We don’t have a lot of friends with babies who live near us, but we DO have a lot of friends with babies in Long Island. One thing I’ve always liked about that whole crew is how they put a lot of work into putting together fun parties for the kids, giving them a chance to play and make new friends even at a very young age. Now that Vivi is getting older (and actually appreciating other kids), I was excited to finally take our turn in planning a fun get-together for a few little ones.

Plus, not going to lie, I really wanted an excuse to dress Vivi like a penguin.

And thus, my plans to throw Vivi a zoo-themed party were born.

Now, Vivi is only about a year old, so I wasn’t going to go too crazy. I wanted to keep the guest list as close to ten kids as I could, and I was less concerned with planning organized activities than I was for creating a fun theme and having good snacks. (And, you know, the aforementioned penguin costume.)

Here’s a run-down of what we did, ate, and wore for all you other party animals out there.

The Location

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^^The closest to “safari chic” I will probably ever get.

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I did actually consider having the party at a real zoo, but given the young age of our guest list, I ultimately decided it would be better to just create our own version in Joey’s parents’ backyard. They graciously offered up the space, and I set to work creating activity stations for the little guests (as well as just making sure there were a lot of toys around to keep short attention spans occupied, from bubbles to play tables and beyond).

I painted a few signs to hang around the yard to differentiate the areas, and my sister drew some animal prints leading up the sidewalk with chalk to guide our guests to the yard.

The yard also gave us room to have a few different areas for adults to sit, including tables, benches, and swings. (Because moms and dads gotta relax too, ya know?)

The Stations

What were these stations, you ask? First, I present The Monkey House.

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Okay, okay, so basically all I did was cover the swing set in fake vines (I got mine on eBay) and add a few stuffed monkeys (thank you, Mom, for finding all my old Beanie Babies!) for effect. But, come on. That’s a pretty cute monkey house, right?

Next up, we have The Aquarium.

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A water table, a kiddie pool full of plastic fish, and a handful of bubbles (plus some cute sea life stick-ons from the party store), and we were under the sea.

Finally, there was The Petting Zoo:

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I originally intended this to be the area that even the youngest tots could play in, but those horsies turned out to be a big hit with the older kids as well. (Plus, clearly the Boges was into it.)

What we ate

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Of course, everyone knows that decor is nice but a party is only as good as it’s food. The menu included PB&J sandwiches cut into animal shapes, Annie’s Mac & Cheese in Silly Sea Life shapes, a cucumber snake with homemade tsaziki, a hummus lion with bell pepper slices, a watermelon hedgehog, and fruit kabobs. I also put together an animal-themed trail mix for some of the tables.

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For dessert, I created Jell-O “aquariums” topped with Swedish Fish and funfetti cupcakes with animal toppers. Viv especially enjoyed her first cupcake (clearly).

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To make sure grown-up bellies were full as well, I asked each guest to bring an app and served a “jungle juice.” Because, let’s be real, we had all probably earned it.

The photo booth

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To be totally honest, the kids probably kept their costumes on for approximately half an hour. (But GOSH were they cute!) Predicting this, I welcomed each guest and then promptly directed them to the photo booth to make sure they got a pic of their little cutie dressed as their favorite animal.

To create the booth backdrop, I created a jungle of tissue paper poms (tutorial I used here) and cut-out paper leaves. To create the cage, I purchased an oversized picture frame from Michael’s, removed the glass and back piece, and strung rope-like yarn to create the bars.

Pro tip: I highly recommend a group photo at the beginning of the party if possible. By the end of the day, everyone is tired and dirty, and getting the kids to cooperate will be harder than ever. Look how cute they were when they first arrived!
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Once the pictures were taken, costumes could be ripped off, water could be splashed, cupcakes could be smushed in faces, etc. Save yourself the trouble and get the pictures done early.

What we wore

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As I said, my main priority here was getting Viv dressed as a penguin. #MomGoals

The create her costume, my mom actually took a larger penguin costume, cut off the belly and wings, and sewed them onto a black onesie. She turned the head into a little cap Vivi could wear, but it really only lasted for the pictures. (To make up for it, I drew a little yellow beak on her nose using costume makeup.) I also added a pair of yellow tights from Lunaby Baby to complete the look. She killed it, I must say.

As for Joey and me, we decided the most appropriate attire would be that of zoo keepers. Basically, we wore a lot of khaki and sun hats I found at Costco. It was surprisingly effective.

The favors

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What’s a party without a little something to take home? The best part about having a small guest list is that you can go a little more creative with the favors. Each kid took home an “adopted” animal and a box of animal crackers to keep the party going.

One other fun extra? I also created a Snapchat geo filter for the party. Totally gratuitous, but it was $5 and pretty cute! (Learn how to make your own here.) Here’s what it looked like:

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Cute, right?

All in all, we had such a blast at Vivi’s first party. Thanks again to all her friends (and their cool folks) for coming out to join!

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And a special thank-you to Aunt Yoyo (AKA, my sister Joelle of Figment Art Photo) for photographing the whole event!

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