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Ethan’s 5th Birthday Party : Dinosaur Hunt!

2016 January 5
by Becky


It’s official, Ethan is five!!!

I never feel like a birthday really happens until we’ve done the big party, and boy did we do the big party. This year’s birthday party theme request was (go figure) a Dino Hunt!!! Ethan’s been deep in dinosaur obsession mode for almost a year now so it was easy to start planning this party early…good thing too, because there were lots of projects involved.

Dinosaur Island Birthday Party - Dino Boy

Dinosaur Island Birthday Party- Party Tables

So it’s a little overboard. Not like I haven’t heard this before. But I stick to my birthday party theory, theme it up when they are little because all too soon (like next year???) they will choose going to a movie or Six Flags with a few buddies over a blow-out birthday party. Then it will be concert tickets and sleepovers. So I’ll take my chance to party plan while I can.

As always, the theme building starts with an invitation.

Dinosaur Island Birthday Party- Invitations

If you want to blow your kid’s mind, superimpose them on a roaring t-rex. I had so much fun with the ridiculousness of this invitation!

The gist of this party was a dinosaur “hunt”. Ethan requested a map that would take friends on a journey to find “the dino.” Easier said than done. I racked my brain (and the brains of others) and decided the only way to do this was to have the kids go through a series of activities that resulted in something super special…but what? To add another challenge, it’s winter so we had to have the party inside…we’d need space. The kids are getting bigger and my house just can’t contain them anymore. So I looked high and low for an indoor space, an affordable place that would let me do my thing without much interference. Remembering a side room at the Forest Park Visitor’s Center, I checked it out and found it to be the PERFECT location for our party. Bright and clean, large windows, no posters or tacky colors on the walls. And it had beams…this was key for decorations. Plus, the people at Forest Park are over-the-top nice and accommodating, we may have a party there every year!

So what do five year olds like to do?? Here’s what we came up with:

1. Gear Station
The party-goers first stop, where they picked up a pair of binoculars (made of TP rolls and duct tape) and pith hats, which they decorated with stickers. I was kind of shocked at how much they loved this part, I think the foam dinosaur stickers made all the difference. They looked so cute all geared up and running around the room.


2. Scavenger Hunt
Kids got a “clipboard” (cardboard) and pencil to take on a walk around the room, hunting for hidden pictures (borrowed from this printableshown on the attached page, checking them off as they go. This is right up a five-year-old’s alley and the kids loved this game.


3. Feed the Dino
The mini paleontologists hurled “meat” at the huge T-Rex mouth. We marked out different levels of difficulty and everyone had a blast taking a turn. I made the meat bean bags out of felt, easy and turned out so cute. The target was made from an old appliance box.


Dinosaur Island Birthday Party- Felt Steaks

4. Pin the Horn on the Triceratops
Based on an oldie most of the kids hadn’t tried before, this one was easy and fun. We blacked out the eyes of dinosaur masks for the blindfolds, easier to put on and less intimidating. A few parents were happy to help demonstrate.



5. Cave Crawl & Egg Rescue
My mom took on this corner as her main assignment and it turned out amazing! She constructed a cave out of a thrifted sheet, paper “boulders”, a table cloth, and paper stepping stones. We covered our old caterpillar tunnel in crushed paper and spray painted some easter eggs to look like dinosaur eggs. Kids crawled through the tunnel, “rescued” an egg, stepped on the stones across the “water”, and delivered the eggs to the cozy nest. My giant paper volcano provided a perfect backdrop for this little scene.


6. Dino Skeleton Puzzles
These were a fun experimental project. We saw a few people online use Plaster of Paris in this sand mold to make “puzzles”, so we gave it a whirl. Kids would assemble the skeleton and we’d mess it up again for the next person, it was easy, fun, and quick! Plus we’ll have fun using the molds on beach trips.


7. Pterodactyl Flight Zone
Using these super cute and cheap glider kits, the little explorers built pterodactyls and sent them flying. There were plenty in the box so the kids had fun trying a couple different shapes and colors.


Everyone stayed busy running through the stations until it was time for lunch. I completely skipped making food this year, opting to serve chips, veggies, fruit, and ordering pizzas instead, which was the best decision ever. My confection-ally talented friend Catrina graciously offered to make cupcakes with green and blue frosting, which we topped with dinosaur skeletons and chocolate rocks.




