My little A turned 4 last year, and she told me she wanted a Ladybug Birthday Party!
I started checking Pinterest for ideas right away, and believe me, this is a very popular party theme for little girls! There are loads of ideas out there, so it’s not so much a matter of figuring out what to do; it’s a matter of choosing which ideas you like best. And, of course, which ones fit your budget!
I’ve discovered that there are two ways to spend money on a kid’s birthday party. One is that you take all of the guests to some sort of fun place, paying for tickets, a party room rental, and food. The other is that you stay at home, make your own food and decorations, and come up with party games to play. Both cost about the same, but I much prefer the latter!
We pretty much always do two parties for our kids. One is for family members who live nearby; and the other is with friends from school, church, and/or the neighbourhood. I figured that if we did the same theme for both parties, we’d really be getting our money’s worth on the decorations!
I love testing my creativity to see what I can come up with. My original plan was to make a bunch of those fluffy tissue paper pom-poms, but when I saw these small paper lanterns while standing in the checkout line at Michaels, I knew right away that I could use the red ones to make cute little ladybugs – for less work than pom-poms!
Now red and black isn’t exactly the most feminine colour scheme, nor one usually associated with young children, so I chose the lime green to freshen it up.
I used black cardstock for the heads and spots on the ladybugs, white cardstock for the smiling mouths, black pipe cleaners for the antennae, and the second-biggest googly eyes I could find. Big eyes = extra cute.
I already owned this green pitcher, and it was perfect for holding a bunch of red Gerber daisies! (Little A was admiring the decorations before the party started.)
This is the ladybug cake I made for the family party!
I put the cake on a wooden board that I didn’t have time to seal (hence the plastic wrap), and used my faux boxwood mats to form a table runner. Michaels had the cute little wooden ladybug cut-outs – already painted, and extremely cheap!
I baked the cake in a metal bowl to get the necessary domed shape (two bowls really: one for the body and one for the head), and then iced it with buttercream frosting. Red and black are the two most difficult colours to dye icing, but thanks to the cake decorating classes I had been taking, I knew what to use: Gel dyes! One brand is Wilton, and it’s sold at Michaels. An even better brand is Americolor, but I can only find it online.
I really wanted the icing to be totally smooth and shiny, like a real ladybug. You can achieve that effect by using fondant, but I dislike the taste and texture of fondant, and I hadn’t learned how to use it yet, either! Here’s what I did: I got the buttercream as smooth as I could with a spatula, and then I pressed red and black sprinkles into it with my hands. You have to press the sprinkles in as soon as you are finished putting the buttercream on, or it will form a crust and the sprinkles won’t want to stick very well.
I made the spots perfectly round with. . . an empty toilet paper roll! I gently pressed it into the red frosting so that it made a circle shape, scooped out the frosting inside the circle, filled it back in with black frosting, and then pressed the black sprinkles on.
I used black licorice for the antennae (stuck on bamboo skewers to keep them straight), and two more googly eyes. If I had known how to work with fondant, I would have used black and white fondant to make eyes and stick them on. Or maybe I wouldn’t have, since googly eyes are a LOT cheaper than packages of fondant. I would have used it for the mouth though. I forgot to save some undyed buttercream for a white smiling mouth, so I tried using some white sparkle gel that I had.
It. . . didn’t really work. As you can see, the gel didn’t stick to the sprinkles, so the smile started to droop almost immediately. Pretty soon my cute little ladybug cake looked rabid (which was actually kind of funny), so I just wiped the gel away. At least everyone got a good laugh out of my mistake!
If you’re going to use the covered-in-sprinkles technique to get smooth icing, be aware that it makes the cake VERY sweet! I’d definitely recommend lemon cake underneath, with lemon juice in the frosting as well.
I have a lactose-intolerant member of my family, as well as a couple of people who don’t like cake (weirdos), so I also made these ladybug Jello cut-outs. I added the details with black sparkle gel, and it worked this time!
On to the friend party. . .
These are the invitations I made. I only had to make two of them, so I didn’t mind (too much) how tedious it was to cut out the grass from the green paper. . . The little ladybugs are metal brads that I found at Michales (Recollections brand). I love the tiny googly eyes. After I had attached the ladybug brads, I drew little lines to make it look like they were crawling on the invitations. So cute!
(And as it turned out, we did have to move the party to the next day because of bad weather.)
Speaking of cute, how adorable are my two Ladybugs?? I made the red tutus, and ended up wishing I’d made one for myself as well. There’s just something about all that tulle rustling and swooshing around you. . . Someday! (And no, I am not crazy enough to go to all that time and expense for one party. Even though I got the tulle on sale for 50% off, it still adds up when you have to buy several meters! J and A wore the same tutus several times for Christmas things, and they might even be able to wear them next Christmas, too.)
All of the kids at the party got ladybug headbands, though the two boys refused to wear them. I just bought some black plastic hairbands on EBay, twisted the black pipe cleaners on (curled by wrapping them around a pencil), and hot glued little red pom-poms on the ends. Easy, cheap, and totally adorable!
This is the little kid’s lunch table. The table is actually one that my Grandpa made years ago. He was a welder, and he made a lot of metal furniture in his spare time. I inherited this table when my grandparents sold their acreage. I scraped off the peeling white paint and repainted it black (with rust-proof paint, because it was VERY rusty). Black goes with everything!
I bought the red plates at a dollar store, already had the spoons, and don’t remember where I got the green polka-dot napkins. It is totally necessary to weigh paper things down with rocks when eating outside. The slightest breeze makes everything go flying!
