Planning a birthday celebration is a HUGE deal to a kid. Come to think of it, I know many adults that like to throw a big hoopla for their birthdays. Anyway, most times I find myself posing the question to my kids, “so what kind of birthday party do you want this year?” Sometimes, you just never know what their answer may be. It’s all about the theme, location and budget (kids are oblivious to this last part).
This year my oldest daughter wanted “A Dolphin Tale” themed party. If you don’t know the story of Winter the Dolphin, I highly recommend you head over to http://www.seewinter.com/. Winter is a very sweet dolphin who was caught in a fisherman’s net when she was very young. She washed ashore in Clearwater Florida and was rescued by the Clearwater Marine Hospital and Aquarium. The ropes were wrapped around her tail eventually causing irreversible damage resulting in her tail being amputated. A doctor with the military created a prosthetic tail for her. The movie, A Dolphin Tale, is the story of this wonderful young dolphin and her journey of adaptation to her new tail, new friends and the love and commonalities she shares with so many others who live with prosthetics. Trust me, it’s a wonderful movie! But be sure to have a box of tissues near by! Ever since my daughter saw this movie she has been slightly obsessed with Winter and all other dolphins. She has decided to become a marine biologist when she grows up! It’s a real joy to witness a child’s love and excitement for a dream!
So, I set out to first see if there were any Winter the dolphin themed party supplies, and as I figured, there are not. So I went with plan B. I came up with dolphin and ocean themed items for the party and incorporated my own hand made Winter the dolphin cake topper to adorn her two tier Topsy Turvey cake!
The Goodie Bags
The goodie bags turned out great! I was in a real panic about these. I didn’t have any marine life/dolphin items to put in them. I am in central Ohio, in the dead of winter, nowhere near a single dolphin or dolphin/marine life themed anything! It was tough. BUT I was blessed by a student who also has a daughter that once had A Dolphin Tale party. She had extra items (#’s 4,5 and 6 below) that she gladly gave to me. She had found them originally at http://www.Orientaltrading.com. She was a real blessing and I am so thankful to her!
- Ocean blue paper lunch bags (I already had them in the house)
- Seashells with a hole in them from craft store or vacations to the beach
- Twine or Raffia
- Marine life stickers
- Plastic dolphin Key Chain
- Squishy, gel ocean creatures (I have no idea what their technical name is, they are squishy and feel weird)
- A growing dolphin that you put in water
- Swedish Fish and other candies
- The growing dolphin (top picture) came from The Dollar Tree. It is a rubber like dolphin you place in water and it triples in size. Very cool, but smells disgustingly bizarre. I don’t know why or what sort of weird alien material it’s made out of but plug our nose!
- I added some candy to the bags like suckers and Swedish Fish.
- I filled the bag with all of the goodies and folded the top edge down. Then I took a hole punch and punched two holes about 1 1/2 inches apart. Then I thread the raffia through the shell and through the holes tying it in a bow. I absolutely LOVED how the bags turned out. They were simple and chic. The kids ended up taking the raffia off and wearing the shells as necklaces which was totally cool and unintentional in my goodie bag design.
Location, Location, Location
Initially we were going to have a pool party at our gym. However, the whole budget thing came into perspective and I couldn’t bring myelf to pay what they were asking for a pool party! So I instead decided to host it at my local Michael’s Craft store. Many people do not realize they offer birthday parties. It is only around $45 to reserve the room (at least in Ohio, it may be slightly different in your neck of the woods), you can bring in pizza, ice cream, cake, really any food you want. You get the room for 2 hours AND it comes with your very own party host/hostess.
If you don’t have a Michael’s craft store in your area then I encourage you to look into other craft stores or even rec centers that might be able to accommodate something like this. Days prior to your party, you will need to meet up with a store employee to discuss the craft you wish to do. They will even help you brainstorm. Next, they walk with you around the store to find items that will work for the party’s craft. Oh and did I mention no set up or clean up on mom and dad part? That’s right they do it all! So, after a lot of consideration and google searches, I came up with “oceans in a jar” a.k.a. snowglobes. They turned out really cute and the kids LOVED them!
Ocean in a Jar
- Mini food jars like baby food jars
- Distilled Water or Baby Oil
- Blue food coloring
- Small plastic ocean animals (I found a small bag of sea life animals at The Dollar Tree containing dolphins, sharks, turtles, alligators and crabs)
- A Sea Shell (the same kind tied to the goodie bags)
- Glue Gun
- First, make sure to clean out your baby food jars thoroughly. I hand washed them and put them in the dishwasher on the sanitize setting. Make sure your jars are clean and dry.
