Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Party

Please tell me you have read this book. I love this book. It has everything: eye-catching pictures, interactive pages, educational moments, and a cute story to boot. Since becoming a mother seven years ago, our family has gone through four, count 'em - FOUR copies of this book. All the kids have loved it and we have to replace it from over use again and again.

So last fall when it was time to throw a little party for my babe as he celebrated his first birthday, I used this book as our inspiration.

(Before I go too much farther, let me just apologize now for the quality of the pictures. I had been anticipating an outdoors party in our back yard, but the weather wasn't co-operating with me, and we moved it all inside. And inside pictures, especially in the basement play room where we were much of the time, are never as good. Okay, let's move on....)

I spent some very fun time painting decorations based on the illustrations from the book. One thing I really love about Eric Carle's work, is all the layering of colours that he does. I love it, and tried my best to recreate that in my decorations. This is the welcome sign I had on our front door for our guests as they arrived. It is from the second page of the story, where on a bright Sunday morning, the caterpillar pops out of his egg.

I also painted all the foods that the very hungry caterpillar worked his way through during the course of the story. One apple, two pears, three plums, four strawberries....

...five oranges, one slice of chocolate cake, one ice cream cone, one pickle, one slice of Swiss cheese, one slice of salami, one lollipop, one piece of cherry pie, one sausage, one cupcake, one slice of watermelon, and one nice green leaf. Instead of putting these around our yard on the fence, as I had planned, I taped them up on the playroom walls. I was actually really happy with how these turned out, and wish I would have taken a closer up shot to show you the different colours I used on each one.

I created this floating caterpillar from tissue paper puffs I had made. For the green puffs of his body, I used different tones of green and yellow to give the look of the Eric Carle paintings, and for the head, I used solid red. I had been picturing this dangling from our little playground in the yard, gently swaying in the breeze, but when we moved the party inside, I tacked it up above the table. This is still my favourite decoration of the whole day.

Not as complex as the tissue paper caterpillar, I made this one from varying shades of green balloon and a single red balloon on plastic sticks. In my great and grand plans, this was to be mounted along the back of the picnic table outside, but I improvised on the back of our loveseat. It was cuter than the picture shows, since it is so back lit, but you can still get an idea.

My little man loves balloons, and I think they are the the very symbol of celebration in a child's world, so we also had clumps of balloons all around the house. I again, used lots of different shades of green to play off the work of Eric Carle. Each clump of balloons had lots of green, and just a little red.

See the cute little shirt he's got? I bought some Eric Carle fabric, yes - it is out there, and carefully cut around the foods, then used an iron on transfer to put it on a plain white shirt so that he could have something special to wear at his party. While I was at it, I made him two shirts, since I was sure one would get all mucked up eating the party food.

Here is where I got a little out of control. I had such fun with those two little shirts, and had so much fabric left, I thought I'd make one for each of my children to wear to the party. So I dashed out to Walmart to find some plain white t-shirts for them, and they were such a great deal, (I think like $2.50/ea) that I bought enough for all the little party kids and made everyone a shirt to wear. The morning of the party I drove them around to their homes so that they could wear them to the event.

Yup, I went a little far.

Since this was a party for a one year old, I really didn't do too many activities. But what I did do, I tried to base off the story. This first game was a Wriggly Caterpillar Contest. All the kids had to line up against the far wall in the play room, (or, if you are luckier than me and get to do this outside, the far end of the yard) and wriggle and wiggle their way all the way to the other end. The first one to touch the wall, (or fence) wins.

What was funny about this game, is that my baby boy was a fantastic crawler. He was just starting to get the hang of walking, but he could motor on his hands and knees. But when we played this, he just sat there watching all the other kids. Ha!

The next stage in the book is when the caterpillar makes himself a cocoon. So we split the kids into two groups, and each group chose one child to be their 'caterpillar.' Then the rest of the kids worked together to wrap them in a toilet paper cocoon.

Here is the winning team, and a good shot of some guests with their hungry caterpillar shirts.

At the end of the story, the caterpillar emerges to become a beautiful butterfly, so we made a very simple butterfly craft. I bought coffee filters, and the kids used crayola markers on them to make pretty designs, and then we squirted them with a spray bottle filled with plain water. This made the colours run together a bit. (Very cool, actually) While they were drying, they decorated a clothes pin with eyes and antenna, and then we used the clothes pin as the body of our butterflies. It was a good craft for our group since we had a big age range, and this was accessible to everyone.

Our last activity was, of course, the pinata smash. I made this pinata from 6 balloons, that I just blew up a little bit. After the paper mache on each segment was dry, I glued them together with a glue gun and painted them to look like the caterpillar.

Then it was time to eat! But what? Well, all the foods in the book, of course! The night before I made up some quick little labels of each food that had a small image from the book of each item. Then at the party, that label was beside that food. It was a cute little touch. There was lots of food, and everyone enjoyed it. Also, with the amount of fruit in the book, it was a pretty healthy spread too.

Also, did you notice the tablecloth? This is more Eric Carle fabric, and is the polka dots from the inside front cover of the book.

Presents Time! I looked around in my city for some on-theme gifts and didn't really find much, but I was able to find a few things online that I really liked. This one is a butterfly puppet that looks like the butterfly from the book.

And this is a pull toy where all the little body segments can twist around. It is soooo cute!

Here is our birthday cake! His head is a 6" round cake that I covered with fondant icing I had tinted red. The eyes are also made from little bits of fondant. His antenna and mouth are made from melted chocolate that I piped on.

For the body, I made a batch of cupcakes, and a couple of tones of green butter cream icing. I piped on solid light green and solid dark green to a few of the cupcakes, and then I put both shades in the same icing bag and piped the rest that way. It gave me a really great swirled look that was really close to the way he looks in the book. Then when I arranged the cupcakes for his body, I mixed the solid light green with the solid dark, and the swirls, so that it made a really mottled looking caterpillar. I was so happy with it! It looked very much like hour little storybook friend. To finish the cupcakes all off, I sprinkled them with some green tinted sugar I got in the cake decorating isle in the grocery store.

All that effort was very appreciated because he sure liked those cupcakes! But how funny is it that he ate them cake first, and icing last? This is also good picture to show the party hats I'd made. I took my polka dot fabric to a paper supply place and photocopied it onto legal sized sheets. I was so happy with it! Then I just made them as usual, and added a tissue paper fringe to the bottom. So cute, and on theme without being too obvious.

I didn't save an invitation, and forgot to take a picture, but if you are curious as to what I did, I cut out six circles of varying shades of green, one of red, and made a wiggly caterpillar of them. I added small purple antenna, and used a sharpie to add little legs. Then I glued it to a plain creamy-coloured card, and in tiny letters underneath, I wrote, "Some one's having a Birthday." They were very simple, but Oh, so very cute.

Instead of doing a treat-bag, the kids all got to keep their hungry caterpillar shirts, and each family was given The Very Hungry Caterpillar board book.

And that was it! A fantasic way to celebrate the life of my littest love.


  1. what a splendid birthday party!! looks like everyone had so much fun, but i think you probably had more fun planning it...haha! everything looks absolutely brilliant. love it.

  2. What an outstanding party! I love every little detail of it. I really enjoyed seeing how you made an outdoor party turned indoors a huge success. My kids are both born in the fall and the outdoor party isn't too likely.
    Planning parties really are just so much fun!

  3. This is too cute. You put a lot of work and detail into the party, and it shows.

  4. this party is sooooooooo cute!!

  5. Where did you get your patterns for the food coloring


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