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 inexpensive children's books or draw them yourself. Fold a piece of construction paper in half and paste the animal cutouts on the front. Glue on wiggly eyes, feathers, and other three-dimensional details. 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.

Animal Centrepiece: Assemble a variety of stuffed animals on the table to form a centrepiece. 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:

Make or buy headbands with attached animal ears and place them on the guests' heads when they arrive. Costume shops and toy stores offer a variety of animal headbands-with bear ears, mouse ears, rabbit ears, and so on. If you prefer, make your own animal headbands: 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 are 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 large hat to cover her eyes (instead of 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 okay!

What's That Noise? Buy a recording of animal sounds. Have the little ones sit in a circle. Play the sounds and have them guess what animal makes each sound.

Act Like an Animal:Have the guests sit on a circle, then have the parents 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. Use your own child's face to estimate the distance between the eyes, nose, and mouth. Then glue or staple a tongue depressor stick at the bottom of each face to serve as a handle. Provide nontoxic felt-tip pens for colouring the masks, as well as a variety of decorative items like sequins, feathers, and glitter for gluing onto the mask. Then let the guests make their own masks. When they finish, have an animal parade.

Home Zoo: Hire an animal trainer to come to the party with a real animal, such as a pony, a goat, or an exotic bird for the kids to learn about, play with, and pet.

Animal Faces: Hire a face painter (or nominate yourself) to paint the kids' faces to look like lions, tigers, and bears- oh my! Use nontoxic face paints, then add ears and ribbon tails to complete the look.

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Food:

Serve zoo food to the children at a help-yourself buffet for animals. Include a bowl of Animal Crackers, Monkey Bites (banana pieces), Chimp Chips (crisps), Python Pieces (fruit strips), Cheetah Cheese (cheese cubes), and Pet Peas (frozen green peas, cooked briefly and cooled).

Serve chocolate milk in small bowls for some more animal fun.

Set out a "Do Not Feed the Animals" sign, but cross off the "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 sweets or icing.

Favors:

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

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

NOTE: All favors should be age-appropriate and safety tested.

Variations:

Take the kids to a petting zoo and let them see real animals. Ask parents to help with supervision.

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.