The Toddler Pumpkin Extravaganza
After reading my bloggy friend Jessica’s enthusiastic plans to host a pumpkin themed toddler Halloween party, I couldn’t get the idea out of my head. I pushed my nerves aside, and decided to throw a party for the toddlers and moms who attend the weekly play group I organize. Generally, we meet at different parks around the island to give the children a chance to run and enjoy some fresh air, but it is the rainy season, so I thought I would invite everyone to our house to eliminate the need for a contingency plan. Our party was on Friday, and I was thrilled that almost everyone we invited was able to make it. On an average Friday, we have no more than half a dozen moms at play group, but we had eleven moms at the pumpkin party. It was a bit chaotic, but it was tons of fun and totally worth it.
My goal was to make sure that everything was edible and safe to explore. I also wanted to offer a few different things to do so that the toddlers could choose whatever appealed to them. There was no schedule of events – I just set up the activities and the food in advance so that the kids could lead the way. We did:
This was really simple. Annabelle and I picked up several mini pumpkins and some beautiful gourds for the children to decorate. I brought the table and chair set from her room into the kitchen and set it up with the basket of pumpkins, and little dishes of paint. I used our food-based Glob paints so that we wouldn’t have to worry about paintbrushes in mouths, and chose the primary colors, each with its own brush. As children finished their pumpkins, we placed them on the counter to dry. I was glad that I bought quite a few extra, because a few of our guests wanted to paint two or three. It was a hit!
I used this recipe to make some pumpkin cutout cookies in advance. I replaced the sugar with coconut sugar, and used coconut oil for the cooking oil. I also couldn’t find organic applesauce without added sugar, so I went with apple strawberry sauce instead. As I was mixing everything together, I realized just how many different flavors I was combining and got a bit worried. They smelled amazing while they were baking, however, and ended up tasting even better. Several moms asked for the recipe. For orange icing, I used one container of Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese, 1 c. pumpkin pie mix (couldn’t find plain pumpkin!), a tsp. of vanilla, and 1/4 c. of icing sugar.
I moved Annabelle’s kitchen table to the side opposite the painting set-up and prepared three places, each with a square of wax paper, a small container of icing, and a spreading knife. In three muffin cups, I placed a few raisins, pumpkin seeds, and chocolate chips for decorating. I also made quite a few bite sized cookies for snacks along the way. When they’d had a chance to decorate, each child’s cookie could be wrapped in the wax paper and tied at the top with some orange and black ribbon. A few cookies were consumed before they had a chance to be packaged, which was perfectly alright. It’s hard to wait!
During the week leading up to the party, Annabelle and I made some orange play dough using our favorite recipe, plus turmeric and beet juice for color. I covered our coffee table, which is perfect toddler height, and set it up as play dough central. We put out a couple of mini rolling pins and some Halloween themed cookie cutters, and several of the children were content to stay there and play for almost the entire party! I have really never seen a play dough recipe that produces such a perfect result. I divided the dough up and sent it home with several families, and also shared the recipe with everyone, because they were so excited about its perfect texture.
I wish I had gotten a photo of the spread before the party, but I completely forgot, so what you see was taken after everyone had already dug in. I really wanted to keep it simple, so I came up with a menu that required virtually no cooking. We had:
Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches cut into the shape of pumpkins
Baby Carrots with vegan ranch
Sweet Potato Fries
Get it? Everything was orange! I cracked myself up, but I don’t know that anyone else was so amused. I also bought some nori, which I intended to cut into triangles and mouths, and use to make our pumpkin-shaped sandwiches look like Jack O’Lanterns, but as it turned out I had plenty of other ways to spend my time. The sweet potato fries were from the frozen section of the grocery store – I really did keep it simple.
The morning of the party, I threw some apple juice, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and orange slices in a pot. Spiced cider was a perfect, special treat for the kids, but it also made my house smell fantastic and festive when the guests arrived, and it was so easy! For the moms, I used this recipe to make Pumpkin Spice Lattes the night before, which I refrigerated and then served over ice. I used almond milk, made my own pumpkin pie spice, and cut the sugar in half and subbed honey. The result was not amazing. I would love to try again with actual sugar because, while it may not be the best for me, I think it would be delicious.
Other Toddler Considerations
I found that I was really excited about preparing a space that was tailored specifically to toddlers. It made me realize how much I miss being in the classroom! I’m not going back anytime soon, but I may just host more things like this as an excuse to prepare group activities in the meantime. Of course our house is already pretty toddler-friendly (a toddler does live here, after all) but I made sure that the guest bathroom was ready with a toilet seat reducer and a stool for the potty as well as the sink, and I put the Learning Tower at the sink in the kitchen to facilitate easy hand washing. I considered putting a stool near the food so that the toddlers could see what was available and make their own plates, but it was decided that many parents wouldn’t be up for such a thing, so I left that alone.
I wasn’t going to buy much in the way of decorations, because I really just don’t like the waste, but I couldn’t resist the black and orange streamers. They called to me, so I told myself I would only place them over the bar where the food was set up. At 2am the morning of the party, however, I was a bit giddy and decided that streamers at toddler height needed to be everywhere, because, why not? I realized that if I put them at the height I normally would for adults, they would hardly be noticeable to the kids, so I put them just high enough as to be out of reach, but we moms had to duck to go under them. It was a bit over the top, but seemed genius at 2am. I will say that it was loads of fun to watch Annabelle walk around and check everything out when she woke up in the morning.
How it Went
Overall, I was really happy with everything. All of our guests seemed to have a great time. There are little tweaks I’ll make if we decide to do the same next year, but there’s nothing I would leave out entirely. It was definitely a bit noisy and overwhelming at times, but I’m not certain how that could be helped, except by inviting fewer people. I was pleased to see that, toward the end, Annabelle went into her bedroom by herself and sat on her bed for awhile before quietly doing some puzzles. It was nice that she felt comfortable retreating when things got to be too much for her.
Have you ever planned a party specifically for toddlers? What worked well, and what do you wish you hadn’t done? Would you be totally annoyed if you went to a party where you had to duck under the streamers? Tell me!