After I posted some stuff about the monkey theme party we were planning for Brynne's 2nd birthday party, I got a lot of interest in comments, independent email messages, and search engine hits. So, I thought I'd post a wrap-up of the party for anyone interested in hosting their own monkey theme party. Also see previous posts here, here, here and here for lots of great ideas in the comments from other folks.
We had the party at a city park located a couple of blocks from our house. We brought a folding table, a few chairs, and beach blankets of our own. We set up next to the playground most appropriate for toddlers, and this worked out really well so that the kids could play and eat on their own schedules. We also brought baby sunscreen and wipes because we knew these would be needed! I already posted our invitations here, but I also wanted to add that the incredible Myra agreed to share her monkey template with the world. So, here it is as a pdf. Thanks Myra!
The menu was loosely based on a Latin American theme so that I could incorporate as many bananas as possible! Here's what we ate:
- Monkey Chow - trail mix with nuts, banana chips, etc from Trader Joe's
- Banana Black Bean Empanadas (yummy!)
- Chicken Cilantro Bites - these were totally amazing!
- Mango, Jicama and Corn Salad
- Carne Asada Salad - This one I made up, and it was quite a hit! Take romaine salad mix and toss with a creamy cilantro dressing, crumbled cotija cheese (also called queso seco), and pepitas (roasted, salted pumpkin seeds). Serve alone if you have vegetarians attending, with a side of sliced carne asada for the carnivores. We used a pre-seasoned carne asada from Trader Joe's and we cooked all the meat the night before - a great time saver!
- Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey Ice Cream
- Monkey Cupcakes - I used the banana cake and chocolate buttercream recipes from The Whimsical Bakehouse (I have tried several recipes from this book, and they have all been delicious!). The banana cake was very moist, and the chocolate buttercream, although quite challenging to make, was to die for. (We used excellent quality dark chocolate for the buttercream and, although it may have cost a bit more, was definitely worth it!) I have made their buttercream a few times now, and have a few hints for anyone who would like to try it.
Here is a picture of the decorated cupcakes getting packed up to go to the park:
Decorating details: plain M&Ms for eyes, tan Necco wafers inserted into the cupcake for ears, round graham cookies (cut in half) for the muzzle, and red and black piped icing for the mouth and nostrils. The cupcakes were a huge success; Brynne used them to apply some new facial decor:
and her friend Grace was also inspired:
We played two games that we hoped were appropriate for the age group; both games worked really well and I would recommend them for two year olds. The first game was a banana bean bag toss (see this post for more details) where we timed the kids to see how long it took them to put all the bananas through the monkey's hoop. The kids had a great time; here's a picture of Aidan showing everyone how it's done:
The second game was a banana hunt. We hid finger bananas around the playground and gave each child a bag. The toddler to come back with the most bananas won. We gave out one prize to the winner of each game: a cushy monkey pillow and a bubble monkey machine.
We didn't do a lot in the way of decorations because the park didn't really need them. However, we did have an inflatable monkey and palm tree, monkey picks (we used these for the chicken cilantro bites), and balloons:
Each kid also went home with a treat bag that looked like this:
Inside each bag was a:
- Monkey Door Hanger - we assembled these with hot glue. (These came in packs of 12, but we only needed 6. If anyone is interested in 6 unassembled monkey door hangers, please email me.)
- Monkey Bath Sponge - this eBay seller was nice enough to set up a special auction for 6 sponges
- Monkey Bead Tube - these were featured in the Martha Stewart Kids spread on monkey party ideas. Each tube has painted wooded beads and thread to make a little monkey necklace or bracelet.
- Paper Balloon Monkey - we also got the wooden rod to carry these
- Sheet of Monkey Stickers
- Monkey Shrinky Dink Keychain/Zipper Pull - see this post for more detail
- Monkey Magnets - we found the pre-painted wooden monkeys at Michael's and I glued a magnet to the back. Here's what they looked like:
All in all, the party was a great success. I had lots of help from Jerry and my mom, but that certainly didn't keep me from exhausting myself! Brynne had a lot of fun and was talking about it for days afterward. It was also fun because it was the first time Brynne had her grandparents all together in the same place at the same time. Apparently our theme also rubbed off on at least one of Brynne's friends; we hear that Brynne's friend Paige can't stop talking about monkeys!