This years birthday bash was all about school buses for my big 4 year old. The theme came together well with a gymnastics Tumblebus in the driveway, loads of yellow and light blue school bus decor, and a hassle-free menu.
I tried to keep the menu simple and kid friendly for this lunch-time party. The snack table was set up with strawberries, grapes, carrot & celery sticks in mini ranch cups, and Pirates Booty in yellow polka-dot treat bags.
In the kitchen, I set up another small buffet with hot foods. This was definitely a “semi-homemade” kind of party. My son loves mac and cheese, so I bought the frozen Stouffer’s kind which I baked ahead and kept warm in a nice chaffing dish to serve. Many parents asked if it was homemade because it looked so fancy in the chaffing dish. It’s all about the presentation!
Meatball Sliders and Mac & Cheese
For the main dish, we had meatball sliders with cole slaw. These could not have been simpler. My mom made the cole slaw (thanks Mom!) and I used her quick party meatball recipe, which is simply frozen meatballs baked ahead and tossed into a bath of KC Masterpiece BBQ sauce, sweetened with extra honey. The meatballs went in another chaffer (so fancy) and guests could build their own meatball slider, or have the ingredients separate. The prep was super easy, but with a little extra thought on presentation I managed to make the semi-homemade comfort foods look as if they took a lot more effort to prepare.
To drink, I offered juice, milk, and chocolate milk boxes for the kids.
For the adults, we had coffee, water, and soda. My husband and I were tempted to serve mimosas and beer, but decided we should make a good impression with the other parents since this was the first birthday party we’ve had with children from our sons pre-school. It wasn’t easy, but we managed to avoid drinking until after the party was over and only our close family and friends were left.
Ice Cream for the Birthday Boy!
My son loves ice cream, so for dessert I set up an Ice Cream Bar with all sorts of fun toppings and flavors for the kids and adults to layer up in clear cups. The set-up was very similar to the ice cream bar I created for Enzo’s Superhero Birthday Party, with Chocolate, Vanilla, & Strawberry ice cream, and toppings like marshmallows, sprinkles, and crushed Oreos.
Since our weekends are now filled with kids parties, having a reprieve from birthday cake was nice and the kids loved helping create their own layered concoctions. We had large tables set up in the backyard for the kids to sit and enjoy their lunch and ice cream which eliminated the risk of messy spills inside.
My backdrop frame made yet another appearance at this party. You can check out other parties I’ve used it for, like the Spring Baby Shower, Enzo’s Superhero Birthday Party, and DIY assembly instructions can be viewed in my Peacock Bridal Shower post.
School Bus Backdrop
For school bus inspiration, I looked online for images. I found a clip-art bus and used it as a guide to assemble my own school bus with layers of colored cardstock for a more dimensional look. The bus that I made was used for the 2 backdrop boards and the party invitations.
School Bus Garland
Instead of spending hours making dozens of buses the long way, I scanned the 1 bus that I constructed onto my computer, added the “Enzo is 4!” text over the scanned image, sized it appropriately and printed color copies on cardstock. The printed versions kept the dimensional layered look with a lot less effort. Once those were printed and cut out, I used a small hole punch at the top corners of each bus to thread the ribbon. The large “Enzo is 4!” light blue letters were also printed from my computer onto colored cardstock and cut out by hand. Those letters were tacked over the yellow chevron printed fabric using a strong double sided adhesive tape.
The blue backdrop behind the mac & cheese and meatball buffet was assembled from 2 pieces of foam board wrapped tightly with a light blue plastic party tablecloth ($2 at your local party store). I cut grey construction paper for the road, yellow washi tape for the lines, and the buses were printed as described above.
Kids go crazy over birthday party goodie bags filled with trinkets and toys. I found these yellow and light blue striped treat bags at my local party store and used a ‘Thanks’ rubber stamp on a round label sticker, and attached them to the front of each bag for a personalized touch.
Inside the bags, the kids found an alphabet ruler, bouncy-ball, fruit snacks, and a mini sketch book with crayons.
DIY SKETCH BOOK with CRAYONS
Mini Sketch Book & Crayons
I have an aversion to most things child-like, so of course I had to make my own covers for the sketch books to stick with the yellow and light blue theme, and add a bit of sophistication.
I’m sure my son would have loved the Toy Story or Monsters Inc. themed sketch books from the party store, but (let’s be real) the crafty projects are more for my benefit. I found chevron washi-tape, how could I resist?
These cute little notebooks were easy to assemble (thanks to my neighbor for volunteering in my birthday party-prep sweatshop).
Mini Sketch Book Supplies
- Mini Composition Notebooks (found these at Staples)
- Cardstock cut to the cover size and attached with double sided craft tape
- Chevron washi tape to cover the binding
- Yellow washi tape to keep the crayons together
- 8 crayons per notebook (don’t buy the cheep party store ones like I did – splurge for washable Crayola)
- Black hair bands to attach the crayons to the notebook
My son is still using his little notebook months later to write secret (illegible) messages in. I have to admit, I do cringe a bit when he draws on the cover.
To keep the mob of untamed 4 year olds entertained, we hired a kids gym on wheels from Dizzy’s Tumblebus, and they parked the 30 foot bus right in our driveway! The tumblebus is a converted school bus with a full gymnastics circuit inside designed for kids under 8. They had 2 extremely fun and professional bus attendants that led the kids in a wild gymnastics bus party!
The parents were able to kick their feet up and enjoy some quiet time while the kids wore themselves out on the tumblebus. Afterward, the birthday boy honored each child with a shiny metal during the closing ceremonies in the front yard, and they all received a round of applause from the group. I would highly recommend this activity for any kids party. Hosting a large group of 4 year olds could easily turn into a stressful situation, but the kids stayed on the bus for the entire hour and didn’t come out until it was time to get their metal. By the time the bus activities were over, it was time to have lunch, open presents, and eat ice cream!
It’s one year older for my little guy, and one more unforgettable birthday bash to go down in our family history book…