Earlier this month my son turned 4 years old. This is the first year that I thought he would really remember what happened at a birthday/event, and since it was the first time in awhile both sides’ grandparents were going to be able to visit, I wanted to do something a little extra special. For party decorations, shop your house and your kids’ craft supplies first. You may be inspired. Also, post in your local Buy Nothing Project Facebook group. Use a related theme background or background color and/or fun emojis in your post to help capture people’s attention when you post your “Ask” for party decorations. I see a lot baby shower decorations posted on my local site. If you are in the central Austin area, Austin Creative Reuse is a great local source for super low cost craft supplies and decorations. ACR receives donations of craft, hobby, school, art, etc. supplies and resells them to the public, keeping those items out of the landfill. When shopping (new or secondhand) look for cardstock or thicker paper to print on or work with since it will hold up better and longer.
My son really likes the show Bluey. This is an Australian cartoon that currently plays on Disney+. It is my assumption that since it is Australian and I am in North America it is harder for me to find merchandise, especially for parties. I did end up seeing a small selection of party supplies on Etsy, however I kept going back and forth on if I wanted to spend that much money, what the supplies were made of, and how reusable would they end up being. There can be foam padding to help things look more 3D so I’d have to deconstruct that to recycle and trash, some of the spirals I was thinking about were plastic or had plastic hooks (not recyclable), or they were foil spirals/banners and in my experience foil and that thin plastic bend/wrinkle and loose shape fairly quickly, they also need trashed. My son also enjoys fire trucks and red things, but I was so sick of red at this point that I wasn’t even going to do anything with that.
I had a limited supply of scrapbook paper, but luckily they were in blues and greens which gave me the idea to consider doing an ocean theme and Octonauts. My son has several Octonauts workbooks, and since he’s not big on coloring I went ahead and took several of the coloring pages to use, made the colors match the show, cut them out and used masking/painters tape to put the characters up in our dining room. I use painters tape because ticky tack takes the paint off my walls and thumbtacks don’t stay stuck in my walls for some reason. I had brown and fire colors cardstock so I made and added a volcano from the Ring of Fire movie since that’s my son’s favorite Octonauts show to watch. I don’t have a color printer and there wasn’t a coloring page for the Octonauts logo, so I had to freehand that but I’m happy with how it turned out. He loved the decorations and now they are in his cave*. I ended up not hanging the cardstock spirals I made since I didn’t have a high enough ladder and I just couldn’t pin my husband down for help.
What I did go ahead and order (because I had a specific want) was a craft felt letter with ribbon Happy Birthday banner in blue since that is the color I associate with both my son and my husband that we can reuse over and over again. I binder clip banners on the curtain rod in the dining room so the ribbons can be reused and don’t crease, and I’m not wasting a single-use hanging something like tape. I went back and forth in my head on the felt since most craft felt is polyester or some kind of synthetic fiber. I went ahead and purchased the banner because I know I will store it safely so it can be reused many times, and the felt will hold up longer than paper, plastic or “foil” banners. I don’t like to purchase laminated items if I can help it because there’s no way to separate those materials. Also, because the letters are fairly small, there leaves a lot of opportunity to crush and crease laminated letters, so again pass there. I feel like felt can be reused as padding or cushioning in the future if something ever happens to the banner. If you have the skill and time, this type of felt is commonly sold at craft stores and you can make the letters or shapes yourself and buy the ribbon in your preferred color and width.
A note on personalization. I do not like to customize items with a person’s name. It makes it harder to rehome that item if the person ages out of it (like a child’s bed, chair or stool), or changes their mind or taste (like a cup, bag, purse, jewelry, etc.). If you might change your name and initials (especially women), name change may affect any monograms you have. I already had a monogram ring re-engraved before my marriage because the engraving wore down and was barely visible. Now the jeweler won’t even “erase” the old monogram to replace it with my married initials. That ring is frozen in time, but it’d be nice if I could change it. If you want to have a name up in decorations or on an item, I recommend you add a second banner or sign. I like this option also because then the name portion can be reused on a door, cubicle, dorm room, etc. without the holiday/event reason being included.
*The cave I mentioned above is my closet under the stairs. We call it a cave to alliterate with my son’s name. We noticed when my son was younger that he would self soothe in a corner, so I thought that if I cleared out the stair closet and gave that to him it would be a small comfortable space for him to comfort in and also a great place to store all of his toys. I moved all the tubbed seasonal decorations onto shelves in the garage and they’re fine, no melting. I am sitting on a brand new exercise mat I found still shrink-wrapped on the curb during bulk pickup week, and extra pillows are cushioning my back. My son loves his cave. Before I had the drawers in there I could just literally sweep all the toys on the floor into the closet! **As a side note: I promise everything on the shelf in the cave is very stable and will not fall down despite it possibly looking a bit precarious. The light is really bright in the closet so it’s actually nice to have a bit of a buffer when you’re in the back corner.