paw prints. Cut a length of ribbon, tie into a bow, and glue onto the front of the house.


As your guests arrive, pass out homemade poodle-ear headbands, and have the guests paint on noses and whiskers. Every glam dog needs a collar and cuffs, so let the girls decorate strips of pink felt and craft foam with jewels and pom-poms.

Poodle Cuffs

What you'll need: One 9-x-12-inch sheet of felt for each set of cuffs, craft glue, rhinestones, pom-poms, scissors, sticky-back Velcro coins

Pretty Pretty Poodles Goody Bag
Credit: Jason Todd

Make it: Run a line of glue around the edge of the entire piece of felt. Fold the long edges in, lengthwise, so they meet in the middle. Press down firmly to secure. Cut along the seam where the felt edges meet, making two double-layer cuffs. When guests arrive, have them glue on pom-poms and rhinestones. Apply sticky-back Velcro coins to cuff ends to close.

Poodle Collars

What you'll need: 9-x-12-inch sheets of pink craft foam, scissors, ruler, pencil, rhinestones, foam shapes, craft glue, 1/8-inch hole punch, key tags, mini alphabet stamps, ink pad, markers, sticky-back Velcro coins

Girls at Pretty Pretty Poodles Birthday Party
Credit: Jason Todd

Make it: For each collar, cut a 1-1/2-x-12-inch strip of foam. Punch a hole at the bottom center of each strip, and thread a key tag through the hole. When guests arrive, have them glue on rhinestones and foam shapes. Then, have them write out their names on the key tags, using stamps or markers. Apply sticky-back Velcro coins to collar ends to close.

Poodle Ears

What you'll need: Poodle-ear template (below), plain headband, pink and white boucle yarn, felt, ribbon, fabric glue, scissors, pencil

Girls Making Crafts at Pretty Pretty Poodles Birthday Party
Credit: Jason Todd

Make it: Glue an end of a piece of yarn to the bottom of one end of headband; let it dry. Wrap yarn around headband in a single layer; glue loose end to the other side. Glue another end of yarn to the middle of headband and wrap around, layering the yarn more in the center than on sides. Glue loose end to headband to secure. Enlarge the poodle-ear template as directed and cut out. Trace ears onto felt twice; cut out. Glue yarn to the bottom front of each ear, making small loops as you go, covering half of the ear. Then, glue one ear to each side of the headband. Make two bows from ribbon, and glue one to the top of each ear.

Pretty Pretty Poodles Cupcakes
Credit: Jason Todd


Fluffy, mini-marshmallow-covered cupcakes are doggone delicious. Love the ears? They're made from marshmallow peanuts.

1 box cake mix (18.25 oz.)

2 cans (12 oz. each) whipped vanilla frosting

Pink icing color

24 pink marshmallow peanuts

Mini pink marshmallows

1 tube brown decorating icing

Red Hot candies

1. Prepare cake mix according to directions for 16 standard cupcakes and 16 mini cupcakes, using paper liners. Bake mini cupcakes 15 to 20 minutes and standard cupcakes for 25 to 28 minutes. Let cool completely.

2. Combine cans of frosting and tint pink. Frost all cupcakes. Cut 16 of the marshmallow peanuts in half lengthwise. Cut remaining 8 marshmallow peanuts in half crosswise, and shape into cones for noses. Place one cone shape close to edge of each mini cupcake. Arrange lengthwise marshmallow halves on either side of the mini cupcakes for ears. Cut mini marshmallows in half and arrange around peanut marshmallows. Pipe two eyes, using tubed icing; attach Red Hot at tip of each nose, using pink frosting. Place mini cupcakes on their sides on top of larger cupcakes. Fill in puppy bodies with cut mini marshmallows.

Kids Finger-painting at Birthday Party
Credit: Jason Todd

Let's Get Messy!

This party is all about getting your hands dirty, so finger-painting is the perfect activity.


A colorful invitation covered in your child's handprints has fun written all over it.

What you'll need: Computer, color printer, washable paint, paintbrush, white paper, colored card stock, scissors, glue stick

Let's Get Messy Birthday Party Invitation
Credit: Jason Todd

Make it: For each invitation, cut a piece of white paper into a 5-inch square. Brush a thin layer of paint onto your child's palm and have him make handprints on the white paper. While prints are drying, cut a piece of colored card stock into a 5-1/2-inch square. Once paper with handprints is dry, glue it onto the card stock. Type up invite details on your computer and print out. Cut the text into a smaller square and glue onto paper with handprints.


Sure, finger-painting makes a mess, but preschoolers just love it! Our advice: Host this party outside. (Have oversize T-shirts on hand to use as smocks.) Set up an art easel, lay out cups of paint, and cover a few tables with huge pieces of paper. Then let the fun begin.

Goody Bag

Cleanup time! Wrap up soaps, bubble bath, and other goodies in a hand towel for kids to take home.

Finger-painting Kit
Credit: Jason Todd

What you'll need: Hand towel, ribbon, scissors, favors such as soap, bubble bath, and rubber ducks

Make it: Unfold hand towel and lay flat. Pile favors in the middle of the towel and fold the long sides in, over the favors. Bring the shorter ends of the towel in toward the middle, gather together, and tie with ribbon.