Our “cake” was a huge rice krispie volcano I’d made the day before, decorated with melting chocolate “lava” and chocolate rocks. We did this knowing it would get too hard to eat, hence the cupcakes, so we kept the top full of dry ice and water to make a nice erupting effect throughout the party. It was less dramatic than I’d anticipated, but the kids thought it was cool.

Dinosaur Island Birthday Party- Volcano Cake

It’s always hard to decorate a space you’ve only seen once or twice, but this year I managed to plan accordingly—big is better in large spaces! For the tables, I made palm trees out of canned food, kraft paper, and tissue paper; the tables were layered with green plastic covers and a strip of kraft paper. We cut a jagged edge on the plastic covers which added a super fun detail. I found balsa wood skeleton kits for $1.60/each and assembled them with Ethan. A quick coat of spray paint gave them a pop of color. We scattered around party-hat clad toy dinosaurs and sprinkled some shredded paper in between.


The biggest decoration element was the paper vines. I found this tutorial and loved it, so I spent more than a few evenings assembling miles of vines while we watched “our shows”. There weren’t many tv evenings that didn’t include me twisting, cutting, or gluing something. They looked really gave the room a jungle vibe and were incredibly cheap to make, using various green papers and recycled paper grocery bags.

This giant inflatable t-rex was a crazy-fun party element too, the kids had so much fun wrestling it and carrying it around. It held up to quite a bit of abuse!


The dino hunt maps didn’t happen, I just couldn’t make the kids carry around one more thing. But the hunt worked out great without maps, everyone tried all the activities and after cupcakes they were ready for the surprise. Ethan’s #2 top request was A PINATA!!! And since I couldn’t find one that was a) big enough and b) reasonably priced, I decided to make one. Quickly reading through this description, I just went for it and the result…well it turned out pretty amazing.


The kids took turns hammering into the piñata, breaking off parts to send candy flying, but making it last long enough to give everyone a chance. Watching them dive for the candy was extremely entertaining, protecting everyone’s heads from getting smashed a nerve-wracking challenge. There were no injuries, all the candy bags were filled, and at the end, the kids promptly dismembered what was left, holding pieces of the piñata over their heads like trophies.


As far as I’m concerned, the Dino Hunt party was a success, Ethan was in heaven. Watching his expression when he walked through the door was priceless, his face was plastered with a huge smile all morning. His friends were so busy and excited, it didn’t even feel like we had 20+ kids in the room.


See? Worth the time, effort and expense for that little face.

Time and effort were managed by starting early, I did little bits and pieces of this party over almost three months. Costs were kept way down by making almost everything ourselves, thrifting, recycling, and finding stuff on sale. What really made this party go so well was help. My parents, Stu, my aunt and uncle, cousin, and quite a few friends were the key to setting up quickly, running the activities, serving food, and, maybe most importantly, the clean up. That place was expertly torn down in about five minutes, all the best decorations (vines, trees, games, volcano) carefully preserved for future use. It also helps that all these people know how much I love throwing these parties, making them excited to attend and so supportive of my neurotic planning habits.

So that was our Dinosaur Island party! What do you think??


6 Responses
  1. January 6, 2016

    Wow! Amazing party! I love the volcano cake and meat for the Feed The Dino game.

    Thanks for the shout out on the jungle vines tutorial. It has been five years since my youngest’s monkey-themed party and I forgot how much fun those were to make.

    Seriously amazing party. I will be back for more inspiration!

  2. Linda Johnson permalink
    January 6, 2016

    I love it!! Becky you out did yourself again. You are so creative!
    The best part is seeing Ethan’s smile! Love the cake and cupcakes and all the activities.
    What a fun time for the kids and grown-ups.

  3. January 6, 2016

    I love everything about it. Really cool space too, I’ll keep that place in mind for future parties.

    I really love planning and throwing parties – I’ll be sad when our big party days are over. It’s especially fun when the kids are big enough to help. I still think my favorite party we threw was Ella’s sixth birthday where she and I made all these crazy monsters out of recycled grocery bags and our overflowing piles of art supplies.

    I need to show her that volcano cake – she’ll love it. She did a watershed project in 5th grade out of rice krispie treats. She’s a big fan of those as a sculpting medium.

    Happy Birthday to Ethan.
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  4. January 7, 2016

    It was the best!!!!

  5. Vi Spinner permalink
    January 7, 2016

    How do you think up all these ideas? What a party!! Can’t believe Ethan is already five. Lucky little boy & great Mom.

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