I recently hosted a #DisneySide @ Home Party at my house with the wee one and their friends. It never fails to amaze me how just a little bit of luck and a few activities can make even the most cynical child smile with joy and the hours fly by. Though our party was raucous as you might expect with so many children in such a small space – if only the Chicago weather would pretend spring were coming – they were all happy noises and everyone walked away happy. One of the coolest things was the very shy brother of one of Little Miss’s friends who kept pulling at his dad’s hand asking when he could come back again. That’s a successful party, no?
Knowing that I had so many children coming and limited space meant that I was sure to set up stations with various activities for the kids to do. Our Hanes t-shirts and fabric markers played beautifully into one of the first activities I wanted to get started to get the kids in the mood. Each child had a t-shirt (with cardboard inside to ensure nothing got ruined – set up ahead of time so no delays during the party), and we talked about their favorite characters.
Interestingly, not a single child pulled out any of the Disney princesses, which surprised me. There was plenty of talk about Frozen, but some of the boys brought up the Percy Jackson series and Star Wars, both of which are Disney franchises. Puffles were another favorite, as was everything frozen. As we chatted about their favorites, we brought up the traits that made them so cool, and each child drew a logo for their favorite characters – the perfect keepsake from the party.
Little Miss is all into pirates right now, so it’s no surprise that she went with Pirates versus heroes, with Captain Jack taking the day. It was fascinating to me to see how creative the kids got – and of course they were so proud of their creations!
Because we had so many children, I created another station that kids could visit at the same time. In the secret hideout under our stairs, we created the Lost Boys Fort. And since Wendy visited there – just like the kids at our parties did – and told the Lost Boys bedtime stories, we had the kids create a bedtime story, too. The first child started the story, and each subsequent child added just a bit more onto it. By the end, it was a hilarious story that everyone enjoyed listening to.
Because food is such an important part of every party – and I wanted the kids to be a part of creating what they’d eat, knowing it is all the more fun that way, we made Mickey Mouse Ear pretzels. I whipped up the dough ahead of time, so all the kids had to do was shape their own Mickey Mouse ears. We had some fun with trial and error to see what was the best way to make the ears, but in the end, they all agreed that it didn’t matter how they looked because they tasted awesome. I shared my recipe and a how to video for the Mickey Mouse ear homemade soft pretzels last week.
And yes, food was a huge part of the party. Isn’t it always? I enjoyed coming up with foods that I knew the kids would enjoy but that they might not get to eat all the time. Throw in some fun with mixing in a Disney theme to each item, and it was really well received by kids and adults alike.
Because some of the children had various allergies, I was sure to figure out items that everyone would be able to enjoy. We of course had our Mickey Mouse ear pretzels that we made together. There were also Mickey ear brownies from my classic brownies recipe, and those were dairy free. We also had 101 Dalmatian Chips – because you can’t eat just one; you need 101! There were allergen free Jungle Book inspired Banana Bread Stars of the party, as well as allergen free Mickey Says Everyone Is Welcome Chocolate Chip Cookies shaped like his hand waving. We had Captain Jack Sparrow’s Treasure Chest of Cookies, and Dumbo’s Circus Friends Animal Crackers. There was a great mix of sweet and savory so that no one had too much sugar or felt like they were missing out.
The children with allergies were suspicious that they would actually be able to eat some of the food, but I had verified allergies and checked labels with parents ahead of time, and they were beyond thrilled. So rarely do kids with allergies get to dig in with everyone else, but since Disney always takes care of us when we’re at the parks, how could I not do the same when throwing a party in their honor? After all, we have an allergy, and I get annoyed when everyone ignores her allergy when we’re in a small group month after month, year after year.
When we sat down to eat, I was shocked by how quickly the food started to disappear. I had held back some of it so the trays weren’t overfull, but I went through my reserves in a surprisingly short period of time – not that I’m complaining! With everyone eating, it gets hard when one child finishes and the rest are still gnoshing. To combat this, I read trivia questions while everyone ate. That way, even if a child had finished eating, there was a reason to stay at the table. I was happy with how successful the tactic was, and the kids had a blast with the trivia – fortunately knowing their Disney quite well!
Before everyone arrived, I made balloon Mickeys by blowing up three balloons and tying them together to make what looked like Mickey Mouse ears of varying sizes. I stuffed them all in my trusty American Tourister suitcase. Once we finished eating (and washing hands), we all trooped over and talked about Disney vacations and some of the fun things you can do there. I shared that sometimes Mickey tried to sneak home with me in my suitcase. I wouldn’t know it until I arrived home and opened my suitcase.
When I pulled out the suitcase from where I had it hidden, I expressed dismay that I was afraid Mickey might have snuck home with me. They all giggled and thought it was a hoot. Our last activity to wind everyone down after all the excitement was to watch a movie – a Disney movie, of course – but we couldn’t decide what to watch. I explained that whoever guessed how many Mickeys were hiding in my suitcase got to choose the movie. That got them thinking seriously, and it was adorable watching them debate what number to write down on the piece of paper before handing it into the upsidedown Mickey Mouse ears I was using as a jar.
As I carefully opened my suitcase, there were gasps of glee. I pulled out Mickey after Mickey, and every child wanted to take one home because they were so cool. Since only five Mickeys had snuck into my suitcase (yes, someone guessed 5 – yippee! – although another child guessed 53, oh my poor suitcase), I quickly had to make up some more Mickey Mouse ear balloons while they watched the movie. Interestingly, they chose to watch The Great Muppet Caper, one of my favorites from when I was a child – which only made us all want to go see Muppets Most Wanted when it comes to theaters next week.
By the time the movie ended and it was time to leave, I was exhausted – and I think some of the kids were, too. But that’s exactly how it was supposed to be. We had fun posing for pictures, making shirts, being creative with our writing and our cooking, and oh so much more. The wee ones were proud of the party we threw, and everyone went home happy and wanting to come hang at “the cool house” again soon.
The real proof of our success though? Not a single bite of all my lovingly prepared homemade Disney themed goodies remained. And I didn’t even get one brownie….