My daughter is a huge Wizard of Oz enthusiast. She loves the film with Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale that introduced her to the book, and we have the brilliant audio book narrated by Anne Hathaway (We have yet to introduce her to ‘Return to Oz’ because that’s a terrifying film!). When her 4th birthday started looming over the horizon she decided she’d like a Wizard of Oz party. Great! I thought. That sounds fun! It was. It really was.
Planning a Wizard of Oz birthday party
Parties are fun, Wizard of Oz parties even more so! Here’s how I planned one for a 4th birthday.
In some ways it was a distinct advantage planning from the UK. There are a great deal of party products with a Wizard of Oz theme in the US, where it’s still extremely popular, but much less is readily available here. This in turn forced us to use our imaginations more and meant my daughter and I spent some fantastic quality time making things together for the party.
There's a book of Wizard of Oz crafts (available here in the UK, see side for US readers) that I could have really used, but we didn't find it until too late. Never mind. We spend many hours happily researching gingham, green and rainbow ‘things’ that could be used. We even started a pinterest board. Here are some of the more fun details that made the party theme.
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Invitations and tables and details (Oh my).
There were no Wizard of Oz invitations to be found, ready printed, in the UK at the time. Horror! Luckily Etsy and Ebay both have several great artists who will create invitations for you, or if you’re miles away they’ll very cheaply create an image for you to have printed. So we did that. It turned out just as cheap as buying mid range invitations or buying the materials to craft them ourselves, which I briefly considered. We ended up with a beautiful cartoon image of the main characters on the road to Oz, and we printed it via moo cards, so the spare invitations have made a lovely keepsake postcard for the little one.
Follow the yellow brick road.
Oz party invitation by photodesignz
Table cloths were another problem. I would have liked gingham, but wasn’t paying a small fortune for expensive ones. There are options, though. Oilcloth is relatively inexpensive, and you can buy some very cheap cotton. I went with plain pale blue paper cloths in the end. They match the coulour scheme of Dorothy's dress, and really, 3 and 4 year olds really don't care about matching gingham accessories, as it turns out. Who knew?
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This was an idea I found on Pinterest and had to try! Luckily for me my friend and neighbour from One Red Elephant is a balloon modeller so we had the equipment and the company, especially when we roped in a friend from up the road and all of our children. Quite simply blow up LOTS of balloons in rainbow colours, and as you blow up each, tie it to a thread of string to keep them organised. You can either just hang them up in the room you’re having your party in, or create an awesome arch to enter through (perhaps by attaching it to wire or the door frame). If you're really organised then you could even hire a helium tank, fill them and cut strings to the right length to create a brilliant rainbow. We didn't do that. We tied them to the stairs, as you can see, which made it a focal point. It’s a simple but very effective idea and all the kids loved it.
A word of warning on this one - it took a long time and two volunteers to blow up all the balloons. The weather is worth watching. It was highly variable that month, and several balloons popped in the heat of the sun. The day of the party we had high winds and rain, and the balloons wouldn’t fit in our small car, so I walked with them. Unable to see over them, I stepped into a huge puddle, and nearly made a beautiful, if forlorn, image as the wind tried to pick me up and carry me to Oz (or the town centre).
Totally worth it.
Yellow brick road.
There are a good number of tutorials and ideas out there for how to make a yellow brick road. I looked at most of them and dismissed them for being impractical, way too clever for me to do and likely to look daft with my skill level. Plus of course there was the problem of sourcing things in the UK that the US bloggers were enthusiastically telling me all about.
In the end I found a really simple method that was brilliant fun to carry out with a then 3 year old. We bought some sheets of BRIGHT yellow wrapping paper, which was fairly thick and slightly shiny. Next we picked up a large sponge, of the kind you use to wash cars with.
I hacked at the edges of the sponge with a pair of scissors to make it less perfectly square and we made some brown paint out of ALL the colours of paint we had in the house, or so it seemed! (Buying some would have done nicely but mixing paint is an awesome activity for a toddler or preschooler).
On a sunny day we took the lot outside and sponge printed the brown onto the yellow paper in roughly brick like formation. Voila! Yellow brick road! On the day of the party we used a little tape underneath to keep the sheets together.
Pro tip; Use one of those sock airers to hang them up to dry so they don’t touch and smear paint all over one another. Trust me on this. Try to hang where *cough* ‘people’ can’t walk by in their favourite item of clothing unless it’s washable paint. I liked that jumper.
