Host the perfect party for children with an Animal Adventure theme, and let cute and cuddly stuffed critters join in the fun!
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Invitations:

Animated Animals: Cut out pictures of animals from magazines and inexpensive children's books, or draw them yourself. Fold a piece of construction paper in half and paste the animal cutouts on the front. Draw a speech bubble with a dark felt-tip pen and fill it with a party greeting, such as “Come to an Animal Adventure Party!” Write the rest of the details inside the fold and mail to guests.

Decorations:

Animal Posters: Buy posters of baby animals and hang them on the walls of the party room at a young child's eye level. You can also use magazine pictures or images downloaded from a computer.

Animal Centerpiece: Assemble a variety of stuffed animals on the table to form a centerpiece. If you like, buy or make a paper tablecloth that looks like a forest or farm, and set the animals on top. Or, cover the table with a piece of fabric decorated with animals.

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Costumes:

Create animal headbands for the birthday child and his or her young guests. Make animal ears from stiff construction paper and glue them onto plain, store-bought headbands.

Games:

Tape the Trunk: For children, bigger is better, so enlarge “Pin the Tail on the Donkey” into “Tape the Trunk on the Elephant.” Buy two identical elephant posters and cut out the trunk of one. That will be the trunk your guests will tape onto the intact elephant poster with double-sided tape. (If you're artistically inclined, draw your own elephant on a large sheet of poster board and make the trunk out of construction paper.) Explain the game to the players. Have the first player wear a blindfold, give her the trunk with a piece of double-sided tape on the back, and stand her a foot or so from the elephant poster. Then, help her find her way. If she peeks, it's OK!

Act Like an Animal: Have children sit in a circle so they can watch the parents and other adult guests act out an animal's movements. Ask the kids to guess the animal.

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Activities:

Make-a-Mask: Cut out face shapes from felt or heavy construction paper. Cut out holes for eyes, noses and mouths, using your own child's face to estimate the distance between them. Then glue or staple a Popsicle stick at the bottom of each face to serve as a handle. Provide nontoxic felt-tip pens for coloring the masks, as well as a variety of decorative items like sequins, feathers and glitter. Then let the guests make their own masks. When they finish, have an animal parade.

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Food:

Serve “zoo food” to the children at a help-yourself buffet. Include bowls of Animal Crackers, Monkey Bites (banana pieces), Chimp Chips (potato chips), Python Pieces (fruit strips) and Cheetah Cheese (cheese cubes).

Set out a “Do Not Feed the Animals’” sign, but cross off the word “Not.”

King of the Jungle Cake
  • Use a cake mold to create a lion cake.
  • Frost with yellow icing.
  • Add eyes, mouth, teeth, nose, whiskers and other details with candies or icing.

Favors:

Send your guests home with small stuffed animals, animal books or coloring books.

Hand out safari hats filled with animal toys and animal crackers.

Variations:

Take the kids to a petting zoo to see real animals. Ask parents to help supervise.

Watch a video about animals.

Hints:

Make sure that all toys are big enough so they won’t be swallowed, and that all animal features are securely fastened to the toys.

Ask guests’ parents to help at the party.

Keep in mind that some children are afraid of masks, so adjust the activity if needed.