Fooooooooood! I found most of these ideas on Pinterest. As you can see, I reused the paper lanterns from the family party, as well as the faux boxwood mats and the wood plank. I also already had the green food domes for keeping flies off of food. The red tablecloth was a vinyl cheapie from the dollar store, which I normally refuse to buy, but I had need of it this time.
You can’t really have a party without colour-coordinated paper straws these days (apparently), and I LOVE my beverage dispenser! I always use it to hold water at parties, or in this case, “Fresh Dew Water.” There was also “Ladybug Juice” and “Aphid Juice,” but the kids drank almost all of those before I could get a picture. Oh well!
The Ladybug Pizzas were quite easy! The ‘crust’ was just mini Naan bread circles, and then we topped them with mozzarella cheese, sliced tomatoes, and olives. I hated olives when I was a kid, but all of our guests gobbled these up.
If you want to make Ladybug Pizzas and you’re loading the cheese on (like we did), be aware that the tomato slices will slide a fair bit during the baking process. You can start with them together, and they will naturally open like ladybug wings. Handy! You do have to make sure they’re firmly stuck in the whole olive “heads” though (you cut a slit in the olive and insert the tomato slices), or they might just slide completely off.
The Fresh Flower Slices are obviously just cucumber slices, cut into flower shapes with a cutter I already had (if you want to buy them, it’s a set of 3 different sizes sold at Michaels as fondant cutters).
It’s a giant ladybug made out of blueberries and strawberries! The kids devoured this, as well as some watermelon slices we had out. It was, after all, a beautiful summer day!
These Ladybug Garden Treats ended up being more work than cupcakes!
I bought twelve little terra cotta pots, and attempted to paint them lime green. It took FIVE coats to reach opacity! Craft paint is total crap, apparently. I also should have primed the pots first. . . but still!
Terra cotta pots have little holes in the bottom (drainage for plants), so you can’t just put food in them without it leaking out. I lined the insides with parchment paper tulip cups (named for the shape, PaperChef brand), and then basically made Worms ‘N’ Dirt. I filled said cups with chocolate pudding, added some gummy worms, and topped the pudding with oreo cookie crumbs. Then I piped on a few leaves in green buttercream icing to look like plants, and added some royal icing ladybugs that I had made to each one. They had to be made three days ahead of time in order to dry fully, and were really quite tedious. Oh yeah – I also found those adorable white picket fence cupcake thingies at Michaels, and I knew they’d be just perfect!
So the desserts turned out really cute, but I don’t think I’d do them again. Like I said, cupcakes would have been easier, even with the same toppings.
If you are as crazy as I am, and want to do such a work-intensive dessert for small children who don’t really care how cute it looks, be aware that you can’t make the pudding with gummy worms the night before. The gummy worms will absorb impossible amounts of moisture from the pudding and grow really quite huge. It’s just weird!
Another ridiculously tedious thing that I did was to paint about a hundred red glass blobs to look like ladybugs. You have to use glass paint, and you have to bake them in your oven, but it worked!
Before the party started, I made C and J go all around our yard, putting these little guys everywhere. Then, while I cleaned up all of the lunch stuff, the kids went on a ladybug hunt! It was the perfect thing to keep them occupied while I was busy, which I hadn’t even planned. Don’t you love it when stuff works out like that? I guess all that work paid off after all.
After the ladybug hunt (which lasted exactly as long as I needed it to), we made bracelets! Okay, the girls did. The boys were allowed to, but they left to go jump on the trampoline.
I had found the cute wooden ladybug beads on EBay, and the coordinating lime green ones on Etsy. They were the perfect size for little fingers to grab, and had large holes for easy threading. It was great! My daughter J made the one in the pic above.
After the bracelet-making, we did some paintings on dollar store canvas boards. I chose tempera paint for its fast-drying properties, and I’m sure the hot sun that day helped. Everyone’s painting was dry when it was time to go! (And this was what I needed that vinyl tablecloth for. No worries about paint on my wood patio table!)
After the painting activity, it was time to go home. But not without treat bags! I bought lime green gift bags at the dollar store and glued on a piece of white cardstock and another wooden ladybug cut-out. I filled them with themed treats, and added a bit of red tissue paper on top because they needed more red.
There were some different items for the girls and the boys, so I had to be sure of which child was getting which bag. I saw these little red tags at Michaels, and thought, “Perfect!” I wrote each kid’s first initial on the tag, and that solved my problem.
Treat bag contents! Clockwise from the top: Wind-up ladybug toy (EBay), ladybug play-dough (jar: dollar store, green play-dough: homemade, wooden ladybug beads: EBay), ladybug stickers (clearance section at Michaels), sugar cookie decorated with royal icing (homemade), ladybug hair clips for the girls (Etsy), ladybug pencil and eraser (a fortuitous find at a local gift shop), ladybug soap (Etsy), and a bag of theme-coloured jellybeans (Save-On sells them in separate colours). Each kid also took home all of the glass ladybugs they had found in the ladybug hunt.
The wind-up toys actually ended up being SUPER fun! I wasn’t sure if they’d be any good, since they were very cheap, but I needn’t have worried. After you wind them up and release them, they go a few inches in a straight line, flip over, and then repeat that sequence; forming a square travel pattern on the ground. The kids loved it! Hey, I loved it! And a year later, A’s still works.
All in all, it was a super-fun party! It was the first friend party with a theme that I’ve ever done with such young kids, and I would totally do one again! The kids had lots of fun, and I don’t even remember feeling completely exhausted afterwards.
When it was all over, my sweet A looked up at me with shining eyes and said. . . “Fa-fy birfday nex year Mommy!”
Butterflies it is!
P.S. I was able to sell the ladybug lantern strings, food labels, and leftover paper straws on Kijiji afterwards. Great way to recoup some of the cost!