One easy way to theme a meal is via cupcake decorations. I bought ready made cupcakes this time (There’s only so many hours in a day) but decorated them myself. we had 3 types.
* Ruby glitter cupcakes
* Poppy cupcakes
* Witch’s leg cupcakes.
I saw some wonderful melted witch cookies and cakes but they were just too frightening for some of the children attending this party. What they did enjoy though was the equally violent but somehow more humorous upturned cupcakes we made with witches’ legs sticking out from underneath. These looked like a really simple idea but took a little experimentation to get ‘right’, and as you can see from the photo some techniques worked better than others. I have the tools to have made these well from polymer clay, but it’s sadly inedible. If I were to do this again I’d rent or borrow proper tools, because making these with general kitchen equipment was tricky.
One of the most popular platters was a rainbow of fruit! Strawberries, satsuma segments, mango, grapes, blueberries make a beautifully vibrant plate, and most of it was demolished.
No Wizard of Oz party is complete without a rainbow cake! It’s a centrepiece, and often the cake is the thing children will remember, especially if they take a piece home. Ours was made for us by a friend, and it was incredible. The children loved it. The same friend also made some gorgeous mini bunting as a cake topper, which was very effective.
Costumes were optional and wide ranged. Our daughter was, of course, Dorothy, complete with gingham dress and a sparkly headband. Her costume was home made by an incredibly talented friend (Not me!) but there are some good costumes available online, too. Other children came as all kinds of things, and it was lovely to see their imaginations fuelled by the costumes. We had Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion playing on the yellow brick road with Snow White, among other people.
One of my daughter’s birthday presents was a Wizard of Oz necklace, made by Lunarrastar on Etsy. Etsy is a rich source for anything, but especially for small details and themed gifts. If you love something, there’s sure to be an etsy seller that does.
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The activities were fun to plan, and there was so much potential in adapting party games to fit the theme. Pin the tail on the lion or the heart on the tin man were suggested for instance. In the end I opted to have someone else do the games (I got a little stage fright), so in stepped One Red Elephant!
There was a puppet show with props that took up most of the time. Tracy’s props are usually deliberately made with objects the children and their parents might find at home which encourages them to experiment with storytelling and crafting in their own time. We therefor had an amazing wooden spoon Dorothy for instance.
The tornado was demonstrated with a wonderful ‘tornado in a jar’ that’s been a popular bath time activity at our house ever since. Storytelling, science and fun made for a wonderful time.
And of course we had games! The birthday girl’s very favourite thing to do is play parachute games, and the grown ups enjoyed playing too. There's usually a way to make a tenuous link between the games the birthday child wants to play and the theme.
Pro tip; Paper bags are cheaper than plastic party bags and they look like you’ve made a real effort. You can get them in bulk from ebay or amazon and in a huge range of colours. We chose Emerald City green as we felt the poor Emerald City was underrepresented. We were also lucky enough to find some great vendors who will customise themed stickers. We found ones that matched the invitations we chose, which the birthday girl had a wonderful time sticking onto the bags.
Contents included a few Wizard of Oz themed things, such as a lion postcard from Zazzle, and a slice of the amazing rainbow cake, along with the usual coloured pencils. I deeply regret adding the bouncy balls that seemed like such a good idea, and apologise unreservedly to any fellow parents reading this. Revenge at your child's party next year is beneath you - rise above it!
Possibilities for other parties
Older children, adults and the more gory minded
Certain parts of the book are quite scary for some 4 year olds (and some adults!). The winged monkeys, for instance, Though my daughter and I agree they’re nicer in the book, the popular image of them is quite terrifying. If your partygoers enjoy a little fear then toy monkeys with wings would be a great addition to decor, and some great adaptations of ‘tag’ style games could be added. If, like my wee one, they’re just too scary it’s easy enough to downplay those aspects.
The theme can easily be made more cartoony or more chic, thanks to the universal appeal of many aspects of the book. There have been beautiful Wizard of Oz themed weddings and brilliant brightly coloured parties aimed at the more raucous among us.
The party was so much fun. Many of my daughter’s friends hadn’t seen or read Wizard of Oz, but they had a great time, and who knows, perhaps we encouraged a little future book love! Maybe when she hits her Goth years I’ll help my daughter to plan a ‘return to Oz’ party. I’m looking forward to it already.