- Now, have the kids pick out which small animal they want in their ocean.
- Next, glue the sea shell into the lid of the jar. This will give your animal a base to stand on. If you don’t have a base, or something to give the animal some height, then the entire animal will not be visible in the snow globe. We found gluing a sea shell down worked great to boost it up.
- Then glue your animal onto the shell. We glued the tail of the animals down so that when it is in the jar it looks vertical or like it’s standing on it’s tail.
- Place one or two drops of food coloring into the gallon jug of distilled water. Any more than that and the water will be too dark and it will be difficult to see the animal.
- Fill the jar up just below the teeth on the top of the jar (where the lid will screw on).
- Sprinkle glitter into the jar.
- Place hot glue around the inside edge of the lid. Then screw the lid onto the jar. The hot glue will act as a seal. Be careful though, it’s easy to screw it on crooked. If this happens it can leak and the jar will not sit straight.
- Give the jar a good shake and set it on the lid!
**NOTE: I used distilled water but baby oil is a little thicker and the glitter will fall more slowly when shaken up.
The cake is always the focal point of any party or celebration. I feel an immense amount of pressure to make the cake fantastic! That’s why I started learning the art of cake decorating in the first place. I wanted to be able to give my kids really nice cakes without spending a small fortune on them. So like many others, I begin my inspiration investigation online.
There are some great cake decorating sites for experienced and beginner decorators and all of us in between. I highly recommend http://www.cakecentral.com. There are countless forums, galleries and recipes. I am also partial to http://www.wilton.com. Wilton is awesome! The Wilton site also has recipes, forums, a blog and galleries for inspiration. I used a little of this and a little of that to create my own design.
I decided to make a two tier (8 inch and 6 inch) Topsy Turvey cake. These cakes are extremely popular and with good reason. They are incredible adorable, fun and whimsical. I will go more into Topsy Turvey cake in another post, stay tuned!
I covered the cakes with vanilla butter cream then topped it with Marshmallow Fondant (stay tuned for this recipe also). I had some issues with my fondant being a little dry and my cake didn’t sit long enough in the refrigerator so it became difficult to ice and cover, totally an operators error. I was in a complete rush to get the cake done and by me rushing the process, the fondant didn’t look as smooth and the cake was more crumbly than I would have liked. But I’m still very happy with how it turned out and my daughter was excited and that’s all that mattered.
Waves, Shells and Corral
To make the decorations around the cake I used the “Seal Life” fondant and gum paste mold by Wilton. I was more than pleased with the fondant pieces that came out. I finished them off with color dust. The dust gives a life-like look and adds dimension.
Great Jumping Dolphins!
The dolphins were a bit of a challenge. I tried molding gumpaste around a plastic dolphin toy my daughter had….didn’t work. I tried to mold one by hand by using my imagination….holy disaster! So I went to where so many of us needing a visual instruction go to….Youtube! To my delight I found a video for making a gumpaste dolphin by MysticalMischief. It is incredibly easy to make and she does a wonderful job explaining it! Check it out!
I then used the same method she shows for forming the dolphin’s tail to create a white “prosthetic” tail for our Winter dolphin. Once the dolphins dried for a few days I cut bamboo skewers to the desired lengths and stuck them through the belly of the dolphin. I was then able to stick them through the top of my cake. I simply fell in love with our school of dolphins jumping on the top of our whimsical Topsy Turvey cake. All of the kids were quite amazed also. Some were a little freaked out about the fondant shells. One child asked my daughter if her mom was really going to make them eat real sea shells from the ocean. They couldn’t believe they weren’t real!
At the End of the Day
At first I was nervous about throwing my daughter A Dolphin Tale themed party as I couldn’t find A Dolphin Tale themed plates, napkins, banners etc. But I am so happy that those items aren’t out there! I LOVE how this little party turned out and the kids had a blast! Everyone had so much fun making their oceans in a jar and devouring that big cake! Plus I was able to save some money by not having the party at the gym. I was able to plan a more simple, fun and hands on party for my daughter and her guests to enjoy.
If you’ve thrown your own A Dolphin Tale party then I would love to hear your tips and tricks!