Modern Art Cake
Credit: Jason Todd


Use dribbles and splatters of colored icing to transform a plain cake into a work of modern art.

1 box cake mix (18.25 oz.)

1 can (16 oz.) vanilla frosting

1 can (12 oz.) whipped vanilla frosting

Blue, green, pink, purple, and yellow icing colors

1. Prepare cake mix according to directions for two 8-inch round cakes. Frost entire cake with vanilla frosting.

2. Divide whipped frosting among 5 bowls. Color each with an icing color. Transfer to resealable plastic bags. Microwave 10 seconds or until just warmed. Cut off one corner of bag and shake over cake in a random pattern. Repeat with remaining colors.

Kids Celebrating Pirate Birthday Bash
Credit: Jason Todd

Pirate Bash

Aye, aye, matey! Send pint-size buccaneers on a hunt for buried treasure.

Pirate Bash Birthday Party Invitation
Credit: Jason Todd


Create an invitation written in secret pirate's code (backwards), and instruct guests to hold it up to the mirror to read.

What you'll need: Computer, color printer, parchment-style paper, scissors

Make it: Open a new document on your computer. At the top, type the instructions: "Hold up to a mirror to decode the secret message." Save the file, and print out text. Then, return that same paper to the printer tray (you'll use it to print the rest of the invite). Re-open the document and type the rest of your invite details below your instructions line. Then, delete that first line. Choose "Mirror" or "Flip Horizontal" image from your printing menu, and print your invitation. You'll see the invite text printed backwards. Trim the invitation to a 5-inch size.


Send them on a treasure hunt, but first, make sure they're prepared. Pass out pirate hats, eye patches, and mini magnifying glasses. Clever clues lead kids to prizes along the way (like gold chocolate coins) until they find the ultimate treasure chest.

Treasure Hunt Clues
Credit: Jason Todd

Treasure-Hunt Clues

What you'll need: Computer, color printer, skull-and-crossbones clip art, parchment-style paper, scissors, twine

Make it: Open a new document in your word-processing program and insert your clip art at the top of the page. Type up clues on the page (print them backwards if you want to slow the kids down some). Print out, roll up, and tie with twine.

Tips: 1. If you type the clues backwards, make sure you give guests a mirror. 2. Type up different clues on separate lists so that not all children are looking for the same prize.

Goody Bag

The payoff is huge when they uncover a pirate's chest filled with all sorts of loot. Pass out party bags so your guests can load up!

What you'll need: Large plastic treasure chest, sheets of newspaper, pirate-themed favors and stickers, party bags

Make it: Fill a large plastic treasure chest with crumpled newspaper about halfway up. Then, fill with favors such as gold chocolate coins, temporary tattoos, eye patches, and other goodies. Give each guest a small paper bag to fill with favors. Seal bags with stickers.

Pirate Ship Cake
Credit: Jason Todd


Your crew will be blown away by this pirate ship that's surprisingly simple to prepare.

2 boxes cake mix (18.25 oz. each)

2 cans (16 oz. each) milk-chocolate buttercream frosting

1 can (12 oz.) whipped vanilla frosting, divided

Blue, red, and yellow icing colors

3 black licorice twists

1 small bag of square-grid pretzels, such as Snaps

1 each round cookie and pretzel rod

2 chopsticks

Paper for sails

1. Bake two 9-x-13-inch cakes according to directions. Let cakes cool completely. Place one cake on serving platter. Cut a 2-1/2-inch slice from one short end of the second cake. Cut the remaining piece of the second cake in half horizontally.

2. Using chocolate frosting, attach small cake piece to the end of the large cake on the platter (see photo above). Using chocolate frosting, attach 2 large pieces of cake on top of each end of base cake. With a serrated knife, cut step from top layer of back end of ship to create third level of ship (see photo). With cake layers assembled, cut boat shape using our template below as a guide. Frost entire cake with chocolate buttercream. Using a small fork, gently score the entire cake with wavy lines to simulate wood.

3. Divide vanilla frosting among 3 bowls. Tint one blue, one red, and one yellow. Place blue frosting in a piping bag fitted with a ribbon tip, and place red and yellow frostings in bags fitted with plain tips. Pipe blue trim around entire upper edge of ship, then pipe red frosting underneath the blue. Cut licorice into 20 lengths. Insert licorice pieces into sides of ship for cannons. Pipe half circles of yellow frosting over cannons. Pipe yellow windows across the stern and around the back of ship. Pipe yellow curlicue designs on bow of ship and decorate with red dots of frosting.

4. Using a serrated knife, gently cut pretzels in half. Place pretzels around bow and stern for railings. Using chocolate frosting, pipe the captain's wheel on the round cookie. Attach wheel to pretzel rod with chocolate frosting and insert in cake near bow.

5. To make sails, download our templates. Print them, then cut out; use chopsticks to mount them on cake.

Copyright ? 2006. Reprinted with permission from the May 2006 issue of Parents magazine.

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